10 Best 2D Sonic the Hedgehog Games, Ranked

October 17, 2023 by No Comments


Sonic the Hedgehog entered our homes many years ago. Sega’s world-famous mascot has had many highs and many lows over the years, and we’re glad he’s back for more. We’re going back to Sonic’s side-scrolling roots and keeping the good vibe going. In this list, we rank the best 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games from least to best.


10. Sonic Advance 3

Sonic Advance 3 was released as the third and final game in the Sonic Advance series for the Game Boy Advance. Sonic Advance, the second game in the series, leans more towards the speed aspect of the series, but suffers from developer Dimps’ extensive bottomless pits and terrible enemy placement.

In Sonic Advance 3, the gimmick is Sonic and friends teaming up with each other and the natural next step for the Advance games. This neat team-up mechanic gives the player-controlled character augmented abilities from the sidekick character. The level design is better than its predecessor. However, getting the Chaos Emeralds can be tedious by finding 10 hidden Chaos in each level to trigger special stages.

9. Sonic the Hedgehog CD

Sonic the Hedgehog was a huge hit when it was released on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. A sequel appeared. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog CD, commonly known as Sonic CD, were developed in tandem. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 used the speed element of the first game, but focused more on the Sonic CD platformer. For this reason, Sonic CD is a black sheep.

Its time travel mechanic is nice in concept, but it doesn’t rely on traversing stages as fast as possible, such as locating “Past” and “Future” posts, destroying previously hidden transporters, and collecting Time Stones. However, recent ports of Sonic CD offer a selection of excellent Japanese and North American soundtracks. It’s not your run-of-the-mill Sonic game, but Sonic CD is still a good time.

8. Sonic the Hedgehog

It feels strange to put the original Sonic the Hedgehog game at the bottom of the list of launches ever. Obviously, from the starting point, there is nowhere to go. However, the Green Hill Zone is off to a promising start. Is it blast processing? How is the game going so fast?

Sonic’s momentum today is impressive. The Sonic team’s work really pushes the envelope in retrospect. Then you reach the marble zone and it slams on the brakes. This happens again and again throughout the game, and it doesn’t seem to capture the appeal of the first zone. For some, this is one of the top Sonic the Hedgehog games. For others, it sets the stage for bigger and better things.

7. Sonic Generations 3DS

Sonic’s many outings on Nintendo’s handhelds are often overlooked. Remember when there was a 3DS port of Sonic Generations? The console release of the game brought back many of the iconic Sonic stages with a solid trip down memory lane and a modern flair. The 3DS port of Sonic Generations did something similar but remained a 2.5D game.

There are minor gameplay differences between Classic and Modern Sonic and it’s not the strongest of Dimps efforts but it’s a good game all in all. It may be a shameless reskin of the console game but Sonic Generations 3DS has its own unique stages: Casino Night Zone, Mushroom Hill Zone, Emerald Coast, Radical Highway, Water Palace and Tropical Resort.

6. Sonic Rush Adventure

Sonic Rush Adventure is another one of those Sonic games that seemed to fall by the wayside. The Dimps had already, mostly, established a lineage with Sonic Advance games under their belt before tackling development on the DS. Sonic Rush Adventure is the best of the Sonic Rush series.

Sonic Rush improves on what the original game did and makes the Boost style of gameplay even more absorbing. This game especially urges you to “go fast”. The trick mechanic in Sonic Rush Adventure allows Sonic to perform mid-air stunts while speeding down a ramp or slope. Completing a sequence of tricks adds to the Sonic Boost meter to keep the speed going non-stop.

5. Sonic Colors DS

Sonic Colors also got a DS port and is easily the best of the Dimps Rush style of 2D Sonic games. By this time, the Dimps had a good idea of ​​what they could achieve on the DS hardware, making this their third and final Sonic game on the peripheral. This time the trick is the mechanic. Sonic now fills the boost meter through this port, recreating the wisps that first started in Sonic Colors.

Aside from boosting, Sonic can beam along a string of rings with a laser wisp and use explosive jumps with a rocket wisp. These abilities are what keep Sonic moving, and they’re so well integrated into the gameplay fundamentals that you have to discover something new from one stage to the next. This keeps things fresh as opposed to dropping your moveset in your lap from the start. It’s encouraging to replay the stages with your new powers to find the optimal path. Sonic Colors DS is a gem and one of the top 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games.

Top 2D Sonic the Hedgehog Games

4. Sonic Advance

Sonic Advance is Dimps first outing in Sonic on the Game Boy Advance hardware. The game was a breath of fresh air for its time. The Sega Dreamcast sadly underperformed and forced Sega to turn to third-party software development. Sonic Advance would be the saving grace for the flagship Sega series. It’s a throwback to the Genesis/Master System games that came before it, but also incorporates elements from the Sonic Adventure series, such as Sonic Rail’s grinding skills.

