The Best & Worst Sonic Clones Out There


The Sonic The Hedgehog movie is out this week. Seeing the blue furball in action did trigger some unpleasant memories.

No, we’re not talking about the first draft Sonic we saw with the human teeth. This turn of events reminded me of the number of video game clones made to cash in on the success of Sega’s first-ever Sonic The Hedgehog game.

Yes, there was a slew of these in the 90s, and even some of them were made a couple of years back via indie devs who loved the Blue Streak. And surprisingly, some of them were decent and arguably better than the source material.

Let’s define what a Sonic clone is:

And with that, let’s talk about the worst, the decent, and the best.

The Worst

Kid Chaos

Year Released: 1994
Platform: Amiga

Whatever Nintendo and Sega had, the Amiga is sure to clone or imitate. While the computer had some decent titles which we’ll get to, they had at least one or two stinkers.

One of them stars this caveman-looking beefcake-imitating guy whom you want to punch in the face for looking dorky. Originally the caveman was supposed to be an anthropomorphic cat called Claws, but the developers redesigned him to be this blonde kit to avoid possible repercussions from Sega. Well, Sega still had grounds considering the game is basically an Amiga version of a 2D speed-based platformer. Except with janky floaty controls. And boring level design.

The Bubsy Series

Year Released: 1993
Platform: SNES, Sega Megadrive

The developers at Accolade and creator Michael Berlyn had the best of intentions when making this 1993 garbage fire of a series: they wanted to create a mascot platformer that paid tribute to the Warner Bros. cartoons of yore in video game form.

Unfortunately, they forget to fine-tune and work intensively on the bit that mattered the most: the actual platforming. For all of the flash and pizzazz Bubsy had in graphics and animation, the games he was in controls way too fast and cheaply-designed to antagonize both hardcore players and newcomers to the then-new console fold. Half the time, you can’t see what’s in front of you until it’s too late, and you don’t have much protection since it’s a one-hit kill affair.

Each entry in the game, save for part 2, is significantly worse than the other, especially when it went 3D. It also didn’t help that Bubsy’s VO in-game was to the point of obnoxious, rivalled only by the protagonist in the next entry…

Awesome Possum Kicks Dr. Machino’s Butt

Year Released: 1993
Platform: Sega Megadrive

Who knew that a console game could have problems with framerate and delayed controls? Well, this not-so-Awesome Possum can show you how!

While the game had its heart in the right place with its eco-friendly message, it basically botches everything else. The controls are sluggish and out-of-your-hands at the same time. The levels are boring and tedious. And Awesome Possum himself says a quip every few seconds to the point of madness-inducing migraine.

NEXT: The Mediocre

The Mediocre

High Seas Havoc

Year Released: 1993
Platform: Sega Megadrive

Sonic The Hedgehog plus pirates minus some speed equals High Seas Havoc. Developer Data East decide to go the methodical platforming route with some running for good measure, and for the most parts, it works. Captain Havoc (or Captain Lang if you’re from Japan) can run pretty fast, jump onto enemies, and do an air flash kick to defeat his foes and go through obstacles. There are actually some pretty cool ideas for stages and layouts here, especially one involving you running from Ristar’s bastard clone.

The problem? The game gets insanely hard after the first few levels. Enemies can hurt you badly and can spawn out of nowhere if you’re not paying attention, and some platforming bits require precise timing and perfect landings. I can understand pulling this nonsense off in the final stages, but in Act 2 and 3 when the going is supposed to be less rough? Balance is thrown out the window here.

Socket/Time Dominator 1st

Year Released: 1993
Platform: Sega Megadrive

Ever wanted to play a bird-duck robot thing with a plug for a tail and careen across a futuristic city? Well, you can do that with Socket as you travel through time(?) to defeat some evil flying baron robot from messing up history. The catch is your robot will run out of energy if he lingers in the stage too long. You’ll need to both collect electric energy icons and not get hurt too often to survive.

It’s about as basic as you can get for a Sonic clone: you run, you navigate the wide-as-heck levels, and explore labyrinths. But the game controls great and has cool music. Barring a few complex labyrinth areas, this game can be quite a breeze. Plus, having your depleting lifebar as your timer is a cool mechanic that gives that extra challenge when you’re playing through this clone the first time around.

If only the devs could have made a better warning sound when you’re low on energy though.

Zool 2

Year Released: 1993
Platform: Amiga, then ported to the Megadrive, SNES, etc.

