Given he’s a charismatic, anthropomorphic animal, Sonic the Hedgehog is perfect for cartoons and film. 2019’s Sonic the Hedgehog proved that the blue blur could succeed in the Box Office – and that a video game-based movie could at least be decent.
But long before the world’s most famous hedgehog spun big on the silver screen, he made sonic waves on children’s television. The little critter has starred in many animated shows over the years, proving to be a perfect second home for the character. Now, with the Hollywood Sonic sequel blasting into theaters early next year and the trailer filling us with hype, what better time is there to rank the cartoons that paved the way for it? (Quick note: this is a ranking of televised cartoons, fan productions, and Sonic Mania shorts not included in this list. Also, the Sonic OVA is a film, not a cartoon series. Thus, it isn’t featured here).
5) Sonic Boom (2014-2018)
Sonic Boom is a tie-in to the game of the same name – however, it’s safe to say the cartoon is superior. However, this isn’t saying much because the game is beyond any kind of redemption. In comparison, the cartoon is good in places but not enough to warrant a higher spot on this ranking.
Sonic Boom trades the dramatic storytelling of Sonic X for a more episodic, comedic tone. The series is less about high-stakes drama and more about “what crazy shenanigans will Sonic and Co. get up to today?” It certainly is funny in places but the character designs are strange (Sonic and Knuckles being good examples), the animation run-of-the-mill CGI and Knuckles…why is Knuckles so stupid? That said, the cartoon isn’t a travesty and it introduced a lot of kids to the franchise.
4) Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (1993)
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (or AoStH) is a slapstick comedy contemporary to the darker SatAM. Featuring Sonic and Tails, it’s the first series where Jaleel White voices the titular hero. Every episode, they lock horns with the evil Dr. Robotnik and his incompetent minions, Scratch and Grounder. Unlike many of the other shows on this list, it’s episodic and seldom uses story arcs.
AoStH is by no means a bad Sonic cartoon, but it pales in comparison to the others. Jaleel White is, for those who grew up with the show, the quintessential Sonic voice. However, the animation quality is the poorest of the Sonic shows, with characters often off-model and awkwardly drawn. The backgrounds are also unimpressively rudimentary like a child has gone crazy with his new paint set. That said, for those of us who grew up with this show, we can’t help but love it regardless, since it boasts some pretty memorable adventures. And those ‘Sonic Says’ sections are just so bad, they’re kind of good, if not in the way the producers intended…
3) Sonic Underground (1999)
Sonic Underground is a series that borrows elements from its predecessor, SatAM, adds two extra hedgehogs, and adds some weekly pop-rock to the mix. This series is notably more controversial than the show that precedes it. For one thing, viewers were heavily invested in SatAM and bummed out about its premature cancellation. For another, the same fans deem Underground a disappointing, gimmicky follow-up to the Sonic cartoon franchise, mainly due to the aforementioned musical focus.
That said, we’d argue that Underground has several redeeming factors. For one thing, Jaleel White’s talent shines as he plays all three of the Sonic siblings. Secondly, some of the episodic pop-rock tunes are actually…good? And there’s fun to be had all across the board – and an intriguing premise revolving around the Sonic siblings searching for their missing mother. Underground is a highly underrated Sonic cartoon and deserves more praise than it gets. Hence, it’s in the middle of the pack for our Sonic cartoon list.
2) Sonic X (2003-2004)
Ironically, although Sonic is a Japanese-originated property, it took 12 years for a successful Japanese-animated Sonic show to hit our televisions. This was years after Sega’s mascot enjoyed commercial success with three American-written, French-animated cartoons. And yet, the results are as impressive as you’d expect.
Unlike the ’90’s cartoons, Sonic X didn’t need to establish a list of original characters to fill out the show. Rather, it used the cast of the then-recent Sonic Adventure games (Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Cream, etc), even going so far as to adapt the games’ stories tit-for-tat. However, they did introduce a new human cast, led by the controversial Chris Thorndyke. Regardless of how you feel about the whiny preteen, it doesn’t take away from Sonic X‘s beautiful animation, dramatic flair, and list of epic action setpieces. Some episodes are certainly better than others, but this series captures the Sonic of its era so beautifully, even if the work of the 4Kids actors sometimes feels uninspired.
1) SatAM (1993-1994)
The ’90s were a godsend for quality cartoons. Batman: TAS, Spider-Man, and X-Men are fan favorites that come to mind. However, this wonderful era also gave birth to Sonic’s best games – and, funnily enough, his best cartoon.
In a move unheard of today, SatAM is one of two Sonic cartoons that aired simultaneously. Airing between September 19, 1993, and December 3, 1994, the show was the darker cousin to the slapstick silliness of AoStH. And it’s for this reason that it’s fondly remembered compared to the aforementioned show.
The show has Sonic act as a prominent member of a freedom-fighting group as they attempt to end Dr. Robotnik’s robotic empire. Unlike its comedy-oriented counterpart, SatAm is far bears far higher stakes in its narrative. Sonic’s team actually loses occasionally, while heroes fall and Robotnik’s tyranny feels more threatening than ever. Sonic even develops a romance with Sally over the course of the series. But while these factors alone ensure it remains the best Sonic cartoon, props must go to its boisterous title theme ‘Fastest Thing Alive’ which will live in your head rent-free for all time.
But alas, this is just our take on the best Sonic cartoons – do you agree or disagree with our list? If not, how would you rank the shows? And how do you think the 2022 Netflix Sonic show will measure up to its predecessors?