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The Best Sonic Stages Thread

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Since there's a new topic about the worst stages, I figured I'd make one about the best stages. Before you all start replying to this, there is a rule to follow which is: No Green Hill like stages allowed because that doesn't require any thought.

Anyway, without further adieu, post away!

P.S. Mods please close if there's one like this already.

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Why no Green Hill? :( That's a legit stage, even if it's one of the more famous ones.

 

Probably the Generations rendition of Crisis City, I'd say, particularly the modern one. It allowed the boost gameplay to really shine as well as feature some intense platforming sections while remaining a challenge with a badass remix of the theme to boot. It wasn't as memorable to me as some other stages, like Green Hill, City Escape, Mad World, or Flying Battery Zone, but all in all I feel as if it did everything it was supposed to do correctly and then some extra.

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Obviously Emerald Hill and how could I forget Chemical Plant Zone that is my favorite zone in my favorite game of all time. I always loved Spring Yard and Star Light Zone. Also how could I not mention City Escape and Radical Highway. How could you not love that huge G.U.N. truck at the end of City Escape or that awesome blimp in Radical Highway. I love these stages and they're music and when I play them it puts a smile on my face. Except in City Escape and Radical Highway when I miss a jump on the ramps or miss that jump ramp in Radical Highway right before that jumping pole then have to go back and gain speed only to miss it again UGH.

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I'd say my favorite levels are the Earth-set Sonic stages from Adventure 2. Namely City Escape, Metal Harbor, Green Forest, and Pyramid Cave. City Escape is of course an iconic stage with it's variety of memorable moments, but all four have a certain flow to them, the visuals, music, layout, and setpieces all compliment each other and create a kind of rhythm that makes them really damn satisfying to play (and no, I don't have any idea what the hell I actually mean by that. Why do you ask?)

 

Other than that I have to say I enjoy Sky Troops from Shadow the Hedgehog. It's got a cool theme, nice music, an it's also the only time we really get to see Eggman go head to head with the Black Arms. And I just like Shadow the Hedgehog, sue me.

 

Finally I must also admit a certain fondness for Great Megalith, Skyscraper Scamper (Day), and Speed Highway (Modern).

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Hmmm...I kind of have difficulty picking "favorite stages" when it comes to Sonic, but if I had to choose one, it would be Ice Cap Zone (Act 1).

 

After the hell that was Carnival Night Zone, I thought the game would go downhill from there. But when I first played this stage, it did go downhill (literally, not figuratively). I was really surprised at the level design and how fun it was. First 15 seconds were spent snowboarding on a hill, collecting rings before the actual stage began. The platform mechanics were tricky but okay, and the music...The music is what made playing this level a real treat. I can listen to this music all day and it would not get old.

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Speed highway from SA1. This stage is awesome just because of sense of speed. It also has many different routes (especially when playing as Tails) and some platforming parts and I really like to skyscraper sequence. And music is just great. You play this stage with Sonic, Tails and Knuckles and it's my favourite of all three stories. In Generations it's also great but I miss the originals last part just because of music.

My other favourites are Green Hill, Sky Sanctuary, Emerald Hill, City Escape and Grand Metropolis

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Honestly despite disliking Colors immensely... I really love Terminal Velocity Act 2. It's just... Like, you just had this epic boss battle with Eggman and his robot, and then the entire stage just starts collapsing. Then a flipping black hole is created, and you just... Run. You're running away from a black hole that's tearing everything around you apart, destroying the entire park. But it wouldn't be as good if the music wasn't so awesome. I don't know why but I prefer the shorter, act 2 version of the song more than the long version. And how it ends just before you're overtaken is incredible. It's one of my favorite stages in the series.

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Despite the oversaturation it's been getting nowadays, Seaside Hill will always have a a special place in my heart!

It probably is in the hearts of many as well, that might explain why Sega has been using it quite a bit.

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Jungle Joyride hands down (PS360 version of course).

 

The stage just has everything. First off, the local is drop dead gorgeous and is the perfect spot to station a stage in the "realistic" direction that Unleashed had. Blazing through a seaside village, tearing through the jungle, wave dashing on some of the most pristine waters ever, trucking past the death traps of an ancient ruin and skirting a giant waterfall?! All in the same stage? Are you kidding me?!

