Kick-start Sonic 3 and you'll be met with the title screen, prompting you, just below the title, to select either 1 player mode, or the competitions menu by using the up or down buttons and start to confirm your choice. Selecting 1 player will first take you to the data select menu, a new, and extremely useful feature to the Sonic games that enables you to save your progress through the stages in one of six different slots, for multiple players and characters. Select an empty slot using the left and right buttons, and change the selected character with up and down, then press start to begin the new game. When you return to this menu for a later session, the most recent level that you reached in this save file will be directly accessible once again. More on this menu and the 2-player Competitions menu in the Other Modes section, coming soon.
Choice of characters is unchanged from Sonic 2; you can choose either Sonic, Tails, or the default of Sonic & Tails together (Knuckles is only playable for the Sonic 3 levels when you lock Sonic 3 into the cartridge slot of Sonic & Knuckles). This time, however, they have their own moves and attributes for more varied gaming. Sonic is generally a bit faster, and has a variety of new double jump moves at his disposal, depending on which shield you have, while players controlling Tails can now finally harness the ability of temporary flight, at their own will. As with Sonic 2, If you select Sonic and Tails, player 1 will be controlling Sonic, with Tails automatically following behind, eager to pick up an extra ring or destroy an enemy. He can also be controlled by player 2 using a second control pad, but when this is left alone, he is controlled automatically. Regardless, the camera will always follow Sonic only and Tails cannot take any meaningful damage that will affect player 1 when hit or killed.
Sonic and Tails stand patiently (for the moment) as they wait for you to do something.
Begin moving left or right and the guys start slowly with a light run..
..Keep running and speed will increase into a full sprint.
While sprinting, quickly press the opposite direction for an emergency skidding stop.
Hold the up or down buttons to gain a view of the area above or below, after a short delay.
Leave the control pad alone and it won't take long before the boys demonstrate their displeasure with you. Get a move on!
Whichever character you've chosen, the basic controls remain the same as always: Press the right or left buttons to run in the given direction, increasing momentum as you hold it, up to a certain point. A, B, or C all have the same effect and make the character jump. Hold up or down to scroll the screen up or down a little way after a short delay, and make Sonic or Tails look up or crouch down accordingly, when standing still. The following moves are also at your disposal...
Jumping Spin Attack
Press A B or C to jump. The longer the press, the larger the jump.
Available to both Sonic and Tails. Press A B or C to launch straight into a spinning jump. As a spinning ball, you'll destroy enemy robots and barriers, and open up item boxes on contact. You'll stop spinning as soon as you land back on the ground. The longer you hold the button, the more powerful the jump and the higher you'll go.
Rolling Spin Attack
Press down while running on a slope to roll down it with speed.
Available to both Sonic and Tails. While moving along the ground, press the down button to curl in a ball and perform the rolling version of the spin attack. This can take out enemies on the ground and is best used when heading down a slope, as your speed will greatly increase. Jump to get out of it, or just wait until you lose all momentum.
Spin Dash
While standing, hold down and press jump to begin a spin dash. Rev up some more, or release.
Available to both Sonic and Tails. When you're not moving, hold the down button and Sonic/Tails will crouch down, then press A B or C while still holding down and they'll begin to charge up a spinning, stationary assault. Keep pressing A B or C to charge it up further for more power, and then release the down button to let it loose! Your character will gain an instant burst of speed in the direction they're facing, and launch into the rolling spin attack, which can be used to destroy enemies or just for added, instant speed.
Sonic Double Jump
Double jump with a fire shield will blast Sonic forward.
Use the bubble shield to bounce off the ground.
Available only to Sonic. If you press a jump button again, while having already jumped into the air, Sonic is able to perform a double jump move, dependant on whatever shield item he has. There are now three different types of shield in Sonic 3, accessed from item boxes dispersed across the zones. With a fire shield, Sonic will dash forward across the air in the direction he's facing when you do a double jump, and this will also destroy any barriers or enemies in your way, much like an aerial rolling spin. A lightning/ring magnet shield offers more of an upward boost, allowing Sonic to perform another upward jump while in the air - perfect for accessing high ledges or attacking a boss that is otherwise too high to reach. Similarly, the water bubble shield allows Sonic to bounce downwards to the ground on the second jump, and he'll then gain more height when he bounces back up, which can then be repeated. Hold the button longer on the second press for a higher bounce.
