Sonic was once the biggest rival Mario ever faced. The blue blur certainly gave the plumber a run for his money in the 8- and 16-bit days of gaming and was arguably winning in terms of mass popularity for a brief moment in time. Sonic was the cool, hip, more “adult” type of character with a very ’90s attitude that resonated with a large portion of the western gaming audience. He was even the very first video game character to ever get his own balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Needless to say, Sonic was looking to run away with the title of the face of gaming. That was until the 16-bit days ended, and the shift to 3D began.
Unlike his contemporaries, Sonic wasn’t — and arguably still isn’t — able to find a comfortable footing in the 3D space. Rather than revert back to what made his first couple of games so good, Sega kept pushing 3D titles, even after they left the console business. Sonic’s reputation quickly spiraled, but his popularity remains arguably as strong as ever. Fan works involving the blue hedgehog have flooded the internet for years, with the most impressive being Sonic fan games. Most give old-school fans more and new takes on what they loved about the old 2D games, but others showed that Sonic really can work in 3D, along with all sorts of other experimental titles we’d never see Team Sonic make officially. If you miss the days when Sonic was at his top speed, here are the best Sonic fan games that can give you the thrill his official games can’t.
Note: Sonic fan games are not officially approved by Sega and, therefore, are within the company’s legal rights to take down. Fan games that use copyrighted material, such as Sonic characters, cannot be sold or used to make any profit. If you are looking for more information on how to find, download, or even make your own ROM hacks, check out the resources found in Sonic Fan Games HQ.
Sonic: Before the Sequel is a clear tribute to the original Sonic games on Genesis. It was a labor of mainly just one fan, along with some composers, and it meant to be slotted, both in terms of narrative and gameplay, between the first and second Sonic titles. This was one of the first high truly high-quality Sonic fan games to be released, originally coming out in 2011, and it got an updated version a year later when the sequel came out, which we’ll talk about in a second. You can play as both Sonic and Tails across the familiar 3 Act structure of new zones, with a boss at the end of each final act. Special Stages appear, and the entire game could easily pass as a missing Sonic game for the Genesis. A brilliant addition, though, is the Time Points. The faster you beat the game, the better an ending you get, which just makes so much sense for a game about going fast.
Sonic: After the Sequel, as you can probably guess, is meant to come right after Sonic 2. This game again allows you to play as Sonic or Tails, features seven new Zones with 3 Acts, and has a final confrontation with the series’ villain Doctor Eggman. These new zones are even more creative, featuring one themed around a haunted house, a city, a frozen theme park, and even a sugar processing plant. That last one may sound weird, but play it for yourself and see how creative it is. There are also some new power-ups, such as a beam for Sonic and a mirror for tails. The plot is more typical Sonic stuff for the era, just trying to get the Chaos Emeralds back before Eggman can use them for no good. Technically, there is a third game in this series made by the same developer, but these two, more than the other, are aimed right at those who hold the original trilogy up as the peak of Sonic games.
If you ever wondered just how dedicated Sonic fans were, look no further than Sonic Robo Blast 2. This fan project has been in development since 1998. Yes, 1998, or over 20 years, and it is still getting updates and support. It was the first ever 3D Sonic fan game, and at this point, it just might be the best. The game is built on a modified version of the Doom Legacy port of Doom, which allows it to easily be changed, added to, and modded by anyone, thanks to it being fully open source. The goal of this game was to show how the classic 2D Sonic formula could work in 3D without overhauling the entire system. And it works very well.
The current version of Sonic Robo Blast 2 features three main characters you can play as. There’s Sonic, of course, who has a version of his air dash that launches him forward at high speeds and can also become Super Sonic. Tails has his signature flying ability, and Knuckles can climb walls, glide, and even break special walls. The different skills each has can be used to access special paths and areas in each of the massive levels. The full game is aiming to have around eight zones in total, with six finished as of the current version. Each level is big, with a nice, low camera angle to give you a great view of what’s ahead when rushing through at top speed. If you think Sonic could never work in 3D, Sonic Robo Blast 2 might just change your mind.
Remember when we mentioned that there was another game in the Sonic: Before the Sequel series? Well, Sonic Chrono Adventure is it. This game also tries to fit into the canonical Sonic franchise, this time after Sonic 3 & Knuckles, but Sonic’s story is never all that important anyway. All you really need to know is that Sonic is relaxing in a new area called South Lakes when a boss from Sonic: After the Sequel returns with time-traveling powers, which it uses to send Sonic 100 years into the past. Now, we would later see official Sonic games attempt to put Sonic in the past, such as in Sonic and the Black Knight, but this game is magnitudes better than that game. For one, Sonic isn’t stuck in the past and will flip back and forth between past and present as the game progresses.
