Round Table: Our favorite Sonic spin-offs

This year the Sonic the Hedgehog series turns the big 20 and over the years there have been many spin-off titles. The staff got together to pick our favorites, hit the jump to see them. If you want to share your favorites, hit us in the comment section.

nuckles87’s pick

I feel kind of bad picking the game that probably half of the staff is going to choose, but it can’t really be denied: S&SASR is really, really good. Sonic’s not exactly known for his spin-offs either. Sonic Riders hasn’t exactly gone down in history as a sterling example of mascot racing after all, and Sonic & the Black Knight…the less said about that disaster the better, I think. Nevertheless I do believe, perhaps because of these aforementioned disasters, that Sonic hasn’t gotten his due for the handful of good spin offs he’s had. Case in point, the subject of my roundtable entry, Sonic All Stars Racing.

Fast, balanced and beautiful, it can be argued that S&SASR out Mario Karts Mario Kart. It’s got stellar graphics, loads of fan favorite characters from both Sonic and other franchises, and not a blue shell or snaker in site! In truth, I was never a big fan of the kart genre, so the fact that this game converted me gives it even more credit in my eyes.


I won’t deny the game has its faults, but it’s also easily better than any main line Sonic game released in the decade before it. That is the mark of an incredible spin-off. Albeit, a spin-off in a franchise that had seen better days.

That is, until Sonic Colors came out. Let’s not forget that rocked too!

Barry the Nomad’s pick

While not the deepest or greatest of the spin-off titles, I have to name Sonic Drift 2 as my favorite. The foremost reason would be the music. Sonic Drift 2 has some of the best 8-bit Sonic tunes; Ice Cap, Rainy Savannah and Hill Top being my favorites. The gameplay is simple: Stay on the track, pass opponents when you see them, avoid obstacles and use weapons when you can. Rarely does the racing break out into insane kart combat, and often you’ll find yourself just racing along, occasionally sharing the screen with a few opponents. The game never becomes boring, nor does it become an adrenaline pumping race to the finish. Instead, you’ll find yourself casually enjoying the simple gameplay, the awesome music and the long gone 90’s era cast.

Unlike current day Sonic racing games, there isn’t a single bad egg in the roster. You’ve got the classic trio of Sonic, Tails and Knuckles, the bad guy trio of Eggman, Fang and Metal Sonic and finally the pre-red dress wearing Amy Rose. I always loved the early incarnation of Amy. Considering how prevalent the game is, available on the Sonic Gems Collection and soon the 3DS, every Sonic fan should be able to easily give the game a try. Even if you have an old Game Gear, dust it off and hit ebay for the game. It’s well worth it.

cube_b3’s pick


Spin-offs and Sonic are like fat folks wearing skintight clothing. They don’t look good but you’ll find several people totally oblivious to this ugly reality.

Sonic spin-offs are an ugly reality that SEGA keeps producing. Some people may have enjoyed Sonic Spinball, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine or Sonic 3D Blast, but I sure didn’t. My little cousins and I have had more fun playing Sonic 06 than any of the modern day spin-offs. These days SEGA is producing Sonic games so fast that it’s hard to discern what’s a spin-off and what falls under the main series. Take the Wii exclusives Sonic & The Secret Rings, Sonic & The Black Knight and Sonic Colors for example. They largely feature a solo Sonic running at breakneck speed like we are accustomed to, and the producers don’t consider them spin-offs, even though the first two don’t even have chaos emeralds.

I could go on further, but I’d like to get to the game I’m talking about, Sonic and the Black Knight. SatBK isn’t my favorite Sonic game, but out of all the spin-offs that have been released in this series, it’s easily one of the best. That is, right after S&SASR, but Nuckles87 already picked that one.

Sonic & The Black Knight is the second game in the Sonic Story Book series, so it’s sort of a sequel to Sonic & the Secret Rings. S&tSR wasn’t all that good but fans were so consumed with hate directed towards Sonic Riders, Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis and Sonic the Hedgehog 06 that they went easy on Secret Rings. Decent fan reception and solid sales figures prompted Sonic Team to release another game.

Black Knight, like every other Sonic game released in recent memory, was promising another gameplay gimmick that I honestly thought would work well in a Sonic game: sword Fighting. To me, Shinobi and NightShade already felt like Sonic games with swords, so I was expecting something similar from Black Knight. Unfortunately, the sword play featured here is just Wii waggling that I could never really get the hang of. Fortunately, my little cousins were phenomenal at the game, so I just let them play the tough parts.

