Sonic Mania mods and the art of extending a game

After so many years of the Sonic series riding a wave of mediocrity, that speedy hedgehog came back with a boom in the form of Sonic Mania, a game made by fans of the series and approved by SEGA as an official entry.

It came into high-acclaim, with some regarding the series as a ‘return to form’, and with its DLC pack, ‘Encore’ released the following year in 2018 with extra characters and modes, it was, and still is, the Sonic game to beat.

But when it saw release on Steam, it was discovered that the game could be ‘modded’, a way of adding or modifying certain attributes of the game, so characters, levels and even abilities could be added to the game.

Mods have been a great way of extending a game past its limits. It’s almost a reminder of ‘expansion packs’ from the mid-90’s, such as Star Wars: Mysteries Of The Sith and Tomb Raider 3: Lost Artefact, where additional levels and abilities were available for a price to extend the existing game. Nowadays it’s DLC, but the appeal is still there.

It only made sense that, because the game stemmed from a modification of Sonic 1, that an explosion of mods for Sonic Mania has been ongoing since its release.

You want a level from the Master System version of Sonic 1? Done.

Would you like the fonts and menus of Sonic 3 added into the game instead? Done.

Would you like Big The Cat to be the main character and to finally seize his destiny to take over the Sonic franchise? Surprisingly enough, that's been done too!

But how do you even attempt this?

It’s all managed through a ‘Mania Mod Loader’, where you are guided into copying certain files into the Sonic Mania directory, and with a new shortcut, you can download a mod, copy it into a specified folder, and you can load it in as you wish.

As a bonus, it also comes with ‘cheats’, so if you’d like ‘Infinite Rings’, or flight with Super Sonic, that can also be arranged.

The ‘Mania Mods’ on subreddit is a great place to start looking for mods, while GameBanana has a great repository for many different kinds of mods, with reviews and updates from the creators.

But, now that you’re ready to go with the Mod Loader, here are some great Sonic Mania mods to get you started. And thanks to the art that is mod-making, you're about to take your first steps into a larger world...

Adventures Of Sonic The Hedgehog

Download it here

In the mid-90s there were two Sonic shows that would be a staple of weekend-TV. Either on Channel 4 or ITV/Diggit, you would be ready to watch it with a bowl of Ricicles and a bottle of Sunny D.

With this mod, you’ll be able to play Sonic Mania as if it’s an adaptation of one of these shows.

There are colour changes to better reflect the characters, and even music to keep you in the world of Adventures Of Sonic The Hedgehog.

Even in StudioPolis Zone, the mid-boss has a great twist of Robotnik’s two robots being in place of the Big Heavies, and music as well.

Sonic 2 XL in Mania

Download it here

This stemmed from a mod of Sonic 2, and it completely changes how you think about Rings.

Here they are onion rings, and the more you collect, the more fat you make Sonic, making him slower to run, and shorter at jumping. Just don’t eat too many, otherwise it will be game over.

The gameplay mechanics here completely change how you will traverse through a level, as you're not only avoiding spikes and pitfalls, but rings now that will harm your diet. But the catch-22 will be that you need at least three of these rings in case you are hit by an enemy, or Robotnik.

Boss Rush

Download it here

Pretty self-explanatory, but this introduces a mode where you can go through every boss of Sonic Mania, one by one, and see how far you get before you run out of lives. The mode is memorable, fun, and yearns to appear on more games.

Jungle Zone

Download it here

There are great things about this mod. The first is a level from the Master System version of Sonic 1, a port where some regard it as superior to the Mega Drive version. ‘Jungle Zone’ is a level that says what it is on the tin, a level set in the jungle where vines, waterfalls and logs are abundant. It sets it apart from the official levels as it’s more about the platforming aspect of Sonic, and makes you think about how your speed has to be managed to land on the right logs.

The second act has Sonic essentially climb up a waterfall, and even though there’s no danger of death if you miss a platform unlike the original version, you may have to climb all the way back up again if you do fall. It was innovative and set it apart from the other levels back in the day. Overall; very fun, and even the music is intact.

Sonic Mania: Misfits Pack 

Download it here

This is a 3-in-1 level pack, where the following zones have been implemented with a significant degree of progress so far.

  • Labyrinth Zone
  • Aquatic Ruin Zone
  • Hill Top Zone
  • Wood Zone/Metropolis Zone

Every section of the levels feel like they’ve always been in Sonic Mania, with the redone music and the very smart idea of mixing in a scrapped zone with an official one from Sonic 2 is a great touch.

You could easily get lost in these 4.5 zones, and imagine just how scrapped zones such as Dust Hill and Hidden Palace could be re-implemented into a Sonic Mania sequel.

Overall, you can easily spend a weekend modding-out your Sonic Mania installation, and you may even be inspired to create one. But right now, while we wait for an official sequel to Sonic Mania to hopefully be announced soon, the above mods will keep you busy for some time. 

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