 

After that, the pacing on the stage is simply fantastic, particularly if your into speedrunning. It so rewarding to boost your way from start to finish, almost never taking your foot off the gas. Collecting every ring in your way, crushing the 1,000 ring barrier and nabbing that S rank... its all just soo rewarding.

 

There were a lot of stages in this series that "scratch that itch" but if I had to pick one to call the best, I'd probably choose this romp through Adabat.

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Speed Highway in both of it's iterations is just fantastic with the great level design, alternate paths, badass music, and great visuals. For my money I don't really miss the At Dawn section in Generations, we get even more alternate paths and crazy highways and shortcuts, which is what I really wanted from the level, and the sky getting lighter at the end just looks amazing. The Classic level instead has club style music while you're running up escalators and inside shopping malls. Easily the best of Generations's Classic levels imo.

 

Crisis City Modern is a beautiful stage as well, with the most challenging platforming in the entire game, great scenery that keeps it bright while not taking away from the original motif, and just enough cinematic edge to keep it exciting, especially the surprisingly complex tornado section at the end where it tapers off into multiple different pathways in some genius level design.

 

Highway levels in general tend to be some of my favourite levels in their respective games, such as these two levels, Stardust Speedway, Starlight Zone, Skyscraper Scamper, even Lethal Highway to a lesser degree. The original version of Chemical Plant could probably count under a similar style, as it's essentially a highway level with a different trope.

 

I'm also really fond of Hydrocity, it's such a fun water level with lots of speed, exploration, and great music. The wall sequence in Act 2 was scary as a child and I always loved the visuals of when you go underwater and the background matches. They did this in Launch Base Act 2 as well, which is another of my favourite levels in Sonic 3&K as a whole. 3&K overall has mostly amazing levels, even in the S&K half that I'm much less fond of (such as Flying Battery and Lava Reef).

 

Aquarium Park and the original version of Planet Wisp in Colours are really good too, they mix the wisps and level design really well while having unique visuals. Planet Wisp in particular is imo the most flowing level in the game and I missed the superb views and heights you get in the brief 3D sections (particularly the rail grinding sections in Act 6) when they weren't prevalent in Generations. I do really enjoy the Generations version of Planet Wisp, but it really isn't quite the same. At least we got more outside sections.

 

Aquarium Park just has a great setting and, other than the second and fifth gimmick acts, has solid level design, especially in Act 6's extended water sections with the fish and the 3D platforming section in the waterfall area.

 

Pirates Island in Rush Adventure is a really unique final level as well, yet another great water level with great level gimmicks. Super underrated.

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I'm going to have to say Lava Reef Zone is one of my favourite zones. It's so well put together and immersive that I think that anyone could be blown away by both acts. 

 

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The level design is top notch. First of all, the obstacles really make you feel like you are in the zone, and you are in a Endless maze of a magma chamber. There are pointy rocks falling from the ceiling. There are magma waterfalls. This zone has a good balance between what you would call a natural environment and Eggman's influence. It's most likely that those gray pipes found in the walls were installed by Eggman and those brown spiky platforms that rise and drop. 

 

One of the best aspects in the whole zone is found in Act 1: Those spindash elevators. I love segments like this when you really have to use the spindash to get to a certain action. It's a step up from the giant Washers from Metropolis Zone.

 

The level design for Act 1 is just right. This Zone is long but not too long, and the entire atmosphere created by the pathways is amazing. The narrow tunnels give the impression you are in a small maze of labyrinths created by magma and other natural forces, and you are really deep into the island at this point. You could be lost in these magma caves forever. But the level is always moving forward, which is good and unlike some of the other really long zones is S3&K, you really feel like your progressing.

 

The smaller, even more often vertical shafts you jump up and fall down are most likely drilled into the caves to connect them, either Eggman did that, or the Echidnas in the past linked these whole caves. The farther you get into the game, the more the Echidnas have an influence on the whole area. 

 

Act 2 has a similar design to Act 1, but now scale has been added. The caves here are still narrow, but they look to be more artificial compared to the Act 1 caves, being supported by those gray pipes. There are a lot of traps that have to do with fire, and I'm keen to believe that those may have been built by the Echidnas to keep unwanted trespassers away from Hidden Palace Zone. Maybe Eggman reactivated them or something to keep Sonic out. 

 

This narrow design makes you feel even more like your just wandering these caves, searching for an exit, but that feeling is completely blown away as you progress father into the zone. The caves and chambers start to get wider and wider giving you a sense that you are about to reach somewhere important, and then it climaxes when you reach that enormous room with the multiple floating platforms and staircase. You feel like you are reaching the climax of this game. You are at the heart of Angel Island Zone. 

