As inevitable as lame supporting characters are to a successful series, so are spin-off games.
Too bad Sonic has not been as successful as his tube-traveling, Nintendo counterpart.
So we take a look at some notable spin-off games in the Sonic series:
Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (1993) - Genesis, Game Gear
Sega's attempt at making a Sonic title into a pinball game wasn't the most successful. Although the game had a witty title, the gameplay seemed sluggish and the visuals were not as crisp as Sonic's legitimate counterparts. The controls were as sluggish as the gameplay, which proved some difficulty in a game that relies on reflexes.
Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine (1993) Genesis, Game Gear
Three years after the release of Dr. Mario for the Nintendo, Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine emerges. Taking a slightly different spin on the puzzle genre, players must connect groups of four beans of the same color together in any way possible. The beans will congeal together and differing colors will fall apart. Throughout the game you battle Dr. Robotnik's minions has he plots to remove the world of happiness and fun. This was a relatively innovative change in the genre.
Sonic Drift (1994) - Game Gear
Surprisingly, Sonic Drift is a kart racing game that was released two years after Super Mario Kart for the Super Nintendo. Sonic Drift is very similar to Super Mario Kart by gathering all of the characters of the Sonic universe for a go-kart racing title. This game also featured the debut of Amy Rose, Sonic's possible love interest. Another installment of the series was released in 2005 for the Game Gear. Sonic later reprised his role in a racing title with Sonic R for Sega Saturn.
Knuckles' Chaotix (1995) - Genesis 32x
For some reason they wanted to develop a Sonic title without Sonic. Knuckles' Chaotix involves the same formula as games in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, but consisted of only supporting characters. The only notable difference was the ability to play a two-player cooperative game using either a split screen or a single screen with one dominate character progressing the movement on-screen.
Tails' Skypatrol (1995) - Game Gear
Here's an idea, everyone hates Tails - lets make a game with just him! Tails' Skypatrol was a title where you were suspended in the air while the screen automatically moved. Sounds easy. Plus you simply couldn't hit anything on the screen or you would die. Easy right? Wrong. Apparently that caused some issues. Hailed by many as on the worst Sonic titles ever created, Tails' Skypatrol was also one of the hardest with an insane difficulty level. Stupid idea and poor design - gaming gold.
Shadow the Hedgehog (2005) - Gamecube, Playstation 2, Xbox
Shadow the Hedgehog tried to take the series in a more mature direction. Did it work? I haven't heard of Shadow the Hedgehog 2 quite yet. This title took some of the more enjoyable gameplay elements of the Sonic Adventure series, added gun play, and paired it with a decent supporting character. The game received mediocre reviews, but seems to be an interesting spin-off choice.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympics (2008) - Wii, DS
Yes, the first showdown between Sonic and rival Mario in a spin-off for both series and what did they choose for the cover - them running. I wonder who would win that race? Anyway, this title features various summer olympic-style games for characters from both series' to compete. Nevertheless, the gameplay seems pretty lame when you finally get over the fact that both Sonic and Mario are in the same game together...besides Super Smash Bros. Brawl.