Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the most inconsistent, wildly variable series ever, yet it’s managed to grab so many people who connect with the idea of a blue little rodent running fast. Though the series itself doesn’t consistently deliver, fangames and spiritual successors sprout from it to give us a ton of really cool, speedy games.
These games often excel at giving us more of the various styles that Sonic has gone through over the years, whether that’s the Classic titles, the Adventure games, or the Boost era, and even dipping into things resembling the gameplay of Frontiers, Sonic fans go wild and create some of the most excellent stuff imaginable, and I’ll be showing that off here.
Interested in finding new games to add to your list? This guide might be helpful: Best Indie Games of All Time
This list is gonna be pretty straightforward. These games have to resemble one style of Sonic gameplay and can vary as much as they want in aesthetics, music, characters, and anything else beyond that. Sonic’s gameplay styles have gotten pretty different over the years, though, so I’ll quickly break up what each means.
- Classic Style refers to the 2D side-scrolling Sonic games that relied on momentum and physics-based platforming to gain speed, then careful usage of jumps to avoid losing that speed. This means games similar to Sonic 1, Sonic 3, Sonic Mania, or Sonic CD.
- Adventure Style is somewhat self-explanatory. It refers to the more open 3D platformers from the early 2000s and late ’90s, which usually have you running through levels with branching paths, gaining momentum, and sometimes getting upgrades. This is any game similar to Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Heroes, and Sonic 06.
- Modern Style is the boost games, the games that have boost in them. This means you can press one button to go real fast, real quick, and usually has faster feeling gameplay, linear level designs with some branching paths or shortcuts, and tanky movement. This covers everything from Sonic Unleashed to Sonic Generations to Sonic Frontiers (kinda).
Starting with easily the most prevalent style you’ll see come up in fangames, the Classic games are well-revered, but there are a ton of really cool indies that draw inspiration from them while (more or less) doing their own thing. These are some of my favorites, and I’ll touch on the boatload of others in the honorable mentions section.
Spark The Electric Jester
Spark the Electric Jester is a series that I’m pretty sure every Sonic fan has at least kinda heard of, mainly with someone on Twitter saying, “Guys, look! Sonic Team is so lazy!! Look at this thing!!” When you separate it from the weirdos, though, this game stands on its own two legs as an enjoyable momentum platformer that captures the Genesis magic.
Spark’s got three games in his series, and we’ll talk about the other two later, but only the first one has all the 2D platforming you’d expect from Classic Sonic titles. It has some of its own ideas, namely in some fun gimmicks in its levels, a 32x inspired art style, a metallic enemy you also get to play as, and Spark getting to use a variety of Jester Powers.
It is a short game, though, only taking around 4-5 hours to run through and finish it, or a bit longer if you want to complete everything. This is comparable to the Genesis games, but it does not give you as much of a bang for your buck as Sonic Mania would, so if you want a short and speedy experience, this is your game.
Freedom Planet 1 & 2
Freedom Planet is pretty similar to Spark in that it’s emulating the Genesis games with a 32x art style, with a lot of its style and content being directly inspired by Sonic (heck, it started as a fan game), but with a few unique characters that all play pretty differently. In contrast, Spark only has one character and a somewhat different clone.
Freedom Planet, on the other hand, changes up its mechanics quite a bit more, with four unique playstyles correlating to speed, combat, exploration, or power, and a bunch of different equipable items, a parry mechanic, and a brewery where you can make your temporary buffs, all backed up by the game’s in-depth combat.
This leads to a game you can replay many times, either in the more structured story mode with many NPCs to talk to or in classic mode, where you can run through all the levels back-to-back and have a great time. Each character feels unique and new, and every playthrough combined for both games will run you about 40 hours of content.
Alright, this one isn’t out yet, but the demo is extremely promising; plus, I played Splatoon once with the dev five years ago, so I’m biased. Nevertheless, I’m mostly putting this one on here as future-proofing since I already see it becoming one of the all-time greats; it’s an incredible fusion of a Sonic game and Action games.
Advent NEON only has one character, but he controls like a dream, providing you with fast and satisfying movement abilities that double as massive and cool-looking attacks to use in combat. It feels like you’re playing a Kingdom Hearts-style character action game, but you have to actually make all those cool moves yourself, which feels incredibly rewarding.
The demo is currently only under an hour’s worth of content, but I’d expect the entire game to be around 5-8 hours. It’s a perfect bit of content, though, and has stood out as something incredibly unique with massive potential among the other Sonic-inspired titles just trying to copy what SEGA did 30 years ago.
The adventure games are all spread across at least four games with variety in gameplay, visual styles, and even what being an “adventure-styled” game can mean, so we’ve got quite a bit to pull from here. These games typically have open-ended levels with multiple routes and tight movement in a 3D space.