 

Both zones are fairly long and challenging, and this makes sense as you are pretty late into the game at this point. 

 

Heat Arms is a fairly standard Eggman boss. It's just a big metallic hand that you have to destroy. It does give you a feeling of danger, and it actually has you doing an interesting thing that you have never done before. You never really had to destroy something that was crushing you from the foreground before. 

 

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The act 2 boss is amazing and shows that Eggman isn't fucking around anymore.

 

When you walk up those huge stairs, Knuckles throws a boulder at you and you fall into a huge chasm. 

And when you fall, the fucking Death Egg becomes alive. 

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Is that how the Death Egg attacks, by simultaneously lighting up it's eyes and vaporizing stuff? I mean, it's cool it could have been a generic laser. 

 

Anyway, Eggman appears with Hot Mobile in the background and starts shooting you down with missiles. The stakes are raised here as one drop into the crumbling crystalline platforms is death. This is the only scrolling Classic Sonic section, next to the scrolling part in Bridge Zone act 2. 

 

Eventually you make it down to the bottom of the lava waterfall and let Eggman's SPIKY BALLS HIT HIM IN THE FACE. 

The part where you destroy Flame Mobile is pretty boring, but it should still make you worried about what the Death Egg is capable of. If an unpowered, damaged Death Egg can restart a Dormant Volcano, then I think it's good we never see what it can do when it has the Master Emerald. 

 

The atmosphere of both acts is something to behold. Act 1 is HOT.The faster, catchy beat which rings through the zone, and Magma is found everywhere. The rocks are an orange colour along with the brown poles in the foreground which compliments the turquoise glow of the thick pillars of the caves found farther in the background. 

 

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Act 2, is one of the most atmospheric places in any Sonic game. The blue and greenish glow from the background has now swallowed the whole area, and has made it a calmer but very icy place to be. The pillars in the background turned from a glowing turquoise to a cold indigo. The rocks are now a sharp cyan colour and there are indigo and olive green crystals underneath. 

 

The music of act 2 truly turns it into a majestic place away from the rest of the world. This is seriously one of the most beautiful zones ever. 

 

In both acts, the background is amazing. There are layers on top of layers of rocky pillars, and spiny rocks. Lava flows on top of black Igneous rocks. The background climaxes in a cold opening that seems to go on forever with stalagmites and stalactites. The opening's colour changes from a dark magenta to a slightly darker purple. 

 

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I don't know if I would say it's the best zone ever, but it's truly up there. 

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Jungle Joyride hands down (PS360 version of course).

 

The stage just has everything. First off, the local is drop dead gorgeous and is the perfect spot to station a stage in the "realistic" direction that Unleashed had. Blazing through a seaside village, tearing through the jungle, wave dashing on some of the most pristine waters ever, trucking past the death traps of an ancient ruin and skirting a giant waterfall?! All in the same stage? Are you kidding me?!

 

After that, the pacing on the stage is simply fantastic, particularly if your into speedrunning. It so rewarding to boost your way from start to finish, almost never taking your foot off the gas. Collecting every ring in your way, crushing the 1,000 ring barrier and nabbing that S rank... its all just soo rewarding.

 

There were a lot of stages in this series that "scratch that itch" but if I had to pick one to call the best, I'd probably choose this romp through Adabat.

 

 

You forgot the song! best song in the game HANDS DOWN!!!!

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Ice Cap Zone is the zone that has it all - really fun gimmicks, awesome music, and beautiful scenery. Also, I'll always love Chemical Plant Zone's music and how engaging it can be, with a pleasant amount of challenge. There are many more awesome stages in the series, of course, but those are my two "easy" picks.

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I've already posted most of my favourites, but there's more since I've gone back and played some more games.

 

Chaos Angel from Advance 3. Apart from the meh third act and the annoying boss, this level is awesome. It's climactic, it's doomy, it is incredibly challenging, it's original, and it's very atmospheric. I love that it's another return to Angel Island, specifically the Advance version (see the gimmicks), only it's a million times better. I like how it's a final level that is floating ruins in the sky, with the weird pink sky, the clouds, and chunks of the planet from where Eggman broke it. This level is not only intense, but also fun to play and somewhat lighter on the bullshit the Advance games could have.

