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Top 5 Games from the "Dark Age" of Sonic the Hedgehog

The best of the worst from our pal Sonic.

Sonic games have always been a mixed bag in terms of quality. Most people seem to forget that, even in his "classic" days, the Blue Blur had some real stinkers (Sonic Labyrinth, anyone?). But as any gamer active back then will tell you, 2003 to 2009 was a true low point for the franchise -- Sonic Team just couldn't seem to do anything right.

Or could they? Maybe, just maybe something good came out of those dark times. Let's sort through the trash to find some treasure, shall we?

5. Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (DS, 2008)

This game is often overlooked, and it's easy to see why: a Sonic RPG makes less than no sense. Sonic is the "fastest thing alive." Shoving him into an RPG -- arguably the slowest of genres -- was clearly an act of desperation from Sonic Team. It's hard to fault anyone for assuming that Chronicles would suck.

But Sonic Chronicles, while certainly no masterpiece, has a lot going for it. Developed by BioWare, the game boasts a fun, touch screen-based battle system, unique overworlds, and a surprisingly compelling story where you can play as most of Sonic's friends.

Each in-game conversation even gives you dialogue options, and how much of a jerk you are as Sonic can influence stuff like who joins your party and extra story scenes.

I know most people don't play Sonic for the story, but with this one I'd say it's worth it. Despite the infamous cliffhanger ending.

4. Sonic Riders Zero Gravity (Wii, 2008)

 

Maybe I've been spoiled by Mario Kart, but I was totally unprepared for the level of skill needed to play this game. If you want to beat the AI, let alone other players, nothing less than complete mastery will net you victory. 

But the game is so well constructed that it manages to constantly destroy you without being cheap. If you lose a race, it's entirely because you suck. There are a lot of mechanics to learn -- from gear, to items, to the tracks themselves. But once you get the hang of it, Zero Gravity is one of the most satisfying racing games out there. It also becomes really easy.

3. Sonic Battle (GBA, 2003)

Yet another Sonic game forgotten to the cruel march of time. Sonic Battle came out at the same time as Sonic Heroes, so this unique arena fighter was likely overshadowed by that game's genuine bad-ness.

Regardless, Sonic Battle features 4-person multiplayer, 10 playable characters, a story mode, a challenge mode and minigames. And, on top of all that, the more you play with each character, the more of their moves you get to customize your own fighter. 

The battle system also has a shocking amount of depth, and without a proper strategy, you can easily get wrecked.

It's a frantic, fast-pasted fighter that's legitimately fun -- and unlike a lot of other Sonic spin-offs, it feels like it actually belongs in the franchise. 

 2. Sonic Unleashed (PS3, 2008)

I'll be honest, only about half of Sonic Unleashed is any good (and if you're playing the Wii version, it's only a third). But the half that Sonic Team got right is so good.

The Day stages from this game ushered in a new era for Sonic that combined 2D platforming with a new style of 3D gameplay that basically redefined the term "fast" for the franchise. 

Also they're beautiful. Too bad the Werehog had to ruin it all.

1. Sonic Rush (DS, 2005) 

A lot of people seem to forget this, but Sonic Rush came out the same year as that infamous disgrace, Shadow the Hedgehog. The same day, even. But, where Shadow was a complete and total mess, Rush was something new and beautiful and actually great.  

The boost mechanic and 2D in Unleashed clearly came from this game, but even that doesn't have the level of polish that this game has. Not to mention the ridiculously amazing soundtrack.

I might be overselling it a bit, but it's truly a great game. And, like all Sonic games that are even a little bit good, it's been largely ignored.

Oh well. 

What "dark age" Sonic games do you think are legitimately good? Let us know in the comments!

Published Oct. 25th 2016

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