The Sonic Amateur Games Expo is a yearly showcase of ROM hacks and fan games. This year’s selection was full of gorgeous art, twisty levels, and new takes on the franchise’s speedy gameplay. These projects are as artful as anything Sega makes and some are just as massive as any AAA Sonic game.
The expo, colloquially called SAGE, extends all the way back to 2000 but became an annual event in 2005. The goal is to show off new creations and celebrate everyone’s favourite blue hedgehog. The event ran from 30th September to 7th October, finishing with a catalogue of 45 fan games to play.
Chief among the selection of games were numerous entries that embraced bright, hand drawn visual over pixel art. The most captivating of these was Sonic AGES, a brief demo that gives Sonic one of the best running animations I’ve ever seen. It pairs well with Sonic the Sketchhog 2, another game with a scribbly art direction. Both feel like the type of fun doodles you would find in a school notebook from the 90s. Sonic 2 HD is a remake of the Genesis classic that spruces up the visuals and adds charming character animations that really bring the world to life.
Fan games aren’t only about making minor tweaks or hacks. Many entries in SAGE are original games inspired by the source materials. Clash Force 2 feels like a combination of Sonic and Gunstar Heroes, with longer sprinting sections that add in fancy gunplay and powerups. Allegro: The Melodic Warrior is a bit rough around the edges but it manages to capture the feeling of an old school mascot platformer full of collectible trinkets and zippy movement. These games take fundamental concepts of Sonic, speed and joy, to create their own bright and colourful worlds.
If there’s one game that really takes things to the next level, it’s Sonic World. It is a massive standalone riff on games like Sonic Heroes or Sonic Adventure 2: Battle. It features an exhaustive roster of characters and a ton of levels. Some are variations of levels from previous games while others are abstract creations full of neon lights. It’s a robust fan creation that should satisfy anyone looking to get their fix of 3-D Sonic gameplay. It also looks really great in the hands of a speedrunner like DarkspinesSonic, whose individual level speedruns are dazzling.
While many game companies crack down on fan creations, shutting them down with copyright claims, Sega’s encourages fans to create their own Sonic games. In the case of Sonic Mania, they hired fan creators and ROM hackers for an official project.
The Sonic Amateur Games Expo is a wonderful celebration of fan creativity and there’s bound to be a few games that will capture the attention of Sonic diehards as well as casual players. The complete catalogue of games can be found here. Don’t speedrun through them; sit back and enjoy the fun.