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Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Carnival Night Zone

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Night life on the Floating Island is exciting. Bounce and flip your way across this colorful Zone which is filled with anti-gravity platforms.

— United States instruction booklet, Sonic the Hedgehog 3[1]

Carnival Night Zone (カーニバルナイト[2] Kānibarunaito?, lit. "Carnival Night") is the fourth Zone of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and the lock-on game Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. The Zone is a playful carnival filled with balloons, pinball bumpers and cannons to launch from, although unlike Casino Night Zone, there are no slot machines.


Set in a massive metropolis on Floating Island that seems to have a never-ending carnival going on during the nighttime, Carnival Night Zone is full of lights, balloons, tilting cannons, giant rotating barrels, and plenty of Doctor Robotnik's Badniks like the springboard Clamer and pesky Batbot to give Sonic and Tails a hard time as they navigate the neon lights and spinning cylinders to reach the mini-boss, D-Struct Machine, and then Robotnik in his Egg Gravitron to clear the way to a cannon to launch them to the IceCap Zone after Knuckles causes some trouble for Sonic and Tails as he continues to block their path to the Death Egg with having them navigate the Zone in darkness after he turns off the lights until they find the switch to turn the lights back on.


After defeating Dr. Robotnik in Marble Garden Zone, Tails airlifts Sonic to Carnival Night Zone, and Knuckles runs there from the previous Zone. Partway through the Zone, Knuckles appears and turns off all of the lights (this does not affect the gameplay of the Zone, although it does raise the Zone's water level). Later, a switch will be pressed to reactivate the lights. After defeating Dr. Robotnik, Sonic and Tails will be shot out of a cannon to the next Zone. Knuckles can take a shortcut to a capsule, bypassing the boss completely. Knuckles will then use a teleporter to reach Ice Cap Zone.


Playing as Sonic or Tails, Carnival Night Zone is one of the longest Zones available in the game, but as Knuckles in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, it changes from being one of the longest Zones to one of the shortest. In this case, each Act takes roughly just one-and-a-half minutes to complete, and the Zone lacks a boss fight in the second Act. The D-Struct Machine is still fought by Knuckles at the end of Act 1.

One element of the Zone is a series of hovering Spinning Wheels, which either move in a set pattern by themselves or can be moved up and down manually by pressing up/down on Controlpadds.png, though the latter is not obvious initially.


Act 1

Tails airlifts Sonic down into Act 1, and if the player chose playing as Sonic alone, Tails flies off after dropping off Sonic, but if the player chose Sonic and Tails, Tails will touch down behind Sonic to join him. Multiple paths can be taken, using all manner of various gimmicks in the Act, which can lead to some of the Giant Rings, before meeting up at the last Star Post before fighting the mini-boss.

Act 2

Act 2 starts from the bottom of the shaft of the mini-boss fight at the end of Act 1. This Act contains some underwater sections, so a Water Shield is somewhat necessary. Midway through, Knuckles appears and hits a switch that darkens the Zone for the time being. However, after navigating the Act in the dark, another switch can be pressed to turn the lights back on.

Halfway through Act 2, there is an infamous area where Sonic or Tails is trapped in a vertical shaft and must push a Spinning Wheel down a gap low enough for them to escape through. This area is unavoidable; the player will encounter this no matter which route is taken. While it appears to be a traditional jumping puzzle, it is not meant to be bypassed this way. It is massively difficult to get by like this, so it is much preferable to use the up and down method.


Act 1

Main article: Bowling Spin

The Bowling Spin is the sub-boss of Act 1. A part of it spins and levitates in a constant diagonal motion throughout the battle, bouncing around the corners of the screen and destroying foothold blocks. The main piece electrifies itself every so often. The player must be sure to defeat it before the footing is lost.

Act 2

Main article: Egg Gravitron

Dr. Robotnik appears in the Egg Gravitron that is unreachable by normal jumps (Unless playing as Tails, who can hover into Robotnik). Robotnik will drop a type of orb onto the ground. Upon doing so, he will approach directly above and create a rotating electric shock field with parts of the machine, which will attempt to draw in the player. After that, Robotnik will lower down to retrieve the orb, which is the player's best chance to attack.

