The best Sonic the Hedgehog video games of all-time

Paramount, Sega
Paramount, Sega /
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Sonic 3 & Knuckles (Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles) – 1994 – Sega Genesis

Despite being released several months apart, I decided to include Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles together because both titles started out together as the same game. However, since the developers couldn’t fit all the planned content on a single Genesis cartridge, Sega’s “Sonic Team” decided to split Sonic 3 & Knuckles into two separate games: Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles.

Sega replaced Japanese musician Masato Nakamura (composer of the first two Sonic titles) as the game’s composer with the music industry’s biggest name in Michael Jackson. The King of Pop was secretly hired by Sega to write all the game’s music, already having an established relationship with Sega due to the Sega-produced games based on his film Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker. Jackson worked on the game’s music for a few months before he left the project.

According to those who worked with Jackson on the game’s soundtrack, some of Jackson’s music was still implemented into the game (here is a well-made video that explains Jackson’s musical involvement in great detail). The game’s soundtrack, while more “historically interesting” than “audibly iconic,” still stands out in the series today.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was first released in North America in February 1994, followed by the global release of Sonic & Knuckles later that October. Sonic & Knuckles used “lock-on technology” that allowed gamers to play as Knuckles in Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Both games were successful, although combined sales of both games were less than Sonic 2’s totals.

Sonic 3 & Knuckles also maintained the larger-than-life roller coaster level designs from previous games by adding new gameplay variations (like riding a snowboard in Ice Cap Zone). Alongside Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic 2, it’s a must-own title (or titles) for series fans.