A bizarre change from Secret Rings is that off an illusion that your no longer on rails since you control Sonic with the nunchuck. You’re still confined to a narrow path throughout every level. This hurts the game for two reasons:

1) There are lots of twists and turns and but all you are supposed to do is hold the analog stick forward to make it through them. If you try to turn Sonic, he’ll just hit an invisible wall.
2) In Secret Rings; Sonic was running at mach speed and the players just navigated him, in Black Knight however your running freely so you would be tempted to explore the beautiful environments only to run in to an invisible balls, this makes the game feel extremely rigid and dated.

You may notice I’m ragging on this game a lot. So why did I pick it? Because at least the story is fun, full of twists and turns and references from past games. We also have the awesome Jun Sunoe and his band CRUSH40’s soundtrack featuring the epic Knight of the Wind track.

-nSega54-‘s pick

[MAKE BELIEVE’S REBORN!!!1!11!!!!1]

(ahem.) On that note, if I’m remembering this right, I was in Cancun when Sonic and the Secret Rings hit stores, so I knew I’d have to wait until I got back home to play it. One thing I did make sure to do though while I was down there was jump on a computer at my first opportunity and check out Metacritic and….well. Let’s just say I was pretty surprised by the not so great reception to what would become my favorite Sonic spinoff.

What was so interesting about Secret Rings was that it was being made alongside Sonic ’06, and all through their development I was convinced that Sonic ’06 would be the better game. Once that game came out and revealed itself to be a trainwreck, the future looked awfully bleak for the Sonic series. I anxiously shifted my hopes to Sonic and the Secret Rings. I was so sure that if this game sucked, the Sonic series would be dead.

Turns out, the game didn’t suck despite the cool press reception; in fact, it remains one of my favorite Sonic games this generation, demonstrating a promising start for the Sonic Storybook series, which would then sadly go on to hit a brick wall at mach speed with Sonic and the Black Knight. (Sorry, cube_b3.)

What I liked so much about Sonic and the Secret Rings was its sense of speed. Putting Sonic on rails sounded like a horrible idea at the time but in practice it worked, and I loved controlling Sonic through his Arabian Nights adventure, I liked seeing him get stronger and having a role in this evolution, I loved the challenging difficulty, and…well, I even sort of liked some of that soundtrack.

Some of it. The main theme was overplayed and happened to be one of the worst in the game, but a lot of the level music I actually thought was a great fit, cheesy lyrics aside of course. The visuals and art direction were above and beyond anything else on the Wii at the time, and some of the set pieces, like a magic carpet ride and a run through a starry cosmic sky, were more than eager to show them off.

All in all, Sonic and the Secret Rings was, as I called it at the time in my Gamefaqs.com review, “Not Sonic Adventure 3, but still a very fun and fast game in an otherwise dying series.”

Turns out, the series is no longer dying, which is good, and I give Sonic and the Secret Rings some credit for helping to remind Sonic Team what made Sonic so appealing to begin with.

George’s pick

Sure, this is sort of a cheating spin-off since the game is actually a ‘Sonic themed’ version of Puyo Puyo. But I think it’s important to note that this is the first Puyo Puyo game to make it west, even if it isn’t known by the Puyo Puyo name. The game was still intact.

Some hardcore Sonic fans will be mad that I picked this, since it doesn’t play like Sonic at all or have him in the title. But it’s a spin-off; if I wanted to play a Sonic like game, I would play a main series title. This game in my opinion was really addicting.

It’s probably my second most played puzzle game, right after Tetris for the original Game Boy. In the game you have to battle Dr. Robotnik’s robots till you reach the last stage, the egg shaped master villain himself.

You can now play this game in most Genesis collections. Give it a go with a friend, it’s a fun title. Amazing? No, but fun.

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33 responses to “Round Table: Our favorite Sonic spin-offs

  1. CrazyTails says:

    It went from good to mediocre and ended up with the pure awesomenes that's knows as mean bean machine. yaaayyy george.

    My top 3 would be.

    1. sonic sega all star racing

    2. Sonic 3d blast

    3. mean bean machine

  2. "fans were so consumed with hate directed towards Sonic Riders, Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis and Sonic the Hedgehog 06…".

    What Sonic fans hate the Genesis games?

    Otherwise, good article Segabits. I only like sonic 1 and SASASR is pretty fun. Mean Bean Machine is too fast. Faster than Puyo Puyo.

