Sonic Games In Order

Want to know how many mainline Sonic games there are? Find out in this definitive list of all Sonic games in order of release.

As one of the most recognizable video game mascots, Sonic the Hedgehog has a rich history of platforming, puzzle, racing, and arcade game releases.

This can make it tricky to pin down exactly which games are considered canon to the series and qualify as mainline Sonic games.

In this list, we’ll attempt to do just that by listing all Sonic games in order of release, specifically console Sonic games where you play as the blue blur himself.

Along the way, we’ll discuss how the franchise has evolved as well as the critical reception surrounding each game in the Sonic series.

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Table of ContentsShow

The Sonic franchise starts with the original Sonic the Hedgehog, released for the Sega Genesis in 1991 with an 8-bit version available for the Master System and Game Gear.

In it, our titular hero sets off on a quest to defeat the villainous Dr. Robotnik across a series of 2D platforming stages, using a single button to both jump and attack.

While the game itself is relatively short, it did a fine job at establishing Sonic as Sega’s premiere mascot and ushering in a new generation of 2D platformers.

Sonic the Hedgehog would end up being a commercial success that went on to sell over 24 million copies worldwide and receive critical acclaim.

A sequel titled Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was released a year later and bestowed the character with his now-iconic spin-dash ability.

The number of stages was expanded to 10 and a second playable character, Sonic’s best friend Tails, became available by plugging in a second controller.

The story sees Sonic trying to stop Dr. Robotnik from powering up the Death Egg space station by collecting rings, defeating enemies, and clearing levels.

Similar to the original, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 broke video game sales records upon release across its 16-bit and 8-bit versions.

One of the lesser-known mainline games, Sonic the Hedgehog CD (also known as Sonic CD) released for the Sega CD add-on for the Genesis.

In it, the blue blur sets out to save the Little Planet satellite from Dr. Robotnik by traveling through the past, present, and future versions of seven distinct levels.

Aside from its time-traveling mechanic, the game is unique in that it introduces players to one of Sonic’s most beloved villains, Metal Sonic.

Upon release, Sonic CD was met praised by critics for its gameplay, visuals, and audio, and quickly became the bestselling title for the Sega CD.

The third and arguably best game in the original trilogy, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 released for the Genesis in 1994 and saw Sonic and Tails teaming up yet again.

Similar to Sonic 2, the game supported 2-player couch co-op and introduced Knuckles as a new antagonist that can be seen stealing Sonic’s emeralds at the very start.

Along with Knuckles, Dr. Robotnik makes a return as Sonic and Tails try to stop him from re-launching the Death Egg space station.

Following its release, Sonic 3 became one of the bestselling Sega Genesis games and was critically acclaimed worldwide.

Launching in the same year as Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles shined a bigger spotlight on Knuckles by making him a playable character for the first time in the series.

Together, Sonic and Knuckles attempt to save Angel Island from Dr. Robotnik’s evil plans across six unique 2D levels.

The most standout feature of this game is the ability to stick Sonic 3’s cartridge on top of Sonic & Knuckles’ to access Sonic 3 & Knuckles using Sega’s “lock-on technology.”

Other than a handful of critic complaints about it feeling too similar to previous entries, Sonic & Knuckles was generally well-received.

In December 1998, our blue hero would make the big leap to full 3D graphics with Sonic Adventure for the Sega Dreamcast.

This time around, players got the option to play as Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles in addition to new characters Big the Cat and E-102 Gamma across separate chapters.

Gameplay maintained the fast-paced platforming of previous games alongside new racing and virtual pet Chao minigames.

Soon after its release, Sonic Adventure became the bestselling Dreamcast title and was later remastered and re-released as Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut.

Released three years later, Sonic Adventure 2 was a more fast-paced, action-driven follow-up to Sonic Adventure that included two separate stories.

In the hero story, players guide Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles as they set out to defeat Dr. Robotnik; in the dark story, players control Shadow, Dr. Robotnik, and Rouge the Bat.

Upon release, the game was favorably reviewed by critics praising it for its gameplay variety and bonus features.

From a fan perspective, Sonic Adventure 2 is held in high regard for its level design, visual aesthetic, and contrasting cast of characters.

Sonic Heroes stands out as the first game in the series to launch on multiple platforms, specifically Nintendo, PlayStation, and Xbox’s home consoles at the time.

Like Sonic Adventure 2, gameplay is divided into four playable factions: Team Sonic, Team Dark, Team Rose, and Team Chaotix.

It sees the player’s team racing through 3D levels collecting rings and Chaos Emeralds while battling robots and ultimately stopping Dr. Robotnik.

While some reviewers felt the game was an improvement over previous 3D Sonic games, it failed to capture the magic of the franchise’s 2D platformer roots.

Not to be confused with the first game in the series, 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog is a soft reboot that was released for PS3 and 360, with the Wii version canceled.

In it, players could control Sonic, Shadow, or newcomer Silver the Hedgehog as they battle against an ancient evil being called Solaris while being pursued by Dr. Robotnik.

The game shares some similarities with Sonic Adventure, with each character having their own levels and unique abilities to navigate the world.

Unfortunately, it was met with widespread negative reception as critics were disappointed by the game’s graphics and dated gameplay.

To make up for the lack of a Wii version of 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega released Sonic and the Secret Rings exclusively for the Nintendo console.

