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Sonic & Knuckles (ソニック&ナックルズ Sonikku to Nakkuruzu?) is a platform game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, developed by American studio Sega Technical Institute in collaboration with Sonic Team, and published by Sega for the Sega Mega Drive in 1994. It serves as the continuation to Sonic the Hedgehog 3. The game features unique "lock-on technology" which enables another cartridge to be plugged in via the socket on top.


Spoiler warning: Plot, ending details or any kind of information follow.

Sonic's story

The title screen of Sonic & Knuckles.

Following immediately after the events of Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic the Hedgehog has once again managed to stop the Death Egg's launch into space, thus leaving it to fall from the sky once more. Unfortunately, the Death Egg soon falls into the Floating Island again, this time right into the island's volcano. Meanwhile, after Sonic threw himself out into the sky following his last battle, he is swept by the wind into Mushroom Hill Zone, a lush forest with gigantic mushrooms. Seeing the still-intact Death Egg collide with the Floating Island's volcano, Sonic knows things are far from peaceful once more, as it will only be a matter of time before Dr. Robotnik restores the Death Egg once more.[2]

Gathering his resolve, Sonic prepares to set out for the Death Egg and destroy it once and for all. However, he is suddenly interrupted when he notices Knuckles the Echidna, the guardian of the Floating Island, who had been tricked into helping Robotnik, appear from a hidden door in the thicket. After carefully examining the vicinity, Knuckles disappears into the forest. Once sure that Knuckles is gone, Sonic emerges from his hiding place and opens the door Knuckles came out of with a nearby Switch. Inside the hidden room, Sonic is caught in an overflowing, dazzling light. Taking a closer look inside the light, he sees a Super Ring. Unable to quell his curiosity about what this ring could be, Sonic touches it, causing him to be taken to Hidden Palace Zone, a giant solemn hall with a pristine altar. Looking around, Sonic sees that the altar has a giant Chaos Emerald enshrined in it: the Master Emerald. Filled with questions, Sonic decides to set off to find the Chaos Emeralds, stop Dr. Robotnik from re-launching the Death Egg again, and discover the mystery of Hidden Palace Zone.[2]

Sonic facing Knuckles in Hidden Palace Zone.

Returning to Mushroom Hill Zone, Sonic eventually uses Robotnik's Flying Battery Zone to go to Sandopolis Zone. From there, he ends up in Lava Reef Zone, where the Death Egg is. However, the space fortress quickly uses its eye lasers to reactivate the volcano in an attempt to stop Sonic. Surviving this change in environment in spite of the odds, Sonic soon finds himself in Hidden Palace Zone again. There, he has a showdown with Knuckles. After Sonic manages to defeat Knuckles, the two witness Robotnik attempting to steal the Master Emerald to use it to power the Death Egg. Knuckles attempts to stop Robotnik as he flies away with the Master Emerald in the Egg Mobile, but Robotnik quickly gets away after he electrocutes Knuckles with his Egg Mobile's electric cords. Realizing that he has been fooled all along by Robotnik and that Sonic has actually been trying to do good, Knuckles takes Sonic to Sky Sanctuary Zone with a Warp Point. There, the two see the Death Egg successfully relaunch itself. WIth Knuckles too tired from the beatings he has received, Sonic goes on without him to stop Robotnik. As Sonic runs through Sky Sanctuary Zone, he has numerous encounters with Mecha Sonic, a robot created by Robotnik. However, Sonic manages to defeat the robot in each encounter and succeeds in catching up to the Death Egg and getting onboard.

With the Death Egg having made it into space, Sonic blasts through Robotnik's numerous contraptions throughout the Death Egg,. After overcoming Robotnik's Death Ball, controlled by Robotnik himself, Sonic gives chase to Robotnik, who ends up bording his Great Eggman Robo, a mech powered by the Master Emerald. After Sonic destroys the mech, a chain-reaction is triggered throughout the Death Egg that causes the entire space fortress to crumble and explode. The ending of the game will then depend on whether or not the player has collected all seven Chaos Emeralds:

  • If the player has not found all seven Chaos Emeralds, they will have defeated Robotnik and destroyed the Death Egg. With the Death Egg gone, Sonic falls down from the sky. Though he is saved by Tails in the Tornado, he loses the Master Emerald on the way down. Afterward, Tails will then fly himself and Sonic away. The player is then treated to a scene showing the Master Emerald in Robotnik's possession.
  • If the player has found all the Chaos Emeralds, they will have destroyed the Death Egg. However, Robotnik tries to make his escape with the Master Emerald in his Final Weapon In response, Sonic transforms into Super Sonic and pursues the doctor into The Doomsday Zone. After defeating Robotnik, Sonic and the Master Emerald will fall down from the sky, but are then saved by Tails in the Tornado. Afterward, the duo returns to the Floating Island and gives the Master Emerald back to Knuckles. The Floating Island will then start to float into the sky once more, and Sonic and Tails take their leave in the Tornado. The player is then shown a scene of an EggRobo emerging from some robot scrap.

