Over the years, Sonic the Hedgehog ran through imaginative levels, starting with Green Hill Zone and exploring food and desert worlds in his latest release, Sonic: Lost World.
While we wait to see what Sonic Boom will deliver to the Wii U and 3DS later this year, we took a fond look back at some of Sonic’s greatest levels, from his 16-bit days to his foray into the current generation. Let’s get running!
16.) Emerald Coast (Sonic Adventure)
After making your way through the open city hub in Sonic Adventure, you’ll dive right in to the Emerald Coast, a vast, tricky stage where you’ll run down hills, across bridges and past a platform-smashing whale. This stage helped introduce players to the surprisingly rich (for 1999 standards, anyway) 3D environments that awaited.
15.) Launch Base Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog 3)
Launch Base is an interesting level, as you run around a base while a huge egg-shaped rocker looms in the distance. You’ll work your way around this stage carefully, swinging over chasms and jumping through tubes to reach the next area. Quality Sonic goodness.
14.) Labyrinth Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog)
This underwater level is easily one of the better ones available in the original game, but it comes with a hefty price. This was the first board to introduce the threat of drowning, which Sonic can overcome by inhaling air bubbles that appear through the stage. Fortunately, there’s enough above-ground space to give him fresh air.
13.) City Escape (Sonic Adventure 2)
If you thought Emerald Coast was something in Sonic Adventure, wait till you experience City Escape. Throughout this level, you’ll deal with Eggman’s heinous robots while exploring a San Francisco inspired city. The big moment, though, involves outrunning a monster 18-wheeler that crashes into everything that gets in its path as it barrels towards Sonic, an exciting conclusion to a wild, action-packed level.
12.) Bonus stage #1 (Sonic the Hedgehog)
When the original Sonic game made its debut, it came with one of the better bonus stages we’ve seen in a while – a consistently spinning world where Sonic navigates around turns, collecting coins and eventually making his way to the Chaos Emerald in the center. Just make sure you’re going the right way – one touch of the “exit” bars and the round is over.
11.) Spring Yard Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog)
The Spring Yard Zone is your first indication of what kind of industrial dreams Dr. Eggman has in store for Sonic. None of this prevents the blue blur from saving his animal friends, however. Featuring an abundance of spinning spikes, moving platforms and challenging jumps to make (without dying), this Zone is worth revisiting.
10.) Star Light Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog)
If you’re a fan of Sonic’s incredible bursts of speed, or the way he zips through loop-de-loops, then the Star Light Zone is the place for you. Featuring plenty of automated dangers and enemies set across a beautiful, multi-scrolling starry sky, Star Light Zone comes with plenty of quick loops and drops to help you get up to speed.
9.) Flying Battery Zone (Sonic & Knuckles)
If you thought Spring Yard Zone was a technical masterpiece, you haven’t seen the flying fortress that Flying Battery Zone takes place within. Featuring even more flying platforms, flame-shooting boost pads, spinning tubes and moving girders, it’s tough to make your way through this board. Still, between the awesome level design and funky music, you’ll want to give it a shot.
8.) Bonus Stage #2 (Sonic the Hedgehog 2)
For Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic Team revamped the way we looked at bonus rounds with a refreshing new 3D perspective. It was emulated 3D – and obviously nothing up to today’s standards – but 3D nonetheless. Sonic and his new friend Tails run around on a circular stage, collecting coins and avoiding mines in order to obtain the Chaos Emerald. It’s a cool twist.
7.) Marble Garden Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog 3)
One of Sonic 3’s greatest stages is easily the enormous Marble Garden Zone, where Sonic will work his way along steep cliffs, spinning tops and arrow-shooting statues in order to make it out in one piece. Along the way, he can interact with gears to activate new platforms, as well as a spinning top that allows him to float through the air. This is easily one of our favorites.
6.) Casino Night Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog 2)
Taking a break from the more casual level designs, Casino Night offers a terrific twist, with a number of pinball tables to interact with, moving platforms, pistons that launch Sonic into new areas and more. Better still, it’s inspired by a flashy Vegas-style design, with light-up neon signs and other bright display items. For good measure, the amusement park-like Carnival Night Zone is worth checking out in Sonic 3 as well.
5.) Hydrocity Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog 3)
The reason that the Labyrinth Zone stage didn’t rank higher on our list is because of the Hydrocity Zone. This level introduces an even more elaborate underwater world, with rushing geysers, waterfalls, and plenty of platforms to jump across. The enemies are more creative – how about that rocket crab? – and there are more ways you can drown. It’s nothing short of awesome.
4.) Hidden Palace Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog 2)
One of Sonic 2’s best kept secrets is the surprisingly in-depth Hidden Palace Zone, which didn’t make the cut in the original Sonic the Hedgehog 2. We don’t see why, as it’s a huge, entertaining level with lots of interactivity. Thankfully, it made its return in the recent iOS and Android ports, which are worth checking out.
3.) Emerald Hill Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog 2)
Just as the Green Hill Zone did for the original, Emerald Hill Zone set the tone for Sonic the Hedgehog 2, with plenty of loops to run through and enemies to bop. Sure, those robo-monkeys are a bit of a pain, but everything else clicks, especially the hidden 1ups and rings.
2.) Chemical Plant Zone (Sonic Generations)
When it debuted in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Chemical Plant Zone immediately became one of our favorite stages. However, nothing prepared us for the sheer awesomeness of bringing the stage to life in 3D for Sonic Generations. Featuring a hybrid of 2D/3D style gameplay and breathtaking presentation, this is easily a high point for Sonic’s run.
1.) Green Hill Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog)
Sonic the Hedgehog’s greatest stage is easily his first, the one that introduced us to the speedy mascot. Featuring terrific multi-scrolling backgrounds and the kind of level design that Mario can only dream of, the Green Hill Zone withstood the test of time. It has since appeared in various other Sonic adventures, including ones released by Sega (Sonic Generations) and Nintendo (Super Smash Bros.).