Sonic the Hedgehog, known as Ogilvie Maurice Hedgehog among true fans, is one of the most famous mascots in video game history. Still, unlike Mario, who’s yet to appear in a mainline game that’s not an absolute blast, the blue blur is reminiscent of those once-promising actors who had to start taking roles in C-list movies to maintain their exuberantly decadent lifestyle. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but we have to accept that Sonic has starred in about as many crappy games as he has in good ones.
Which one is the worst of the worst?
10. Sonic Labyrinth
This little-known Game Gear title tells the marvelous story of that time when Dr. Eggman replaced Sonic’s fast shoes with slow ones.
You can tell someone believed Sonic could do no wrong when they made a game that did away with the thing we liked most about the series. The bold move could’ve worked, yeah, provided that the developers had put solid mechanics and puzzles in place to make up for the absence of speed. They didn’t. The only possibly interesting thing here is witnessing Sonic’s first foray into the isometric perspective that we’d later see in Sonic 3d Blast. More on that other mess later.
Sonic Labyrinth just isn’t fun as it is. It wouldn’t have been fun even if it played fast either, though that would have at least made it confusing, uncontrollable, and thus at least pretty funny.
09. Sonic and the Black Knight
One of many gimmicky Sonic games. In this once-anticipated Wii exclusive, Sonic has a sword! Isn’t that badass? Maybe, if the goddamn thing worked properly.
Though it looked nice and featured some neat Sonic tunes, most critics and fans couldn’t help but point out the fact that the game just didn’t make good use of the Wiimote. The haphazard integration of the Wii’s controller made the combat go from unfun to straight-up broken.
Do you know who also didn’t find the game all that badass? Well, Sega itself, considering how the company pulled it from store shelves just one year after its release along with all other poorly-reviewed Sonic games in an attempt to increase the value of the Sonic brand.
In any case, Sonic as a brave sir knight reeks of the exact same desperation that Transformers: The Last Knight did — the one where we find out the Transformers’ unexpected connection to Camelot—and I just can’t help but find that hilarious. Forget the upcoming GI Joe x Transformers crossover. We want an awful Transformers x Sonic collab now.
08. Shadow the Hedgehog
I must apologize for the attempted bamboozling. I know damn well that Shadow isn’t just a re-skinned Sonic, but please allow me to explain.
Even a hypothetically decent version of this game would only ever appeal to Sonic fans, so they’re its only victims. They’re only most of the people who’ll look for an article such as this in search of vindication. Also, I will never have the opportunity to rank the worst Shadow The Hedgehog games because no company in its right mind will ever make another one.
The devs seemingly believed that arming the edgiest-possible character with guns would make up for all sorts of technical shortcomings, and I find that beautiful. Like many games on this list, Shadow The Hedgehog is rough in terms of playability, but it features three different endings where Shadow murders Dr. Eggman with a Karate chop, so I just can’t put it in a worse place than this.
07. Sonic Free Riders
Sonic on the Kinect. Do I really need to explain myself on this one? Ugh, OK.
What’s wild is that Sonic Free Riders looked good, had some sweet Sonic tunes, featured a decent enough story, and had a lot of stuff to do. But guess what, it played like crap. As with nearly all things Kinect, Sonic Riders was highly unresponsive. I’d like to believe it just refused to force its owners to perform all the embarrassing moves required to get it to work. If that’s the case, then I salute you, Sonic Free Riders.
06. Sonic The Fighters
You know things are about to get wacky when not even the title makes sense. What the hell is that “the” doing in the middle of the title? That reads almost as awkward as this thing plays.
I’d argue that most Sonic games aren’t even very good at doing what they’re supposed to, which is making Sonic’s speed enjoyable, so it comes as no surprise that I don’t like Sonic when he’s trying to be Tekken. It’s just so sad to see all these once-successful characters having to resort to fighting it out to pay their bills.
Actually, to be entirely fair, this doesn’t feel like it was trying to outright copy Tekken. This feels like they were trying to make a Sonic fighting game in a garage where the only game they had for reference was Star Wars: Masters Of Teras Kasi, one of the worst fighting games of all time. If that really was their plan then, well, they’ve succeeded.
