I’ve made no secret of my love for the 90’s cartoon Sonic the Hedgehog, know affectionately to most of its fans as Sonic SatAM. And I will consider it one of the finest shows to come out of American animation. But which of the episodes were the best? Welcome to my top 15 countdown of the best Sonic SatAM episodes.
Keep in mind, this is entirely based on my own personal opinion. If you don’t like it, write your own list. Also, fair warning, there are spoilers.
15. Heads or Tails
This episode was the pilot for the series, and as is often for pilots, it’s different. And like all pilots, its main purpose is to introduce you to the series and hit all the main points. In that regard, it succeeds. The story of this one is that Princess Sally (one of the original characters, and Sonic’s prime love interest) sends Sonic on a mission to Robotnik’s (yes, this still used that name at the time) conquered city of Robotropolis. The mission: gather materials to build defenses for their hidden village of Knothole in the Great Forest for an impending attack. Tails tags along, serving as someone to explain everything in the series to so we can learn as well. As I said, the episode works as a pilot. We’re introduced to the cast, like Sonic, Sally, Tails, Rotor (a mechanical genius walrus), Bunnie Rabbot (a Southern Belle cyborg rabbit), Antoine (the series’ comic relief Frenchman), Robotnik and his nephew/henchman Snively and the SwatBots army. We’re also introduced to the concept of roboticization (the process that allows Robotnik to turn people into machine slaves), the Power Rings that give Sonic incredibly powers, and the fact that Sonic and his Freedom Fighters are fighting an uphill battle to save a world already conquered. Its only real flaw is that it’s too bright, colorful, and a tad goofy compared to the rest of it. It’s the odd one out in terms of tone, but it’s a great starting point for people that want to get into the show.
14. Game Guy
This was the first episode of Season 2, and it showed a change in both the design of the animation (updated character designs, slightly darker color tone) and the writing. The main story is that Sonic and Sally meet Ari, a ram-man who claims to be from another Freedom Fighter group. Sonic trusts him, but Sally has her suspicions. Ari ends up leading Sonic into a trap of Robotnik’s (based on a pinball machine) where if Sonic fails, he’ll be lost in the Void, a strange dimension that seems to have no way out. In the end, Ari has a change of heart and sacrifices himself to save Sonic, being lost in the Void. And that’s pretty much it. This is what I meant by a change in the writing. While there was at least one downer ending in Season 1, they never felt that bad as here. Also, we are introduced to the Void, but it’s not fully explained yet, and would play a role in later episodes. We suddenly were in a season with an overarching plot, and where things can end badly if the writers wanted. And I couldn’t wait to see what they would do.
13. The Void
Halfway through the second season, we finally get more answers to everything. While on recon in the Great Unknown, Sonic encounters a new opening to the Void, and manages to escape due to his speed. Unknowingly, he attracts the attention of the sorcerer Naugus, who Robotnik used to serve. Naugus uses his magic to bring Sally and Bunnie into the Void, so he can get Sonic, the only one fast enough to escape the Void, to bring him out. Sonic has no choice but to work with Sally’s portable AI Nicole. And we also see what happened to Sally’s father, the King (voiced by Tim Curry), a prisoner of the Void. This one was great for actually answering a lot of questions,the return of Ari and also giving us the hilarious sequence of Sonic teaching the computer Nicole slang so he can understand her explanations. And yes, another bittersweet ending, for while we know what happened to the King, he cannot leave the Void due to how long he’s been there, or he’ll die.
12. Sonic and the Secret Scrolls
Season 1 was filled with plenty of interesting one-shot episodes, but this one is a special one just for having the full cast in an adventure. After rebuilding an old plane (or airborne jalopy as Sonic calls it), the full cast of the Freedom Fighters head to a lost temple in search of scrolls that supposedly have unlimited powers. If you’ve ever been an Indiana Jones fan, you know this means traps, riddles and trials. And that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. The main reason it got this placement on the list is because it’s one of the better episodes that actually feature all the heroes, not just Sonic and a few people.
11. Sonic’s Nightmare
Sonic keeps having a recurring nightmare that his constant jumping into things without thinking them through first causes Sally to become roboticized. When Sonic, Sally, Bunnie and Antoine investigate an abandoned city where Robotnik is about to test a machine that causes acid to rain down. When the others are trapped, Sonic’s nightmare finally cause him to freeze up, forcing him to confront his fears to save the day. This one is fun just for giving us the idea that what Sonic fears most is failure, as well as the nightmare scenes actually punctuate how scary roboticization is.
10. Drood Henge
Robotnik finds the legendary ruins of Drood Henge, the resting place of a pair of magical stones known as the Deep Power Stones, a source of either limitless power or limitless destruction. Sonic and Tails team up to steal at least one Stone in order to keep Robotnik from ultimate power. This one was fun for introducing another element for Season 2, as well as bringing Tails back into his game position as Sonic’s sidekick.
