Earlier this week I put the Game Spotlight to Sonic the Hedgehog and gushed about some of the levels of Sonic 3. So I figured what better topic for a Top 10 than Sonic the Hedgehog levels!
Now remember, this is a personal list so this is based on my tastes and what games I’ve played. There’s a ton of Sonic games I have not played, so there may be levels missing just because I never played the games.
So without further to do, let’s get to it!
Starting off this list, we’ve got the first level from Sonic & Knuckles where you’re bouncing off mushrooms and pulling your way up the level. Unlike the previous three Genesis games, Mushroom Hill Zone is a first level zone that actually has a significant gimmick to it, generally the first level of a Sonic game is gimmick-less, just a straight level to get you acclimatized to the game, but Mushroom Hill has a few things to it, such as the mushrooms you can bounce off of and the pulley-like objects you grab and pull and release to raise yourself to a higher area of the map. Also, the end boss of the zone is an awesome battle, constantly moving when fighting the boss.
A fan favourite but in my opinion it’s mostly because the music is as awesome as it is. Chemical Plant is still a beautiful looking level and a ton of fun, but it isn’t quite as memorable as most people say it is. The level though is still a fantastically built level, there’s a great sense of speed at times, they make good use of verticality in the map as well. The underwater stuff can make players a bit frantic, but that’s kind of the fun in it. But then again, this was a chemical plant…how is Sonic still alive after being in that water?
Haha! Bet you didn’t expect to see a non-traditional Sonic game on this list, did you? But I can’t deny how much fun the Toxic Caves level is in Sonic Spinball. The music is fantastic, the design is super dark and grimy and cool, the fact there’s a giant robotic crocodile thing that nips at you if you fall to the bottom is badass as all hell and just the sight of Sonic paddling down a toxic waste river on a steel barrel never ceases to make me giggle in the absurdity.
Another level with a dark, grimy look to it, Mystic Cave Zone is a favourite of mine that I think most people probably wouldn’t put on the list. The zone to me is like what would happen if you took a classic first level like Green Hill or Emerald Hill and then turned it upside down, making it dark, slower and full of traps. While I do like levels that show off the game’s speed, for some reason Mystic Cave just worked extremely well with me. And the music is also super good for that level.
I’m not sure if I ever finished this level in decent time, there’s too much to distract me from finishing this classic Sonic 2 level with a quick time. I can clearly remember playing as a kid dying because I spent too much time with the slot machines and the timer ran out. But that’s the beauty of Casino Night, there’s more than just a level to this, there’s so many gimmicks to make the level as fantastic as it is. Slot machines, pinball bumpers, elevators and of course the bright coloured nature of the level. It’s awesome.
This is one of a few levels I can think of that manages to do both speed and precision very well, though granted with Hydrocity it’s over the two acts. Act 1 of the level is pure speed and I love it, you’re literally gliding across water hitting max speed, going through tons of loops and tunnels. Act 2 however is a lot more precise with the underwater sections and the wall closing in on you at the start. It’s the underwater level I have the least amount of hatred for, so that means it did something right for sure.
Just slightly better than Casino Night, it’s successor Carnival Night in Sonic 3 is just a classic level in my mind. Super colourful like Casino Night was and offering a similar set of gimmicks that made the previous super crazy pinball fun level as good as it was. Carnival Night however adds a bit more of a darkish flare to it, like if the Joker got a hold of a Sonic game and made a level. The music is just fantastic with this level as well, just adding on top of the fun yet a little dark and weird nature of the level.
Another level I think a lot of people wouldn’t rate so high, this Sonic & Knuckles level is a personal favourite of mine. The music is one of my favourite Sonic tracks of all-time, the level contains a ton of super speed areas and some really cool gimmicks like the super magnets and going outside of the zone you’re in and being high above the sky. It’s a level that I can just run through without thinking about anything else, it’s pure bliss to me.
Rollin’ around at the speed of sound! While I cannot stand the majority of Sonic Adventure 2, this level cannot be denied that it’s the closest and maybe the best 3D representation of the speed and fun of Sonic games that we’ll ever get. The speeding down the highway, the plenty of grinding down railings you can do, trying to escape from a massive truck coming at you and of course the best song in the Sonic franchise, this level has it all.
But I still can’t put it above the iconic Sonic 3 level that I looked forward to every time I finished Carnival Night. The Ice Cap Zone starts off already letting you know this level’s going to be cool. You snowboard into the level and it’s time to go! With the extreme speeds you can hit, not to mention the super cool areas where you ride on an ice platform at max speed is the best representation of the supersonic speed that the game can hit at times. And come on, the track for this level is so good, even though SEGA claims they did not intend to make it sound like a Michael Jackson track after the falling out they had, it sounds so much like it belongs as the backing track to one and it’s so good.
So that’s my Top 10, hope you enjoyed it, don’t forget to put your own lists and favourites in the comments below!