We love the Sega Mega Drive, and you really couldn’t have had the console back in the early-to-mid 90s without at least playing the Sonic titles. Arguably the franchise was at its strongest back then, with all of the main (and some of the side) games being massive hits.
So, we have thought about this golden era for the Blue Blur, and how amazing the level and sound design was, and put our minds to work on what we think the best Sonic Zones are from back then. So we replayed them, and come up with this list for this peaceful afternoon.
Gotta go fast!
Green Hill Zone
This had to be on here, right? The original and one of the best, the Act 1 of this Zone is possibly one of the most iconic levels in all of gaming. Not only this, but the Green Hill Zone is masterclass in level design, both easing the player in to the ethos of the game, while allowing Sonic to reach and maintain his now legendary speed throughout the levels.
Carnival Night Zone
This might cause a little unrest, but we prefer this Zone over Sonic 2’s Casino Night Zone. The pacing is a little less consistent than it’s gambling cousin, but it more than makes up for it in variety of level design and also the interesting design of the bosses. Also, the music in both Acts of this Zone are stunning, with the second stripping back the theme.
Angel Island Zone
Musically, visually, in terms of design, and for it’s introduction of the now iconic Knuckles, Angel Island is a great Zone. This was Sonic Team successfully showing off that Sonic 3 was bigger and better than the games before it. Not only this, but the shift in momentum that came between Act 1 and 2 was so great that they easily could have been different Zones.
We have a little soft spot for Mystic Cave Zone. We love the maze-like structure of these levels as it makes them actually feel like a winding cavern complete with tricks and traps. Also, the boss of this Zone can be a really fun fight instead of being a pushover. The only down point is that you might have Super Sonic by here and miss the great music.
Chemical Plant Zone
Now this is a classic, right? Not only was this a fantastic set of levels in the original Sonic 2, but this Zone received a considerable update in the recent Sonic Mania that impossibly made it even better than before. Every 90s gamer remembers the impending horror of Sonic drowning, and the countdown that came with it, but we love these levels anyway.
Ice Cap Zone
With possibly, in our humble opinion, the best music in Sonic 3 (which is really saying something), Ice Cap Zone is an unrelenting tour-de-force to play. Also from Sonic snowboarding at the beginning of the level to the upbeat (and dare we say funky) music, to the more sombre second half, this Zone is an absolute masterclass in 90s sound design.
Flying Battery Zone
After it dropping bombs on you in Angel Island Zone, you board the Flying Battery to bring the pain to the air. This is one of the most interesting Zones in the entire series for gameplay variety with speed boosts, magnetised ceilings, spring loaded vaults and missiles to contend with and some awesome speed sections too. Also, the music in this zone is close to perfect.
Scrap Brain Zone
Scrap Brain Zone is a fantastic Zone because it is an incredible end to Sonic 1, combining all the player’s prior gameplay knowledge into a challenging set of levels. Also, this is one of the best pieces of music in the original game, giving a real threatening feeling of climax to the action. This feels in every way like the last levels before the final confrontation.
Lava Reef Zone
Another Zone that shows Sonic 3’s fantastic knack for making the Acts markedly different from one another, but on this occasion drastically changing the colour palette to a more sombre blue, with the atmosphere and music of the level also shifting to be more foreboding, especially with the Death Egg hanging in the background at the end of the Act.
Wing Fortress Zone
Ending with a Zone that only has one level, but what a level! Wing Fortress Zone is the last level before the final encounter with Robotnik on the Death Egg, and it feels like an epic last segment before that. Also, this is one of the few Zones in the pre-Sonic 3 games that has an opening and closing cinematic linking it to the proceeding and following levels.
That’s ours, but what are your best Sonic Zones from the Mega Drive era? Let us know!