Sonic Chrono Adventure is just amazing to look at. This is about as good as the blue hedgehog’s pixel-based sprite has looked in a fan game, but the environments are just as detailed. Everything is bright, diverse, and a blast to run through. An interesting change to the normal formula is that Sonic can now only hold 30 rings total and will drop 10 upon each hit rather than all of them. You can also get new silver rings to spend at shops for power-ups that you can hold and use when needed. There are also special colored orbs to collect that will upgrade Sonic’s new abilities, which include jet boots, bumper gloves, and a sword that all give him different moves to traverse, fight, and open up secrets within stages. That adds a level of Metroidvania to the game that works much better than you might think hearing those two terms together.
An easy way for fans to get started learning to make fully original fan games, or even move on to make games of their own, is to remake their favorite games to learn how they work. For a majority of Sonic fans, Sonic 2 is their all-time favorite, so it was only a matter of time before someone decided to remake that classic but give it a bit of a facelift. Sonic 2 HD feels exactly like that classic Genesis title. The levels are identical, as well as how Sonic moves and behaves, but all are given a brand new life thanks to reworked graphics. Calling it HD might be a bit of a stretch, but the new sprite work is certainly a night-and-day difference from what was possible back in the early ’90s.
Sonic 2 HD updates all the characters, enemies, bosses, and stages with much more detailed sprites and pixel work. Just like modern games that are callbacks to the 8- and 16-bit days, Sonic 2 HD is attempting to show you what you think these old games looked like, not what they actually did. While they were at it, the creators also took advantage of the game being on PC to give it much better performance and to squash some bugs and glitches that existed in the original. Otherwise, this is Sonic 2 at its core. If you want to relive the days of this seminal Sonic title without it looking like a mess of pixels on your HD monitor, Sonic 2 HD is the most faithful way to do it.
Of all the 3D Sonic games attempted, the only one (or two, if you count the sequel) that some fans consider good was the Sonic Adventure game. If you liked the look and style of the stages in that game, Sonic World DX is essentially a huge expansion of that style of Sonic. Like Sonic Robo Blast 2, Sonic World DX has been in the works for a very long time and is still getting support. It is also very friendly to customization at almost every level. Modding your own stages and levels is built right in, as well as complete control over the UI, music, controls, and more. While this is ambitious enough, Sonic World DX might have the most content of any fan game so far.
Right off the bat, there are over 40 playable characters in Sonic World DX that all have their own different movesets. If you can think of a Sonic character, there’s a very good chance you can play the whole game as them. Then there are the stages, which currently number in the 50s, combining both fan favorites from the Adventure series and others, plus brand new ones the team has made. Each one can also host a variety of objectives aside from just reaching the end goal, such as treasure hunting, ring collecting, time attacks, boss fights, and more. Oh, and on top of all that, there’s even a fully functioning Chao Garden and randomizer mode. Basically, if there was any aspect you liked about the Adventure games, they’re here and expanded in Sonic World DX.
Since we’re still waiting for Sonic Frontiers, we haven’t had an official open-world Sonic game. That seems like a strange omission for the blue blur unless you turn to the fans who have been working on just that for years. Sonic Utopia is considered perhaps the best attempt anyone has made to create not only a 3D Sonic game but a fully open-world one at that. It has a visual style that is somewhat reminiscent of Sonic Robo Blast 2, but instead of sprites running around 3D environments, every character and enemy is a full 3D model. Granted, these models aren’t the most impressive, and the environments are quite flat and basic, but design-wise, Sonic Utopia gets almost everything right.
Sonic Utopia looks like what you would imagine if you took a classic 2D Sonic level and blew it up into 3D. There are still dedicated paths, but instead of them just being at different elevations, they’re also not spread horizontally. Again, models and animations are lacking a little, but everything else about the presentation is on point, especially for a game that was made completely from the ground up. The music and sound effects are classic Sonic, and the sense of speed you get is pitch-perfect. The world is open and big but doesn’t have too many empty spaces. You’ll never run for long before finding something to platform on, an enemy to dash at, or a pathway to explore. Perhaps most important is the camera, which is fully controllable but also dynamically shifts and moves to give you a big, wide view of your surroundings that is essential for a game about going fast and exploring a huge open world.
Sonic tried a lot of new things in Sonic Adventure. It experimented with hub worlds, multiple campaigns, and a more complex story with fully voice-acted cut scenes. All of these were ambitious, and not everything holds up, but they all at least made sense as a natural progression for the series. One thing this game introduced players to that didn’t seem to fit with the series at all, and yet became many people’s favorite element, was the Chao Garden. This side area/minigame involved raising little creatures called Chaos to compete in different events. You would need to feed and train them to boost their stats, almost like a management RPG of sorts. It was so popular that it came back and was expanded in Sonic Adventure 2, but even that wasn’t enough for some.
