Today, we’ll be covering the definitive list of the best Sonic Generations mods, and what you need to know to start using them together to their fullest. Additionally, I’ll also cover Sonic Generations mods on Steam Deck, and how to install Sonic Generations mods to begin with. Let’s not waste any time, and hop right in!
Table of Contents
A Brief on Sonic Generations Mods and What To Expect
So, an important thing to know about Sonic Generations before you start modding it is that the game runs on Sega’s Hedgehog Engine. Specifically, it runs on the first-generation Hedgehog Engine used for PS360-era Sonic games, particularly Generations and Unleashed.
The Hedgehog Engine is actually one of Sega’s better technical achievements, especially at the time of Unleashed’s original release. In my opinion, Sonic Unleashed was the first time a mainstream console game really started providing graphics that looked akin to CG movie renders, and the intensity of its engine actually caused Unleashed to bring PS3/360 to their knees at 20 FPS and under in certain demanding areas of the game.
Caption: Unleashed, the first Hedgehog Engine game, came out in 2008 and it still looks like this! The FPS chugs even in this trailer, though…
Sonic Generations succeeds Sonic Unleashed (and Colors, a Wii-exclusive with similar gameplay), and released on the same consoles with a much more stable 30 FPS cap. However, it did seemingly lose some of the high-quality shading introduced with Unleashed, likely to preserve performance on the console hardware.
A mod we’ll be covering later in this article will allow you to restore the original beauty of the Hedgehog Engine on PC with Sonic Generations— and rest assured, this mini history lesson on Sonic Unleashed isn’t here for no reason, either…but for now, let’s talk about how you’ll be installing Sonic Generations mods.
How To Install Sonic Generations Mods With HedgeModManager
So, before you do anything, you’ll need to install HedgeModManager.
That’s right: there’s a dedicated application for managing Sonic Generations mods! Well, Hedgehog Engine and Sonic games in general, not just Generations, but still!
Back in the day when I first modded Sonic Generations, we used a little application called “SonicGMI”. SonicGMI is pretty much rendered fully obsolete by HedgeModManager, though, and is only recommended to use if some old obscure mod requires it…and even then, it will likely make most of your HMM mods unusable. I wouldn’t recommend it!
Anyway, HedgeModManager works pretty much like you expect it to. You don’t even need to install it— simply download and run the application like normal, and when you open it all you really need to do is point it at your Sonic Generations folder if it hasn’t found it already. No actual install process should be necessary, though this also means you’ll want to store the HedgeModManager.exe in an easy-to-find folder (or the desktop) on your PC.
Once installed, you may be wondering how to use HedgeModManager to install mods. You have two options to install mods: using the “Install with HedgeModManager” button available for most Generations mods on GameBanana and other sites, or using the application’s “Add Mod” button to add a downloaded mod from a folder or zip.
Within the HMM window, you may also notice a tab for “Codes”. This allows you to apply a variety of codes to the game, varying from common cheats to little tweaks and fixes to the gameplay, including running Sonic Generations above 60 FPS. All you have to do is click “Download Community Codes” to get access to all of those codes.
I’ll be listing my recommended codes below.
Recommended HedgeModManager Codes
- Audio Codes: *Disable Boost Audio Filter, if you want to more clearly hear in-game music and don’t like the Boost distortion effect. Very optional.
- Cheat Codes: None or Personal Preference
- Debug Codes: None
- Fix Codes: All. Only enable “Fix Input Delay With Arbitrary Framerates” if you use one of the FPS codes discussed later.
- Gameplay Codes: All Cameras Are Controllable and Restore Right Stick Camera Controls will give you actual camera control within many scenes and stages of Generations. Very useful. There are also codes for Unleashed-style actions or restoring previous series features like all rings being light-dashable, though you may want to be careful with features like the latter, since they can be a little buggy.
- Graphics Codes: Most of these are pure preference or compatibility concerns, including removing effects like motion blur and so on. The most prominent graphics codes are the ones with different FPS locks or even Unlocked FPS! These are pretty good, but I’ve had to disable them since FPS higher than 60 tends to cause input issues in 2D sections, even with the “Fix Input Delay” code enabled. (However, that code is Experimental at the time of writing, meaning it may have improved whenever you read this! Consider it at least— occasional 2D issues aside, it makes the game look and feel crazy good.)