The lightning shield offers a handy double jump in mid-air.
When shield-less, you still have the insta-shield, for an extended range of attack.
Sonic also has a double jump move when he doesn't have any shields - a split-second white energy barrier commonly known as the "insta-shield". It doesn't give him any extra height or force, but it has a larger radius of attack than Sonic himself, so it can be used to take out an enemy or destructible object that is just out of reach, or guarded in some way. Bear in mind that at no point in the game are any of these double jump moves absolutely necessary to complete an aspect of the level, they are just helpful bonus moves that can make life a little bit easier or shave seconds off of your time.
Tails Flight
Double jump and keep tapping to make Tails airborne.
After 10 seconds, he'll grow tired and begin to float back down.
Flying underwater works the same, but becomes a doggy paddle instead.
Available to Tails only. While this move could only be seen and not performed in Sonic 2, Tails can now whirl his twin tails together and take flight, under the player's command. Simply press a jump button again after having jumped into the air, and Tails will switch to flying mode. To keep him in the air, keep pressing the jump button, and he'll gain an upward boost on each press. You can control his direction left and right with the D-pad, but after about 10 seconds, he'll begin to grow tired, and you'll no longer be able to make him gain any height as he floats back down to the ground. If something harmful touches Tails while flying, he'll take a hit and fall to the ground, but he can also use his whirling tails as an offensive attack on a badnik or boss by flying up to them from underneath and making contact, though this can be a very tricky maneuver to pull off, albeit necessary on one or two occasions. When Tails is underwater, the exact same principles apply, and he can actually doggie-paddle his way back up to the surface when the jump button is pressed repeatedly.
While Tails is in flight, Sonic can hop on for a handy lift.
When playing as Sonic and Tails, if Player 2 controls Tails and takes flight, Sonic can jump and grab on, allowing Tails to actually air-lift him up for a limited time. This is very useful for when you're trying to make it to a difficult ledge. When underwater however, Tails cannot gain any height while carrying Sonic.
Guide Sonic and Tails through six stages, each with two massive acts, with sub-bosses and bosses at the end of each. Gameplay basics are unchanged from past titles. Displayed on the top left of the screen is the on-going score total, timer for the act (you get 10 minutes to complete it or you'll lose a life), and ring count, and the number of lives is listed in the bottom left. You start the game with three lives, and extras are hidden in the levels. You'll lose a life if you take a hit without holding any rings or shield, get crushed between two solid objects, drown, fall off the bottom of the level or run out of time in the act.
The HUD consists of ongoing game score, time taken in the act (you have up to ten minutes, or you lose a life) and ring count, plus number of lives remaining in the bottom left.
When you lose all of your lives without having obtained any continues, it'll be game over and you'll return to the title screen, but if you saved your progress in one of the save slots, you'll be able to start again from the beginning of the level you died on. If you managed to get a continue by collecting 50 rings in a Special Stage, you'll be given a fresh set of three lives instead, and will carry on from the last checkpoint touched.
Scoring is ongoing throughout the game, with points from each act (beginning with the one from which you started a single session) added to a continuous total. You'll earn points from attacking badniks (see the Common Objects section below), and 1000 for any boss. After an act or Special Stage has been completed, a tally will occur to add up additional points according to your performance. Here, each ring held upon completion is worth 100 points (plus 50,000 Perfect Bonus if you can get all rings in a Special Stage) and the quicker your completion time in an act, the more extra points you acquire.
Complete an act in...
Less than 59 seconds: 50,000 points
1:00 - 1:29 minutes: 10,000 points
1:30 - 1:59 seconds: 5000 points
2:00 - 2:29 minutes: 4000 points
2:30 - 2:59 minutes: 3000 points
3:00 - 3:29 minutes: 1000 points
3:30 - 9:58 minutes: 100 points
9:59 minutes exactly: 100,000 points
View/Add Notes(3)
Go to..
#1. Comment posted by Traxus on Tuesday, 22nd February 2011, 2:55pm (GMT)
The insta-shield actually gives you a split second of invurnability to all non-static damage sources in the game, like projectiles, fire, and other things. It also lets you harlessly pass through enemies that you cannot damage, like bubbles (the blue flying badnik in Marble Garden) when it has it's spikes out and the big spinning spike ball (also from Marble Garden). It does not however protect you from certian static objects like spikes.
#2. Comment posted by Enyeribe C. Elegalam on Monday, 9th April 2012, 11:07pm (BST)
Now you must defeat the whole entire boss once and for all a couple of times in 6 zones, including 2 great acts. But only as soon as you’ve completed both acts in exactly 9:59 minutes, You’ll earn yourself an easy “Time Bonus” 100,000 points each, which is also perfectly added all the way up to the top of your #1 final High-Score by the end of the game super big-time!
