Sonic The Hedgehog is a legendary retro gaming icon, one who almost has too many games to count. Personally, we believe he peaked early with the third game in the series. And here is why you should either invest in finding the cartridge version of this game or should purchase it on a virtual console.
The Story Is A Little More Involved
The stories of the first two Sonic games on the Genesis were pretty simple: stop Dr. Robotnik from turning helpless animals into robots. The third game throws a monkey wrench into the plot by adding Knuckles the Echidna to the story.
This character comes from an ancient civilization that Dr. Robotnik finds on the island he crashes on after Sonic 2. He tricks Knuckles into believing that Sonic is the bad guy, and for the rest of the game, Sonic and Tails must fight against this tough character.
While the story is still mostly centered around stopping Dr. Robotnik, adding an additional character adds a little depth to the game. This might cause some fans of later Sonic games to complain, as those games had a lot more story, which they argue makes them better.
While it’s true that those games had a lot more story, the stories were often silly or convoluted to the point of distraction. Sometimes the stories were focused on at the expensive of the gameplay. That’s simply not the case with Sonic 3, which makes it a fuller and more enjoyable retro gaming experience.
The Gameplay Is Classic And Engaging
Sonic controls best in a two-dimensional environment and that experience was never better balanced than in Sonic 3. While Sonic CD was definitely a faster and more exciting game at times, Sonic 3 has a rare synthesis of fun gameplay mechanics matched with simple physics, easy controls, and an engaging cast of characters.
The biggest difference between Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 is that players can actually fly for a short period of time when they use Tails. While Tails would automatically fly in Sonic 2 when left to his own devices, the ability to play him more fluidly with a second player and fly adds more strategic depth to the game.
For example, many puzzles require Tails to fly Sonic to a specific new area. Tails can also swim, eliminating much of the frustration of the infamous underwater levels from the first two Sonic games.
Another big change is the addition of a mini-boss at the end of the first act of every zone. This adds a little more difficulty to the game and makes it more important than ever to hoard rings and avoid getting damaged.
It Can Be Expanded To An Even Bigger Game
The thing that really sells us on Sonic 3 as the best Sonic game is the ability to add the follow-up, Sonic & Knuckles, to it with the lock-on adapter. Doing so allows you to play as Knuckles in the Sonic 3 levels and as Sonic and Tails in the Sonic & Knuckles levels. These two games were originally supposed to interact in this way, but they were split at the last-minute to save on time.
As a result, this is one of the largest two-dimensional Sonic games ever. There are so many zones to explore and so many secret areas that it is easy (but fun) to get lost. Playing an entire run of these two games combined is an incredible endurance test that will really test the skills of any retro gamer.
And that’s one of the best compliments that we could give any retro game. The high level of skill required to beat old-school games is a major part of their appeal. Anyone who can sit down and run through Sonic 3 is a true gaming master.
So while we believe that Sonic 2 really expanded on the Sonic formula and brought it to near perfect, Sonic 3 (especially when combined with Sonic & Knuckles) adds the frosting to the cake to create a true masterpiece.