The best Sonic games ranked - 11 of the hedgehog's best adventures

Sonic Superstars
(Image credit: Sega)

The best Sonic games, right now, are offering a level of quality the franchise has rarely seen. Sonic Team and Sega have both been on a tear of late and the upcoming Sonic Superstars, announced at Summer Game Fest, looks to be continuing that having been previewed positively.

There’s no shortage of Sonic content to enjoy in 2023. Sonic Frontiers presents the best 3D entry in the series for years, pivoting the series in an exciting new direction. Sonic’s 2D legacy is also going strong, and some of his classics are still available to play via remasters or backward compatibility. Plus, thanks to Sega’s positive stance on fan projects, there are tons of ambitious titles available to download for free on PC.

But if you’re new to the Sonic series, or looking to tick off some of the best Sonic games including the recently launched Sonic Superstars, where should you start? We’ve put together a list of games we recommend to help you form a Sonic backlog and prepare yourself for the future of the series. Read on, then, to learn more about our picks for the best Sonic games, ranked in order of least to most favorite.

Best Sonic games

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Sonic Superstars screenshot

(Image credit: Sega)

11. Sonic Superstars

A strong return-to-form for Classic Sonic

Sonic Superstars had something to prove in the wake of 2017's excellent Sonic Mania. But it continues the quality run of 2D Sonic titles with a full suite of brand new zones, gorgeous visuals and support for local co-op of up to four players.

One of the best new features Sonic Superstars brings to the table is with its version of the Chaos Emeralds. In this game, each Emerald grabbed from a special stage adds a unique power. Powers include being able to swim up waterfalls, turn into a fireball to jump semi-indefinitely, summoning clones to attack enemies and growing vines to climb to out-of-reach sections of any given level. It's a superb way of adding replayability and exploration inventive.

There's some shortcomings, such as a relatively weak soundtrack, arduous boss fights and a lack of online support for co-op. But overall, Sonic Superstars is a quality entry in the series, and it makes us excited to see where the 2D formula is going to go from here.

  • Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Sonic Triple Trouble 16-bit

(Image credit: Noah Copeland)

10. Sonic Triple Trouble 16-Bit (2022)

The best 2D Sonic fan game

Sonic Triple Trouble is one of the hedgehog’s many Game Gear titles and one that’s being added to Sonic Origins Plus on June 23. However, did you know that there’s an excellent fan project that’s remade the game as a 16-bit title reminiscent of those original Genesis / Mega Drive entries?

Sonic Triple Trouble 16-Bit, created by developer Noah Copeland, lovingly recreates the Game Gear title with enhanced visuals, 16:9 widescreen support, and new additions like 3D special stages and all-new enemies, level layouts, and more.

Sonic Triple Trouble 16-Bit can be downloaded for free from Copeland’s GameJolt page where you can find versions for Windows, Mac, and Android devices. It’s supremely worth your time if you’re a fan of classic Sonic games and an ideal one to play while waiting for Sonic Superstars’ launch later this year. 

  • Play it on: PC, Mac, Android
  • Original hardware: Game Gear

Sonic Origins Plus

(Image credit: Sega)

9. Sonic Origins Plus (2023)

The best classic Sonic compilation that's still easy to buy

Sonic Origins Plus is a compilation of the hedgehog’s earliest games, packing Sonic 1, 2, 3 & Knuckles and CD all under one roof. It’s a collection of excellent value, especially if you’re looking for the easiest way to play these classics on modern consoles, with unlockable extras and a fun mission mode to boot. Maybe not quite as charming or feature-rich as Sonic Mega Collection for the Gamecube, but Origins Plus at least won't cost a fortune to buy.

It’s worth noting that Sonic Origins Plus isn’t quite a perfect collection, however. Sonic Origins Plus has improved since launch, too, with the game recently being updated to support nearest-neighbor pixel rendering for emulation that's more accurate to the original releases. Some of Sonic 3’s original soundtrack, however, had to be replaced due to licensing issues, meaning Origins Plus sadly isn’t 100% faithful to the original trilogy despite its best efforts.

Still, it's now in a state where it’s easy to recommend to newcomers. And on June 23, Sonic Origins Plus will launch as a physical release, and as separate DLC for digital copies. Plus has also added 12 Game Gear titles to the collection, as well as the ability to play as Amy across the four mainline games for the first time ever. 

  • Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Original hardware: Sega Genesis / Mega Drive, Sega CD, Game Gear

Sonic P-06

(Image credit: Sega)

8. Project ‘06

The best 3D Sonic fan game

It’s commonly agreed upon that, despite having one of the best soundtracks in the series, Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 is a severely under-baked title. Long load times, visual oddities, and an extremely buggy physics system completely take the wind out of this reboot’s sales.

However, an enterprising modding team is creating Project ‘06 (also known as Sonic P-06). The fanmade project, rebuilt in the Unity engine, boasts vastly improved physics and handling of each character, allowing the original’s genuinely good level design to shine.