#3. Comment posted by Joseph on Saturday, 15th October 2016, 12:01am (BST)
And you dont want that.
Add Note
Hide Notes
As long as you have rings, you'll lose them and not a life when you take damage.
Your life support system. They're scattered around everywhere, but as long as you have at least one, you won't die when you take a hit from a badnik or obstacle (unless you get crushed by something). Instead, you'll lose all the rings you have, and they'll scatter around the place. You'll be flashing for a couple of seconds, to ensure that you don't get hit again until you've had a chance to move away or grab a lost ring or two. However, if you take a hit without having any rings (or a protective shield), you'll lose a life. Collect 100 rings to gain an extra life, and 200 for another.
Item Boxes
Use your spinning ability to open up one of these item boxes and receive the displayed power-up. Not only do they look different to those of the previous games, there are some brand new items as well. A box with a ring symbol on it will give you ten extra rings, while the one with the face of your character on it will give you an extra life. The speed boost item, represented by an icon of one of Sonic's shoes, lasts for 20 seconds and will increase the speed of your characters movement, plus the tempo of the music. Similarly, an invincibility power-up (the stars icon) will surround him in small stars for the next 20 seconds, during which time he'll be invulnerable to any attack (except falling off the screen, drowning, or getting crushed). Any badniks that you touch will also explode, and the music is changed to that of the main theme of the game. An additional item box to the 1 player game is the Eggman item, which are fairly rare, and should be avoided because opening one will cause you to take a hit.
10 ring item box.
1-up item box.
Speed-up item box.
Invincibility item box.
Eggman item box (don't open!).
Fire shield item box.
Bubble shield item box.
Lightning shield item box.
In Sonic 1 and 2, there was only one, blue shield which took a hit for you if you ran into something. This time, this one shield has been replaced by three, and they do the same thing, but offer you additional bonuses as well. Open up a flame item box to receive the all-new fire shield, which will protect your character from any fire hazard, allowing you to touch it without taking a hit. The bubble shield will encase your character within a large bubble, giving him an infinite supply of air while underwater, and while wearing the lightning shield, nearby rings will be magnetically drawn towards you, allowing you to pick them up much more easily. This shield can also protect you from certain electrical obstacles too, and dissolve the spikeballs of some badniks. All shields will repel certain small projectiles from some badniks too. While these shields have no other effect for Tails (or Knuckles), each one allows Sonic to perform a new double jump move while he's holding it (see above). If you take a hit from anything else while holding a shield, you'll lose it instead of your rings, and you can only have one at a time, so a new shield obtained will replace one that you already had. Also bear in mind that if you go into the water with a fire or lightning shield, it'll disappear.
Checkpoints save your place in an act, should you lose a life.
Touch one of these to save your place in the level. If you lose a life, you return to the last checkpoint you touched, instead of the beginning of the act. If you touch one while holding at least 50 rings, a circle of stars will appear above it for a number of seconds before disappearing. Jump into these stars to gain access to the bonus stage.
Special Stage Ring
Giant rings are hidden in small internal rooms. Hop in for a trip to the Special Stage.
These giant rings tend to be hidden in small internal rooms throughout the levels, and act as your key to accessing the Special Stage, where you can retrieve a Chaos Emerald. You do not need to have a certain number of rings on hand, you just need to find one, and jump in. When you enter one of them, it'll no longer be there when you come out again, and won't reappear if you restart the game either, so for more emerald hunting, you'll have to look elsewhere. After collecting all the Chaos Emeralds, these giant rings remain, but will give you an extra 50 rings when you touch them.
End-of-Act Signpost
Signposts signify the end of an act, but now fall down from the top of the screen after defeating the mini-boss.
These sign posts are back as well, but work in a much weirder way this time. In Sonic 1 and 2, they'd be found on the ground at the end of most non-boss acts, and touching them would end the act. In Sonic 3, they still appear at the end of every first act of a stage, but because you have to fight a mini-boss first, the signpost actually just falls in from the top of the screen, spinning around. You can let it land to complete the act and tally the score if you like, or more interestingly, you can jump up and knock it around a bit first, and you'll get 100 bonus points for each hit. If it lands on certain areas of the ground, it can bring up hidden item boxes that it'll bounce off of. The hot spots of these can be seen in the level maps.