Sonic Advance has four playable characters Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy. Each character displays their own move sets. For its debut on the Game Boy Advance, Sonic Advance was great and still is. Dimps came up with a decent level of design, arguably the best of the Sonic Advance series, and created something new without relying on the nostalgia factor of the Genesis/Master System games. Sonic Advance has earned its place as one of the best 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games.

All 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games

3. Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 improves on the original Sonic game in practically every way. Now that Sega knew what Sonic was capable of, it was time for Sega to push the Genesis/Master system a little closer to its limits. For starters, most of the game’s various zones lack a third act. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 launched Spin Dash, a 2D Sonic mainstay. This technique requires a Spin Dash to maintain or resume Sonic’s fast speed. The level design is improved over the original, with stages that slow down your rapid progress. Its replay value comes from what alternate routes you can take to avoid such interruptions as you push for a faster run.

Sonic 2 has one of the best soundtracks in the series and the Genesis/Mega Drive’s sound chip absolutely shines. However, the game is a bit short, and the half-pipe-style bonus stages make it difficult to predict the dangers ahead as you try to collect the seven Chaos Emeralds. However, Sonic 2 paved the way for the Sonic Mania experienced around the world.

Top 2D Sonic the Hedgehog Games

2. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles

It’s hard to find where to place Sonic 3 & Knuckles on this list, but even its final spot doesn’t detract from the game’s excellence. Sonic 3 & Knuckles was the pinnacle of Sonic the Hedgehog as it was on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. Its odd name comes from the fact that Sonic Team planned a bigger game than anything that had come before. Because time was short, Sega released two different games but for a mixed experience. You see, Sonic 2 refined Sonic, Sonic 3 & Knuckles made Sonic a lasting legacy.

The Sonic team took several steps forward with its last Genesis/Mega Drive Sonic games. It weaves a better story than the previous games. Each zone communicates this through visual transitions from the beginning and end of one zone, connecting it to the next. Collecting Chaos Emeralds has been improved and simplified by finding bonus rings hidden in each zone. Chaos Emeralds become stronger as Super Emeralds. This can be done through the “lock-on” technology of the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge. The cartridge is stackable with both Sonic 3 and Sonic 2 respectively. It’s basically proto-DLC. Bringing back Knuckles as a playable character to previous Sonic games is pretty cool.

Finally, Sonic 3 & Knuckles easily has the best music the Sonic franchise has ever produced. To put the mystery to bed, Sonic is the co-creator Yuji Naka confirmed in a tweet Last year, the King of Pop Michael Jackson lent his talents to the development of Sonic 3. Jackson was unrecognized because of his dissatisfaction with the Genesis/Mega Drive output. However, after all these years our heads are poking towards the icecap zone and many other parts.

All 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games

1. Sonic Mania

It’s a tough choice, but we have to give Sonic Mania the best 2D Sonic the Hedgehog game win. This game acts as a full circle of the most loved in the gaming industry. Because Sonic Mania is a game, at its core, by Sonic fans for Sonic fans. Sega, a few years earlier, tried to return to Sonic’s 2D roots on the home console when they released the critically panned (by Sonic fans) Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I and Episode II. More about these games in another list, but it’s fair to say that this so-called “Sonic 4” is an unpleasant adventure.

Enter the combined efforts of Christian Whitehead, PagodaWest Games and Headcannon. Christian Whitehead, in particular, was brought in by Sega to port enhanced versions of the Sonic Genesis games to mobile devices. Sonic Mania is a celebration of what 2D Sonic has accomplished in the past, and a singular vision for the present. The game’s name comes from the frenzy surrounding the 16-bit era of Sonic’s Captivation. Sonic Mania controls like a hot knife through butter. Each level is perfectly designed and the momentum-based gameplay is perfectly articulated, even if you run down a path you didn’t intend, the game still makes that unintended course a path full of discovery.

Some may criticize Mania’s over-reliance on the eight classic zones over the five original zones. However, returning classics aren’t exactly one-to-one reskins of the original games they came from. Each level feels new again, integrating gameplay mechanics from Sonic’s past. Sonic 2’s Chemical Plant Zone features a ground-to-air launching mechanic from Sonic CD’s Absurd Workbench, and Sonic CD’s Stardust Speedway features a rope pulley system from Sonic 3’s Marble Garden Zone. Also, the special zones are top tier and getting the Chaos Emeralds won’t become a chore, but something to look forward to.

Sega releases Sonic Mania Plus, an add-on that brings Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel as new playable characters. Sonic Mania’s longevity is due to its “Encore Mode.” This mode transforms the zones into different color palettes, and the item containers in the zones can be cycled between the four playable characters.

It’s promising to know that Sonic Superstars uses the same physics as Christian Whitehead’s “Retro Engine” as Sonic Mania. The Sonic Origins compilation uses the same engine. This is a testament to the fact that this game blossomed wonderfully as a fan project. It is an amazing package of a game. The music, the gameplay, the special stages, the bonuses… everything is amazing. Sonic Mania is the best 2D Sonic the Hedgehog game ever.

What is your favorite 2D Sonic the Hedgehog game? Let us know in the comments below!

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