Giant Ring locations

Act 1

  • At the start of the level, the player must take the lower path. At the first spinning tube, they should jump off of it at the top to land on a platform with a wall with large yellow segments on it. Walking through the wall will reveal the first Ring. There is also an entrance from the bottom of this area under the tube, which is in fact meant to be an exit. Going in there and using Tails to fly upward can be done to get the Ring as well.
  • Straight after the first Ring, the player should take the upper-right path on the massive spinning black and white tube. They should follow this path until they go through a magnetic lift, then go to the left and follow that path until they reach the second red and white lift. The player should then go through the wall next to it for the second Ring.
    Tails can also get this Ring by taking the upper-left path after the first Ring. At the Fire Shield, the player must fly up and to the left to find a platform with three Super Ring Monitors, then keep flying up and to the left to discover a vertical area. The player must scale it and pass a line of spikes at the top to see a door. Running through this door leads to the second Ring.
  • Instead of taking the left path for the second Ring, the player should instead jump on the wheel, then jump off at the very top to go up a shaft. Once up this shaft, the player must use an uncharged spin dash and through the wall for the third Ring.
  • On the upper route, there will eventually be two spinning black and white tubes and a yellow tube machine which leads out of the area. If coming from the third Ring, the player must go to the left until they see two wheels near a Clamer, then use them to get up onto a higher path. If coming from any other side in the upper path, the player will see the wheels of the Clamer. It is recommended to approach this area from the higher path to avoid falling into the funnel and missing the Giant Ring. The player should follow the path until the two tubes are reached, then jump onto the rightmost tube, making their way upward. There will be a section with three yellow markings on the wall, and the player must jump in between the markings which are farther apart to find the Ring's room. If the player does not find the markings, they should repeatedly move down and up the tube until they are found.
  • At the very end of Knuckles' route, there will be a red and white platform with a Star Post and a large shaft nearby. The player can walk through the wall to the right of the Star Post to get the Ring.

Act 2

  • There are three ways (or two ways if playing as Knuckles) to get the first Ring. If the player is able to get onto the very large red and white tube at the beginning of the Act, jumping off of it near the top will reveal a platform to land on. From there, the player must very carefully drop down to the lower platform so that the funnel does not pull them in, then make a tiny hop over the spikes and go through the door to get to a room with power-ups. From there, the player should pop the Bubble Shield Monitor before letting themselves drop to the Ring through the passage underneath. The second way is to go a bit lower down the same tube and jump off there, onto a single platform with a door that leads straight to the Ring. The third way cannot be done as Knuckles. The player should follow the normal path until reaching a cannon, which is next to a Super Ring Monitor. Jumping up and through the wall next to the monitor leads to the aforementioned room with a Bubble Shield. Popping this monitor then standing where it previously was will lead to the Ring.
  • After the first Ring's cannon entrance, the player must take the right-lower path. After a trio of Blasters, there will be a pair of Spinning Wheels which must be moved by using the D-pad. The player must move them upwards to a platform with a Flame Shield and Super Ring Monitor. From this platform, they need to jump into the left wall to get to the second Ring.
  • The player can take either right path after the first Ring's cannon entrance. After going up one or two magnetic lifts, there will be a Spinning Wheel to the left which is spinning by two yellow markings. The player must spin dash under the Spinning Wheel into the markings to get into the Ring room.
  • On Sonic and Tails' route, there will be a room with two tubes in the shape of an "X" near the end of the level. The player must ride the tube that they should emerge from all the way down to the bottom-right of this room, then follow the path until a lift shaft takes them to an area with bumpers and balloons. From there, they must make their way up the shaft by using the balloons or Tails' flight. At the top is a wall with three yellow markings on it, and the player must jump in between the top and middle ones to reach the Ring.
  • On Knuckles' route, there will be a long tunnel of boosters at the end. When the player exits from it, they should jump and hold the button as soon as it is exited to get high up on the slope, as Knuckles will normally run through it. Once on the slope, the player must use the glide to climb upward. A second tunnel of boosters will be found, and the player must go through them without jumping, then hold right so that Knuckles runs through the slope and hugs the right wall. The Ring will appear. The player should wait until it is full-size in order to avoid going past it and falling out of the room.