  3. CrazyTails says:

    I think they meant "sonic the hedgehog genesis" as the full name of the gba port of sonic 1. Which sucked pretty hard..

  4. cube_b3 says:

    Sonic The Hedgehog: Genesis is a port of the original Sonic for GBA and from what I've heard it is really inferior to the original. It was supposed to be an awesome game cause it introduced the Spin Dash from Sonic 2.

    Also please read my post again, some of my remarks were misinterpreted during editing.

    @ -nSega54- : Secret Rings is better than Black Knight no doubt about it, but I enjoyed the story or BK more.

  5. To hate Mean Bean Machine is to hate Puyo Puyo.

  6. Suzuki Yu says:

    sonic & the secret rings is my answer, that game was really amazing and good start for a story book franchise, the concept just fit with sonic before they ruined it all with that awful game called Black Knight.

    also SaSASR and Colors are brilliant games (yes i consider colors as spin-off)

  7. DCGX says:

    No particular order:

    – Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing (awesome racing fun)

    – Sonic Unleashed (the day stages are the best 3D Sonic Stages period)

    – Sonic Shuffle (it is slower than Mario Party, but it's more relaxing too)

  8. Yo, Unleashed ain't spin-off!

  9. F-D_M says:

    I like Sonic Spinball, that said, I know that this is not a perfect game.

  10. cube_b3 says:

    Yes unleashed isn't spin-off and the stages really aren't all that great.

  11. Suzuki Yu says:

    ^^

    Unleashed day time stages are the best stages ever designed in any 3D sonic game.

  12. Radrappy says:

    Yeah. . . Color's stages are better designed. The Unleashed stages, especially in the latter half, are too trial and error based. Apostos and Mazuri are nice though.

  13. DCGX says:

    If Colors is a spin-off then how is Unleashed not a spin-off? I look at it this way: there's the numbered series (1,2,3, Knuckles), the Adventure series (1,2), the storybook series has series right in it and people count that as spin-offs, so how are games not within those series not spin-offs?

  14. cube_b3 says:

    Colors isn't a spin off it just feels off to have a main sonic series not centered around the emeralds in anyway.

  15. By that logic, we haven't had a main series game since 2001.

  16. cube_b3 says:

    Why Shadow 05, Sonic 06, and unleashed all revolved around the emeralds.

  17. DCGX says:

    Technically, technically, Sonic 4 is part of the main series. Though I guess if we go by what a spin-off actually is, some of what the staff posted wouldn't count.

    The spin-offs would be racing games, Shuffle, Shadow, Spinball. And anything that is Sonic running through stages, emeralds or not, would be main games (numbered games, Storybook, Adventure/Rush Adventure, Unleashed, Colors, Advance games).

  18. It isn't the emeralds that make a main series game what it is, it is the genre and the gameplay rules. Like cube said, Colors feels off due to the emeralds not being the main drive of the plot. Many forget, however, that Sonic CD was the same way. Despite lacking the emeralds, it is still a main series title. Both very much follow gameplay of previously released main series titles (Sonic 1 and Unleashed respectively), albeit with minor twists (optional time travel and power ups). Despite these additions, however, they don't change the game so much that it feels unlike the previous titles.

    Of course, there are some spin-offs that are also platformers, however they are given spin-off status not for a genre deviation, but rather because they (A) star a secondary character and/or (B) change up the rules too much to resemble a Sonic game.

    numbered games, Storybook, Adventure/Rush Adventure, Unleashed, Colors, Advance games

    Numbered games are main series, yes, as are Adventure, Unleashed and Colors (also Heroes and '06). However the Advance and Rush titles are handheld titles. Still "main series" in a sense but only on the handheld platform, joined by the early Game Gear titles. Storybook, however, is quite clearly a spin-off. They have their own series, classed as "Storybook", and while having a number of elements that could make them main series games, the fact that Sonic does not deviate from a preset path and is continually running makes them far too different from the main series titles to be main series themselves. It's like they took one element of the main series, the automated running sequences, and expanded them into their own spin-off.

  19. cube_b3 says:

    I find Shadow to be a part of the main series, as crappy as it is on so many levels it does continue the adventure 2 plot line and Shadow's story is picked up from Shadow 05 in Sonic 06.

    What do you say about that?

  20. Radrappy says:

    Cube, the game isn't even about sonic. Why would it be a main series game?