Project ‘06 is a phenomenal achievement and unarguably the definitive way to play the original game. And if you have a PC that can run it, it’s well worth checking out, doubly so considering it’s entirely free to download and receiving consistent updates.

  • Play it on: PC

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed - best Sonic games

(Image credit: Sega)

7. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (2012)

The best Sonic racing game

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed isn’t solely one of the best Sonic games; it’s a contender for one of the best racing games of all time. We’re cheating a little here as it’s not strictly a Sonic title. While Sonic characters do make up the lion’s share of the roster, it’s very much a celebration of everything Sega, with characters and tracks from franchises like Space Channel 5, Jet Set Radio, Shinobi, Golden Axe, and Afterburner.

Transformed’s biggest selling point is the fact that your kart will seamlessly transform into a boat or a plane where appropriate, and most tracks will have you swapping between two or three of these forms. Many tracks will also change layout entirely on subsequent laps, lending a welcome degree of dynamism to each location.

It’s still extremely easy to recommend Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Despite its age, it still plays exceedingly well. It’s frequently on sale on Steam, and you can even buy it on modern Xbox consoles thanks to backward compatibility. Check it out if you've had your fill of the best racing games and are after something a bit more refreshing and creative.

  • Play it on: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (via backwards compatibility), PC
  • Original hardware: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U

Sonic Generations - best Sonic games

(Image credit: Sega)

6. Sonic Generations (2011)

The best Sonic game for a nostalgia trip

What Sonic Generations lacks in a compelling story, it more than makes up for with some of the absolute best 3D Sonic stages in the series’ history. Acting as one large remix of the hedgehog’s history, you’ll revisit nine iconic worlds from all across his 20 years of existence up to that point. Standouts include Sky Sanctuary, Speed Highway, City Escape, and Rooftop Run.

The 3D stages are blazingly fast, though the 2D stages featuring Classic Sonic are admittedly of a more inconsistent quality. Generations does make up for this with an absolute wealth of unlockable content including concept artwork and music for you to use in each stage. It’s a feature-rich celebration of Sonic that’s fun to return to time and again. 

  • Play it on: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (via backwards compatibility), PC
  • Original hardware: PS3, Xbox 360

Sonic Adventure 2 - best Sonic games

(Image credit: Sega)

5. Sonic Adventure 2 Battle (2002)

The best Sonic game with multiple campaigns (and Chao Garden!)

Sonic Adventure 2 is the fan-favorite follow-up that’s still widely beloved to this day. The game introduced Shadow the Hedgehog and Rouge the Bat, two characters who have since become mainstays in the franchise.

Adventure 2 ditches the hub world setup of the original, streamlining its multiple playable characters into Hero and Dark campaigns, where you’ll play as all of them within. Overall, the quality of each level varies more than it did in the original, with missions featuring the ancillary cast largely falling flat. However, Sonic and Shadow’s stages are a huge improvement, and to this day, Sonic Adventure 2 features some of their best-ever levels.

Much like the original, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle can be downloaded and played on modern Xbox consoles, as well as purchased on Steam. 

  • Play it on: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (via backwards compatibility), PC
  • Original hardware: Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo Gamecube

Sonic Unleashed - best Sonic games

(Image credit: Sega)

4. Sonic Unleashed (2008)

The Sonic game with the best 3D levels

Sonic Unleashed is an out-and-out fan favorite within the Sonic community. It features some of the fastest, most visually stunning 3D levels in franchise history. Arguably, it also has composer Tomoya Ohtani’s best work. Unleashed is a globe-trotting adventure that adds some real-world flavor and diversity to your progression through the game.

The werehog in the room is, of course, the nighttime stages of Unleashed. Here, Sonic is transformed into a beast-like version of himself, and the stages play more like a slow-paced beat ‘em up. The nighttime stages have garnered a bit of an infamous reputation over the years. But honestly, they really aren’t that bad. As fun as the blazing-fast daytime stages? Certainly not. But the hatred for them has been greatly overblown.

Much like another entry further down our list, Sonic Unleashed can actually be played on modern hardware. It’s one of the supported backward-compatible titles on Xbox Series X|S. Better yet, it can be played with an enhanced 60fps, which means it plays much, much smoother than it ever did on PS3 and Xbox 360. If you own one of Microsoft's modern consoles, give Sonic Unleashed a try. It's a contender for one of the best backward-compatible games on Xbox One.

  • Play it on: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (via backwards compatibility)
  • Original hardware: PS3, Xbox 360

Sonic looks out over green hills in Sonic Frontiers

(Image credit: Sega)

3. Sonic Frontiers (2022)

The best modern Sonic game

At the time of its release in late 2022, Sonic Frontiers marked the series’ big return after a half-decade hiatus since the release of the much-maligned Sonic Forces in 2017. When Frontiers launched, fans found an awesome new game that pushed the series in a confident new direction, and broke sales records while it was at it.

In Sonic Frontiers, the hedgehog and his pals investigate the Starfall Islands, where the Chaos Emeralds have mysteriously congregated. After being separated from them, Sonic must traverse large open zones, find collectibles and race through Cyberspace stages to reunite with his friends and save the islands from the Titans, which serve as Frontiers’ epic boss fights.