Spark The Electric Jester 2 & 3
Unlike the first game, the sequels of the Spark series introduce new characters, some new mechanics, really fun rail grinding, and the third dimension. These games take a similar approach to the Adventure titles while putting even more of a high-speed spin on things and giving Sonic fans the gameplay style they’ve craved for years.
The second game is a side-story involving Fark, the Metal Sonic of the Spark series, in a setting like Sonic 4 Episode Metal except good. It focuses a bit more on combat than the first one and gives you many different routes and powerups to play around with. The third goes back to Spark, being more of the same as Spark 2.
In these games, you’ll also be driving fast cars, beating up giant mechs, rail grinding in space, having big robot fights, and wall-running around massive levels that rival the best the Adventure games had to offer. These games are great and an easy recommendation for anyone who misses the over-the-top action, fast and free levels, and fun times the early 2000s had to offer.
Crumble is an interesting one. It’s a mix of modern style and adventure style, but I put it here because it’s more focused on momentum. You play as a ball with a super long tongue, able to grapple onto objects like poles to swing and gain a ton of speed, maintaining it throughout a level that won’t stop falling apart.
Plus, it’s not super streamlined, often branching off into several different routes, some giving you better rewards for a higher risk of plummetting to your death. It’s as fun, constantly fast, and frantic as the boost games, with some of that open-mindedness and momentum-based gameplay in the adventure games.
There aren’t any permanent upgrades, but there are fun skins to unlock and an enjoyable multiplayer mode where you can hop on with your friends to see who can roll through the chaotic, crumbling catastrophes quickly. Overall, it is a lovely time and an easy one to jump into whenever you want, definitely one if you want a more arcadey experience.
Sonic Project 06
For the token fangame of the list, Sonic Project 06 is an incredible solo project that has single-handedly changed how the Sonic fanbase perceives Sonic 06. People will now gaslight themselves to hell and back, saying that Sonic the Hedgehog from 2006 (the one on the 360 and PS3, not the one on the GBA) was a good game this whole time, and it’s funny.
Project 06 reworks all the characters to be much more fast, fluid and fun to play, making many of them similar to how they’d play in the Adventure games, as well as fixing every bug, adding enjoyable mechanics like a proper combo system for Shadow and a Super transformation for Sonic, and revitalizing everything into a cohesive, great game.
It’s not done yet, but every base level is there, with the developer currently hard at work on all the boss fights. I love playing through this; it shows that even though the game was terrible, it did have a hell of a lot of potential to turn into something greater, and this is what it’d be like if it actually got another year of development time and they didn’t split up the development team halfway through because SEGA wanted money.
Penny’s Big Breakaway
All right, this one ain’t even out yet, but trust me when I say I’m incredibly confident that you and I will both love it. It’s made by Evening Star, the team comprised mainly of the Sonic Mania developers, and just from that description alone, it’s already a pretty easy sell. It’s also already shown off some gameplay and looks to hone in on a more arcadey take on the Adventure formula.
You get to use your yo-yo to gain momentum, but also for fast and fluid attacks that fend off enemies or grapple you up to greater heights. It’s got a bunch of excellent routes to take in each level, some fun side-quests and objectives to complete, and a bunch of really cool movement tech that’s hopefully easier to learn than actually using a yo-yo in real life.
It won’t be out till a vague “sometime in 2024”, but when it is, we’ll have many levels to beat, all with their own side-missions inside them, and who knows what else is in store. Aside from another incredible soundtrack done by Tee Lopes, of course, I cannot wait to put that on while rolling around at the speed of sound, but in a different way.
Finally, we get into the modern-styled games. These are either 2D or 3D and have some streamlined level design with the occasional alternate route that usually leads to the same place, a mostly consistent moveset to work with throughout the whole game, and potentially some open-world elements to supplement that “press this button to go fast and feel good” gameplay.
Toree 1, 2, and Saturn
Toree as a series is most notable for being one of the best value-per-dollar games out there, right up there with Downwell and Terraria, but this $1 bargain bin title will impress you quite a bit more than most others. It’s an excellent series of 3D platformers, each with streamlined levels where you run through and grab collectibles, having a grand ol’ time.
These games are simplistic, fun, and a great time that is an easy recommendation for any Sonic fan, mainly because they’re accessible. There isn’t too much depth, though; you’ll mostly just be running, sliding, and speeding through the pretty simplistic levels, finding some collectibles, and not doing much else besides peeping the horror.
There is some scary stuff in these games, but it’s nothing too notable; it’s mostly just spooky things that feel mildly out of place and unexpected. It doesn’t shift into a full Sonic.exe game or whatever. Overall, these are all great times, with 1 and 2 being $0.99 on most platforms and Toree Saturn coming soon with a demo out currently.
