Sonic has a pretty long history with Nintendo. The franchise first went third party on Nintendo platforms, and has stuck close to the company's hardware ever since. This held true even during the Wii U era (easily Nintendo’s most difficult time in recent memory), giving the dual-screen console and the 3DS a variety of Sonic exclusives, ports and retro titles.
Now, just a little over a decade since it launched, the Wii U and 3DS digital storefronts are closing down, taking all the digital Sonic content with it. Thankfully, most of what’s being lost is either available on other platforms, can be found physically, or can be played on easily-emulated retro consoles.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things hardcore Sonic fans might want to grab ahead of the store’s closure. So we're going to go over how accessible various games and DLC are elsewhere, to help you decide whether or not anything’s worth picking up on the eShop before it closes. Then we’ll go the process of purchasing games digitally.
To address the elephant in the room: yes, everything we’ll be talking about will continue to be available through not-so-legitimate means. But we're not talking about that here - for those fans who want to support the Sonic series and SEGA before the whole digital storefront shuts down, this feature is for you.
Digital Exclusive Games & DLC
In terms of digital-exclusive software, the pickings are fortunately quite slim here, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things worth downloading.
On the Wii U, there’s Sonic Lost World’s free DLC. The game received two expansion packs: Yoshi’s Island Zone and The Legend of Zelda Zone. Both are solid stages, but the latter is a real treat to play, and probably one of my favorite levels in the game. Both are definitely worth dusting off a Wii U to download if you haven’t already. Thankfully, these levels won’t be entirely lost when the eShop goes down. Though not officially available, fans brought both levels to the PC version of the game via mods last year.
On the 3DS, the biggest game loss will easily be 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Released in 2015 as part of SEGA’s 3D Classics line, it adds stereoscopic 3D that, in my opinion, looks quite impressive, letting you experience the game with 3D depth in the background. Unlike the first game, which got released as part of the SEGA 3D Classics Collection, this game never received a physical release in the West. So once the eShop goes, so does this.
Perhaps a more underrated loss, however, will be the large number of Sonic 3DS themes. Midway through its life, the 3DS received a “theme” shop, that let users download a variety of themes that added animated backgrounds, music, unique icons for things like folders, and special sound effects.
The 3DS received a large number of Sonic themes, including character-centric themes based around Sonic, Shadow, Amy, Silver and Chao, as well as other special themes like a 25th anniversary theme, a Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal theme, Sonic, Classic and Boom “Style” themes, and even as adorable “cute” style theme. If you want to be able to add these themes to your 3DS, you’d best get them soon.
So, on the whole, Sonic fans aren’t exactly facing a catastrophic loss here. What’s going to be a somewhat bigger deal is easily accessible digital releases becoming significantly less accessible going forward. Such as…
Digital Exclusive Retro Releases
One of the coolest aspects of Nintendo’s pre-Switch digital shops was their extensive Virtual Console library, which digitally re-released the ROMs for numerous consoles both legendary and obscure. As such, the shutdown of these storefronts is also leading to a mass-delisting of games from numerous retro consoles. On the 3DS, that includes the Game Gear.
The system has a nice selection of Game Gear titles, including a wide variety of the system’s Sonic games. Unfortunately, SEGA has been really bad at keeping even the most notable Game Gear titles available, and once the 3DS eShop goes belly up, so goes the last remaining place to buy and play these games that isn’t a Japanese-exclusive novelty micro-console.
Some really solid, and in some cases rare, games are being lost too. Tails Adventure, a Metroidvania spin-off title, is a well worth playing and easily one of the best Game Gear games you can get, though regularly sells for upwards of $90. Sonic Triple Trouble, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Sonic Drift 2 are all solid Sonic experiences worth picking up.
Then we have Sonic 2, Sonic Blast, and Sonic Labyrinth, which… I’m not about to tell you these are games you should play, as they aren’t very good, but the loss of any Sonic game from an accessible storefront is still unfortunate. Finally, there’s the 8-bit version of Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, which also isn’t available anywhere, but has a superior 16-bit version that is.
If you’ve ever wanted to see what the lesser known 8-bit Sonic titles were like, this may be your last chance to easily check them out legitimately for awhile.
Digital Retail Releases
The great thing about physical retail releases is that they can’t be taken out by a shop closure. Once a game is printed, it can be used until it’s destroyed or otherwise decays. But the bad thing about physical games is that there’s only a finite number of them, and unfortunately not all of Sonic’s retail games are as easily or cheaply bought as you might think.
At the moment, all of Sonic’s retail eShop games are easily bought for $19.99. For many of these games, physical copies are currently running for significantly more, and in the case of a few games, are only even available on eBay.
Thankfully, most of Sonic’s 3DS library can be easily found for a decent price at retail. Sonic Generations 3DS, Lost World 3DS, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed 3DS, and Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal are all easy to find at places like Gamestop for $20 or less. Unfortunately, the Wii U library and Sonic’s final 3DS title haven’t been quite as lucky.
On the Wii U, the easiest Sonic game to find physically by far is Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Sonic Lost World, on the other hand, is only available through resellers, where it regularly goes for $35-$50. Thankfully, it also has a superb Steam port. Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric’s physical release is just as difficult to get, also $30-$50 through resellers. Given the game’s reputation, I assumed they’d be giving these copies away, but apparently it has managed to retain some value. If you really want to own this game, that $20 digital version is a solid bargain right now.
A significantly better game, Sonic Boom Fire & Ice on 3DS, appears to have shared Rise of Lyric’s fate, albeit not quite to the same degree currently - at $30 through Amazon resellers. The physical cart is more expensive than its eShop release but this is still cheaper than its price at launch.
For all three of these games, the eShop is currently the cheapest and most accessible way to get them on Nintendo platforms.
How to Buy the Games
While it is no longer possible to add funds directly to the Wii U and 3DS eShops, users can get around this by simply adding funds via their Nintendo Switch eShop account, or (in some countries) through the Nintendo Account website. In order for the funds to actually reach the other eShops, you will need to have your Nintendo Network ID linked to your Nintendo account. If you haven’t done that already, check out this guide and head down to “How to Use Leftover Funds.” It’ll explain how to merge your funds between the eShops.
The End of an Era
The closure of the eShop marks, in many ways, the end of an era for Sonic. An era that had its bright spots, but could also be quite troubled. While this stuff isn’t disappearing forever, the easiest means of experiencing it all is. So if you’ve ever wanted to check out the Boom era, or skipped most of Sonic’s Nintendo-exclusive offerings, now is your last, best chance to get all this stuff legitimately.
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