Sonic the Hedgehog: 5 brilliantly frustrating Sega levels that we couldn't wait to beat

Hell hath no fury like a gamer who ploughs their way through a Sonic game, only to lose all their lives before the final level. Such were the problems faced by the 1990s generation of Sega gamers, who experienced a classic love-hate relationship with the iconic Sonic franchise. Let's not forget – saving the game midway through simply wasn't an option.

The unmistakeable blue hedgehog may be able to shoot to super-speeds, but he's not immune to the odd spiked pit, projectile or frustratingly well-placed enemy. 

In anticipation of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, featuring Ben Schwartz as the voice of our hero and Jim Carrey as the nefarious Dr. Robotnik, we're revisiting five brilliantly frustrating levels from the original trilogy of games. Nostalgia may well be incoming...


1. Labyrinth Zone (from Sonic the Hedgehog)

Few aspects of a Sonic game invoke a sense of panic quite like water. This fiendish stage from the very first game (released back in 1991) does offer Sonic a bubble with which he can preserve his breath; even so, if you strike an obstacle and lose the protection, you're forced to time your progress with the air pockets littered throughout. And to add insult to injury, the third of the three Labyrinth stages forces you to race against time against implacably rising water levels, all staged by the evil Robotnik. That menacing music that kicks in as Sonic is about to drown still creeps us out.

2. Chemical Plant Zone (from Sonic 2)

More water is on offer in this agonising trek from the second game, which hit us in 1992. Sonic 2 is notably harder than the first game, throwing out longer, more elaborate level designs and more enemies. This stage, where you have to leap with utmost precision onto floating platforms, is infamous among Sonic fans; should you miss, you end up plunging into the abyss, forcing a breathless race against time back to the surface before Sonic snuffs it.

3. Metropolis Zone (from Sonic 2)

There's nothing worse than a Sonic stage that blindsides you with a third act when you weren't expecting it. Having done countless loop-the-loops and pirouettes while balanced on giant rivets, the player is confronted with another aspect to Metropolis Zone that has them tearing their hair out. However, extra points go towards the rollicking background theme, one of the best ever to feature in a Sonic game.

4. Flying Battery Zone (from Sonic & Knuckles)

Still, if we're talking rock-hard Sonic levels with brilliant musical themes, they don't come better than Flying Battery Zone. The bassline keeps the sweaty, overwrought player propelling forward through the endless obstacles of this memorable stage from the end of Sonic & Knuckles, released in 1994. The aforementioned Knuckles, a pink echidna introduced for the first time in this game, doesn't feature in this level, but you do get to wear a flameproof shield while playing as Sonic, so all is good.

5. Death Egg Zone (from Sonic & Knuckles)

Towards the end of Sonic & Knuckles, the player closes in on the lair of the scheming Dr. Robotnik. But getting to Sonic's ultimate quarry isn't easy with collapsable platforms and deviously located springs that, more often than not, hurtle you into the path of danger. And when you've got through this one, you're still confronted with the menace of Robotnik himself in the next stage. 1990s kids really did have it tough when it came to gaming, but that sheer mixture of exhilaration and frustration is what's cemented these classic console games in the memory.


Click here to book your tickets for Sonic the Hedgehog 2, opening in Cineworld cinemas on 1st April. What Sonic level tormented your life as a gamer? Let us know @Cineworld.