 

I also didn't really elaborate on Pirates' Island. It's another unique last level, being essentially remilitarised underwater ruins, but it does everything so right in terms of being fast and fluid yet challenging in a fair way. It's also just got a lot going for it, like fast underwater sections, often with dolphins, trebuchets that fling you across the stage, anchors that provide crushing obstacles as well as platforming (and they're less annoying than the crushing spikes in say Marble Garden), nice music, and just enough alternate routes to provide some replay value. Rush Adventure had really unique stages with great and rare level gimmicks, but Pirates' Island just does it all the best for me, and I'm a sucker for a fast paced water level. It's challenging too, but almost never outright cheap and it doesn't completely ruin the flow. Rush Adventure could have been content with Coral Cave, but no, it gave us two really good water levels in one game.

One thing I will give Dimps, they are good at creating fun water levels.

 

I mentioned Launch Base in my last post, but yeah this level is awesome too, and I consider it to be one of the most underrated levels in 3&K. I love how throughout the stage you're just getting closer to the Death Egg's launch site, and honestly after two games of the last part being all factories, it felt like a breath of fresh air being a construction site set in some weird ruins that don't ever get elaborated on. Act 2 is where it gets even better though, I love going high into the sky and then underwater within a few seconds, and the setting over the lake is gorgeous. Again, much like Pirates' Island, it's a unique final level that is basically a water level too, though it only applies to Act 2 and it's only halfway into the game. I love travelling through the pipes as well. The Knuckles level is pretty different, but I feel like it was another nod to Chemical Plant with the tubes and especially the rising water sequence. This is another classic game level where the water is fun because I guess I love going fast in water. But yeah, overall, really builds up for the last part of the Sonic 3 portion.

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I always had a fondness for Emerald Coast in SA1, great scenery, layout, music, everything. Only complaint is that Gamma and Big's variations are too short and simplistic.

Out of the retro titles, I think I'm among the few that likes Hill Top. Something about the aesthetics really gets me the right way. A shame it wasn't 2 player compatible in the original really. I tend to like a lot of the greenery levels, as overdone as they are. Mushroom Hill, Angel Island, Emerald Hill, Palmtree Panic and of course, Green Hill.

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I distinctly remember making a topic almost exactly like this back in 2014...

Anyway, my personal favorite Sonic stage of all time would have to be Flying Battery Zone.

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I've just always loved everything about this stage. The level design is great, with the perfect mix of speed and platforming, and during the speedy sections you feel truly fast. I love the visuals and the way you go from inside the airship where everything is mechanical, to outside where you can see the clouds and really feel how high up you are (it helps that I've always loved stages that take place high up in the sky). I like the capsule gimmick, especially with the mid-boss fight, I thought that was pretty clever. Speaking of bosses, I really love the boss fight for this stage. Now, the actual bit where you fight the boss:

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...is pretty easy, but the lead up to the fight, with how first you're trapped in a room with the walls closing in (a nice callback to Sonic 2), then you're having to escape the ship without getting crushed, just makes the whole thing feel very epic. Finally, I just love the music. It's fun, it fits the stage well, and it just really makes me want to go fast. 

I just think Flying Battery is a perfect stage, and I find that, no matter how many times I play it, it's still as fast, fun and epic as when I first played Sonic 3 and Knuckles as a kid. This is one of those stages I will literally just play the game for. That's how much I love it.

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Even though it's super linear and isn't even the slightest bit challenging, I will always have a sense of fun and satisfaction playing through City Escape. I love everything about that level aesthetically. It's really more of a roller coaster ride, like a lot of SA2, and yet a million times playing through the level and it's still one of my favorite stages in the series.

Another Zone I've loved is the Jungle Zone from Sonic 1 ( master system version, NOT game gear... that screen crunch makes a world of difference ), it's not a super speedy level apart from the vine ramps, but it's probably some of the best platforming in any level in the series. The only downside is act 2, doing a kid icarus style vertical scrolling. To the uninitiated in NES style climbers, it takes getting used to the idea that the ground you were previously standing on will disappear as you scale the level, so there is no turning back. I just see that as a platforming challenge.

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My favorite stage is City Escape. At some point, I even played 10+ times in a row! Even though it may honestly be a very straightforward stage, there are lot of little things that make up for it, like using a piece of a helicopter as a snowboard, or running down the streets of San Francisco jumping off ramps, or rushing away from an insane truck driver. The aesthetics and the awesome music are also just the right thing for me. And Rooftop run (Modern) is my second favorite. For pretty much the same reasons.