Animal Capsule
Press the button at the top to destroy the capsule, free the animals and end the zone.
These animal capsules appear at the end of an Act 2, after fighting the main boss of the stage. Press the yellow button on top to open it up and free the trapped animals inside, which will end the stage. As tradition dictates, they can mostly be found standing on the ground, to the right of the boss arena, though they can also float down from the top of the screen, upside down, with propellors holding them up. You may have to wait until it gets low enough for you to hit the button.
View/Add Notes(2)
Go to..
#1. Comment posted by Ratchet 0203 on Wednesday, 8th October 2014, 5:03pm (BST)
That flashing thing that happens when you get hit is annoying!(Especially in Mario.) It's not really useful at all, since you already get knocked out of the way when hit.
#2. Comment posted by Joseph on Sunday, 30th August 2015, 5:48pm (BST)
They see me rolling!
Add Note
Hide Notes
Common Objects
The levels are littered with different objects to utilise, each explained on the particular level pages. Here are a few simple ones that are common across multiple levels...
A vertical yellow spring. Slightly less powerful than red.
Horizontal red spring. Use for instant speed along the path.
Come in horizontal, vertical and diagonal flavours, and in red or yellow. The verticals and diagonals are used to send Sonic or Tails flying upwards or across when they are jumped on or touched, and you have a certain amount of directional control, using the left and right buttons. You will not be spinning, however, so be careful of badniks along the way. The horizontals can be used as a quick speed boost across the ground, and red springs are more powerful than yellow ones. Some vertical springs are embedded in the ground, and be careful not to get caught between an annoying pair of horizontals that face each other, and will just bounce you back and forth until you can jump out.
Spikes. Painful. Avoid.
Each small set consists of four spikes, and are clearly harmful to touch on their business end, but their sides are safe. Can be found on the ground, ceiling, or horizontally on the walls, and in either large groups or single sets, to jump over. Some can repeatedly slot in and out from the ground.
Press to trigger a nearby change.
Flat white switches in some levels can cause something nearby to change when you press them by standing on top of them. Often used for opening up doorways or bridges.
Air Bubbles
The large air bubbles will refill your air supply by 30 seconds when underwater.
You'll drown if you ignore your depleting air supply.
For sections where you have to go underwater, Sonic and Tails can last only 30 seconds without air. During the final 10 seconds, a countdown will begin, and you'll drown at the end of it if you don't get to the surface, or obtain some air from these bubble clusters, which are found at various points along the ground. They produce small bubbles and big bubbles, and its the big ones that give you another 30 seconds worth of air, although you may have to wait a little bit before they are produced. Just touch them to suck 'em up. When playing as Sonic and Tails, each character has their own countdown, and you'll see numbers on the screen indicating its status from 5 to 0. Only Sonic's will be accompanied by the traditional scary drowning theme, however, as that's the only one that's important. Tails is also capable of sucking up an air bubble of his own, so don't let the greedy bugger steal yours!
Badnik Monkey Dude.
Badnik Rhinobot.
Badnik Bubbles.
A variety of enemy robots created by Dr. Eggman that are fuelled by real animals inside. Each one moves and attacks differently, and are all resident to only one level each. They're all explained individually on their level pages, but most can be defeated by spinning into them, and each one is worth 100 points on your score. Bop some more while maintaining the same spin without breaking it, and you'll score 200 for the second badnik, 300 for a third, and 1000 for each subsequent one until your sixteenth, where they start to spew out 10,000 points a pop. Upon destruction, the trapped animal inside will be set free and skip along the ground happily, before exiting the screen.
View/Add Notes(1)
Go to..
#1. Comment posted by niconoe on Thursday, 10th February 2011, 1:47am (GMT)
"Bop some more while maintaining the same spin without breaking it, and you'll score 200 for the second badnik, 300 for a third,..."
It's 500 for a third, not 300 ;)
Add Note
Hide Notes
Each section of this page allows users to add their own notes to fill in any missing details or supply additional research etc.
View/add general notes for Gameplay (1)
#1. Comment posted by Joseph on Sunday, 30th August 2015, 5:22pm (BST)
How do you make Sonic whistle?
Add Note
Hide Notes
Last Updated
Content for this page last edited:
27th April 2010

Files last uploaded for this page:
27th April 2010

Recent Notes
Posted by Joseph on 15th October 2016

Posted by Joseph on 30th August 2015

General Notes
Posted by Joseph on 30th August 2015

Posted by Ratchet 0203 on 8th October 2014

Posted by Enyeribe C. Elegalam on 9th April 2012

7 notes posted on this page in total
User-submitted Links
Post links relating to the contents of this page, including additional info resources, movies of level footage or speed-runs, music remixes, artwork, etc.