Sonic Origins Review

Sonic Origins is here, but is it any good? Can it justify a nearly full-priced release? Let's find out.

Sonic Origins is here. But is this new compilation worth buying over the multiple previous releases? What’s new and what’s worth getting excited about? Is Sonic CD still kinda awful? Find out all that and more as we take the game to task in our Sonic Origins review.

Sonic Origins Review

Image comparing the four Sonic games in Sonic Origins.

How many times can you buy the same game before you feel cheated? That’s the question I’ve found myself pondering over the last week. I’ve owned the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES, SNES, the virtual console on Wii, Wii U, 3DS, and now I own a pretend copy thanks to my Switch Online sub. Hell, I even got the NES Classic Console with it on.

What differs between each version? Not much. It’s basically the same game from the NES but repackaged for different consoles. Exciting stuff, I know.

There comes a point where buying the exact same game for the millionth time feels as hollow as a company’s commitment to keeping its back catalogue alive. When there are emulator consoles out there than can do a lot more with the visuals, it’s hard to justify yet another flimsy emulator repack.

What does all this have to do with Sonic Origins? Sega knows we have multiple options when it comes to playing the original Sonic games. Be it Android, Steam, compilation discs, or Chinese handhelds, the possibilities are endless.

That’s why Sonic Origins is such a triumph. Instead of a quick collection with a handful of extra features, Sega has upped the ante by taking the original games and giving them the love and attention they need to make them worthy of a near full-priced release.

The end result? Sonic Origins is the best way to play the original Sonic games on modern consoles.

Sonic Origins: What’s New?

Image showing moving platforms in Sonic Origins' challenge mode

There’s one thing fans of the Mega Drive and Genesis Sonic games want and that’s 16:9 widescreen. Sure, emulators have options to stretch the screen or create their own version of 16:9, but nothing beats having it properly implemented like this.

Being able to see what’s happening behind and in front of the player adds a new dimension to play. Reaction times don’t need to be as precise, jumps up to higher areas become clearer, and the extra space really showcases just how fetching the original games still are.

There are moments in boss fights where the extra space makes dodging all that bit easier, but on the whole, the new ratio truly breathes new life into something many of us know inside out.

The other big new bit worth talking about is the strangely enjoyable challenge mode. Remember NES Remix? Sega did that with the Sonics. Think running through a short section without killing anything, having Tails swim to the exit, popping enemies while gliding as Knuckles, and you’ll have a good idea of what this mode is all about.

Honestly, I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did. Challenge modes always have an air of tacked on for the sake of it about them, but Sonic Origin’s challenges feel genuinely inventive. If you’ve got kids, I can’t recommend playing through the mode with them enough. Some challenges will have you screaming, but each is always within reach, and toppling them is as satisfying as they come.

Sonic Origins: The Good

Image showing Super Sonic in Sonic Origins while playing Sonic 1.

It’s easy to see the 2D Sonic games as a ‘left-to-right-simulator’ but there’s so much more to them than that. It’s about exploration, finding a route that suits you, mastering bosses to the point where they become muscle memory. Experienced players can go back to the games years later and as soon as the zone intro logo dissipates, everything happens on auto pilot as if you never left it.

Aquatic Ruin Zone boss? Jump to the right side so the totem lifts you up into the air. Mecha Sonic? Rev a spindash as he lands to get some sneaky hits in. I couldn’t recall either of those things outside of Sonic when asked, but when the music hits, and the feeling of familiarity kicks in, that’s where the magic happens.

That’s the beauty of the Sonic games. They reward learning and yearn to be replayed endlessly. They’re essentially racing games, only 2D.

Even today, when technology has left the blue blur in the dust, there’s still heaps of child-like enjoyment to be had when playing the original games. What’s shocked me more than anything is how much my youngest took to them. I know, I know, I’m talking about my kids again. It happens. A lot. But here’s the thing: It’s easy to think retro games simply aren’t enjoyable for Gen Z players, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. When a game is visually appealing and, more importantly, fun to play, the age of the player doesn’t matter.

Sonic Origins: The Bad

Image showing Mirror Mode in action during Sonic Cd in Sonic Origins.

It turns out that the large, grey boulder in my room is an elephant so let’s address it. Sonic 3 has had music tracks removed. Something something Michael Jackson something. We’re still not really clear on the reasoning, but just like Michael Jackson’s seventh studio album, it’s bad.

It appears Sega has opted to replace the missing tracks with re-jigged versions from the Sonic 3 prototype, which I’m still processing how to feel about. When tracks like Carnival Night and Ice Cap Zone are so full of energy, replacing them with clam, non-descript tracks ain’t gonna cut it.

What I’m struggling with is the question are the new tracks bad or are they serviceable and it’s only when compared with Jackson’s alleged offerings they seem inferior? Part of the Sonic magic is the soundtrack, and losing what makes these zones pop feels like Sonic without the sneakers. Sure, it’s Sonic, but something is amiss…

There’s also the issue Sonic Origins is a collection of retro Sonic games. If you didn’t like them the first time around, there isn’t enough here to convince otherwise. They’re the same games, only upgraded and modernised. They are what they are – Marmite.

For fans, though, there’s a lot to be excited about. And there’s Sonic CD, which continues to be the series’ downpour. It’s fine, but crikey does it like to fill the screen with distracting stuff. I get it, you’re very talented artists who create nice arts. Please sit down and stop it. I like being able to make out what’s happening on-screen without a headache of colours splurging at me.

Oh, and that time travel mechanic? Pointless. Sonic CD feels like a retread of Sonic 1, which may appeal to fans who prefer the first installment, but those of us who moved on to Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 and Knuckles, what evolution Sonic CD does have isn’t nearly as exciting as what we saw in the later Mega Drive/Genesis games. Ho-hum!

Final Thoughts

Image showing how to set up a cheapshot on Mecha Sonic

Retro video games shouldn’t be judged on what number out of 10 they’re worth, they should be judged on how many times they make you smile. Sonic Origins is a smile-maker. It’s the games some of us grew up on and a trip into the past for those looking to explore what made the yesteryear of gaming great.

On modern platforms, the Sonic series stuns. Pixel art is timeless, and by adding in the new 16:9 ratio to all four games, they feel new again. Yes, this may be the billionth time some of us have purchased these games, but when the upgrades are this invigorating, it’s an iteration that’s truly worth checking out.

How We Tested Sonic Origins

An EU Sonic Origins review code was provided by PR company Indigo Pearl on behalf of Sega. The version we tested was played through to completion on PlayStation 5 hardware.

Technical Issues

During my playtime, I suffered one hard crash, which sent me back to the PS5 dashboard, and a soft-lock when playing through Sonic 1, where I got stuck outside of the play area. A simple restart of the software fixed both issues.

What Games Are in Sonic Origins?

Sonic Origins features remastered versions of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 combined with Sonic & Knuckles, and Sonic CD.

What Consoles Is Sonic Origins On?

You can pick up Sonic Origins on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Windows.

Sonic Origins Tips and Tricks

If you’re looking to get ahead, we’ve put together a detailed guide to all the Sonic Origins cheats, including how to enable level select, debug mode, and how to become Super Sonic without collecting a single chaos emerald.

So yeah, if you can’t beat that stupid Egg Robot in Sonic 2, feel free to debug the hell outta that fight. Bonus points if you laugh while doing so.

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Wesley Copeland

Wesley Copeland is a gaming and tech journalist with over 10 years of experience writing online. Originally starting in video games before specializing in tech and toys, you can find his bylines at IGN, VG24/7, Kotaku, Tech Radar, Games Radar, PC Gamer, and many more. He's also highly passionate about how tech can be used to better our day-to-day lives.