Sonic has had his fair share of rivals throughout the past 29 years of his gaming career. From the memeable Knuckles the Echidna to the edgy Shadow the Hedgehog to the loudmouth Jet the Hawk. But out of all rivals, none are as influential as Sonic’s original rival, who is his robotic doubleganger Metal Sonic. Before we can delve into why Metal Sonic is overall best rival, we’ll need to look into, *gasps*, the political ideology of the Sonic series as a whole to better understand Metal’s existence.
Since the very first game, the Sonic series has always had an environmental message about the dangers of industrialization and capitalism. Dr. Eggman wants to enslave local wildlife by shoving them into his robots and use their land for free real estate, expanding his empire. Sonic wants none of that and goes out to destroy Eggman’s machines and free all of his animal friends. It confuses me as to why so many geeks and gamers were praising the new Sonic movie for being a fun “apolitical” movie without even knowing the series’ political messages and how said movie strip those away. Heck, this theme was even further expanded upon in Sonic CD, where one of its gameplay elements allows you to time travel to a bad future if you didn’t destroy all the enemy robots in the present or destroy the robot factory from the past. And continuing with the Sonic CD talk…
The game is where we are first introduced to Metal Sonic, who was created by Dr. Eggman to be better than Sonic in every way. Although far from the first robotic doubleganger in the series (that title belongs to the one in Sonic the Hedgehog 2), he is by far the most unique of the bunch for being a recurring character that shows up from time to time and serves as the anti-thesis of Sonic himself. Sonic has a care-free nature who doesn’t play by the rules from authorities, especially ones that try to invade his home and enslave his friends to do their bidding. Metal Sonic shares the same speed, as well as a similar cocky personality, as regular Sonic, with the only difference being how he embraces the industrial life and its robotic being.
Many of Sonic’s other rivals post-Metal fail to share the same political themes as him. Knuckles ends up becoming a friendly rival after his debut, but I guess you could argue about his race in Sonic Adventure being an allegory for Indigenous people. Though unlike the ones in real life, they didn’t die off from colonialism but by a ticked off ancient god. A similar argument can be said about Jet the Hawk and his Babylonian Rogue heritage. And as for Shadow, he had something going for his backstory and all, but now SEGA ruined him and has become a poster child of everything wrong with the concept of edgy characters. And don’t get me started on Sonic’s other rivals like Silver the Hedgehog and Infinite. The point being, Metal Sonic is the better rival to Sonic in both characteristics, abilities, and political theming. Now I wonder what kind of new rival will SEGA create for the blue blur in the next mainline game.