The Sonic the Hedgehog community cannot be stopped. Even with Sonic Frontiers on the horizon, nothing will ever stop them from flexing their talents in every possible pursuit – particularly in the form of a deluge of incredible fangames, covering all the angles that the Sonic series has ever opted for and many more besides.
2D and 3D platformers, alongside racing games, fighting games, and even dating games. You name it, someone has probably made it.
Of course, there are often some amateurish elements to a lot of fangames – there would be, after all, wouldn’t there? But a handful of titles are so well-designed, so polished and so damn enjoyable that it feels right to single them out for a little bit of praise.
Sonic Triple Trouble 16-Bit
Sonic Triple Trouble 16-bit is exactly what it sounds like – a reimagining of the cult classic Game Gear title Sonic Triple Trouble in the style of the traditional Sonic Mega Drive games. And it’s absolutely brilliant. A world-class fangame that offers an almost unfailingly authentic console gaming experience.
They didn’t just recreate Triple Trouble, they vastly improved upon it with expanded stages, new gimmicks and overhauled boss battles. It excels where many fangames fall down and in every respect should be the new benchmark for the scene.
It’s laced with joyous set pieces that expand on and pay homage to the source material, delivering thrills while staying rigidly within the confines of what the Mega Drive could actually do. Masterful compositions of the original Game Gear music soundtrack is across the whole experience, and it is a superb one. The levels are neither too long, nor too short, and you’ll be eager to jump back in when you inevitably clear it in one beautiful sitting.
Beating it that quickly is not a bad thing; post-game you’re able to replay stages with additional characters, who I won’t spoil, but are quite obvious if you’re familiar with Triple Trouble’s cast. There’s a robust multiplayer mode too, with a brace of minigames taking the whole package above and beyond anything I would expect from a fan-made Sonic the Hedgehog game given away for free. It’s a strong testament to the relentless passion of the community.
One thing it carries forward from the Game Gear original is a sense of smallness, preserving the pleasantly compact feel of Sega’s incomparable handheld. As mentioned, the levels have all been expanded, but the overall feel of the game, of the individual spaces, manages to capture some kind of intimacy.
I know, it sounds insane, but it’s true, and it makes Sonic Triple Trouble 16-bit feel like spending time with a close friend. It’s just… well, it’s lovely. It’s a deeply pleasant and appealing game – and it has the best battle with Knuckles in Sonic history. Probably worth a punt just for that.
An ambitious and impressive project, Sonic GT offers a take on 3D Sonic that’s akin to the Dreamcast classic Sonic Adventure, only with a much tighter, superior grasp on Sonic’s physics and momentum. Get up enough speed and he can run up and along walls in a way that simply feels correct, in the manner of the physics-led Mega Drive titles.
There’s no 'boost' button here; speed must be earned. The enormous levels of GT offer plenty of opportunities for exhilarating launches into the stratosphere, white knuckle jumps and wall runs that you’ve earned.
Rather than hit some boost pad, or some spring, you’re in control of your hedgehog’s athleticism here, which makes it all the more satisfying to play. Also, it’s funny to see the Moto Bug robots from the original Sonic the Hedgehog’s Green Hill Zone chasing Sonic at mach speed.
Only some minor camera issues keep it from being flawless, but pretty much all 3D games require camera wrangling. The visuals are wonderfully bright and enjoyable; the first time I saw the 3D recreation of Sonic 2’s classic Hill Top Zone level I knew I was in for a treat. The vast stages allow for a lot of experimentation and freedom – again, this recalls the side-scrolling Sonics in which you could perform actions that made you feel like you were “breaking the game”, when, of course, it was in all line with the programmer’s expectations.
GT is the best 3D Sonic fangame I’ve played, and it’s not even close. The enormous levels you traverse are inordinately impressive, the difficulty is perfectly pitched and you have the freedom to carve your own path over the mountains and gulleys, collecting rings as you go. Ace.
Sonic Classic 2
More traditional in its outlook, Sonic Classic 2 nonetheless excels as a fangame. More linear than most Sonic titles, its strong level design and great boss fights (often a sticking point in fangames) make up for some of its small missteps – such as enemies that can damage you in a bonus round?
The visuals are rich and vibrant – not dissimilar to franchise stand-out Sonic CD’s bizarre, techno-organic environments. The soundtrack complements this aesthetic beautifully, and it’s great fun to bop around the levels gathering rings and shields, finding secret areas carefully tucked away.
The controls are unique among the hobby, too, with the equivalent of the Mega Drive’s “C” button allowing you to execute a spin-dash without crouching. Holding the button in the air also initiates Sonic Mania’s drop-dash move, which sees Sonic launching himself forward when he hits the ground.
It’s about versatility, giving Sonic a brace of moves such as Sonic CD’s “Super Peel Out”, activated by pressing up then holding a button, the opposite maneuver to the spin dash.
It’s the traditional line that Sonic games should be kept simple, and I agree with this, but Sonic Classic 2 breaks that rule with its complexities, and in a way that overcomes the Sonic philosophy with aplomb. There’s a ton to see and do, lovely smooth play control and very, very little in the way of fangaming’s traditional bugs and issues. Strong, strong stuff.
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