Skip to main content

Forget Sonic 1-3, where are my Sonic Game Gear remasters?

This June, Sonic fans will get to relive the series’ most iconic games. Sonic Origins features newly remastered editions of the original Sega Genesis trilogy alongside Sonic CD. For video game historians, it’s an important collection that keeps some of gaming’s most fundamental building blocks properly preserved.

Though, it’s not like those games are hard to find. Games like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 have been released and rereleased dozens of times since the 1990s, coming to seemingly every platform imaginable. The same can’t be said for other, less celebrated Sonic games. Case in point: Tails Adventure. When I was thinking about the Game Gear spinoff starring Miles “Tails” Prower recently, I remembered I had to dig up my Nintendo 3DS and rush to the eShop to make sure I downloaded it before it shuts down for good.

In researching Tails Adventure, I suddenly rediscovered a swath of Sonic games that haven’t gotten the same treatment as the classics. It’s a reminder that video game history is often selectively curated, leaving fascinating pieces of the past buried.

Fading into obscurity

If you’re a Sonic fan and have never heard of Tails Adventure, I don’t blame you. The 1995 platformer was Sega’s only real stab at turning Sonic’s sidekick into a solo hero. Rather than building on the hedgehog’s speedy formula, the more slow-paced platformer plays with Tails’ role as a tinkerer. Taking cues from Metroid, the fox gets a series of tools that open up paths in its stages. He can even control a remote drone that fits into tight spaces, not unlike Samus’ morph ball ability.

Tails rides a robot car in Tails Adventure.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

For those who didn’t own a Game Gear, there have been three other chances to own it since then. The full game could be unlocked in Sonic Adventure DX and was included in 2005’s Sonic Gems Collection, which featured other rarities. Most recently, the game was available to purchase through the Nintendo 3DS eShop. However, with that digital marketplace coming to a close soon, there won’t be a legal way to buy it anytime soon.

On one hand, it’s perfectly reasonable that Sega wouldn’t be enthusiastic about keeping it available on modern devices. It’s not a particularly memorable platformer and it didn’t give birth to a successful Tails series. If anything, it’s more of an internet curiosity for future Sonic fans to discover.

That’s exactly what makes it special too. It’s an odd relic from an era where Sega was starting to experiment with the Sonic IP. Games like Tails Adventure serve as some of the earliest indications that Sega was struggling to expand on the tried-and-true Sonic formula, an issue that would turn into a central narrative for the series in the 2000s. You can’t get a full picture of video game history without taking the good with the bad.

Tails fights a robot boss in Tails Adventure.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It’s not just Tails Adventure that’s been trimmed out of Sega’s carefully pruned historical records. None of Sonic’s Game Gear titles are easily available in 2022. That includes hidden gems like Sonic Triple Trouble and the somewhat disastrous Sonic Blast, Sega’s final first-party Game Gear release. The more time goes on, the more we tend to lose curiosities like that as gaming “canon” is boiled down to its key points.

Carefully curated

That kind of industry curation was on full display when Nintendo celebrated Mario’s 35th anniversary last year. The company paid tribute to the series’ biggest hits, even rereleasing Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy on Nintendo Switch. However, several titles didn’t so much as cameo in a Nintendo Direct montage. You wouldn’t know they exist at all if not for the internet.

The PC title Mario’s Game Gallery was my introduction to the character as a kid and the first game to feature Charles Martinet as Mario, yet it’s been virtually scrubbed from existence. Mario’s Time Machine only remains in public consciousness thanks to YouTube longplays. Worst of all, the absolutely bizarre I Am a Teacher: Super Mario Sweater, an educational game that taught players how to knit, is so lost to time that it doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia entry.

The SNES box art for Mario's Time Machine.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

All of those games form a story. They paint a clearer picture of how Mario became the recognizable icon he is today. It wasn’t solely because of a few good platformers; it was because Nintendo played the IP fast and loose initially, plastering the plumber’s face across as many games as possible. I didn’t own an NES or SNES growing up, but I still played a Mario game, even though it felt like a bootleg.

When I play a game like Tails Adventure, I feel like I’ve discovered a lost puzzle piece buried in the couch cushions. It deepens my appreciation of a series I love and helps me better understand the full history behind it. With the resurgence of the Sonic franchise in recent years, perhaps Sega will be eager to resell it as part of a triple-dip hidden gems package, but I wish that wasn’t contingent on profitability. Tails Adventure, and games like it, deserve to be preserved and played just as much as the certified classics. Failure is just as informative as success.

