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The 10 Hardest 3D Sonic Levels, Ranked

Sonic the Hedgehog, in its many years, has brought to the masses some of the most legendary levels in video game history. Whether due to grand spectacles, stunning soundtracks, and background themes, or intricately designed gameplay, Sonic has had his hills and valleys in terms of quality. Then, there are the infamous levels maligned by players, both casual and elite, for their staggering difficulty.

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It may have started as a series marketed to children, but as it grew and evolved, the levels and effort it took to clear them did as well. This is especially true in the 3D era, where SEGA decided to use the third dimension to throw more challenges at their players.

10/10 Terminal Velocity Gives Players Whiplash

Sonic Colors

Running segments where Sonic can only sidestep are common throughout Sonic Colors. By the time it came out, these segments had become a staple in the 3D games. Terminal Velocity, the final zone, is populated entirely by these segments as Sonic battles Dr. Eggman and escapes a crumbling interstellar amusement park.

Part of what makes this level so difficult is the Big Chaser, who pursues Sonic throughout the Area. This enemy debuts in Aquarium Park and makes its return in Terminal Velocity. Its attacks are hard to time correctly, which leads to taking damage by attacks that seem unfair or shoddily programmed. Despite all that, the stage is loads of fun for the final boss alone.

9/10 Levitated Ruin Falls Prey To The Game It’s In

Sonic And The Secret Rings

Sonic and the Secret Rings is one of the most hated games in the franchise and, in some regards, rightfully so. The game can be buggy, the story isn’t all that interesting, and the controls run on a flawed system. This all culminates in the Levitated Ruin, high above the ground, where Sonic searches for Sinbad the Sailor.

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The area’s main gimmick is a strong wind that blows Sonic backward, which can be annoying for some and an outright hindrance for others. In the Sonic Storybook spinoffs, Sonic always runs forward unless directly moved back by the player. This makes the slower parts of the level where he navigates the obstacles and narrow paths tedious and frustrating.

8/10 Dusty Desert Is Dragged Down By Its Puzzles

Sonic The Hedgehog (2006)

If a new player decided to give Sonic ’06 a chance despite all the criticisms, no one would blame them if Dusty Desert blew the wind out of their sails. Sonic’s version of the mission is a slog, but many fans consider Silver’s variation the more frustrating stage. Wandering the ancient ruins searching for Sonic, Silver stumbles into a wayward Amy Rose, also looking for the Blue Blur.

What earns this stage its medal for toughness is the many complicated puzzles Silver has to complete to progress. Couple that with Amy’s stilted gameplay with her hammer, and the underground version of Dusty Desert goes from a stage with potential to the leading cause of hair loss among Sonic fans.

7/10 Final Chase Tries Too Hard To Be Challenging

Sonic Adventure 2

For such a great game, even Sonic Adventure 2 has its sore spots. Final Chase, the last stage of the Dark storyline, follows Shadow as he runs through the Space Colony ARK to stop Sonic’s advance on the Eclipse Cannon. This stage is loathed for the “spinning drums,” rotating cylinders that Shadow can move around and across to advance.

Similar obstacles existed in the classic games, but the third dimension makes them more complicated than they need to be. The bottomless pits and enemy placement don’t help matters. Other than that, however, it’s still an overall solid level.

6/10 Radical Train Goes Off The Rails (In a Bad Way)

Sonic The Hedgehog (2006)

The funny thing about Sonic ’06 levels isn’t that they’re hard by design but because they’re Sonic ’06 levels. The game’s core problems taint the entire experience, from numerous glitches to a scatterbrained story to a rushed development that shows Sonic Team’s incompetence on its sleeve. Radical Train is merely one level to demonstrate that.

Shadow’s version of this stage is the toughest, in which he must chase down a train within the time limit to destroy it and reach Eggman. Because Shadow isn’t as fast as Sonic, he has to rely on vehicles for easy transportation, which unfortunately feels like piloting clunky heaps of scrap thanks to the game’s terrible design and controls.

5/10 Final Fortress Is The Final Straw

Sonic Heroes

Sonic Heroes is a game that, over time, has become a beloved title even though it started as a hated one. As one of the earliest installments in the 3D era, there were a lot of improvements needed as SEGA and the 3D games evolved. Final Fortress is what happened when the developers overstepped a bit too far.

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In a game with already wonky controls, the last thing it should have expected from the budding player base was a clean landing after launching their character into the air toward offscreen grinding rails. Unfortunately, Final Fortress does just that. Thankfully, the level is certainly beatable, just with a little extra effort and patience.

4/10 Lost Impact Should Have Stayed Lost

Shadow The Hedgehog

A common trend in hard Sonic levels seems to be the presence of tedium, and the Lost Impact stage from Shadow the Hedgehog is no exception. Fans abhor this level in particular for how immense the area is, where Shadow maneuvers the ARK as it’s attacked with Maria in tow. The stage’s two objectives are simple: annihilate the rampaging Artificial Chaos or find Professor Gerald’s laboratory and escape the space station.

Slaying Artificial Chaos will award points towards concluding the Hero mission and defeating all 35 completes the stage. Clearing the Hero mission is the reason why this level is so toilsome, as it requires navigating the entire stage to seek and destroy every required enemy.

3/10 Iron Fortress Belongs In the Wrong Era

Sonic Forces

When Sonic Forces was released, fans immediately lambasted it for its subpar controls, lackluster narrative, and forced inclusion of Classic Sonic following the success of Sonic Generations. They were absolutely correct. The level design of Forces varies from generic at best to needlessly baffling at worst, one of the most infamous examples being Iron Fortress.

Speaking of Classic Sonic, the stage have been more bearable if it originated from the Sega Genesis. However, because it’s from Forces, the controls hold it back. When asked, many fans will refer to the stage’s side-scrolling segment, which is hard to keep up with due to the bottomless pits and traps that line the stage.

2/10 Cannon’s Core Requires Patience

Sonic Adventure 2

Final levels in any game are meant to be tests of skill for the player, a way to gauge how much they’ve learned throughout their playthrough. Cannon’s Core from Sonic Adventure 2 delivers for better and for worse. For starters, Cannon’s Core forces the player to juggle between multiple play styles in a single stage by using every character in the game, excluding Shadow.

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If that weren’t enough of a hassle, getting a Game Over on this level sets the player back to the beginning, starting the level over as Tails and Eggman with their slow, clunky tanks. That, coupled with the Knuckles swimming section, makes for a level that can quickly become a nightmare for first-time players.

1/10 Eggmanland Is A Test Of Skill And Willpower

Sonic Unleashed

Sonic Unleashed is a brilliant game that, from beginning to end, was crafted by a rejuvenated studio with a grand vision: a high-speed globe-trotting adventure. Split into day and night stages, Unleashed swaps between high-octane obstacle-dodging action with normal Sonic and platforming with a side of beat-em-up action with Werehog Sonic. Eggmanland, the final zone, is the ultimate test before the confrontation with Dark Gaia.

Throughout the level, Sonic transforms to progress in ways that play to either his or the Werehog’s strengths. Eggmanland is a level that is hard on purpose. Here, Dr. Eggman has finally achieved his goal from back in Sonic Adventure and is now throwing everything and the kitchen sink at his longtime nemesis.

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