9. Cry of the Wolf
Sonic and Sally make contact with another Freedom Fighter group, the Wolf Pack, led by the wolf woman Lupe. This is fortunate, because for a long time during Season 2, Robotnik has been hinting at something called Project Doomsday, and we finally see the first sign of it: a nearly-indestructible war-machine that can destroy anything. This one is great, not only giving us the Native American-like wolves, but featuring a high-speed showdown between Sonic and the Doomsday machine across the desert.
8. Spy Hog
In this second-to-last episode of the entire series, we see the further adventures of Sonic’s Uncle Chuck (whose earlier episodes are higher up on the list). Point is, Sonic’s uncle is a robot, but in control of himself and working as a spy for the Freedom Fighters. In this episode, he’s slowly but surely losing his cover, and it’s basically a story of intrigue to see if Uncle Chuck can stay a spy.
7. Sonic and Sally
In this Season 1 episode, Sally is captured and replaced by a robot duplicate who spies on Sonic and his friends, sabotaging their efforts. The only person who suspects is Tails, and it’s only a matter of time before Sonic figures it out. This also has a nice subplot about Bunnie feeling insecure and useless because of her robot parts.
6. Ultra Sonic
This was the first appearance of Sonic’s Uncle Chuck. Using a Power Ring, they briefly restore his free will, and he tells them of a new plot by Robotnik to mine a massive crystal as an energy source. While they do that, we get to see how similar Sonic and his uncle are as heroes, despite one being a genius scientist, the other a hotheaded speedster.
5. No Brainer
Snively, Robotnik’s second-in-command, manages to do the unthinkable while his master is away: wipe Sonic’s memory, turning the hedgehog into a spy against his friends. Sonic’s friends have to restore his memories before it’s too late. This one is just a treat since Snively is a nice toady villain, and rarely gets any episodes where he actually seems credible. It’s also nice to see Sonic’s interactions with his friends with no memory.
4. Sonic Conversion
The Freedom Fighters manage to develop a device to reverse the roboticization process. After a seemingly successful test on Bunnie, Sonic decides its time to restore his Uncle Chuck. We also find out that roboticized people are aware of all they do, they just have no ability to control themselves. When the process turns out to be temporary, Sonic uses that to help his uncle regain his free will, if not his body. This is the start of Uncle Chuck’s spy career, a role he’d fulfill throughout Season 2 towards its epic conclusion.
3. Sonic Racer
Hands-down, this is the best animation of the entire series, as well as the best episode of Season 1. After a thrilling mission to destroy a power generator, Sonic and his friends find that the generator is still operating. Meanwhile, Robotnik is angry that nothing seems to rid him of the hedgehog. Snively builds a robot based on a cheetah and suggests luring Sonic out by appealing to his ego and pride as the fastest thing alive with a race. Sonic naturally jumps at the chance to prove himself, and also suggests using the race as a distraction so the Freedom Fighters can destroy the generator. What follows is just a great race through the city and the question of just how far Sonic will go to prove he’s the best.
2. Blast to the Past
In this two-part episode, Sonic makes a comment that they should have beaten Robotnik before he took over, even though they all were just kids at the time. Sally suggests they find the Time Stones of legend to travel back in time to stop Robotnik’s takeover. Unfortunately Sonic can’t keep his mind off chili dogs and they instead arrive on the day of the coup. Sonic and Sally meet up with their childhood selves, warn Uncle Chuck and Sally’s father, but are too late. And when it looks like they may have made the timeline worse by risking both the Great Forest and their young selves, they have to scramble to save the day. It’s funny seeing both Sonics being goofy with each other (an element they revisited in the recent game Sonic Generations) and both Sallys rolling their eyes. It’s also cool to see Sonic strike his first blow against Robotnik, promising a lifelong hatred between the two.
This was the final episode of the series, and all the elements of Season 2 were brought to the forefront. Robotnik finally starts his Doomsday Project, a massive factory/fortress that can manufacture and send armies of the indestructible war machine from Cry of the Wolf anywhere on the planet through underground tunnels. All the Freedom Fighters come together in an attempt to bring down Doomsday, but even Sonic can’t stop it. The only option left is the Deep Power Stones from Drood Henge, all of it building to a climatic finale as Sonic and Sally tap into the ultimate power to destroy not only the Doomsday Project, but Robotnik. Sonic and Sally finally become a true couple, and all seems well. Except that Snively still lives, and appears just before the end credits with a strange red-eyed creature, promising that it’s just beginning. This one was just awesome, with everything that was built up during Season 2 coming together perfectly, and was the best way to end a season. Sadly, the series was cancelled, meaning no chance of finding out what that last tease was.
This was one of the better cartoons I saw as a kid, and it’s still fun to watch now. I hope that this countdown gets you to check out the series at some point.