- System Codes: Misc features. Enable Controller Hotplugging Support for those sessions where you take a break and come back later, though, since Generations is notoriously poor about detecting a new controller or re-detecting an original pad after it’s fallen asleep.
- UI Codes: Minor changes to HUD, including removing HUD should you wish to play HUDless or want to collect screencaps/footage/etc.
The Best Sonic Generations Mods: Must-Haves
HedgeModManager by thesupersonic16 and others on Github
Discussed above, HedgeModManager is the must-have Sonic Generations mod, since it’s actually a mod manager that will enable access to the rest of the mods listed here. Its built-in checks for mod dependencies and support for one-click mod downloads is also a truly superb feature to have on hand.
That aside, there really isn’t much else to say about it. It’s good and you should have it if you’re hoping to mod Sonic Generations or other Sonic games on PC.
BetterFXPipeline by Skyth
One of the absolute must-have Sonic Generations mods on PC is Better FxPipeline. With Better FXPipeline, you can make several improvements to Generations’ graphics and effects all at once. There are also many fixes made to effects that otherwise don’t work properly at high resolutions, like depth of field or bloom glare.
Better FXPipeline has also taken the place of the Unleashed Project FXPipeline renderer, which means it can be used to restore Sonic Unleashed-esque shaders to Sonic Generations. Some of the improvements you can expect are pictured above, and more comparison shots are available on the mod page.
Direct3D9Ex or Direct3D11 by Skyth
As it turns out, the default DirectX9 renderer on Sonic Generations’ PC port is somewhat unoptimized. Considering the not-quite locked 30 FPS of Sonic Generations on PS360 and the definitely-not-locked 30 FPS of Sonic Unleashed on the same engine a few years prior, this isn’t that surprising. But what surprised me was just how much performance was being left on the table by not using one of these DirectX wrappers!
Silky-smooth performance on this Unleashed Project stage wouldn’t be possible on most cards without these D3D wrappers.
Direct3D9EX and Direct3D11 mods by Skyth for Sonic Generations are both DirectX wrappers that add support for new graphical features and greatly optimize the game’s rendering, resulting in massive performance improvements in both the regular game and modded stages.
Also quite a few mods have one of these as a dependency, so you’ll want to have them either way.
HQ Pre-Rendered Cutscenes by MBeca
Replaces the low-quality pre-rendered cutscenes of the PC and Xbox versions of Generations with the higher-quality (720p) pre-rendered cutscenes of the PS3 version of Generations. Recommended since this is the only way to improve the quality of the pre-renders on PC, which are otherwise noticeably lower-res than basically any common PC resolution.
High-Res HUD Mod by JoeT.E.
Boosts the resolution of the Sonic Generations HUD. To be honest, I don’t think this is strictly necessary since the game’s UI was made for 720p, but certain HUD elements can definitely look a little blown-up at high res. This should fix that.
Casino Done Right by Zoney
Adds back in a small cutscene missing from the intro of the Casino Night DLC stage that is present in the console versions. A minor fix, but a nice one.
Soft Shadows* by Skyth
Adds soft shadows to Sonic Generations, greatly improving shadow quality in the process.
*May need to be disabled when using other GFX mods or using certain stage mods.
The Best Sonic Generations Mods: Unleashed Stages and Adventure Packs
Unleashed Project by Dario
Unleashed Project: The Complete Addon* by K1A1, ExeQution and Team
The Unleashed Project is perhaps one of the most ambitious modding campaigns I’ve ever seen, but after a decade of it being present on PC without Sega raising a fuss, I feel pretty comfortable recommending it to you today.
The Unleashed Project is a mod that replaces all of the Modern Sonic stages in Sonic Generations with the Act 1 Daytime stages from Sonic Unleashed. While there are several Daytime stages per area in Unleashed, the longest and most unique of them is usually Act 1, so this format works pretty well.
With the addition of “The Complete Addon” and my above recommended mods, you get a version of the Unleashed Project that is even more accurate to the original enemies and level design of Sonic Unleashed.
Until recent patches for Xbox backward compatibility playing Sonic Unleashed on console, there was no other way to experience Sonic Unleashed’s daytime levels at 60 FPS without emulating. The Unleashed Project may have unironically created a better version of Unleashed in the new engine, were they able to port over the Nighttime stages as well and more than just one daytime stage per-zone.
