The Sonic franchise has been around for a long time, but in recent years the blue blur has turned away from being the focus of his own games and instead appears as a side character in a variety of collaborative games. Though this is a recent trend, there have been several more direct Sonic spin-off titles (no pun intended) throughout the years.
For the purposes of categorization, a spin-off Sonic game is one that either doesn’t feature Sonic as the main character or turns the typical platforming elements of the series on its head in favor of other gameplay elements. From kart racing to minigame battles, Sonic and his pals have appeared in almost as many spin-off games as there have been main titles.
8 Sonic R
Sonic R is a racing game originally released for the Sega Saturn, and one of the first 3D Sonic games ever made. It wasn’t a kart racer or a boarding game either, the vehicle of choice for most characters was no vehicle at all, as most run on the ground as shown in the Sonic cartoons and games’ cutscenes.
It received mixed reviews at the time, as the control scheme of the game and overall quality compared to other racers was just not up to par, and it has since been surpassed by many other Sonic spin-off racing games.
7 Sonic Drift Series
The Sonic Drift series is comprised of two games, Sonic Drift and Sonic Drift 2, which were both released for the Sega Game Gear in ’94. They played almost identically to the Mario Kart SNES game that was popular at the time, and most reviewers called the two games uninspired.
Ignoring the lack of creativity in the games’ inspiration, the games are surprisingly not too bad to play. They’re cult classics in the Sonic community, though not many fans actually owned it due to the lack of sales of the Sega Game Gear.
6 Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is a puzzle game released for the Sega Mega Drive in ’93, as well as the Game Gear and Sega Master System in the years following. The game works like Puyo Puyo and Tetris but with a Dr. Robotnik theme. The spin-off was praised for its style and controls upon release, even if the concept was old.
Fans of Sonic spin-off games be warned, though, Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is considered to be one of the hardest games released on a Sega system – it was one of the few things critics pointed out about the game.
5 Shadow the Hedgehog
Shadow the Hedgehog is a game that puts typical Sonic antagonist Shadow the Hedgehog at the forefront, which might sound cool until one realizes how far the character’s edginess extends. The game was a critical flop, but the popularity of Shadow as a character propelled the game to high sales anyway.
The game was much more mature than other Sonic games, perhaps most noted in Shadow’s use of conventional weaponry like guns and explosives during levels against humans. It’s fun to play for a laugh, but it gets a bit tedious after a few hours.
4 Sonic Shuffle
Sonic Shuffle was a game that took the Mario Party formula and gave it a Sega overhaul. Sonic Shuffle was originally released for the Sega Dreamcast in 2000, when party-type games were relatively few and far between, though this spin-off Sonic game was not quite as polished as the Mario Party series.
The game was criticized for its long load times and relative lack of minigames, but if you’re a fan of the Sonic franchise it’s the perfect choice for a party night with friends. With the power of emulators and modern streaming technology, you can even play older games like this remotely with friends.
3 Sonic Riders Series
The Sonic Riders series was comprised of two titles, Sonic Riders for the Gamecube, Xbox, and PlayStation 2, and Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity, for the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii. The games are fast-paced and competitively-driven, and upon release were some of the most popular Sonic spin-off games.
The series received criticism for a few things, namely the lack of online multiplayer and the controls, but overall were praised for their art style, sense of speed, and the feeling of racing in general.
2 Sonic Spinball and Pinball Party
The two pinball-themed Sonic spin-off games, Sonic Spinball and Sonic Pinball Party were two games released for the Sega Genesis and Nintendo Gameboy Advance, respectively. Interestingly enough, Sonic Spinball is based in the same universe as the animated series, while Sonic Pinball Party takes place in Casinopolis from the Sonic Adventure series.
Both games were very well received upon release, with critics praising the ease of controls in the game as well as the relative depth the series brought to simple pinball. While Sonic Pinball Party has never been re-released, Sonic Spinball was re-released for PC on Steam years later.
1 Sonic+Sega All-Stars Racing Series
The Sonic + Sega All Stars Racing games, including the sequel Sonic + Sega All Stars Racing: Transformed, are the highest-rated Sonic spin-off games to date, and for good reason. Whereas Mario and his universe got the spotlight in Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, where Sonic and the gang were just playable characters, the Sonic + Sega All Stars Racing games put Sega characters and some tie-in characters against each other in their own game.
Both games have received lots of praise for their stylistic levels, range of choice in characters, as well as the gameplay itself. While Mario Kart is a medium-paced kart racing game, Sonic + Sega All Stars Racing and Sonic + Sega All Stars Racing: Transformed are intensely fast and skill-based racing games. There’s a lot of nuance in the game, but it’s surprising that Sonic doesn’t opt to run instead of drive a car.