Sonic Frontiers still has its share of issues, but it’s an overall strong return to form where movement and exploration feel fantastic. It also has one of the best soundtracks in the series, ranging from somber piano themes to belting metal tracks for its boss encounters. Sonic Frontiers is receiving free DLC updates throughout the year, making it a feature-rich game that’ll be supported for quite some time yet.

And if you've finished Sonic Frontiers for yourself, you can read up on why that boss fight lives rent free in our heads.

  • Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Sonic Mania

(Image credit: SEGA)

2. Sonic Mania Plus (2018)

The best 2D Sonic game

Whereas Sonic Frontiers presented a confident return to 3D for the series, Sonic Mania did so for its 2D roots. Mania takes Sonic back to his earliest days, featuring a mix of zones from the first four Sonic titles as well as a handful of brand-new ones. And it’s absolutely brilliant. It's also a great fit for the Nintendo Switch's portability, making it a top contender for our best Nintendo Switch games guide.

Sonic Mania boasts gorgeous sprite-based visuals reminiscent of those original Sega Genesis / Mega Drive titles, albeit with an HD lick of paint and modern flair. There are plenty of throwbacks and references here to please stalwart fans, but it also makes for an ideal entry point for newcomers exploring 2D Sonic for the first time.

Sonic Mania Plus was released a year later, acting as a DLC expansion for the base game. In Plus, long-forgotten characters Ray the Flying Squirrel and Mighty the Armadillo join Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles, bringing the playable roster up to five. Plus also features remixed levels, and provides a physical version of the game if you’re a keen collector. 

  • Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Sonic Adventure - best Sonic games

(Image credit: Sega)

1. Sonic Adventure (1998)

The best Sonic game overall

Sonic Adventure marked the series’ first true foray into full 3D, and what a way to leap into the third dimension for the blue blur. Adventure marked the true debut of ‘Modern Sonic,’ featuring a lankier, slicker design than his more cutesy, pudgy classic counterpart.

This Dreamcast original is an incredibly ambitious game, featuring multiple playable characters all with campaigns of varying length and, admittedly, quality. Regardless, there’s a ton of content in Sonic Adventure, including three main hub worlds filled with missions and secrets.

You can still easily play Sonic Adventure today, either on Xbox consoles via backward compatibility or on PC via Steam. Keep in mind that these ports are based on the inferior DX version released on the Gamecube. So we’d say it’s worth playing on original hardware if you can, or by downloading the Better SADX mod for the PC version that restores original textures and physics while fixing bugs and offering several quality-of-life modernities.

Sonic Adventure is an immensely important title. It showed that Sonic can work excellently in 3D, all the way back in the late 90s. It also injected that cheesy, but nonetheless infectious optimism the series is best known for with its fun characters and phenomenal soundtrack. All these reasons and more is why Sonic Adventure finds itself at the top of our best Sonic games list. 

  • Play it on: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (via backwards compatibility), PC
  • Original hardware: Sega Dreamcast

Best Sonic games: FAQs

What is the best Sonic game for beginners?

Sonic Frontiers is probably the best starting point for beginners when looking at the Sonic series. This is, in part, due to the very fact that it's the most recent and thus most familiar in terms of controls, aesthetics and so on. It's also a great starting point due to its moreish Cyber Space levels and also the big, open world, which is great fun to explore and speed around. The only downside here is that newcomers probably won't pick up on the many nods and references to past events in the series.

What is the most sold Sonic game?

In terms of the main series of games, the original Sonic the Hedgehog game is the best-selling Sonic game of all time with sales of more than 15 million! It made a big splash when it came out and maintained popularity for a long while - and paved the way for the series and the rest of the games in our best Sonic games list. As an aside, however, if you're looking for the Sonic game that has sold the most regardless of position in the series, then the mobile game Sonic Dash is probably the best-selling Sonic game, reportedly achieving north of 200 million downloads.

How we made our best Sonic games list

We made our choices for the best Sonic games based on a couple of criteria. The first, of course, is choosing the games we consider to be of the highest quality across several generations of the franchise's existence. There are a few things we check for here: strong level design, a satisfying sense of high speed, and, most crucially, a banger of a soundtrack.

Being huge fans of both the series and the community, we also wanted to highlight a couple of excellent fan-made titles that wouldn't look out of place on Sonic Team's official resume. As such committed fans ourselves, we know what makes a good Sonic game, a not-so-good Sonic game, and a great Sonic game.

Our second quota was, for the most part, to select titles that are easily purchasable and playable on at least one piece of modern hardware. Some entries here don't have official remasters yet, but are playable via backward-compatible means, for example. And while Sonic Origins technically isn't the best way to play those classic Sonic titles, it is by far the most affordable and is available on several modern platforms.

If you're looking to see where the best Sonic games come in terms of wider lists for us here at TechRadar Gaming, then check out our best single-player games and best PC games guides too.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.