15. Sonic Chaos

Game at a Glance

Why It Makes This List

Not as quick or flashy as its 16-bit cousins for the more powerful Sega Genesis, Sonic Chaos is nevertheless a solid platformer, for which I have fond memories. I played this game during the years that my Sega Game Gear was my only portal to the video game world. The premise of the game is in the same vein as all the rest in this franchise: Doctor Robotnik (now called Dr. Eggman) is up to no good with the powerful and mysterious Chaos Emeralds, and it's up to Sonic and his pals to stop him.

In this case, Chaos gives you the choice of playing as Sonic or Tails. (And to this game's credit, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the game that introduced Tails, didn't even let you play as the dual-tailed fox in single-player mode. He was only accessible in a limited capacity with the second player as a co-op sidekick.) The primary goal is to travel through each of the game's level sets (they come in threes), defeating a boss at the end of each third act. This continues until you reach Robotnik's fortress, who is pretty dadgummed hard to kill. You defeat Robotnik, and Sonic and his woodland critter pals live happily ever after....

Or, at least that's what I thought when I sat down to play this game years later, FINALLY defeating the final boss. Little did I know, that the only way to get a good ending is to complete the side challenge: Race through special zones (accessed by gathering 100 rings in any level), recovering ALL the captured Chaos Emeralds in every one of them before time runs out....

Most game developers today shy away from such hardcore levels of difficulty, but this game embraces it. The "bad" ending flat out tells you to ignore everything you just accomplished, go back, and get it right. One has to hand it to a developer that has no problem with telling kids to man up and do better.

I spent many hours of my youth exploring this game's vast and colorful levels. And I still haven't achieved the best ending. This game easily holds up against its 16-bit contemporaries, and is no doubt one of the best (and most underrated) entries in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise.