Why Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 is the Worst Sonic the Hedgehog Game

The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Sega's landmark franchise has had some remarkable titles over its long life, including classics like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic Adventure, as well as the fantastic Sonic Mania in 2017. Sega even had a chance to remind fans of one of Sonic's high points with its latest remasterSonic Colors Ultimate. The franchise also continues to see multimedia success, with the successful 2020 Sonic the Hedgehog film receiving an upcoming sequel that even casts Idris Elba in the role of Knuckles.

Despite the success of the franchise, Sonic has had more than his fair share of downturns. From critically detested titles like Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis on the Game Boy Advance and  Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, the speedy blue hedgehog seems to have as many misses as hits these days. The worst of the worst, however, may still be Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, often referred to as Sonic '06. The 15th-anniversary celebration of the blue hedgehog, Sonic '06 lives on in infamy as a game that has been detested by critics and fans alike. Fans will still argue whether the game plays worse than Sonic Genesis or Sonic Boom, but Sonic '06 may just be the worst thing to happen to the franchise.

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The best entries in the Sonic franchise tend to work for different reasons than one another: either they made a welcome change to the formula of the gameplay, or they bring a level of polish that the series generally begs for. When it comes to Sonic's worst adventures, though, many of them suffer from similar issues: poor performance, glitchy gameplay, weak level design and frustrating controls. Sonic '06, Sonic Genesis, and Sonic Boom suffered from all of these. For some, the answer to which one is worse may simply come down to which is the least fun to play. Sonic '06, though, has to be the worst largely for what it could've been, and for the stain that it left on the franchise as a whole.

At the time of its release, the Sonic series was already going through a lackluster period, with titles like Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog garnering mixed-to-negative reception. Sonic '06, however, was touted as the game that would bring the franchise back to its roots. Early gameplay showcases at TGS 2005 and E3 2006 were promising, and the demonstrations received positive press. It was genuinely starting to look like Sonic would land back on his feet, kicking off the seventh generation of gaming with an amazing new entry.

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Behind the scenes, though, the game faced serious problems. Former Sonic Team head (and major Sonic figurehead) Yuji Naka resigned from Sonic Team in March 2006, leaving director Shun Nakamura with even more pressure on his shoulders. This pressure became even more apparent when the development team was split in two after receiving Wii development kits. Feeling that porting Sonic '06 to the Wii would take too much time, Sega chose to have a separate team handle the Wii title that would become Sonic and the Secret Rings. This, however, left Sonic '06 with a very small team, along with internal pressure from Sega to rush the game out for the Holiday 2006 window. That pressure was so strong that the development team even ignored quality assurance bug test reports, all because it needed to get the game out.

Sonic '06 stands as Sonic's worst because it could've been the revitalization the series needed. This very well could've been the best Sonic game that Sega ever released, but what we got was a bug-filled game with poor controls, a weak camera, long loading times, and some of the most bizarre elements to ever make their way into a Sonic game. It tainted the brand, causing Sonic to lose the footrace with the Super Mario series in a big way. It wouldn't be until years later that the franchise would claw its way back to some semblance of respectability with Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations. Even with those games, it's hard not to get nervous when a new 3D Sonic game gets announced, and much of that is thanks to Sonic '06.

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