On June 23, 1991, SEGA launched Sonic the Hedgehog for Mega Drive in Japan. And we already know the rest of the story: a golden age in 8- and 16-bits, an inspiring revival for Dreamcast and the beginning of the decline and over-exploitation of the eponymous character to the point of even appearing alongside characters from the company that is SEGA’s eternal arch-nemesis: Nintendo.
Lots of us gamers now have grey hairs, but Sonic remains, as usual, as feisty as ever for young players. It’s for this reason that many fans have created free games for Windows that pay homage to the story of the hedgehog. Here are five of the best.
Sonic After/Before the Sequel
To start us off, possibly the best on this list: If this fangame had been launched commercially 20 years ago, it would certainly be considered one of the best in the franchise. It’s actually two games set in the first 16-bit trilogy, with Sonic and Tails chasing after Dr. Eggman (or rather Robotnik to the purists). Most of the settings, enemies, and items are totally original, although visually it’s obviously inspired by the graphics of the original releases. Unmissable!
Sonic Robo Blast 2
The interesting thing about all these fangames is that they sometimes use engines and development environments for a different sort of video game. In this case, this 3D adaptation of the first two games from Mega Drive uses nothing less than Doom Legacy, a pimped-out version of the iconic game from id Software, retaining the sprites as characters and the third-person view of the protagonist. There’s people for everything, and we’re glad of it.
Sonic Freedom Fighters 2 Plus
Back in the day there was some attempt to marry the universe of Sonic with the world of 1vs1 with the unsuccessful Sonic the Fighters in 1996 for arcades, not to mention his appearance in the Smash Bros saga. With these predecessors in mind, a fan decided to use the free combat game development engine MUGEN to create the Sonic Freedom Fighters saga, where more than a dozen characters appear from old comics and animated series.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3D
Back to 3D, this time using the Eduke32 engine, or more specifically an improved version of the one used by 3d Realms in Duke Nukem 3D. Sonic the Hedgehog 3D is based on the scenes and characters of the Sonic 3 & Knuckles duo, and unlike Robo Blast above, both the scenes and the characters are completely in 3D, reminding one in many ways of the Adventure saga from Dreamcast—and that is a very good thing!
The beauty of all this lies in the fact that creating games based on your favorite characters is not just for the experts. In addition to the existence of flexible and accessible environments like Game Maker or Construct2, Open Sonic directly includes a level-creation and -editing system to make your Sonic game to measure. In fact, it might almost be considered more of tool than a game, even though it includes two worlds to explore and several selectable characters.
Also on smartphones
Sonic is a survivor, and with greater or lesser deftness has learned to recycle and adapt himself to the new gaming platforms. Look no further than the various free-to-play games for Android where the hedgehog’s iconography is adapted to mobile-gaming standards, as well as some compact versions of current desktop games. Sonic Dash is an endless runner in which you have to collect rings and avoid obstacles, while Sonic Racing Transformed is a revision of the racing game launched a few months ago, with the only limit being that you have to add new characters or settings by gathering coins as you get through tests or pay in the in-game shop.