Sonic has had a lot of spin-off games, and most of them do not require more than a passing mention. As such, this post will cover all of the Sonic spin-off games up to Sonic R in 1997. While some deserve a bit more discussion, including Knuckles Chaotix, most of these games will only get a few sentences. If you don't care about stuff like edutainment titles, come back next post where I finally talk about the first real 3-D game in the series: Sonic Adventure.
Sonic Eraser is the third Sonic game ever released. It was avaliable on the Japanese-only B-club download service for the Mega Drive and was made avaliable again on Sega's website in 2004. Using the website, fans were able to acquire the ROMs making the game avaliable to anyone on the internet. Aside from the game's title info being left hidden in Sonic Gems Collection, the game has not been seen since. There's a good reason for that.
Sonic Eraser is a decent, generic puzzle game that involves matching some gems to make combos in order to damage to your opponent. However, it goes from being decent to one of the worst games of all time when you listen to the music. It's full of clanging, static, and just odd sounds I can't identify. It's horrifying.
Many Sonic games have pinball portions, so it is understandable that someone would want to try to make a full game out of it. What resulted was a strange pinball game with some Sonic twists. You control both the flippers and sonic as the pinball, with Sonic actually moving around outside of the pinball mode in a few spots. The game involves getting to different pinball boards to get the Chaos Emeralds, except all the boards are interconnected. It's fun for a while trying to navigate the various sections of the boards, but it gets a bit frustrating and repetitive after you get the first couple chaos emeralds. It is a good idea for a game that they touched on again for the Gameboy Advance with Sonic Pinball Party. Also, there was a version of Spinball for the Game Gear that features a slightly different layout that involves more walking around on foot.
Doctor Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
It's Puyo Puyo Pop with Sonic Characters. It's a good competitive match four puzzle game with a very hard single player mode. It also includes characters from the Sonic cartoon. You match four while trying to make combos to fill your opponenets side with junk pieces. It's a fun game, but it just reskins an existing game, nothing special unless you haven't played the originals before.
SegaSonic the Hedgehog
Being an arcade game released in small quantities only in Japan and Europe(maybe a few in the US, I was unable to find out for sure), SEGASonic the Hedgehog isn't terribly well known. Originally planned to be in Sonic Gems Collection for the Gamecube, it was left out due to the trackball control the game implemented. It works in the emulator MAME if you feel like getting a ROM for it, but it isn't worth the trouble. It isn't any fun outside its natural arcade with track-ball environment.
SEGASonic is the first game in the series to add pointless new characters for absolutely no reason. Five games in and you can already have a hint of what the Sonic series would become. This game added two new characters: Ray the Flying Squirrel and Mighty the Armadillo. Mighty went on to appear in exactly one other game, while Ray got to hang from a mirror in a racing game as a little cameo. The game isn't all Flying Squirrels and Armadillos though, it also has our favorite hedgehog, Sonic. All three characters play the exact same though, so it doesn't really matter.
The game works like this: you run away from things. There is stuff-lava, boulders, etc.- coming after you, so you jump over things and collect rings while running for your life. I could see this being fun if you had a trackball to roll around with, but I doubt anyone out there has one that they can just plug into their computer and get working with this game. There is nothing more to the game than running away and jumping over holes, so it really isn't worth your time.
Sonic Drift is an early racing game, meaning it is Pole Position but with a few power-ups. It features Sonic, Tails, Amy and Robotnik who each have one of the powerups as their special ability, except Amy who can just slow everyone else down for some reason. It's not very much fun, and is not ever worth your time.
Sonic the Hedgehog's Gameworld
Another game you are unlikely to have heard of, Sonic's Gameworld was released for the Sega Pico. You may not have heard of that system either, it's sort of like those leapfrog storybook/game things and, while not popular here, it was so popular in Japan games were released for it up into the early 2000s. Gameworld is basically a simple edutainment game, involving simple minigames with Sonic and his pals. It's for kids, so probably not of interest to anyone reading this. However, there is an emulator for the system, so if you want to be just like me and play every single Sonic game ever, you can.
Tails' Sky Patrol
Sky Patrol is a rather uninteresting shmup starring Tails. It moves rather slowly with forced movement and everything kills you. It's just not a well-made game at all and is never worth playing.
Chaotix is one of the few 32x games and the only other appearance of Mighty the Armadillo. The concept is different for Sonic and one I feel hasn't ever really been done well. A simultaneous co-op platformer seems like a good idea that very few games try. New Super Mario Bros. Wii does it all right as long as you stick to only two players and don't mind killing each other by accident on the many tiny platforms you have to navigate in the later levels and Little Big Planet doesn't really have a problem in the co-op portion, other than it's just a terrible platformer. Aside from those two games though, there really aren't any major games that try this.
Knuckles' Chaotix solves the common problem of keeping both characters on the screen at once by physically attaching them. This is done by using a ring with a long chain made of magic rubber that can be used in a variety of ways. One character can stand still while the other stretches it out in order to launch themselves with it. That's basically the only useful trick outside of yanking characters up through platforms. What it boils down to is you both run right a lot, stopping to launch yourselves when you slow down too much. This isn't the gameplay's fault so much as the level design.
The level design in Chaotix is absolutely atrocious. You are either going straight or going through the same boring loops. Nothing interesting ever happens in Chaotix, and it's rather understandable why it did not make it into Sonic Gem's Collection in the end (aside from the obvious issues with emulating the 32x). Give it a shot if you're curious, but it's not an entertaining game.
This one is actually kind of fun. It's a light Metroidvania with one rather annoying mechanic. The game is split into 12 levels and you can only bring 4 of your items into each level. This can get very irritating when you have to memorize what items are needed to get past a specific portion of one path in the level. Despite this, it is a fun little game. Probably the best spin-off for the Game Gear. It's worth a play sometime.
Terrible does not begin to describe Sonic Labyrinth. It's an isometric puzzle/platformer/pinball thing that is incredibly dull and frustrating. It's slow, controls poorly, and is not remotely interesting to play.
Sonic Drift 2
Sonic Drift 2 is basically Sonic Drift but with a few more characters such as Fang from Triple Trouble and Metal Sonic. It's still the same, basic, uninteresting game though, so give it a pass.
Tails and the Music Maker
The other Sonic game for the SEGA Pico, Music Maker is supposed to teach kids about music through minigames. Nothing much to say about this one.
Sonic the Fighters
An arcade fighting game starring Sonic and his friends. Also a polar bear named Bark who never appears again. It's actually an okay fighting game, but it has an odd system that uses shields strangely. It's a little easy to break through your opponent's shields with spin attacks, so it seems a little broken. It's not particularly good, but it's kind of fun to play through once.
Move around in a Wolfenstein 3-D-esque environment with Sonic and enjoy the fun of answering simple questions with Sonic! Released for the PC in 1996, Sonic's Schoolhouse is the final of the three Sonic edutainment games.
I have a huge soft spot for Sonic R. I played it all the time as a kid and every year I spend an afternoon unlocking everything again. It's a better racing game than Drift, in that the characters actually use their feet and there is actual gameplay, but it's hardly game of the year material. There are a lot of shortcuts and hidden unlockables though, which makes it fun to explore the environment while still trying to stay in the lead of the race. It's got clunky turning and you can blaze through the levels incredibly fast once you know the shortcuts, but I have a lot of fun with it. Also, we all know the real reason anyone would play Sonic R is the amazing soundtrack.
Can You Feel the Sunshine?
Back in Time
Super Sonic Racing
Next time - Sonic Adventure