The introductory level to any video game is always crucial for setting the stage, and games in the Sonic the Hedgehog series are no exception. We’ve spent the last few decades following our spiny blue friend as he rolls, jumps and attacks through dozens of levels, taking place in different areas called Zones. Each Sonic game is full of new settings for you to enjoy as you race through the courses to stop any danger that threatens the world (usually Robotnik, in a way).
But not all early areas were created equal, and every longtime Sonic fan was bound to pick a favorite area or two as they progressed through many of the series’ early stages. We wanted to take a look at some of the standout intro areas of all the mainline Sonic games and give credit where the credit is due.
9 Windy Hill (Lost World of Sonic)
When Eggman blows off the Tornado’s wing and knocks Sonic and Tails out of the sky, they end up in the Windy Hill area. It should look somewhat familiar to fans of the series, with its lush greenery and signature checkerboard floor.
There are a number of different routes in this area, and which one you take will depend on what you are looking for. If speed is the name of your game, then there are plenty of chances to get in there and go fast. If you are looking for red star rings in the level, you can also do that. In the 3DS version, players can find green gear here if they complete the level fast enough.
8 Ocean Wave (Sonic The Hedgehog 2006)
Fans of the Wii-based series had to miss Sonic ’06 due to hardware incompatibilities, which is unfortunate since Wave Ocean was a solid early area. It’s a resort town on the outskirts of the capital city Soleanna, and while this is Sonic’s first stop, you’ll revisit it playing as Shadow and Rouge, and also when the series’ newcomer Silver sends Blaze the Cat.
But they’re not the only ones – don’t forget Tails, who also gets his own chance to take Sonic’s course later in the game. killer whale does not enter open water, but you can also enjoy the scene like him later.
seven City Escape (Sonic Adventure 2 – Hero Story)
Since this is a Sonic game and Sonic is the hero, we thought it was more appropriate to look at Hero Story’s starting point for this game, which is City Escape. If you’re playing Dark Story, you’ll start with the Iron Gate instead, playing with the villainous characters – including Knuckles, who is sometimes on your side, and sometimes not, depending on the game.
While in Central City, the capital of the United Federation, Sonic is blamed after Knuckles sneaks into the Federal Reserve Bank and steals the Chaos Emeralds. Your introduction to the game is to race from a GUN helicopter, encounter Omochao, fight waves of enemies, and fight your way through high-speed chases.
6 Tropical Resort (Sonic Colors)
We really hope you’re ready to start the game when you fire up Sonic Colors, because you’re immediately thrown into the Tropical Resort, the hotel section of Eggman’s incredible interstellar amusement park.
Tails tries to tell Sonic to relax and have fun for once, but the hero sees Orbot and Cubot harassing and trying to capture the White and Cyan Wisps. You’ll get the Cyan Laser Color Power for a while as the Cyan Wisp enters Sonic, and Yacker, the White Wisp, is the one who tells you the plot of the game after you save them in that colorful, fast-paced zone.
5 Seaside (Sonic Heroes)
As Sonic Heroes follows four entirely separate teams of characters as they battle through their own storyline, each group will pass through the Seaside Hill area at some point in their adventure. Team Sonic and Dark here start heading to Whale Island, Team Rose heads to the other side of the sea, and Team Chaotix here tries to find hermit crabs to prove that their detective skills are up to par.
It is a tropical and picturesque region with islands shaped like whales off the coast, with various marine ruins that evoke the history of an ancient civilization. Fun fact: You’ll see the Zone again in Sonic Generations, where it was stripped of its color in White Space.
4 Mushroom Hill Zone (Sonic And Knuckles, Sonic Origins)
This might be the best named of all areas, because in Sonic and Knuckes, as well as Sonic Origins, there are definitely a lot of mushrooms here. Some are small enough to be background scenery, while others are unmissable, the size of a building. Many of them are how you’ll traverse the level, using them as springs and platforms.
While you start the game here as Sonic, you will also be able to go back and play it as Knuckles. We see him sneaking around at the start playing as Sonic and trying to chase after him, confronting Hey Ho in the process. Mushroom Hill is fun, fast and colorful – exactly what we expect from a Sonic Zone.
3 Island of Angels area (Sonic The Hedgehog 3)
The lush jungle on the coast of the floating island, dotted with exotic plants and waterfalls before the fire blasts used their bombs to set the landscape ablaze, Angel Island is a solid starting point for Sonic the Hedgehog 3. having endured a cheap shot from Knuckles, who then steals your Chaos Emeralds, Sonic begins his journey through this slower-paced tutorial level.
It’s another that features several alternate paths and routes, with the top section hosting the most paths, while the bottom has the easiest selection of enemies with fewer secrets to distract you if a beat-’em- up is what you are. after. When you later replay as Knuckles, you won’t be able to take the same path as before due to Knuckles’ uneven jump height, forcing players to take a hidden path designed specifically for the echidna and keep the fresh level even on a second visit.
2 Emerald Hill area (Sonic The Hedgehog 2)
On the shores of West Side Island is one of the most beloved areas of the Sonic series: Emerald Hill. This is the starting point for Sonic the Hedgehog 2, which not only sought to improve upon the first game, but also introduced Tails as an iconic Sonic character.
You will find two paths in this area when you start, but both will lead you to the same place. The upper is longer with more rings, enemies, and deflection options, with the lower being a simpler path. Set in vibrant greenery with rich waterfalls and natural elements, Emerald Hill stood out for a reason, both aesthetically and gameplay-wise.
1 Green Hill Zone (too many Sonic games to list)
While the other areas on our list are wonderful in their own way, none are as iconic as the very first one. Debuting as the introductory level to the very first Sonic the Hedgehog game in 1991, it has returned multiple times since then – with 23 appearances, according to the Wiki. It has been heralded by gamers for the past three decades as “one of the most famous and iconic video game levels of all time”.
It was here that players were introduced to the elements that had become Sonic staples: backgrounds comprised of dense greenery against the expansive blue sky, bursting with the signature dirtiness of the checkerboard pattern. Not only is the level itself simple and fun in terms of the tutorials, but the visuals were immediately ingrained in fans’ minds, and no other area has established the same legacy since.
NEXT: Sonic the Hedgehog: Gameplay Mechanics Set to Make a Comeback