Chao Resort Island is a game focused just on this Chao-raising side activity but blown up into a full game. It sets you loose in a resort, using a 2.5D perspective instead of fully 3D, where you adopt and raise Chaos. You can pick your character from a handful of Sonic staples, but it’s the Chaos that are the real stars here. There is plenty of fruit to feed them, new toys to play with, evolutions, abilities, and even morality systems and life cycles. The game also uses your internal clock to determine the in-game time and season. It might look a little simple, but the depth this game offers is perfect for anyone who already dumped dozens of hours into the original Chao Garden.
Fan games are always a labor of love, and it can be easy to get desensitized to just how much dedication it takes to make a great one. Verbound Game Studio spent 12 years creating Sonic Time Twisted, and it shows in every detail. Rewinding the series back to Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Sonic Time Twisted is an alternate path forward that builds on that same physics and graphical style. The sense of speed, momentum, and jumping all feel spot-on for 2D sonic, matched with incredible new zones and pixel art. The backgrounds are also highly detailed, and the new retro soundtrack probably wouldn’t have been possible on that original hardware, but it sounds exactly like those old-school chiptune tracks that get stuck in your head for days or weeks at a time. Plus, the entire thing is content complete, so you can enjoy the entire adventure in full right away.
After the death of Eggman, Sonic Time Twisted picks up with Metal Sonic attempting to resurrect him. Playing as either Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles, who all have their own signature movement options, you will race through 28 Acts with eight fully original Zones, face 10 bosses, and find 14 3D Special Stages on your quest to stop him. Of course, being called Sonic Time Twisted, there’s also a time travel element where you will go between the past and future. Swapping between these time periods isn’t as huge of a change as you might think — the game still is the same tight 2D platformer (outside the 3D stages, of course) — but it does change the enemies and features of the Zone you’re in. For example, one Zone might be a pirate-inspired level in the past and a futuristic city full of pipes to travel through in the future. The new bosses are all a blast, there are three new shield power-ups that are fun to experiment with, and the new themed stages are awesome to see in both past and future forms.
Of all the Sonic fan content out there, fan fiction takes the cake for the sheer amount you can find. Even in such a flooded market, the creepypasta of Sonic.EXE has become notorious even outside of the Sonic fandom. Naturally, it would only be a matter of time before someone decided to try and convert this horror story about a haunted Sonic game into an actual game. There are very few (if any other) Sonic fan games that attempt to go into the horror genre, and Sonic.EXE isn’t exactly scary at the best of times but is still a fun experiment and a very, very different take on the series. If you’ve read the story already, you know basically what to expect, but if you haven’t experienced it, play the game first so that the surprises are new. Even if you have read the story, the game expands on things and adds new features to keep you on your toes.
If you haven’t read the original creepypasta, we won’t spoil Sonic.EXE for you here. The general gist, though, is that an evil something has invaded the classic Sonic game and is brutally murdering everything inside. You will go through familiar Zones and see all the usual characters, only in a twisted, bloody form. You can, and should, revisit old areas too to try and find new secret paths and find extras. The music is completely original to give a more distorted, unsettling feel to the usually upbeat and chipper tunes of a normal Sonic title. The source material is a little edgy, so the game naturally comes off that way too, but it is no doubt one of the most bizarre and unique Sonic fan games ever made.
Everything we said about Sonic.EXE being one of the most bizarre and unique Sonic fan games is true, but Sonic Dreams Collection is the most bizarre, unique, hilarious, and unsettling creation on this list. We’re not sure if it technically counts as a fan game because the themes behind it target the extreme nature of many Sonic fans. It was inspired by other fan concepts for Sonic games that were pitched on a game-sharing site, which were taken by developer Arcane Kids, twisted, and released as a free game in 2015. They didn’t just put the game out as a fan game, though, but instead created a false narrative around Sonic Dreams Collection being a collection of unfinished but official Sonic games they just happened to find on an old Dreamcast dev kit. It comes with four unique games, all with their own fake developer notes and history included to complete the facade.
In order, the games in the Sonic Dreams Collection are Make My Sonic, Eggman Origin, Sonic Movie Maker, and My Roommate Sonic. Make My Sonic is a simple but very broken character creator where the character’s proportions can be wildly stretched and distorted. Eggman Origin is an attempt at an MMORPG that, at first, doesn’t even function. If you do some easy file manipulation, though, the game opens up, and you can start playing your Make My Sonic character running around an unfinished environment, feeding worm-looking creatures to Eggman so he grows larger. Sonic Movie Maker has you positioning a camera on different scenes to take six-second videos of the interesting events unfolding, and My Roommate Sonic was meant to be a VR game where you attempt to start a romance with Sonic. Just a fair warning, we left it all out in the description to keep it spoiler free, but these games progressively get weirder, darker, and more mature. Only go into Sonic Dreams Collection if you’re ready for some somewhat disturbing imagery featuring Sonic characters.