Ported in one form or another to practically every system that's launched since the Genesis (sometimes multiple times), Sonic the Hedgehog is a classic. It's hard to appreciate these days, but back in 1991 the smooth gameplay, flowing level design, vibrant worlds and melodious audio of Sega's mascot platformer felt exciting like few other video games before or since.
By far the best 3D Sonic game in our books, Sonic Colors managed to translate the classic 2D gameplay and introduce a gimmick that complimented rather than disrupted that gameplay. The Wisp power-ups gave Sonic new abilities which tied in beautifully to some strong level design and delivered the best Sonic experience we've ever had in three dimensions. We can't wait to play it again soon in Ultimate form on Switch.
This enhanced version of the Dreamcast original might not be everybody's cup of tea, but it throws enough winning elements into the bag to outweigh its less-than-brilliant facets. With the multiplayer and the Chao Garden accompanying the main game, there's certainly plenty to do. It won't win over naysayers, but it's hard to find a purer expression of 'gotta go fast and-to-hell-with-the-consequences' than this. In many ways, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle is peak 3D Sonic — with everything that entails.
Sonic Mania is a true return to form for the mascot, in his 2D 'Classic' guise at least, and celebrates the glory days of the original games while also enhancing their qualities and taking on new ideas. From new areas, imaginative second acts and some delightful boss encounters, the development team poured a lot of passion and talent into the project. With new characters and modes added in the 'Plus' retail version (also available as DLC), some neat tweaks iron out some of the kinks present in the original release, but regardless of the version you pick up, it's one of the best 2D platformers in recent memory.
Otherwise known as the second half of Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles' lock-on cartridge linked up with the previous game to deliver the 'full' experience. It's testament to the quality of the game you don't feel like you've been taken advantage of by Sega splitting the original project in two and charging double for it. It's got everything you could want from a 2D Sonic game, and Knuckles.
Anyone Sonic fan alive at the time will remember Sonic 2sday, the November launch day of Sega's biggest sequel. If you had a Genesis / Mega Drive in your household throughout Holiday season 1992, it almost certainly had a copy of Sonic 2 in the cart slot. Adding everyone's favourite two-tailed fox into the mix, Sonic 2 upped the ante with slicker visuals, more ideas, more varied Zones to explore and a 2-player mode as well.
The worst thing we can say about Sonic 3 is that, personally, we didn't much care for his redrawn sprite in this third outing. That's just us, but otherwise this is a gorgeous looking and sweet-sounding slice of 16-bit Sonic and we're not opposed to it being labelled the best 2D Sonic game ever.
Debates will rage forever about whether 2 or 3 is best — it changes depending on the day, but we tend toward the former. Regardless, both games offer incredibly clever level design and an unmistakable 'flow' to their movement that make them must-plays for any platforming fan, whether you played them back in the day or are catching up on your Sonic essentials.
Take that Ro-butt-nik! Surprised by the result? Let us know if you think we've missed something; it's never too late to adjust things. Feel free to let us know your thoughts on the ranking above and share a comment about your personal favourite Sonics — 2D and/or 3D — below.