Ranking the Virtual Console Sonic The Hedgehog Games
Every so often I want to go back to a game I haven’t played in a while. I don’t think any title fits that criteria more than old Sonic games. Always looking for any reason to play as the blue blur and his buddies, I decided to check out what was available on the Nintendo eShop - turns out there’s a number of them!
I figured there must be people checking them out without the knowledge I have of the franchise. I’ve played every Sonic game barring the Wii-exclusive ones, after all - yes, even SegaSonic Cosmo Fighter, the only shoot’em up that I’ve been any good at, because it was literally aimed at children.
So without further ado, here are the best Sonic the Hedgehog games available on Nintendo’s Virtual Console for the 3DS. Curiously, they are all Game Gear titles.
8: Sonic Drift 2
Released internationally (unlike Sonic Drift) in 1995, this racing game lets you play as Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Knack, Metal Sonic and Robotnik, in three modes.
There’s not really a plot involved…
With dodgy controls and an inability to drive at speed and see the road ahead concurrently, I’m not surprised they waited until the SEGA Saturn to release another racing game… It’s awful, and I’m not just saying that as someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy racing games.
7: Sonic Labyrinth
From 1995, this pseudo-2.5D puzzle/platformer is viewed from an isometric viewpoint, and sees you collecting three keys in three acts before being pitted against the zone’s boss. It looks more like the Mega Drive’s Sonic 3D Blast than Sonic Blast does.
After Robotnik manages to trick Sonic into wearing Slow-Down Boots instead of his normal sneakers, the hedgehog has to enter the Super Labyrinth and find the Chaos Emeralds to get them off.
There are only four zones, with four acts each, making this the fewest levels in a Sonic platformer. It’s also the slowest moving, as the previous paragraph explains - Sonic can’t run. He can, however, spin dash his spiky little heart out. It’s an interesting idea, making you have to spin dash everywhere and wind up bouncing off of all of the walls, bumpers, traps and badniks. However, it’s not enough to elevate it to greatness.
6: Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
This 1993 puzzle game was basically just Puyo Puyo, but for an international audience. It was based on the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon, as opposed to the videogame franchise.
Robotnik is rounding up the jolly folk of Beanville, and turning them into robots - their only hope is you (no, not Sonic). Grouping them up into four or more of the same colour allows them to escape, so match as many as you can and defeat the badniks - and Robotnik himself!
I used to be pretty good at Tetris. Unfortunately, I’ve always been awful at Puyo Puyo which obviously translates to my prowess at Mean Bean Machine. It’s difficult, and I had trouble beating even the first level in a timely manner, plus Sonic doesn’t even appear in the game! It’s the most un-Sonic-like thing on this list.
5: Tails Adventure
Curiously, a platformer RPG from 1995, which sees you playing as Tails. He can jump and fly but not spin or damage enemies by jumping - however, he can throw bombs, or drop them if he’s flying.
Whilst Tails is taking a well deserved holiday on Tails Island, an airship decides to invade, and it’s up to the two-tailed fox to put a stop to it.
This was a marked divergence from the other titles developed by Aspect Co. Ltd (four of which are on this list!), due to being a lot slower pace, being Tails-oriented and being a roleplaying game. It also had 12 stages, making it the biggest title on this list. However, due to this being a list of the best Sonic games, those count against it. It’s certainly an interesting game in its own right, with the ability to equip different weapons and some levels require a vehicle, but it’s not a fast-paced platformer.
4: Sonic Blast
Released at the same time as Sonic 3D Blast, the 1996 platformer was the final Sonic title on the Game Gear. You could play as either Sonic or Knuckles, one with a double jump, the other with a glide and ability to climb walls.
A mysterious island has arisen near Sonic’s home that looks vaguely like Dr Eggman, so Sonic and Knuckles go to investigate.
With five zones and three acts each, it’s unfortunate that the last franchise entry on the Game Gear was this. The sprites of Sonic and Knuckles are huge, and the hitboxes are really odd. For instance, you can jump into a bunch of rings and not pick up a single one. The levels are also really short, and frighteningly easy, making it quite a disappointing game overall, even though it is technically impressive, given the hardware it was designed for.
3: Sonic the Hedgehog
This was released a few months after the Mega Drive version launched in 1991, which catapulted Sonic to stardom. It has everything the Mega Drive version did; Sonic, Robotnik, rings and jumping. It has different zones, however, with only Scrap Brain and Green Hill being kind of similar.
Robotnik has invaded South Island and kidnapped all of the animals, so it’s up to Sonic to rescue them.
Despite being the first title in the series, it still manages to be easy to pick up and play, with Sky Base Zone (the final of six) being the most difficult. The levels are interesting, in that there are multiple routes on most of them, and the Chaos Emeralds are hidden on certain stages. Scrap Brain Zone earns points due to being almost a puzzle in its complexity.
2: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Released in 1992, the game has a number of differences to the first one, including the boss battles not being directly against Robotnik but his Master Robots (definitely not Robot Masters like in the five Mega Man games out by this point). Another change is something that only appeared in Sonic 3 in the main series - skimming along the surface of water if you’re fast enough.
Sonic goes back to South Island only to discover that his friend Tails has been kidnapped by Robotnik - and the ransom is set at six Chaos Emeralds.
There are seven zones, each with three acts, but in a marked difference to the first game it is so hard. Oh, and the seventh zone is only accessible if you collect all of the Chaos Emeralds, scattered around the second act of each zone. The zones seem to be out of order, making the game a challenge from the start. Green Hills Zone, which is the easiest one in any game it appears in, is the fourth zone… Perhaps the team decided to give players a bit of a break after the spike-filled horrors of the previous three stages?
1: Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble
Serving as a semi-sequel to Sonic Chaos (which isn’t available on the Virtual Console), this 1994 entry was the first Game Gear-exclusive Sonic title and has the first appearance of Nack the Weasel (AKA Fang the Sniper). You can choose to play as either Sonic or Tails, the latter being able to fly and the former able to do a super spin dash.
Robotnik is after the Chaos Emeralds, and wants to get them before Sonic and Tails, so has enlisted Knuckles’ help again…
There are six zones, each with three acts, and you don’t battle Robotnik until the end of the game, instead fighting robots or Knuckles. This honestly felt more like a Sonic game than the first and second because of the level design, in that it gets difficult gradually and can be frustrating, but never makes you want to throw it out the window. Despite that, your acceleration speed is frankly awful, though that sums up my problems with the game.
So there you have it, the eight best (and technically worst) Sonic games available on the Nintendo eShop, via Virtual Console. Have you checked them out? Or has this list enticed you to drop £3-5 on one of them? Just avoid Sonic Drift 2…