The 5 Best Sonic Levels
With over 150 levels to choose from, cutting it down to just five proved to be one hell of a task. The spiky blue furball is renowned for his speedy levels, intertwined with a few frustrating moments and whilst this list may not be the best from another point of view, for me, it certainly represents why Sonic is so popular and still so endearing 21 years on. Mario’s levels certainly aren’t as memorable as the myriad of offerings from Sonic games and part of that is down to their unpredictability, speed and downright crazy gameplay. Read on to see whether a 2D game or one of the oft-maligned 3D games grab top spot…
5. Chemical Plant Zone Act 2 (Sonic Generations)
Way back in the 1990s, many felt that 3D had to be the way forward for Sonic. Mario had done it to incredible effect only a few years after Sonic’s last outing on the Sega Genesis and many envisioned incredible landscapes being re-invented for a new generation. However, 3D came and went without Sonic making a considerable splash on proceedings. The 3D games were a mixed bag and it wasn’t until Sonic Generations could we see the true potential of a remade game in 3D. Surprisingly, it was the ‘modern’ version of Sonic that suited the updated version of the classic stage from Sonic 2. The plant blows up around Sonic as he makes his way through some truly breathtaking sections including the water slide and the final rail grind. This is how 3D was meant to be done; it’s just a shame it took Sonic Team over ten years to perfect it.
4. Angel Island Act 1 (Sonic the Hedgehog 3)
Sonic the Hedgehog 3’s mantra may as well have been ‘bigger, better, badder’. Following straight on from the events of the previous game, Sonic finds himself intruding on new enemy/ally Knuckles’ territory. What follows is a fantastic introduction to what, in my mind, makes Sonic 3 the greatest Sonic game of them all. New powerups are seamlessly blended in to the gameplay and, whilst it may not seem that way now, this was a major step up from the first two entries in terms of scope. The mid-level boss ramped up the stakes even more than before as the level began to tear apart in front of Sonic and Tails and the fiery backdrop juxtaposing the tranquil opening sent us straight in to the action. We also got an introduction to the most headache-inducing bonus round in history. Win-win.
3. Casino Night Zone Act 1 (Sonic the Hedgehog 2)
Sonic is a game that children and adults alike can enjoy and no other level in the series better demonstrated it than the first Casino Night Zone act from Sonic 2. I could have easily chosen Sonic Heroes or Sonic 3’s casino-themes outings but everything in this version is refined to perfection. There are no troublesome obstacles or annoying bosses to battle your way through- just pure unbridled joy with a fun video game. The music connected well with the cacophony of colour as gamers sped through the gambling haven. The roulette machines and pinball flippers all add to the sense of fun that this level encompasses. If I only had to play one Sonic level for the rest of my life then this one would be hard to beat. However, there are two that just pip it to the post.
2. City Escape (Sonic Adventure 2)
“Rolling around at the speed of sound”
Any Sonic fan worth their salt should start singing at the opening refrain from this classic level. Sonic has always been portrayed as being a rebellious rapscallion but it is in this frantic level that he truly comes in to his own. The aforementioned 3D hate has normally been levelled at its controls and, admittedly, Sonic Adventure 2 isn’t without its issues but everything here is pitch perfect and Sonic is effortlessly cool in this level. Yes, you read that right, I said Sonic was cool. Sonic manages to strut his stuff through the unnamed city and is soon chased down by a rampant 18-wheeler. Opening levels are meant to ease you into the game, Angel Island was a perfect example of that, but City Escape turns the dial right up to 11 as you are expected to take on large amounts of enemies whilst pulling off insane tricks. There are so many memorable moments packed in to the four minutes or so that you’ll take to complete this level that it would be a valuable waste of words just writing about it. To catch the full experience then check out the video below.
1. Green Hill Zone Act 1 (Sonic the Hedgehog 1)
What else? The level that started it all is its best for so many reasons: No other character could make you feel attached to him as you did with Sonic when you made your first jump over the Robotnik fish, no other level would have such perfect level design that still encourages speed runs to this day and no other palette could be as refreshing as what saw way back in 1991. The level was a technological marvel and it made Nintendo quake in their boots as the ‘hog with the attitude spun on to the scene with an invigorating grace that made Mario seem antiquated in comparison. I’d like to see it was a close-run thing but it was only ever going to be this for top spot. The level that introduced Sonic to the world is so perfect it may never be beaten. Essentially, Sonic has been going downhill from day one but what a ride it’s been.