Most Iconic Recurring Levels of the Sonic Franchise
Monday, 11th June 2018, 9:50am (UTC), 0 Comments

In 1991, the world was introduced to Sega’s speedster character Sonic in Sonic the Hedgehog. Since then, we have been treated to over 80 Sonic games across all gaming platforms. Now, Sonic is one of the most iconic video game characters of all-time, with the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Rush Adventure, and Sonic 3 ranking among the greatest Sonic games ever created. The Sonic fanbase is huge and continues to crave content for the blue hedgehog. He’s so popular, in fact, that a Sonic the Hedgehog movie is set to be released towards the end of 2019, with James Marsden (Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Westworld) starring in the film, according to Variety.

To showcase the greatness of Sonic so far, before a new era ushers in alongside the movie, we’re going to be breaking down the most iconic recurring levels of the illustrious game franchise. We had a similar opportunity to re-live many of Sonics greatest levels when looking into what would come on the 2011 release of Sonic Generations – the 20th-anniversary game – but, here, we’ll be digging into not only the levels but the themes with which Sonic games often build. One of the greatest elements of playing Sonic is that the level’s theme actually means something to the gameplay: it’s not just background. Each theme integrates itself within its individual levels in different ways, requiring the player to change tactics and get acclimated to the new area. The use of the theme at hand is what makes the greatest and most iconic Sonic levels so good. So, that’s how we’re going to set out: looking at the best recurring themes and then highlighting which recurring level is the best.

Sonic in the industrial theme

IMAGE SOURCE: Jackson, via Twitter

The industrial theme has been in circulation since the game’s inception with Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991. The levels in the industrial theme often take place within factories, sewers, and power plants, with girders, buildings, conveyor belts, and other metal structures being prominent across the level. They may not be the most visually enticing levels, but the use of fires, hydraulic machines, and electric hazards make the levels challenging and enjoyable. The industrial theme often comes across as similar in appearance to the urban theme but is far more difficult. On top of this, the theme is often linked to the villain Dr. Eggman getting closer. As is often the case in games, massive industrialization and factories are often linked with the hero’s nemesis, so these industrial theme levels often fit the approach of Dr. Eggman.

Levels in the industrial theme can be seen as hit and miss with the audience as some gamers will see them as being overly complicated, but it’s the challenge that makes a level that much better when you overcome it. It’s hard to argue with the ranking established by Paste Magazine, which declares Chemical Plant Zone of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 to be not only the best industrial level, but also the best ever Sonic level. While that is up for debate, it’s certainly a strong candidate for being the best industrial theme level. The Chemical Plant has appeared in Sonic Forces, Sonic Generations, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Sonic Mania and consistently brings challenging gameplay, a mighty soundtrack, and edgy aesthetics.

Sonic in the casino theme

IMAGE SOURCE: The Sonic Stadium, via Twitter

One of the most iconic themes that run through the ring-collecting Sonic game series is the presence of a casino level. These levels are loaded with rings and include features and elements of gameplay which mimic that of games at the casino or arcade. Laden with neon lights, pinball flippers can be used in the casino theme levels, and there’s often a slot machine mini-game within the level which allows the player to gamble for more rings as well as earn points. The casino theme is an illustrious one in Sonic and across many other forms of media. As Betway Casino explains, casinos are embedded in pop-culture including films, television, books, and music. It comes as no surprise that Sonic features casino theme levels when the game emphasizes ring collecting – making the option to gamble them for even more rings a tantalizing aspect for many players. Sega itself has even branched into the casino resorts business, according to CNBC, so perhaps there’ll be more Sonic casino madness on the way.

The casino theme levels come along as a mark of progression in the game and offer a fun break from the blazing speed of the rest of the game. There is a huge range of casino levels on Sonic games, from Casinopolis to the Cosmic Casino Zone but, the best recurring level has to be the Casino Night. Present in Sonic Drift 2, Sonic Generations, Sonic the Fighters, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Casino Night always delivers exciting and rewarding play.

Sonic in the tropical island theme

IMAGE SOURCE: Sonic the Hedgehog, via Twitter

As a Sonic fan, there’s no way that you didn’t see this one coming. The tropical island theme is home to the Green Hill Zone, which is the most iconic level of the Sonic franchise. The levels feature lots of grass, dirt, blue skies, palm trees, and blooming flowers. The tropical island theme is the first that players encountered in Sonic the Hedgehog, engraining it as the perfect introductory level. A tropical paradise is a perfect place to start off as the hero Sonic as you enjoy the paradise before progressing into the dark, industrialized areas built by the villain.

As stated, this theme is so iconic because it hosts the most iconic Sonic level, Green Hill. The level is so integral to Sonic that, as a fan, a Lego version simply had to be made. Green Hill features in Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Drift, Sonic Generations, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Forces, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, Sonic Blast, Sonic Jump, and Sonic Mania.

Other themes such as the winter theme and jungle theme offer unique and innovative gameplay in each of their levels, but, when it comes to themes producing top, recurring levels, industrial, casino, and tropical island take the top spots.

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