05. Sonic and the Secret Rings
I think it’s absolutely wild that Sonic’s take on the Arabian Nights doesn’t fall on its face for accidentally featuring some tone-deaf message regarding the Middle East. Surprisingly, the game doesn’t accidentally say anything offensive, though that might be because it doesn’t really have anything to say at all. The gameplay is half-baked, but what steals the show is an ending so dumb it immediately earns this game a high place on this list.
Spoilers: Sonic gets to make a wish to make his love interest happy — naturally a human-looking girl, because Sonic is like Mass Effect’s Shepard before he was even a thing — and instead of wishing for basically anything that could actually improve her life, he asks for a mountain of handkerchiefs so that she can cry as much as she wants. Yes, I’m not making this up.
04. Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
Sonic Chronicles is Sonic’s first and only foray into RPG territory. The game’s main problem is that plays neither as a Sonic game nor as an actual RPG. That’s pretty weird, considering how pre-EA BioWare was behind this.
Even though the Nintendo DS paved the way to one hell of a lot of unexpectedly original titles that made great use of its double-screen and stylus setup, this just wasn’t one of them. Sonic Chronicles seemingly didn’t want to be fun with its grind-heavy gameplay, tedious combat, and, weirdest of all for a BioWare game, useless dialogue options.
Well, at least it gave us this legendary track:
Syke! I just got you to listen to the worst song in the history of Sonic games.
03. Sonic 3D Blast
This one isn’t a glitchy mess or anything, but Sonic 3D Blast shows an interesting case of a Sonic game where the team seemingly managed to see their vision come to fruition. The problem here is that their vision sucked. The game does away with the traditional 2D sidescrolling gameplay and replaces it with an unfun isometric perspective that, guess what, is still 2D. Sonic moves awkwardly, and the game’s levels just aren’t fun enough to suffer through.
We learn to see the signs as we grow. If it had been a good game, simply calling it Sonic 3D would have sufficed in getting everyone hyped. That desperate “blast” at the end of the title, probably a reference to the Genesis’ much-touted and greatly exaggerated “blast processing”, should have raised eyebrows. Sadly, most of us were too young and naive to see it back then.
This game hurts me on a personal level. Eight-year-old me didn’t have a Saturn or a PS1 yet, so I was thrilled to know that my Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) had a Sonic game that was supposedly in 3D. I got my parents to buy it, and that was the first time I felt seriously disappointed by a game I had high hopes for. It’s highly unlikely that I was the only kid who had Sonic 3D Blast as nothing but an eye-opener when it came to dealing with unreasonable expectations.
02. Sonic The Hedgehog (aka Sonic ‘06)
Sonic ’06 is bad to the point of being ashamed of its own existence. I mean, otherwise, how come one of the best speedrun strategies involves having Shadow kill himself? The game doesn’t want any of its characters to live in that doomed world anymore, so it rewards them with the ending credits upon death.
Ok, now, even though that’s a real speedrunning strategy, I’m well aware that this is yet another glitch. No way such a game would ever achieve this level of poetry without it being by accident.
There’s nothing really new to say about Sonic ’06. Even though expectations weren’t exactly through the roof anymore, it still managed to disappoint greatly due to being unplayable upon release. Also, it looked creepy as all hell. Why is the main hub an asset-flip-looking city populated entirely by humans? Will Sonic ever grow tired of trying to seduce human girls?
You’ll have a better time watching video compilations of Sonic ’06 glitches on Youtube than playing it.
01. Sonic Boom: Rise Of Lyric
You knew damn well that the first place was only ever going to be either Boom or ‘06. Why Boom at #1? Well, I don’t even think it’s necessarily worse than ‘06. They’re both so bad that they verge on total unplayability.
After some time playing, we all lose the ability to count all the flaws, but I think this one is more deserving of the top spot because, at the time of its release, fans must’ve been like “eh, at least there’s no way it’ll be as bad as ’06!”. And it was. You gotta award some points to that kind of knife twist.
And there’s more.
Whereas there’s no alternate reality in which I could see Sonic ’06‘s creepy human-Hedgehog crossover city working, I could totally see Boom working out. It’s based on a popular animated series, and it actually looks cool. Sadly, the game went through a very rough development cycle that forced the team to release it in a terribly unpolished state.
Boom just has a much sadder story — the story of its development, mind you — and that’s why it gets the top spot of the worst Sonic games. Also, Sonic ’06 at least had some fine classic Sonic tunes.