Alas, the limited scope of Sonic Generations also somewhat limits the scope of big mods like this. However, a near-complete port of all the best parts of Sonic Unleashed is pretty hard to scoff at, and technically…you can still play the rest of those daytime stages, too!
See, it turns out that if you just dedicate all of Generations slots for Modern stages to Daytime stages in a single zone from Unleashed, they fit neatly into Generations, complete with their hub worlds intact. Thus, the Adventure Pack mods were born, which port the rest of Unleashed daytime’s stages!
Of course, you can only use one Adventure Pack at a time since you aren’t actually playing Unleashed. But nothing’s stopping you from playing those stages in a better engine, either.
*Despite being named The Complete Add-On, this mod also has a dependency on a mod called “SU Restorations”. I’ve included a link to this one later in the article, too, since you can technically just skip the Add-On and run the Unleashed Project on its own.
Sonic Unleashed: Adventure Packs by Various Modders
- Apotos Adventure Pack by Shrey Kumar Singh
- Adabat Adventure Pack by Arcieo, Alex Lerow and Helias
- Chun-Nan Adventure Pack by TiManXD and Team
- Empire City Adventure Pack* by N69vid
- “New York” Challenge Pack by GoalRingMod 27 — The Night stage for Empire City adapted to Daytime/Modern Sonic’s Gameplay.
- Holoska Adventure Pack* by N69vid
- Mazuri Adventure Pack by Shrey Kumar Singh — While I have included the link for posterity, this particular Adventure Pack unfortunately does not seem to work, at least not with a modern setup. Using Sonic GMI instead might be possible, but it’s ultimately a lot of trouble to go through for these stages.
- Shamar Adventure Pack v2.0 by Tuann and TiManXD
- Spagonia Adventure Pack* by N69Vid
- EggmanLand by N69Vid — The ultimate challenge of Sonic Unleashed, ported fully to Sonic Generations. Good luck!
*These Adventure Packs seem to be slightly broken in their current versions, from my testing. Patches released by modder FUNK on YouTube should help you get these levels and their hubs fully-functioning within Sonic Generations, though. I’ve embedded his video tutorial (including links for his patches) below:
Sonic Unwiished + by Team Encore
If you’re hungry for yet more Sonic Unleashed content and aren’t satiated by the mods above, you may be interested to know that the Wii and PS2 versions of Sonic Unleashed actually had unique level designs that provide a different take on each of the game’s levels.
While the graphics are obviously lower-fidelity, the same gameplay systems were in place on the slower platforms, and with the Sonic Unwiished + mod, you can play the definitive version of these stages. There will still be a downgrade in texture and model quality in comparison to the PS360 Unleashed content, though.
The Best Sonic Generations Mods: Other Custom Stages and Graphics Tweaks
Project Reimagined by Team Encore
A compilation of three “Reimagined” Sonic mod packs for Unleashed, Colors, and Generations. The Unleashed and Colors packs are compatible with Generations if you have the correct mod packs, and Project Reimagined is set up to work on top of the Unleashed Project by default. Besides working in a variety of fixes and gameplay changes, Project Reimagined also rather prominently reskins the stages being used.
For example, if you ever wanted to play Unleashed’s Dragon Road stage at a different, more dramatically-lit time of day…Project Reimagined is an easy way to make that possible.
Sonic Generations: REDUX by Mentor Dex and Team
Sonic Generations: REDUX is a complete overhaul mod that gives both Sonics new physics and makes a wide variety of graphical improvements to the game, especially in asset quality, physics, lighting, and so on. At the time of writing it is only a limited demo with support for 3 Modern stages (SS, SH, CC) and the 3 Rival Bosses of the game, but it seems quite promising, so I saw fit to include it here.
Cel Shading by Dario
This cel shading mod (which actually includes a version that can be used in any level, contrary to the video description— thanks Dario!) is a great way to give Sonic Generations a fresh coat of paint. The Cel shading effect also works well in custom stages, too— feel free to pair it up with Unleashed Project if you want an idea of what a cel shaded Hedgehog Engine debut could have looked like!
White World Effect by Dario
If the visual effect of past Sonic locales in the hub world being literally sucked dry of their color before being restored to life after you beat the stage appeals to you…maybe you should try playing the whole game with it. For real, though, it looks sick!
And, as I’ve demonstrated in the video embedded above, it even works in Unleashed Project stages. Check out how pretty Chun-Nan’s Dragon Road looks with this effect enabled!
