Gaming is far more of a mainstream activity than it used to be, with many more people now appreciating the type of storytelling you can find in video games. One thing that aids that storytelling is the use of cutscenes. Sometimes these are simple set pieces and in-game moments, other times, they’re full-blown cinematic scenes.
Now, it’s no secret that I’ve loved the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise since childhood. I mean, I make plenty of posts about the Blue Blur and his pals, right? One thing that I don’t think the franchise gets enough credit for though is the cutscenes. Even with the voice acting being a little hit and miss at times, there have been some really nicely done story moments in the games. So, in order of game release, these are my Top 5 Sonic the Hedgehog Cutscenes.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994): Opening
Now, it would be easy to say that I have a real sense of nostalgia for this title. It was not only the first game I owned on the SEGA Mega Drive, but when combined with the Sonic & Knuckles lock-on cartridge, it forms part of my favourite game of all time. However, the opening sequence of this 1994 release is actually super important.
You see, it begins with Sonic and Tails heading to Angel Island. Rather than stick on the Tornado, Sonic uses the Chaos Emeralds to transform into Super Sonic and dashes ahead. Once he exits the forest though, something unexpected happens: Knuckled the Echidna bursts through the floor, punches Sonic out of his Super form, and dashes off with the Chaos Emeralds.
So, the reason I love this is the sheer impact of what we see. Knuckles debuts by literally punching Sonic out of his most powerful form. That was something we’d never seen before, and it really set Knuckles up as a powerful antagonist and rival. While there has been plenty of discussions in the fandom about whether Knuckles is portrayed well or not these days, there’s no doubt that this debut was once of the best in the franchise.
Sonic Adventure 2 (2001): Farewell My Admirable Adversary
This game is a prime example of the hit and miss voice acting I was talking about. For me though, it’s one of the best games in the franchise. It may have aged a little in terms of controls, but the story was truly something wonderful, and I still love the different types of playstyle you got with each character.
This cutscene sees Sonic and Tails entering Space Colony ARK to rescue Amy Rose and foil Eggman’s plans. To do so, they planned to use a fake Chaos Emerald, both to trade for Amy and to destroy Eggman’s weapon. Unfortunately, Eggman suspected as much and trapped Sonic, causing Tails to confirm his suspicions. Sonic tells Tails he’s counting on him, tells Amy to take care of herself, and is blasted into space. We briefly see him consider whether the fake emerald can help him escape, but the pod seemingly explodes before he can.
Of course, Sonic did survive. At the time though, nobody knew that for sure. So, the first time we saw this, it appeared that Sonic was dead. The farewell he gave to Tails and Amy was touching and made it clear that he didn’t know he could get out of this one. And Eggman? He took glee in all of it. This was the main antagonist at his most evil, and it really did all have an emotional impact.
Sonic Heroes (2003): Compassion
Following on from Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Heroes mixed things up by attempting a team-based playstyle. The game isn’t the best in the franchise, but it’s still a lot of fun. It also reintroduced a bunch of playable characters that we hadn’t seen for a while, such as the Chaotix.
Team Dark is comprised of Rouge the Bat, Shadow the Hedgehog, and E-123 Omega. During their ending, Rouge discovers a ton of Shadow androids. She begins to explain her concerns that the Shadow they’ve been working with is also an android, but stops. Omega reminds her that for a clone to exist, so must an original, and Rouge leaves with Shadow, not mentioning what she found.
This is important for two reasons. In terms of the overall plot, Shadow sacrificed himself at the end of Sonic Adventure 2. So, questions existed as to whether this was the real Shadow, and Eggman was happy to stoke those flames during the Team Dark part of the game. Rouge knew that Shadow worried about this and that his identity was important to him, so chose not to tell him what she was thinking. This not only helped set up the Shadow the Hedgehog game but also revealed something about Rouge. It’s easy to look at her design and listen to the femme fatale music that often accompanies her appearances and assume she’s there to be the Sonic equivalent of fan service, but the truth is, she does care about Shadow. Here, she showed some real compassion, and that helps make her a little more three-dimensional in my opinion.
Sonic the Hedgehog (2006): Blaze’s Sacrifice
Sometimes referred to as Sonic ’06, this is a game that is generally accepted as being, well, broken. And it is. There are a lot of glitches, all of which could have probably been ironed out if it weren’t for time constraints and the team being forced to split up to work on this and Sonic and the Secret Rings. However, despite the issues, I’ve always defended the story to this game. Even the infamous kiss scene.
Now, during one the future levels, Silver the Hedgehog attempts to seal the demon Iblis inside himself but is rejected as the vessel. Being a fire user already, Blaze the Cat steps in and takes the beast into herself. She tells Silver to use Chaos Control to stop time and seal them away in a different dimension. Silver refuses because he wouldn’t know what to do without her, and Blaze ends up sealing herself away. The sun shines once more, and Silver is left despondent.
This was, honestly, wonderful. Much like the SA2 cutscene above, it had a real emotional kick. Yes, it did raise some questions about the timeline, but I really don’t think this could have been done any better. From Silver’s reaction to the pyrokinetic princess’s reply to him, it was all very touching, and a great way to demonstrate the level of sacrifice that can be needed to save the world.
Sonic Unleashed (2008): Opening
While it had mixed reviews, Unleashed is generally much better thought of these days. The switch between the modern Sonic gameplay and the more hack and slash inspired Werehog levels helped give some variety to the game and introduced some fun new mechanics.
In the opening, we see Eggman’s space armada. Sonic launches into action, landing on the Doctor’s ship and cutting his way through robots until Eggman joins the fight. A chase scene is cut short when Sonic is captured, only for the Blue Blur to turn into Super Sonic and start destroying the fleet as he tries to catch Eggman. The villain has a plan though and traps Super Sonic, drawing the Chaos Emeralds out him and using them to power a canon that splits the planet below into pieces, bringing for the birth of a massive monster. The process causes Sonic the transform into a werewolf-like version of himself, and Eggman launches him back towards the planet.
This was easily the most epic 6 minutes in Sonic history, at least in my opinion. The animation was smooth, the voice acting was great, and the soundtrack was excellent. The whole thing represents a franchise high point that I’ve not seen beat yet for sheer aesthetic quality. Great stuff.
So, that was my top 5. But what about yourselves? What are your favourite Sonic cutscenes? What did you think of my picks? Let me know in the comments below.