Solar Ash is the pioneer of “Sonic Frontiers but Good,” and it came out before Sonic Frontiers. You play as a character with air skates that let you glide around these open-zone-esque areas, with a bunch of semi-linear platforming segments where you can go and gather collectibles, then take on Shadow of the Collossus-style bosses.
It feels delicious to skate around the open sea of clouds and ruins, dodging enemy attacks and hitting them with your cool sword, unlocking a bunch of new suits that all do different things, and watching as you get big performance drops on any computer that isn’t great because Annapurna is terrible at optimizing their games on PC. Sorry, Steam Deck users, I’m one of you.
This game is also one of the few on this list that I’d consider to have a great, impactful story about losing your crew when you’re on the last little bit of hope left. It’s one I can easily recommend to anyone craving more of Sonic Frontiers’ unique gameplay; plus, it’s a great game on its own that stands as one of the best 3D platformers as of late.
Speaking of Annapurna, they’ve made another game where you explore a mysterious open world and gain a ton of speed with a unique form of traversal, Pathless. It has you shooting your bow at targets to gain significant boosts of speed, exploring and boosting around a big world with a ton of really fun structures, and it has a cute bird.
I’d say it’s a mix of Sonic’s speedy, freeing movement with Zelda’s intricate and exciting dungeon design, with just a hint of jank and repetition that sometimes makes the game feel a bit off. Still, if you’re a Sonic fan already, I doubt you care about a fun game having flaws. It feels speedy, and moving around while shooting your targets is always satisfying.
It’s more intricate and willing to get a bit less intense and fast-paced than you might expect. Still, if you want a game that’ll hit different and appease the Sonic hyperfixation for a bit, this will definitely do it, all while giving you a satisfying experience where you’ll feel just a bit more accomplished than usual by the end of it.
Now, we get to our honorable mentions for this list. These games either don’t cleanly fit into any of the categories I’ve set up or just felt less worth mentioning in these categories than what I had chosen. These are all still great games, and if you’re a Sonic fan, I can absolutely recommend them.
- Pizza Tower has a nice flow to it and encourages going fast through its ranking system, but it doesn’t feel like a classic Sonic game, just a game where you can go fast and pull off a bunch of cool tricks while listening to banger music. It’s still great, though, and worth giving a shot.
- Gravity Circuit is the perfect fusion of typical platformer gameplay, Sonic’s speedy momentum conservation, and Mega Man’s combat and run n’ gun style. It has the standard eight levels and bosses of a Mega Man game, with the fun gimmick of a grapple you can use to jump and roll your way through the levels. It’s as good a convergence of Mega Man and Sonic as Archie had, tbh.
- Clustertruck is a physics-based platformer where you platform around the most chaotic obstacles on top of trucks, using a grappling hook and fun movement to get to the end of each level without touching the floor. It’s a fun, arcadey time that will give you the high-speed parkour platformer you might want.
- Sonic Robo Blast 2 is a handful of a title, but a great fangame that deserves at least a mention on this list, despite fitting into none of my categories. It has open, free levels, super high-speed caps, and an absolute boatload of mods that can turn this into a kart racer or Persona game. It’s just a great free time you should try.
- Sonic Chrono Adventure is the fourth fangame made by LakeFeperd. While all his games are great (he also made the Before the Sequel games and the Spark series), this one is a classic Sonic Metroidvania with time-travel mechanics, beautiful art, and just being in-depth and excellent to run around and explore.
- Sonic GT is an entertaining game just to run around in. It comes with a story that takes a few hours to get through, several characters that all play quite differently, really fun momentum and wall-running mechanics, and some cheesy dialogue that ends up being at least mildly entertaining. It’s better than Omens, I’ll say that much.
Questions and Answers
Question: What indies are like Sonic?
Answer: The best indie games that can give you more of that Sonic gameplay you crave are Freedom Planet and the Spark the Electric Jester series.
Question: What are the best Sonic Fan Games?
Answer: There are plenty to choose from, but Project 06, Sonic GT, and Sonic Robo Blast 2 are great.
Question: What indie games are the best for speedrunning?
Answer: Conveniently, we have a list that can answer just that!
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find many games that genuinely feel like the boost games, as most fan games go for a less on-rails approach, and indie games that capture a similar style don’t usually feel the same. Still, I think I got enough Frontiers-esque titles to cover it, so whatever. I want more boost games! Especially ones like Rush, but with fewer dumbass bottomless pits.
Anyways, Sonic is a widespread shotgun blast of a franchise with no consistent gameplay style other than “fast, probably,” so capturing a list of every indie that’ll probably appeal to you if you like the franchise is impossible, so most of these entries were taken purely from my own experience as someone who’s hyper fixated on this dumb blue rat for way too long.