Yes, the Amiga sometimes get second-rate platformers, but at the very least they’re pretty fun second-rate Sonic clones. Zool the ant and his female companion Zooz work together to defeat boss-type dude Mental Block to restore order in the Chupa-Chups-filled dimension they’re in.

Your ants can fire ninja pellets and spin jump, navigating the colourful levels while collecting candy & finding the exit. While it’s fun to control and jump around while a pretty spiffy techno soundtrack is blasting away, you had to switch off the SFX. Back then, the Amiga can only run the game with either the music or SFX, not both.

NEXT: The Best

The Best

Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure

Year Released: 1993
Platform: Sega Megadrive

Okay, now we’re onto the good stuff. Konami also loves to jump onto the Sonic clone bandwagon. But instead of making their own mascot (which we’ll get to later), they had the Tiny Toons license to work with. After doing a Mario clone, they ended up doing a pure Sonic clone featuring a speedy Buster Bunny and a ton of weather-themed levels, lots of rats & wildlife that can be jumped on, and a ton of carrots to collect.

The levels in Buster’s Hidden Treasure are pretty big yet contained, with lots of secrets and bonus levels to discover. The challenge ramps up just nicely, with tricky gimmicks and sections that make their way in the later ice and factory stages. The music itself is pretty catchy if you’re into Yamaha-based synthesized Tiny Toon Adventures soundtrack remixes.

All in all, we wished Konami brought this and Tiny Toon Adventures: ACME All-Stars back in a retro-bundle of sorts.

Spark The Electric Jester

Year Released: 2017
Platform: PC

The most-recent Sonic clone on our awesome list also pinches a lot from Nintendo’s Kirby series. As Spark the Electric Jester, you still run from left to right through playground levels, ramps, and labyrinths, but now you can get powers from enemies and treasure boxes. These let you double jump and slice enemies with sai blades, or even make Spark fly and do gravity-altering moves.

These powers, and the fact that the levels here require you to make use of them to the fullest, makes this Sonic clone stand apart from the rest. And subsequently, make it all the more fun to play. Coupled with a soundtrack that’s also contributed by Malaysian audio guy Falk, and you’ve got a “gotta go fast” game that can go toe-to-toe with even this generation’s Sonic Mania.

Freedom Planet

Year Released: 2014
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch

This 2D platformer came out at a time when we needed a break from all the ludicrously-designed 3D Sonic games that teased a bit of 2D jonesin’ (at least until Spark came into the picture). You play a bunch of Sonic-like anthropomorphic speedsters who have different abilities that open up branching paths in the game’s many, MANY stages.

You have a speedster named Lilac who can zip around like as if she had a rocket pack, and another one called Carol with kung-fu attacks, wall-climbing abilities, and a bike that makes traversal fun. There’s even another Sonic type character called Milla who can throw stuff, reflect projectiles, and do the Yoshi floating jump. Each of them has their own skillsets and difficulty curve; newbies should use Lilac while experts should try out Milla.

What’s really cool is that each level is tailor-made for each different Sonic archetype here. Freedom Planet manages to create its own take on the “gotta go fast” platforming formula that’s challenging, frenetic, and fun. The colourful aesthetics also help elevate this title beyond its indie status.

And if you can’t stand the cringeworthy story and voiceovers (which is on course for a colourful 90s game of its ilk), you can always play this game in Classic Mode.

Best Honorable Mention

Rocket Knight Adventures

Year Released: 1993
Platform: Sega Megadrive

While not purely a Sonic clone since main character Sparkster can’t run for squat, the possum knight’s debut deserves some mention because it still emphasizes on speed. Just with a different mechanic & playstyle; instead of running, Sparkster charges up his rocket pack to blast off careening in either direction in the 2D space.

The game is tailored like an action game ala Konami’s own Contra with a boss or two midway to impede your progress. Your sword can shoot out projectiles, while your rocket charge attack does a ton of damage to any weak spot or idiot in your way. Do not sleep on this title; it features outstanding level design and challenges, and a kick-ass soundtrack with awesome graphic tech, all backed up by a team led by Contra III lead Nobuya Nakazato.

I’ll bet you that his latest work that he’s overseeing is a hundred times better than both Contra III and Rocket Knight Adventures combined. It’s not like he peaked so early back…

….well, f***.

Thanks for reading this feature on Sonic clones. If there’s any game we missed, let us know either on the comments here or on Facebook


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