It features Sonic as the sole protagonist and ventures away from the standard format by introducing on-rails movement that utilized the Wii’s motion controls.

The story sees the spiky hero on a quest to stop an evil genie named Erazo Djinn by collecting magical rings and leveling up to unlock special abilities.

While Secret Rings wasn’t quite as disastrous as 2006’s Sonic game, it didn’t fare much better and at best, received mixed or average reviews.

The series would return to a multiplatform release approach with the release of Sonic Unleashed in November 2008.

Compared to previous installments, this game is very different in that it introduces a new version of Sonic, dubbed Sonic the Werehog.

Divided into day/night sections, it sees Sonic navigating levels at breakneck speeds before transforming into the Werehog for slower, action-driven sequences.

Sonic Unleashed was met with mixed reviews citing its environment design and performance as a plus but criticizing the Werehog concept as a whole.

Another Wii-exclusive title, Sonic and the Black Knight sees the blue blur transported to the medieval fantasy world of King Arthur.

Here, Sonic is granted a sword that allows him to take on tougher bad guys and bosses in addition to using his blazing-fast speed to traverse environments.

Much of the game’s design is reminiscent of Secret Rings, namely its leveling system and emphasis on using motion controls during platforming and combat sections.

Sonic and the Black Knight received mixed reviews following its release as some critics enjoyed its presentation while others took issue with the controls and combat.

Fulfilling fans’ longtime desire for a sequel to Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 was released as two separate episodes during 2010-2012.

In the first episode, Sonic attempts to stop his arch-nemesis, Dr. Robotnik, across four zones with alternate pathways that make full use of Sonic’s new abilities.

Episode II picks up right after and introduces Tails as a second playable character, with the pair traveling to a mysterious island to defeat an army of robot pirates.

Both episodes were well-received and provided fans with a short yet sweet Sonic adventure that harkened back to the franchise’s glory days.

Having earned some good faith from fans, Sonic Team’s next game was Sonic Colors, originally released in 2010 and later remastered for Switch, PS4, and Windows PC in 2020.

The story follows Sonic as he tries to yet again thwart Dr. Robotnik’s evil plans to build an interstellar amusement park using colorful aliens’ energy as fuel.

To defeat him, Sonic enlists the help of each Wisp, harnessing their powers across both 2D and 3D platforming stages spread out across five different planets.

Upon release, the game was seen as a return to form that did an excellent job of learning from its predecessors’ mistakes to deliver one of the best games in the series.

Sonic Generations was a celebration of the franchise’s 20th anniversary and follows Sonic and Tails as they team up with past versions of themselves to save the world.

The game is structured around two gameplay styles: Classic side-scrolling 2D platformer levels and modern 3D levels modeled after games like Sonic Unleashed.

While this mixing of 2D and 3D had been explored by previous Sonic games, Generations took the presentation to a whole new level that was a hit with fans.

As a result, Sonic Generations received generally favorable reviews and is regarded as having some of the best levels and bossfights in the franchise’s history.

The next game in the series is Sonic Lost World, another Nintendo-exclusive title that was originally released for Wii U and 3DS before being ported to PC.

In it, Sonic and Tails are forced to put their differences aside and join forces with Dr. Robotnik to defeat the Deadly Six alien tribe.

Building off of previous games from this same era, Lost World incorporates fast-paced parkour movement, levels with alternate pathways, and new Wisp Color Powers.

While the game’s visuals and music were widely celebrated, some critics took issue with Lost World’s awkward control scheme and parkour movement.

To celebrate Sonic’s 25th anniversary, Sega released Sonic Mania, a retro-centric adventure that sees Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles battling Dr. Robotnik’s minions.

At the time, it was seen as a much-needed reflection on the franchise as a whole and did a fine job capturing the spirit of the original Sonic trilogy.

This includes revisiting some of the most iconic 2D levels in Sonic history along with a handful of new ones that build off of the classic gameplay fans have come to love.

In the end, Sonic Mania became the highest-rated game in the series and was later rereleased with bonus content under the title Sonic Mania Plus.

Sonic Forces is the first game in the franchise to emphasize customization and lets players create their own characters and assign them special gadgets.

Naturally, Sonic is still the main focus of the game, as he, Shadow, and the player character work together to defeat Dr. Robotnik once more.

Gameplay employed a similar 3D platforming format as seen in Sonic Unleashed, with the hero using both new and old abilities in combination with Wisp power-ups.

While not as beloved as Sonic Mania, the game received substantial praise for its visuals and customization but also criticism for its level design and bossfights.

Positioned as a soft reboot for the franchise, Sonic Frontiers is a return to form for the series that introduces new combat mechanics and open-world environments.

In it, Sonic and his friends become separated after entering a wormhole; shortly after, he finds himself stranded alone in the mysterious Starfall Islands.

Frontiers incorporates familiar Sonic elements like rings and grind rails while offering a massive sandbox for players to explore while solving puzzles and battling enemies.

Following its release, the game received mixed reviews praising its story while criticizing the more repetitive aspects of its gameplay.

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Justin Fernandez

As a fan of both indie and triple-A games, Justin finds joy in discovering and sharing hidden gems with other passionate gamers. In addition to reporting on the latest and greatest titles, he manages GamingScan’s social media channels.

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