The Sonic the Hedgehog games were not easy games. They weren't hard, at least not to the level of games like Battletoads or Dark Souls. Some levels in Sonic games almost felt as though the game was playing itself, and that the player could set the controller down or close their eyes and still finish the level without much of a problem.
Then there are the levels in Sonic games that test the player's skill - and patience. These levels are typically set up a little differently than the other stages. Some have underwater sections, some required precise jumping, and some have strategically placed bumpers that will send Sonic flying toward a less-than-ideal landing spot.
10 Eggmanland - Sonic Unleashed
Let's start off this list with perhaps the most notorious level in a Sonic game. This might not be the hardest level in a Sonic game, but it will challenge the player in numerous ways. For starters, the Eggmanland level in Sonic Unleashed is long. Be prepared to spend around thirty to forty-five minutes playing through this level. It's not uncommon for first-time players to spend hours trying to complete this level.
The difficulty in Eggmanland is increased by the various sections in the level. This isn't a straightforward level either. There are many sections where the player must jump from small platform to small platform, and of course, this takes place over either a lake of lava or extreme heights.
9 Metropolis Zone - Sonic The Hedgehog 2
The first few levels in Sonic 2 aren't too tough to finish. Hilltop Zone has its difficult parts - which usually involved lakes of lava. Then the player hits the Metropolis Zone, and the familiar high level of difficulty of the first game comes flooding back. The Metropolis Zone is relentless.
Spike traps are everywhere in this level - especially in acts two and three. There is also the ubiquitous lake of lava at the bottom of the stages. In act three the player needs to jump across small platforms with spears that occasionally pop out. This takes place over lava. One mistimed jump and the player loses a life and has to start over.
8 Labyrinth Zone - Sonic The Hedgehog
Back in the 90s, all side-scrolling platformers seemed to have three things: bottomless pits, ice stages, and underwater stages. Nobody knows why, that's just the way it was. The three stages (acts) in the Labyrinth Zone of Sonic the Hedgehog are filled with underwater areas.
The underwater areas in this level significantly slow Sonic down, add momentum to his jumps, and present the danger of suffocation. The player must keep Sonic alive by using the air in the large air bubbles that emerge from the ground at certain points. Download the music that plays when Sonic is running out of air and use it for an alarm tone - oversleeping will never be a problem again.
7 Mad Space - Sonic Adventure 2
In this level, the player controls Rogue the Bat through space as she explores three planetoids with the main objective of finding three emerald pieces. Scattered around the planetoids are platforms that the player can use if they misjudge a jump, and rockets Rogue can ride to get to different areas.
The problem with this stage is the risk the player takes when gliding from one area to another. It's very easy to get lost while gliding around the level; the next thing the player knows there's nothing they can reach, and nothing below them as they fall.
6 Carnival Night Zone - Sonic 3
The second Sonic game had the Casino Night Zone; that level was pretty annoying. Then Sonic Team must have asked themselves, "How can we take this concept to the next level, and annoy players to the point they want to break their controller in half?" That's the Carnival Night Zone in Sonic 3.
This stage is similar to Casino Night Zone in Sonic 2 in that the player feels like the ball in a pinball machine. There are bumpers everywhere, as well as long corridors that have the floor and ceiling tiled with bumpers angled to send Sonic back to the entrance. For some reason, there are even underwater areas in this stage as well.
Sonic CD has become one of the forgotten classics in the franchise. The solid gameplay from the first two Sonic games was brought back, but this time it was accompanied by a vastly improved soundtrack. Many players consider the Metallic Madness level (round) to be the hardest in the game, and the reason for this is simple.
The developers decided to go crazy with the spike traps in this level. They are everywhere. This is made worse by the many blind jumps and falls, the player is forced to make. Stage three is particularly hard due to the collapsing platforms and bumper balls the player needs to negotiate.
4 Sandopolis Zone - Sonic And Knuckles
This level (zone) gives the player several challenges they must juggle at once. The first hazard is the numerous spike clusters littered around the two stages in the Sandopolis Zone. The player also has to periodically push a switch to open a door further into the stage. These switches slowly reset. This forces the player to hurry, which forces the player to make mistakes.
This level also has switches that need to be pulled to keep the candles lighted. Failure to do this causes the stage to darken, and as the screen darkens ghosts will begin to appear. These ghosts start small and initially avoid Sonic. However, if the player neglects to pull the light switches for too long the ghost will grow in size and begin attacking Sonic.
3 Death Egg Zone - Sonic And Knuckles
The Death Egg Zone is notorious among fans of the Sonic series. The player has to constantly be on the lookout for springs and catapults that are placed into spots that will send Sonic flying into danger. The Death Egg Zone has many spots where gravity works differently; this can send Sonic flying, or cause him to run along the ceiling. Use Knuckles, his glide ability makes this level a little more manageable.
This level also contains force fields that turn on and off. Sonic must run across some of these force fields, and they are generally over a pit or trap of some kind. The Death Egg Zone is made even more difficult because of the narrow passages Sonic is forced to travel through. These don't give much room to jump, and most of the enemies swing morning stars that protect them from frontal attacks.
2 Final Fortress - Sonic Heroes
Sonic Heroes was an interesting title. It tried something new by adding several playable characters and a team system. It also used the same game mechanics as the previous Sonic Adventures games. Critics either said it changed the Sonic franchise too much, or that it didn't do enough to improve on the Sonic Adventures titles.
The Final Fortress level in this game has moments that can be infuriatingly difficult. On more than one occasion the player is vaulted into the air; the player then has a few seconds to try and land on a beam narrower than the character. This, of course, takes place at extreme heights. There are also several moments where the player is required to rapidly switch to a team member to utilize their ability.
1 Scrap Brain Zone - Sonic The Hedgehog
Sonic's first game has what many consider the hardest level in any Sonic game. The final zone (level) is titled the Scrap Brain Zone and is divided into three acts (stages). The first stage isn't that bad; it's still difficult, but a player that's gotten to this point in the game shouldn't have a problem.
The second and third stages of the Scrap Brain Zone are another matter entirely. The game uses every hazard available. There are underwater areas, spinning saw blades, conveyor belts that push Sonic into the saw blades, flame traps, electric traps, collapsing platforms, and pit traps. Those are just some of the hazards in the Scrap Brain Zone - there are more.
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