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Rooftop Run (Modern) is the closest to perfection the boost gameplay had got in my opinion, combining exhilarating speed, enjoyable platforming,alternative routes, and a gorgeous environment. I just can't get enough of that level. 

City Escape (SA2), as mentioned several times, is an undeniable classic that refuses to get boring. I also really like Metal Harbour and the forest/jungle stages.

Similarly I can't get enough of Seaside Hill (Heroes). Sure, it's made enough returns, but at the time the bright, classic-inspired level design was refreshing, and I find the level itself to show great design and use of the team-mate gameplay. Everything about Heroes feels right to me in those first couple of levels, it's a shame some of the later levels suffered from being a bit too long and frustrating.

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On 22 February 2016 at 9:09 PM, pocket said:

Another Zone I've loved is the Jungle Zone from Sonic 1 ( master system version, NOT game gear... that screen crunch makes a world of difference ), it's not a super speedy level apart from the vine ramps, but it's probably some of the best platforming in any level in the series. The only downside is act 2, doing a kid icarus style vertical scrolling. To the uninitiated in NES style climbers, it takes getting used to the idea that the ground you were previously standing on will disappear as you scale the level, so there is no turning back. I just see that as a platforming challenge.

The sad irony is that GG Jungle Zone doesn't have the vertical scrolling. I admit I like the level design, felt like it had more to offer as a unique level than Bridge Zone.

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This one is really difficult since there are so many stages I could choose. I'm going to list some of my top favorite (not in any particular order) Sonic stages.

  • Angel Island from Sonic 3
    • A great intro level for a great game. Visually and musically fascinating.
    • Good combination of speed and platforming.
  • Rooftop Run from Sonic Unleashed
    • Sense of speed in this one is second to none.
    • The music makes me pumped, it just forces me to use that BOOST!
  • Quartz Quadrant from Sonic CD
    • This level just looks, sounds (JP/EU track) and feels great. I love the color scheme and background/obstacle layout.
  • Wing Fortress from Sonic 2
    • This stage gives me shivers, seriously. The whole setting and the music make this stage so exciting. You know the end is near.
  • Springyard Zone from Sonic 1
    • Springyard is like QQ from Sonic CD to me. It has a very good feeling overall. I don't why but the music sounds kind of threatening and... weirdly endearing.
    • This was a very close tie with Labyrinth Zone (and Hydrocity!) which is one of my favorite water stages. Both stages have a very special atmosphere.

 

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Yeah, this is a challenge. It's been so long since I've played some of the Sonic games, especially the Gamecube/Xbox era. Not that I'm particularly motivated to pick up Shadow The Hedgehog again, but...

Rooftop Run (Unleashed) - Unlike a lot of City Sonic stages, I think Unleashed really does a great job of making you feel like you're flying around a living, breathing place. There's a huge sense of scale in Unleashed, but although something like Arid Sands has a better look and environment (seriously, that stage is gorgeous) Rooftop Run is just a joy to play start to finish. 

Windy Valley - Would have loved this to have been in Generations, maybe they thought it would have been too similar to Sky Sanctuary? Loads of the Sonic Adventure stages do a great job of making you feel like you've actually gone through a journey completing them, with different sections, indoors and outdoors, and this is the most pronounced. It's so good to go out of the tornado into beautiful blue skies. That adventuring feeling really got lost in Adventure 2, the look and feel of the Sonic stages never really varies. That said...

Metal Harbour - THAS MY JAM RIGHT THERE. Also it's so much fun trying to speed run it, even though I'm rubbish at it. What other stage can Sonic The Hedgehog destroy a fighter jet and grab a launching missile, only to jump off it and snowboard to freedom? That's what Nintendon't, suckers.

Starlight Carnival Act 1 - Probably the most spectacular opening minute and a half of a Sonic stage ever done - and it's on the sodding Wii, which means it looks like molasses. I don't care if you're on rails, you're flying through SPACE. (The Adventure 2 space stages, on the other hand, don't feel as grand to me, probably because it's chock full of crap on screen and you can die at literally any time). I can't imagine the reason why SEGA haven't ported Colours to other systems yet, did it sell poorly? All you need to do is lock the Control scheme to one of the gamepad schemes and you're laughing. It and Generations were the most critically well received Sonic games in recent memory, right? 

 

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