In other media

Books and comics

Archie Comics

In the Sonic the Hedgehog comic series and its spin-offs published by Archie Comics, Team Dark and a Tele-Pod controlled by Snively passed through Carnival Night Zone while racing toward the Master Emerald.

Sonic the Comic

The Carnival Night Zone, from Sonic the Comic #41.

In the Sonic the Comic comic series and its spin-offs published by Fleetway Editions, the Carnival Night Zone was a theme park that had been built on the Floating Island by the Marxio Brothers as a money-maker for Dr. Robotnik. They briefly tricked Knuckles the Echidna into thinking that Robotnik was not involved and, promising to give him revenue from the park to fix up the Floating Island's monuments. However, when the truth of Robotnik's involvement was revealed, Knuckles broke the Zone off from the rest of the Floating Island, making it plummet into the Emerald Hill Zone.

IDW Publishing

Main article: Carnival Night (IDW)

In the Sonic the Hedgehog comic series and its spin-offs published by IDW Publishing, Carnival Night is an area on Angel Island. its past is mostly identical to its video game counterpart's, up until after the events of Sonic Forces.


  • Carnival Night Zone's music is well-known for having similarities with the Michael Jackson song "Jam", and in fact shares several samples used from songs composed by Jackson, who was brought in by Sega to score Sonic 3. The most notable sample is that the player can hear a compressed sample of rapper Heavy D saying "Jam" at two different intervals during Carnival Night Zone's music, just as he did during the aforementioned Michael Jackson song.

The infamous Spinning Wheel room.

  • The Spinning Wheels are probably by far the most infamous part of this Zone. The player must press up and down repeatedly on a particular one to progress, and many players were stuck for a long time, either not knowing what to do, or trying to jump on it to get it to go down. This frustrated many players who did not figure out the technique at first upon reaching that spot the first time playing through the Zone. Once they understood the solution, it became much easier for them on future runs through the Zone, especially when pressed for time before losing a life due to a Time Over.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles with Knuckles, in Act 2, Knuckles skips the Egg Gravitron boss and simply has to jump on the Capsule to clear Act 2.

Knuckles facing the EggRobo in the Egg Gravitron.

  • When going through the tail end of Act 2 playing as Knuckles, if the player stops after falling through the vertical shaft en route to the exit and climbs up it, then the one above it (see: the route Sonic and Tails take after Knuckles reverses the direction of both), it is possible for them to initiate the battle with the Egg Gravitron with EggRobo in place of Dr. Robotnik. The player can then fight it like normal with no changes to the attack patterns (a change of pace regarding cover-all boss battles that occur with all three characters) and, upon being defeated, Knuckles can unlock the trapped animals and use the cannon to depart the stage like normal. This will then segue into IceCap Zone with Knuckles teleporting to the beginning of the first Act like he usually would.
  • Carnival Night Zone appears as a Battle Arena in LEGO Dimensions, as well as a part of the Sonic the Hedgehog Adventure World. The infamous Spinning Wheel appears as part of a puzzle in the Marble Zone portion of Sonic's level pack, and he may mention it when encountering a puzzle.
  • Carnival Night Zone is the only Zone other than Mushroom Hill Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 to use the same background between both Acts.
  • Carnival Night Zone is the only Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 where it is possible to collect the maximum amount of Rings.


Concept artwork


Name Artist(s) Version Length Music track
Carnival Night Zone (Act 1) Michael Jackson's team - unknown Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles 2:09
Sega Sonic & Knuckles Collection "FM Synthesizer" 1:48
"General MIDI" 0:52
Carnival Night Zone (Act 2) Michael Jackson's team - unknown Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles 2:08
Sega Sonic & Knuckles Collection "FM Synthesizer" 1:48
"General MIDI" 0:52


  1. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (Sega Genesis) United States instruction booklet, pg. 17.
  2. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (Sega Mega Drive) Japanese instruction booklet, pg. 43.

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