“Finally, a list for true gamers,” you’re saying right now. “One that eliminates all the posers who thought Sonic was a slow loser like Mario.” Well, think again, because if you thought Sonic was always fast, you’re wrong and a poser too. This list is for the real gamers who know Sonic the Hedgehog is only fast sometimes — when head of Sonic Team Takashi Iizuka feels like it.
So this is a list ranking all the games where Sonic actually lives up to his name. None of that Sonic Lost World stuff where Sonic limps around like he’s in Mario Galaxy. That’s why you can expect a lot of “boost” Sonic games on this list — titles where Sonic Team had the bright idea to include a dedicated button that makes you run at a thousand miles an hour until you crash into a wall. Sonic Team knows momentum platforming is for cowards; cool kids do speed. Raw, uncut speed.
Honorable Mention — Sonic Forces
Sonic has a boost button in this game that makes him go fast, but some of the levels are piss-easy enough that you can play them with one hand and two buttons. And in that sense, are you really the essence of speed if the game’s doing most of the work for you? No, the blast processing is the speed. You’re just the dork holding a piece of plastic at that point.
On the flipside, Forces is the game where you can make your own Sonic character. So, in conclusion: this is a fine title for younger players as well as seasoned gamers™ who want a little adrenaline and a LOT of banger music to jam out to while writing their weekly grocery shopping list with the hand not playing the game.
#6 — Sonic Colors
This one sort-of kind-of gets a spot on the list. Sonic has his trusty boost button and goes fast enough to shoot rainbows out of his feet, but he’s still not quite as fast as in other Sonic games wherein the boost button delivers way more juice. Still, seeing the blue fella dart around a zany amusement park in space at a couple hundred miles per hour is fun, and there’s a cyan powerup that turns Sonic into a literal laser that moves super fast, even though you can’t control its motion.
BUT. But. There’s a(n actually pretty cool) water level. So… Sonic Colors is a solid seven out of 10 on the speedometer, maybe with one point deducted for too much water.
#5 — Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Though the classics may not be as blisteringly fast as the late 2000s Sonic Team games when outrunning the franchise’s reputation was all that mattered, Sonic 3 was still fast enough for Sega to include a line in the instruction manual explaining that Sonic could (in rare instances) go fast enough to break the game. Sonic Mania designer Christian Whitehead even referenced this anomaly during an interview, noting Sonic could clip through geometry due to his speed.
#4 — Sonic Frontiers
Though Frontiers isn’t a terribly fast game thanks to 15 years of old, crotchety game journalists complaining that the blue rat gave them vertigo, Sonic Team still snuck in a fun lil’ feature where, when you max out your ring counter, Sonic will drink a can of Rockstar and zoop around very, very fast. Couple that with the game’s dedicated boost button, and you can get some sick speed while traveling across Breath of the Wild-esque environments. This game really makes you feel like Sonic, man.
#3 — Sonic Generations
Generations is split between two Sonics: 2D “Classic” Sonic and 3D-but-75%-of-the-time-also-2D “Modern” Sonic. Classic Sonic moves with the speed of Sonic 3 Sonic, equalling roughly twice the speed of Sonic 2 Sonic and exponentially more speed than Sonic 1 Sonic, though Sonic 1 Sonic is still faster than Sonic 3D Blast Sonic, which one shouldn’t confuse with 3D Sonic.
The point is, 2D Sonic goes fast in Generations, and 3D Sonic goes faster on account of — say it with me — the boost button. Mind you, he doesn’t go quite as fast as the fastest boost games, on account of said button granting different speed in each title. Still, he’s zippy enough, and Generations has adrenaline-filled thrills for old fans, new fans. You could say it has a little something for everyone (if you were an unoriginal hack fraud with nothing valuable to say).
#2 — Sonic Unleashed
Before Sonic Unleashed, everyone agreed that Sonic was leashed. This is the one where Sonic Team manned the fuck up and stopped holding gamers’ hands. “What’s the worst that could happen? IGN gives the game a 4.5/10 and posts footage of the reviewer falling into a heroin-induced stupor?” Sonic Team said, naivety and hubris on full display.
Despite the game’s inherently challenging nature, players who learned how to control Sonic at max speed (boost button!) got to enjoy what may be the fastest (and best) 3D platformer ever made. This is the game that lets you run on a whale’s back in Antarctica, blaze across the Great Wall of China, leave shoe scuffs on the top of Manhattan’s Chrysler building, and fight Satan inside the earth’s molten core. If doing all of that at super speed doesn’t get you off, then you probably have to do some pretty nasty, illegal shit to get your kicks, and I don’t wanna hear about that funny business.
#1 — Sonic and the Secret Rings
If you max out Sonic’s skills in this game, his base speed is preposterously fast. And though few people talk about it, Sonic and the Secret Rings does have a boost button — one that makes you go so damn fast you don’t get to control Sonic much at all. The screen turns into a blur of neon-orange streaks and Sonic basically pulls a Flash, attempting to teleport through time via raw acceleration. In the game, the boost is called “speed break” because Sonic very much breaks speed itself. It’s badass.
What makes it more badass is the game’s supposedly Arabian Nights-inspired zone aesthetics (spoiler, they have virtually nothing to do with the Arabian Nights). Sonic easily shatters the sound barrier in radiant fashion while running alongside stampeding dinosaurs, across light roads made of the beams TRON bikes emit, atop a version of the Hagia Sophia that’s floating in the sky. The visuals in this game are unreal and seeing them at the speed of light is surreal. If you haven’t played Secret Rings, you owe it to yourself to try it out on the Wii
or via Dolphin emulator on PC too bad since Hard Drive cannot endorse emulation, I don’t think. I don’t know.