  21. Suzuki Yu says:

    to me colors is a spin-off not because of some silly emeralds issue! no but because of the power-up system which drove the franchise into something else, something Mario fans would be familiar with more than anyone else.

    the pace of the game has been changed, i am not saying that this game lost everything this franchise was known for but while this idea is new and fresh for the franchise (fine but keep it in colors please) the system did affect the game in some areas in a bad way like for example what it did to the level design which i think it was inferior in comparison with those in Unleashed, forcing those power abilities changed the level design flow.

  22. Suzuki Yu says:

    again i am not saying the level design was rubbish in Colors, it's still good in it's own way.

    but this is not what i really want from a Sonic game.

  23. I can't debate level design, as I've only spent a short time with Colors, but I disagree with he idea that new gameplay elements = spinoff. By that logic, every gameplay enhancement in a sonic game would mean the game can be argued as a spinoff. Sonic 3 & K had the shields, spin dashes and two new characters and played differently from Sonic 1. Unleashed plays differently from Sonic Adventure. Yet all four of those are considered main series. Thing with established platformers is that they need to evolve enough to stay fresh with each sequel, but not stray to far to the root gameplay lest they aggrivate long time fans. Had Colors not had the power ups, it would have just felt like an Unleashed day stage bonus map pack. Hardly original. Playing through a stage wihout powerups, which is possible, reminded me a lot of what worked in Unleashed. So I wasn't really feeling top huge a deviation from the previous game.

  24. Suzuki Yu says:

    @Barry

    there is a big different between new ideas that fit with the style and the concept of the franchise and ideas that changes it to something else.

    as example the shields in the classic sonic games never hurts the flow of the game and in opposite of that what the power-up system did in Colors.

  25. I get where you're coming from, and respect that opinion. Though I personally still see Colors as a main series title, hardly changing the concept of the series in the same way that Heroes, the werehog or '06 did. I'd prefer to see the power ups evolve into enhanced shields come the next game rather than the other past attempts at reinventing the 3D gameplay.

    I also get why they'd go the power up route on a Nintendo console. Just look at the sales, kids ate the game up!

  26. "I find Shadow to be a part of the main series, as crappy as it is on so many levels it does continue the adventure 2 plot line and Shadow’s story is picked up from Shadow 05 in Sonic 06.

    What do you say about that?"

    I know this was directed at Barry, but that pretty much defines what a Spinoff is. Joey from Friends goes off on his own to become an actor in Los Angeles. A spinoff continues the story from one character's perspective. (Joey was terrible, if you didn't see it).

  27. HA! Joey….

    But Emmett is spot on. The definition of a spin-off is exactly what Shadow, Chaotix, Luigi's Mansion and the 1970's sitcom Rhoda are.

    Doesn't mean it's any less of a game, just that it is not of the main Sonic series. It's one of his pals going off into their own game, with the hope that there would be a new series to run alongside the Sonic games. I guarantee that had either Shadow or Chaotix been a success, we would have seen a series develop for those respective games and they'd be classed as their own series.

  28. Essay says:

    Barry, I was so excited to see you picked Sonic Drift 2! It was easily my favorite Game Gear game, and honestly it might rank up there with my top games on any console.:D

  29. cube_b3 says:

    It reminded me of New Super Mario Bros on the DS, specifically Frenzy it reminded me of the giant mushroom.

    The thing is in the past games even 06, Sonic would get an ability and it would stay with him till the end. Here he is collecting power ups that are manually activated for a short bust.

    Imagine collecting a power up that would allow Nuckles to dig temporarily, or a temporary ability for a power up.

    I'm just nitpicking here, it was a short and sweet experience just how I like it only problem the boss fights were uninspiring that is a genuine complaint.

    ____________________

    Also just to mess with Suzuki, I can count Unleashed as a spin-off for spliting Sonic into 2 separate characters. Also the 2D sections didn't feel anything like Sonic cause he had none of his classic 2D abilities.

  30. Shigs says:

    My favs…

    Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing.

    Sonic Battle.

    Sonic 3-D Blast (Saturn) Trust me. Saturn version is much much better than Genesis version.

    Sonic the Fighters

  31. Scarred Sun says:

    Clearly, SegaSonic Popcorn Shop.

    You don't see Sonic and the Secret Rings giving out curry popcorn, do you? 🙁

  32. Grant360 says:

    SASASR would have to be number 1… But seeing as everyone says that I will go with Sonic R!

    I loved every aspect. The only issue was it was FAR too short. Still on my beloved Saturn I loved it.

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