Spring Yard Zone - Sonic the Hedgehog (GEN)
Where it all began. The original Sonic the Hedgehog game is remembered for a variety of reasons. At the time of it's 1991 release, it was the fastest running video game, something SEGA was quick to smear in the face of it's then arch rival, Nintendo. It had amazing colors and animation and most importantly, it was darned fun to play. That killer soundtrack by Masato Nakamura certainly didn't hurt. All the casino inspired levels throughout the Sonic series can trace their origins back to Spring Yard Zone.
Sky High Zone - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GG, MS)
Releasing one day before the Genesis version, the Game Gear version of Sonic 2 introduced Tails. Who was quickly kidnapped by Robotnik in the opening cut scene. Yeah, it's one of those plots. Despite being a game on limited hardware in comparison to the Genesis, this is one of the hardest games in the Sonic series. Earn your happy ending indeed.
Chemical Plant Zone - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GEN)
The game where most remember Tails making his debut. He always came back to your side no matter how gruesome the death and if you didn't have a buddy to control him, you could always count on Tails to screw you over in those Special Stages. Masato Nakamura returned to handle the audio in Sonic 2, once again serving up one of the Genesis' best scores.
Toxic Caves - Sonic Spinball (GEN)
Sonic 3 & Knuckles couldn't be released in 1993 and Sonic CD was Sega CD bound so that left an American team to crank out Sonic Spinball for the Genesis. Spinball may be one of the shortest Sonic games in history at only four levels long, but you will have a dozy of a time trying to finish this game. Few have beaten the final level without an emulator using save states.
Turquoise Hill Zone - Sonic Chaos (GG)
Game Gear music may sound primitive, even by '90s handheld standards, but some of it still sounds pleasing to the ears. Called Sonic & Tails in Japan, Sonic Chaos marked the first time Tails was a playable character in the handheld Sonic games. Turquoise Hill is your standard Green Hill-like starting level, full of loop-the-loops and a catchy first level jam.
Gigapolis Zone - Sonic Chaos (GG)
A zone that's clearly influenced by Sonic 2's Chemical Plant Zone, Gigapolis Zone takes place at night and even contains the tubes similar to the ones Sonic and Tails traveled through in Chemical Plant. I'd also argue that Gigapolis theme music is every bit as memorable as Chemical Plant, but then, that's an argument I bow out of because way more people have played Genesis Sonic 2 than Sonic Chaos. This them actually sounds a bit different on the Master System.
Collision Chaos (JP/EUR ver.) - Sonic CD (SCD)
Sonic CD has two soundtracks. The Japanese/European score and the American soundtrack. Each one is radically different and the fanbase is still divided to this day on which one is better. It's an argument I really don't like to get involved in since I enjoy both. The JP/EUR version of Collision Chaos is quite the happening tune. Do people still say the word happening? I probably sound terribly dated. Oh well.
Stardust Speedway (US ver.) - Sonic CD (SCD)
The default music of Stardust Speedway in the American score is SUCH a good song. I wish I could say the same thing for the level itself. It's a horribly designed mess of springs and bumpers that fling the player every which way, making it frustrating to navigate.
Hydrocity Zone Act 2 - Sonic 3 & Knuckles (GEN)
Water levels tend to be the bane of gamers existence, but I felt Sonic 3 & Knuckles had one of the best water themed stages in gaming in Hydrocity Zone. At high speed, Sonic can run on water and the Bubble Shield made underwater travel a whole lot smoother. It was tough for me to pick which Act theme I liked better, but in the end, Hydrocity Act 2 won.
Flying Battery Zone Act 1 - Sonic 3 & Knuckles (GEN)
A lot of fans champion Sonic 2 on the Genesis as their favorite Sonic game and it's a great platformer, but for me, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, the combination of Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, the game Sonic 3 was intended to be, will always reign as the pinnacle of Sonic games. The zones are huge, the speed is insane and it's still a good looking game today.
Rusty Ruins Zone Act 2 - Sonic 3D Blast (SAT)
If only 3D Blast played as good as the music sounds. The isometric perspective makes platforming a chore and the trademark Sonic speed is more or less absent from this SEGA published but non Sonic Team developed title. At least we got two good soundtracks out of both the Genesis and Saturn versions. You can hear some of the title theme throughout numerous tracks in the Saturn version and it's very apparent in both versions of Rusty Ruins.
Skydeck A Go! Go! ...for Skydeck - Sonic Adventure (DC, GCN)
The first true 3D Sonic game (most people don't count Sonic 3D Blast or Sonic R), Sonic Adventure wow many upon it's release along side the Dreamcast in 1999. It wasn't perfect. Some of the characters aren't all that great to play as and it suffered from some pretty screwy camera angles, especially in Skydeck, Sonic Adventure is still one of my favorite Sonic games. Jun Seunoue did his thing with that guitar in a lot of Sonic Adventure's music. I thought Skydeck was a pretty cool area as far as battleships go, but exploring it was a pain. Thankfully, the music kept me from losing my mind.
This Way Out ...for Prison Lane - Sonic Adventure 2 (DC, GCN)
Sonic Adventure 2 has the honor of being the last Sonic game to be released on a SEGA console as the company bowed out of the console wars in 2001. I've never understood how anyone could confuse Sonic for Shadow outside of poor lighting. Yet, Sonic still takes the blame for Shadow's crimes.
Sunset Hill Act 3 - Sonic Advance (GBA)
All of Sunset Hill must have been one great big nostalgic rush for players. Each of Sunset Hill's three acts contained an arrangement of the famous Green Hill Zone theme. For such an iconic theme, there haven't been too many arrangements in the Sonic games so when one comes along, you really got to savor it.
Wrapped in Black - Sonic Rush (DS)
Just as he did on the GBA, Sonic continued to thrive on the DS handheld. Taking advantage of both screens, the huge zones the Sonic games are known for seemed even bigger when you had to watch the top and bottom screen. If you detect a bit of Jet Set Radio in Sonic Rush's music, that's because Hideki Naganuma, Jet Set Radio's primary composer wrote the music for Sonic Rush. Wrapped in Black is the the tune that plays during the game's true final boss battle.
Sky Babylon (Act 1 & 2 Mix) - Sonic Rush Adventure (DS)
Some were disappointed that Hideki Naganuma didn't return for soundtrack duties on Sonic Rush Adventure. But the game's score was still in good hands. Tomoya Ohtani, Seirou Okamoto, and Mariko Nanba gave us an incredible score that was on par with Naganuma's material in the original Sonic Rush. I've never even plated Rush Adventure and I fell in love with it's soundtrack.
Chun-nan Night - Sonic Unleashed (PS3, 360, PS2, Wii)
Unpopular opinion time. I actually liked Sonic Unleashed, even the Werehog segments. Yeah, they slowed the game down, but if you the Sonic games are all about speed, I think you're missing something. Much as I love fantasy settings, I loved the fact that much of Unleashed's locals were based off real world locations like Alaska. The level themes were outstanding but the hub world tunes were good in their own right, especially the night themes.
Rooftop Run Night - Sonic Unleashed (PS3, 360, PS2, Wii)
Easily some of my favorite levels in Sonic Unleashed. The Rooftop Run stages take place in Spagonia, which is based off of Spain, Europe and Italy. The daytime theme gets a lot of love and that's certainly understandable. However, I think the funky night version of Rooftop Run is just as good. That guitar and accordion are amazing.
Favorite Tunes Database