Editors' Recommendations

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
The next great Sonic the Hedgehog game may be hiding on Apple Arcade
Sonic dashes away from a crab in Sonic Dream Team.

Love it or hate it, you have to respect the Sonic the Hedgehog series. Sega and Sonic Team refuse to get stuck in a creative rut, constantly zigging when fans expect them to zag. Last year, the series took an unexpected open-zone pivot with Sonic Frontiers, only to return to familiar 2D platforming with this year’s Sonic Superstars. Just one month after that game’s release, the blue blur is taking another surprising turn with Sonic Dream Team.

Launching exclusively for Apple Arcade on December 5, Sonic Dream Team sees the series returning to the 3D roller-coaster design of the Sonic Adventures era. It’s both a nostalgic return to form and something entirely new, making for the most ambitious Sonic mobile game yet. It’s not the project I’d imagine anyone was expecting, but it might just be the one that fans have been waiting for.

Read more
Sonic Superstars is getting a Lego DLC, but game still has no release date
LEGO Sonic faces down Eggman in Sonic Superstars.

Sonic Superstars still doesn't have a firm release date, but Sega revealed a new tidbit about the game today. The retro throwback will receive a Lego-themed DLC, though its not fully clear what the expansion entails just yet.

Sonic Central - June 23rd, 2023

Read more
Sonic Superstars found great new ways to freshen up the classic 2D formula
Sonic runs through a level in Sonic Superstars

Sonic Superstars is the latest in a long line of 2D Sonic titles, and it’s doing what it needs to stand out. Co-op, Emerald Powers, and a set of all-new levels are not just great back-of-the-box features for a game like this -- they also make this a Sonic game that feels a bit different than all of the other 2D Sonic titles that have come before it. And after going hands-on with Sonic Superstars at Summer Game Fest Play Days, I can say this evolution is promising.
Sonic Superstars - Announce Trailer
Although I didn’t get to try co-op, I saw how the different playable characters could change the game experience, how Emerald Powers enabled Sega to go bigger and bolder with level design, and how this game’s boss fights are already some of the best in the series. If Sega can deliver on all of its promises with Sonic Superstars, this could be the greatest advancement of the 2D Sonic formula in a long time.
More than Mania
In 2018, Sonic Mania perfected the classic 2D Sonic formula with its excellent level design, silky-smooth controls, and boatloads of callbacks and fan service that only served to enhance the experience. It’s hard to do better than almost perfect, so my feeling has been that if Sonic were ever to return to 2D outside of a direct Mania follow-up, its developers would have to go for something that looks and feels a bit different. That’s why I’m glad to see that series publisher Sega and Fantasian and Balan Wonderworld co-developer Arzest made some bold creative decisions with Sonic Superstars.
At its core, Sonic Superstars uses the same level-based platforming formula as most 2D Sonic games, so it’s not reinventing the wheel in that aspect. Thankfully, running and jumping feel great, thanks to excellent momentum-based gameplay that rewards skilled play with exhilarating speed. The first significant difference is how much Sonic Superstars emphasizes its distinct playable characters. Right now, we know that you’ll be able to play Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy. During my time with the game, I only had a chance to try Knuckles and Sonic.

Each character has distinct abilities and a slightly different game feel. Sonic’s faster and can Drop Dash to get a massive speed boost, while Knuckles can glide and climb over vast expanses of levels. In the final release, I could see myself playing each level four times to see how the experience varies from character to character.
While Sonic has had multiple players before, Emerald Powers feel wholly original to this game. Emerald Powers are special abilities that will allow Sonic and his friends to interact with levels in different ways after they collect a Chaos Emerald. In the four stages that I played, I could use the Water Emerald Power to climb up waterfalls as any character. That’s a relatively straightforward interaction, but it highlighted these stages’ solid level design. The best Sonic levels are big, multilayered affairs where players have lots of opportunities to go fast, but also must deal with unique stage gimmicks.
The four Sonic Superstars stages I tried fit that formula and felt like they had a bit more verticality than the series’ pixel-based 2D titles. Emerald Powers enhanced how much I could explore, and in turn, I was typically rewarded with coins, a medal, or a new elevated path to progress on. The routes these Emerald Powers can open up then pair well with each character’s unique abilities. I managed to make my way up to a point where I could glide over a lot of a level with Knuckles, gained enough speed to clear certain obstacles as Sonic, and came away happy that the game enabled me to do that as both characters.

Read more