For the Zone in Sonic Mania, see Hydrocity Zone (Sonic Mania).

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Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Hydrocity Zone

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Quotation1.svg Keep Sonic's lungs filled with air as you explore the under-water regions of the island. Quotation2.svg
— Instruction manual

Hydrocity Zone (ハイドロシティ Haidoroshiti?, lit. "Hydrocity") is the second Zone of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (or Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles). This Zone contains the most water of any Zone in the game, and several parts of the Zone take place underwater. This is also the only Zone in the game to feature Air Bubbles (apart from the balloons in Carnival Night Zone) which give the player more time underwater.


After falling from the bridge Knuckles destroyed in the previous Zone, Sonic and Tails fall into the Zone (Knuckles jumps down instead). Upon reaching the end of the Zone, opening the Capsule triggers a torrent of water sending the player into the next Zone.


Act 1 takes place in a large blue underground stone built reservoir, spacious above as it is deep. Most of the Zone's underwater sections will take place here, and routes above water are possible.

Act 2 takes the player further into the depths of Hydrocity Zone, an underground water park underneath the stone reservoir above. At the beginning of Act 2, the left wall begins to close in, and the player must rush through the flooded passageways to avoid getting crushed. Another significant feature of this part of Hydrocity Zone is being more speed-based above the water's edge, with the extensive blue slides that transport the player around the Zone. Some of these slides are preceded by a spinning wheel with a hand to hold the player in place, allowing high-speed travel along them.

A Water Shield will prevent the player from drowning for an indefinite period of time, which makes it very useful in this Zone.


Act 1

The sub-boss of this Zone is Doctor Robotnik's Whirlpool Machine, a spherical contraption with four rockets. This device spins back and forth through a water-filled, U-shaped pit in which the player is trapped, before settling on a pole in the middle of the arena. It's only safe to attack the device while it is in the middle, but the player must do so quickly, as it will soon begin to rotate the pole and stir the water, spinning the player around and leaving them helpless.

While quite difficult, the player can Spin Dash up the side and attack the machine while it is off-screen without getting hurt. Although the boss itself is relatively simple to beat, the danger of drowning is still present (unless the playable character is equipped with a Water Shield).

Although the 30-second time limit for staying underwater is still true for this sub-boss, it is impossible to drown while the score is being tallied. This can be tested by, after defeating the Whirlpool Machine, keeping the Goal Plate from hitting the ground by jumping into it and keeping the character below the water. Eventually, the drowning music will play, but if the goal sign then touches the ground, the music will fade away and the score-tally sequence will start. The warning sound is still heard every five seconds, but the player will not drown. The timer is reset at the start of Act 2 as the player gets sucked into the passage below.

Act 2

The boss of Hydrocity Zone is Doctor Robotnik's Waterspout and Depth Charge Machine. It has a massive screw propeller attached to its underside, which Dr. Robotnik uses to swirl the water in the arena into a tall vortex. He also throws grenades from the back of the craft, which explode to create plumes of water. Eight hits are required to defeat him.

Giant Ring locations

Act 1

  • At the start of the Zone, as Knuckles or Tails, the player must go to the top of the starting right wall and keep going left until the first non-brick crumbling platform. They should hold left at this point to find a Ring. As Sonic, the player should take the lower path until Sonic is launched through a large blue tube. The player must then backtrack to the same crumbling platform, hold left, and hop into the Ring.
  • After the first Giant Ring, the player should lift the characters back up. They must then carry on through this path to get to a left-facing wall beyond some fans. The player can run into this wall for a Giant Ring.

Act 2

  • After the first waterslide that ends in a curve, the player must hold left and hug the left wall until the characters enter a Ring room.
  • After the second waterslide that ends in a curve, the player should position the characters in the middle of the two walls and hop on one of the rotating cylinders. They can then go to the top of the right one's path and jump up to the Ring room.

In other media

Archie Comics

Main article: Hydro City

Hydro City in Archie Comics.

In the "Sonic the Hedgehog" comic series and its spin-offs published by Archie Comics, the Hydrocity Zone is known as Hydro City. It is an ancient and abandoned underground city located underneath Angel Island and is filled with water. It was supposedly constructed before Echidnaopolis, hundreds of years ago.


The Sonic statues in Act 1.

  • In the first Act, statues resembling Sonic can be seen in the upper background.
  • Some of the emblems on the walls of this Zone closely resemble those seen in the Labyrinth Zone in Sonic 1, which is also a primarily water-based level. Coincidentally, Labyrinth Zone was planned to be the second Zone in Sonic 1.
  • In Sonic 3 & Knuckles, the rather unhelpful yellow spring that bounces the player back in the section with the moving wall has been replaced with an extra life. It is likely the first noticeable difference when comparing the standalone and lock-on versions, although there are many subtle differences in other level layouts (particularly Launch Base Zone).
  • This is the earliest Zone in which all seven Chaos Emeralds can be obtained in one playthrough.
  • This is the first Zone in the series to have the player run on top of the water's surface.
  • Elements of this Zone appear in Act 1 of Seaside Hill and Water Palace in Sonic Generations.
  • Hydrocity Zone's music is also unlockable in Sonic Generations, under the name "Hydro City Zone".
  • There is a glitch during the Hydrocity Zone boss fights where waiting underwater without a Water Shield and reaching for air when the drowning theme plays will switch to the Act 1 boss theme heard in Sonic & Knuckles. This does not make a difference in Act 1 when locked-on, but it still happens in Act 2. As seen in the November 3, 1993 prototype of Sonic the Hedgehog 3, the Act 1 boss music that appears in Sonic & Knuckles is the music originally intended for all Act 1 bosses throughout the entirety of Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
  • In Act 2, the player can jump through the slides through a curve with perfect timing.
  • The music for Act 1 was remixed as the music for Act 2 of Aquatic Relix Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure, while the music for Act 2 was remixed as the music for Act 2 of Secret Plant Zone.
  • In Act 1, the surface of the water is visible in the background and changes its view angle depending how close the player is to the surface. This graphical effect is absent in Act 2 for some reason.


Name Artist(s) Version Length Music Track
Hydrocity Zone (Act 1) Sega Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles 2:03
Sonic & Knuckles Collection "FM Synthesizer" 1:59
"General MIDI" 0:58
Hydrocity Zone (Act 2) Sega Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles 1:54
Sonic & Knuckles Collection "FM Synthesizer" 1:47
"General MIDI" 0:52

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