Sonic Riders[a] is a 2006 racing video game for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox in which the player controls characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog series on hoverboards. In the game’s 16 tracks, the player competes against characters—either controlled by computers or other players—in story and battle modes. It was developed by Sonic Team and Now Production, published by Sega, and released worldwide in February 2006 in Japan and North America. It was released in Europe the following month and for Microsoft Windows at the end of the year. A Game Boy Advance version was canceled.
The game was produced in commemoration of the Sonic series’ 15th anniversary and was the first Sonic racing game since the 1997 Traveller’s Tales game Sonic R. Sonic Team wanted to make their own game that was superior to any previous Sonic racing game. It was designed to appeal to fans of Sonic and extreme sports video games; the development team did not take inspiration from any prior games. Sonic Riders was also the last Sonic title produced with the involvement of Yuji Naka, who left Sega shortly after its release.
Sonic Riders was released to mixed reviews, although it did sell well and was branded under the GameCube and PlayStation 2 bestseller lines. Reviewers were critical of its sloppy gameplay, loose controls, and inconsistent design; some praise was directed at the visual style and the sense of speed while racing. Overall, they deemed it a lackluster game—both within the Sonic franchise and the racing game medium—that had its highlights but ultimately fell to its shortcomings. Despite the mixed reviews, two sequels, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity (2008) and Sonic Free Riders (2010), were developed and released.