Sometimes, the best moments of joy, relaxation, and relief come after an arduous journey. Like when one’s long, hard work results in great feedback and measurable gains. Or when some annoying or vile person reaps the consequences of the actions. It results in a release of stress that feels relieving, or cathartic.
The stress doesn’t necessarily have to be serious or heavy either. It can come from overcoming any kind of challenge, including the ones in video games, and Sonic the Hedgehoghas had his fair share of those. Here are some of the most cathartic moments across the Sega mascot’s games.
8/8 Getting All the Chaos Emeralds
These magic MacGuffins have been a part of the series since the hedgehog’s debut. They’re usually needed to solve one crisis or another, but some games require the player to jump through extra hoops to get them. Like collecting 50+ and passing a certain point or finding hidden Ring Portals across the levels to reach the Special Stages. They’ll give Sonic one Chaos Emerald for each completed stage, which can be easier said than done.
But they’re worth the effort. In some games, it’ll unlock their best endings. But in others, it’ll unlock Super Sonic. Debuting in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, this form lets Sonic move faster, jump higher, and be invincible to any spike, projectile, or badnik. It’s not a complete win button, as players still need to avoid pitfalls and crushers and keep their rings topped up, but it’s a joy to receive.
7/8 Reaching the Finish Line
Sadly, not every game has Super Sonic during gameplay. Sonic CD was in development before the concept was thought up. So, getting the Time Stones doesn’t do anything except unlock the game’s best ending. But it does have its own cathartic moment as the game introduced Metal Sonic, the hedgehog’s robot doppelganger. It kidnaps Sonic’s admirer Amy Rose and torments animals throughout the game.
It’s up to the real Sonic to beat him…in a race. The winner makes it to safety, while the loser gets locked out by a barrier and zonked by Dr. Robotnik’s instant-kill laser. It’s a tricky run thanks to some awkward obstacles, but it’s worth it to see Metal Sonic get smashed at the end. It’s not even the final zone in the game, yet its conclusion where Sonic frees Amy makes it feel like an ending in itself.
6/8 The Doomsday Zone
Most Sonic games have a true ending that requires either getting all the Chaos Emeralds or beating the game’s earlier campaigns. Want to see how Shadow the Hedgehog truly ends? Beat it 10 times first! Some endings were only sort of worth the effort, with Sonic 2’s default ending arguably being better than the special one. However, Sonic 3 & Knuckles stepped up on this by introducing a whole new Super Sonic-only level: The Doomsday Zone.
Super Sonic has to reclaim the Master Emerald from the Death Egg Robot by flying through space. It’s more a test of time than skill as, if the player doesn’t lure enough missiles towards Robotnik’s machine before their ring count empties, they’ll lose. But after going through 13 other zones, and collecting at least 7 Chaos Emeralds (then 7 more Super Emeralds to get Hyper Sonic), the ending feels all the sweeter to see.
5/8 Tails’ Revenge
This satisfying feeling is why these Super Sonic/Last Story chapters caught on. Finishing off the Biolizard in Sonic Adventure 2 with Super Sonic and Super Shadow is particularly exciting. Still, there’s arguably a better moment of catharsis that takes place in the main side stories. Though it involves getting into the lore. For example, Tails stuck with Sonic because he felt too weak to take on the villains by himself. However, in Sonic Adventure, he saved Station Square from a missile attack without Sonic’s help.
At the end of SA2‘s Hero Side Story, the Doctor (now officially Eggman) tricks Sonic and seemingly finishes him off for good by ejecting him into space from the Space Colony ARK. Rather than fall into despair, Tails finds the courage to avenge his friend by fighting Dr. Eggman directly. While it’s not a difficult fight, it’s nice to see Sonic’s sidekick step up to the plate. Sonic would survive, but the two-tailed fox would become a more confident character from hereon.
4/8 Those Game-Breaking Crystals
The 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog game for the Xbox 360 and PS3 is notorious for being the Worst Sonic Game Ever Made™. Though this is arguably going too easy on Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic Genesis. Still, that doesn’t make Sonic ’06 worthwhile with its broken physics, wonky level design, screwed-up story, and legendary bugs. However, there was a silver lining with Sonic’s section.
Sonic could buy some special crystals from the store to gain extra abilities. They were supposed to rely on a gauge that would empty with each use, but it would never run out. So, there was nothing stopping the player from equipping the Purple Gem and jumping infinitely past every obstacle. If the game was going to be broken, it might as well be broken in the player’s favor too.
3/8 Super Sonic Headshot
Sonic Unleashed is half a great game and half a tremendous pain in the neck. For example, Dark Gaia was one of the more tedious and annoying final bosses. At least on PS3/360. PS2/Wii owners got a reasonably fun Punch-Out-based battle. HD console owners got a slow dodge-the-meteor section, some QTEs, then a brief do-or-die boost segment.
Then the big beast goes all Lovecraftian, and Super Sonic has to bound around the edge of a shield in search of dragon heads to destroy. It’s a little weird. But the final segment is riveting as Super Sonic frees Chip’s temple mech from Dark Gaia’s grasp. The mech resists one more big laser blast from the monster, then softens it up for Sonic, who flies through its face like a yellow bullet. Most of this is controlled with QTEs, which dampens things a bit but compared to what came before, it’s a joy to behold.
2/8 Unlimited Colors!
The formerly Wii-exclusive Sonic Colors improved on Unleashed by making it all boost-based levels…and 2D sections that are a little too zoomed out. Still, its simplicity was well-received. It’s just Sonic and Tails saving aliens from Dr. Eggman’s Interstellar Amusement Park. The game doesn’t even end with a giant monster or a cataclysm.
It’s just the good Doctor in a giant machine using the Wisp’s powers against Sonic. The boss battle isn’t the hardest fight in the series but finishing it off is still satisfying. As Eggman’s left on the proverbial ropes, Sonic calls all the Wisps together for one last, big blast, smashing it to pieces and sending the scientist off into space faster than anyone can say “Team Rocket”.
1/8 Titanic Tussle
After Sonic Colors, cathartic moments are a little thin on the ground. Sonic Generations’ rival races come close, though they’re kind of simple, and its final boss is an anti-climax. Then Sonic: Lost World and Sonic Forces’ most cathartic moments involved finishing them and moving on to other games. Sonic Frontiers is a little different as it’s weathered criticism a little better and has a neat cathartic moment in the game’s early stage.
When Sonic comes across Giganto, the first Titan, he’ll try taking it down only to get smacked across the island. The only way to defeat it is to find all the Chaos Emeralds then, as Super Sonic, return the favor. It’s a good way to close off the first act as Sonic emerges from the shadow of the colossus. Though there are more difficult Titans to face off against, it gives the player confidence that they can take them on.