The most critically successful Sonic game post '94 that's not Sonic Mania is an Unleashed level pack that refined the mechanics to make them more palatable to the average consumer. Sonic Mania is, in itself, the classic gameplay you'd expect with thousands of little improvements that add up to make for a substantial step up from most of the 2D titles that came before it. Maybe it isn't better than Sonic 3, but consider the fact that there was no Sonic game that was even worthy of being in that conversation for 25 years. Perhaps if Sonic Team were more willing to compromise their creative ambitions and focus more on careful, laborious refinement Sonic would be in a better place. It wouldn't even matter where they decided to start. Sonic Adventure, Sonic Generations, and Sonic Lost World all had potential in their own ways. ...Nah, let's make an open world RPG instead, I guess? Whatever. As long as they stick with it this time they might be able to eek out something decent, I guess. Hopefully we're not talking about bringing back the boost in 2024.