Mystic Cave by JansenM and Tuann
In the same way that Generations’ existing stages are based on past games, this “Mystic Cave” mod for Classic Sonic is actually based on the stage of the same name from Sonic 2. Except instead of using Sega’s assets, one very determined fan remade Mystic Cave in Generations in the same spirit that other iconic stages were recreated in Generations.
Not only is Mystic Cave one of the best custom Sonic Generations mods, it’s also one of the very few stages that are actually for Classic Sonic instead of Modern Sonic.
Silver lining: the Classic Sonic Improvement Mod works hand-in-hand with this mod (as long as you load it with a lower priority than this one), which I’ve confirmed in my own runs and testing without issue.
Shivery Mountainsides by GoalRingMod27
An epic, expansive Sonic Generations custom level with multiple routes, a lot of runtime, and way more visual variety than its name or preview thumbnail above may initially give away. This is considered to be one of, if not the best Generations custom level out right now, so definitely give this one a try!
Water Palace Recamped by GoalRingMod27
Another established Sonic Generations custom level from Goalringmod27, though this one is a lot older than Shivery Mountainsides and thus, slightly less polished in general (in terms of graphics and routing). However, Water Palace Revamped is still one of the most highly-regarded Generations custom levels ever, and having played through it a few times myself while preparing this roundup, I certainly recommend it.
Frozen Hill by Nikauu
Another great Sonic Generations custom level is Frozen Hill by Nikauu. If you’re noticing a trend in these custom levels toward water and ice theming, you aren’t alone: I think the reason is for art direction purposes. Should any custom assets need to be made, it’s easier to build around big whites and blues than the typically louder, more busy theming of non-wintery levels in the Hedgehog Engine.
Anyway, Frozen Hill has a pretty good balance of high-speed quickstep sections, full 3D water-running sections, 2D segments, rail segments, and so on. As long as you don’t mind the wintery theming (and honestly— still looks better than Holoska in many places!), Frozen Hill can be a pretty fun time.
Grand Metropolis by Blackened Angel
Last but not least, I want to take a few moments to cover Grand Metropolis by Blackened Angel. This one is both a port and a reworking of Grand Metropolis from Sonic Heroes to Sonic Generations. This includes more long sections where Boost can more reasonably be used, adjustments to level design to make up for the lack of partner characters, and so on. If you want a wide-open Sonic level with plenty of room to maneuver and explore, Grand Metropolis is a pretty good fit.
The Best Sonic Generations Mods: Recommended Physics Tweaks
SU Restorations by The Goofy Goobers
A mod for restoring a variety of Sonic Unleashed system mechanics in the Generations engine. Some of these changes correct errors or missing elements in the Unleashed Project, while others simply address missing moves like the Unleashed Sweepkick.
Classic Sonic Improvement Mod by Showin
A mod for overhauling the physics of Classic Sonic to be more akin to the older 2D games and better at carrying momentum. You can also enable the Drop Dash from Sonic Mania and newer 2D Sonic games, which I highly recommend for muscle memory and fun’s sake.
A demo of the Classic Sonic Improvement Mod used alongside the Mystic Cave stage mod from yours truly.
Water Running Mod by SonicMax
A simple mod enabling you to run on top of the surface of water without Boosting. Doesn’t seem to cause many compatibility issues, but is definitely broken in general.
Do Sonic Generations Mods Work on Steam Deck?
Yup! In fact, Sonic Generations mods like the Direct3D11 wrapper presented earlier in the article were previously used to improve the game’s performance on Steam Deck— an improvement sorely needed for modded Unleashed stages to be viable on the handheld, as shown above.
DXVK’s addition to Proton Experimental means you can now get this same performance in the base game without the D3D11 wrapper on Deck, but you’ll still need the wrapper for compatibility with many other mods on this list.
So, how do you install HedgeModManager on Steam Deck? I recommend using SteamTinkerLaunch, which can be installed through the ProtonUp-Qt utility that I previously taught y’all how to use in the How To Install Proton GE Guide. It’s the same process, but you select SteamTinkerLaunch instead of Proton GE.
Fortunately, there is a dedicated Steam Deck wiki on the SteamTinkerLaunch Github page if you want to be walked through installing it. Once installed, you can easily acquire HedgeModManager from within SteamTinkerLaunch, and get started with your Sonic Generations mods on Steam Deck.