Knuckles' story

Some time after getting the Master Emerald back, Knuckles is relaxing in Mushroom Hill Zone with the island's Animals until he is attacked by an EggRobo, who drops a bomb in front of him. Surviving the bomb's explosion through luck or sheer toughness, an enraged Knuckles takes off after the EggRobo.

Knuckles fighting a powered-up Mecha Sonic in Sky Sanctuary Zone.

After a series of encounters with the robot, Knuckles finds himself in Sky Sanctuary Zone, where it is shown that the Floating Island has begun to fall from the sky once more. There, he is caught by the EggRobo using an Egg Mobile and its tethered hook, and is brought before a reactivated Mecha Sonic. As Mecha Sonic moves in to attack him however, Knuckles escapes, leaving Mecha Sonic to accidently destroy the EggRobo and the Egg Mobile. A battle between Knuckles and Mecha Sonic soon follows, with Knuckles emerging victorious. Not giving up yet though, Mecha Sonic retreats to a stolen Master Emerald, which explains why the Floating Island has begun to fall again. Despite using the Master Emerald to its advantage by harnessing its power repeatedly to assume a Super State, Knuckles manages to defeat the robot anyway. Upon Knuckles' victory however, their battle arena suddenly crumbles away beneath them. The ending of the game will then depend on whether or not the player has collected all seven Chaos Emeralds:

  • If the player has not found all seven Chaos Emeralds, Sonic will appear in the Tornado and catch an exhausted Knuckles, whom he will fly back to the Floating Island. Afterward, the Floating Island will fall into the sea and float on top of it. The player is then treated to a scene showing Mecha Sonic next to the Master Emerald before the former comes online and stands on top of the Master Emerald.
  • If the player has found all the Chaos Emeralds, Sonic will appear in the Tornado and catch both Knuckles. now transformed into Super Knuckles, and the Master Emerald, whom he will fly back to the Floating Island. Afterward, the Floating Island will start rising into the sky once more.


An example of gameplay as Knuckles in Mushroom Hill Zone, the first Zone in the game.

Sonic & Knuckles is a 2D side-scrolling platforming video game, which plays almost identical to Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Players can control either Sonic the Hedgehog or Knuckles the Echidna by selecting either of them in the title screen. Both characters can perform basic actions such as running and jumping. However, both have unique abilities that differ them from each other: Sonic retains his Insta-Shield from Sonic the Hedgehog 3, while Knuckles runs slower and jumps less, though he is able to glide and climb walls. Each character has their own story.

The main goal of Sonic & Knuckles is to pass a series of Acts in less than ten minutes. In these Acts, the player can find Rings, which basically work as the playable character's life source. When hit while having at least one Ring, the playable character will remain alive at the cost of losing all Rings. However, if the player gets hit without having any Rings, they will lose a life, or get a Game Over if they do not have any lives left.

Scoring system


Button formation Movement
Sonic the Hedgehog Knuckles the Echidna
Controlpadds.png left/right Run
Controlpadds.png up Look up
Controlpadds.png down Duck
A Button (Sega Genesis).svg / B Button (Sega Genesis).svg / C Button (Sega Genesis).svg Jump
Controlpadds.png left/right + Controlpadds.png down Spin Attack
Controlpadds.png down + A Button (Sega Genesis).svg / B Button (Sega Genesis).svg / C Button (Sega Genesis).svg Spin Dash
A Button (Sega Genesis).svg / B Button (Sega Genesis).svg / C Button (Sega Genesis).svg twice Insta-Shield N/A
A Button (Sega Genesis).svg / B Button (Sega Genesis).svg / C Button (Sega Genesis).svg + Holding A Button (Sega Genesis).svg / B Button (Sega Genesis).svg / C Button (Sega Genesis).svg N/A Glide
Controlpadds.png up/down N/A Wall Climb


Playable characters

Non-playable characters


English name Japanese name Sprite Description
Dragonfly Tonbar (トンバー) Dragonfly.png Dragonfly bots that hover up and down. They can only be damaged on their heads - venture a poke anywhere else and you'll find yourself bereft of Rings. ("Tonbo" is Japanese for dragonfly.)
Butterdroid Tefu-Tefu (テフテフ) Butterdroidspr.png Butterfly bots that flutter delicately through the air, slowly spiraling in on Sonic/Knuckles. ("Tefu-tefu" is Japanese onomatopoeia for a fluttering noise.)
Mushmeanie Hidden (ヒドゥン) Mushmeanie.png Springy sphere bots that hop around covered with a mushroom cap. Bop them once to knock their headgear away and make them vulnerable to attack.
Madmole Mogu-Mogu (モグモグ) Madmole.png Mole bots that pop in and out of holes in the ground to chuck mushrooms at invading corporate mascots. The mushrooms don't inflict damage, but knock their unfortunate victim back, potentially into other hazards. ("Mogura" is Japanese for mole.)
Cluckoid Kekko (ケッコー) Cluckoid.png Stationary windvane rooster bots that periodically inhale deeply, then release with a gust of wind. The gust doesn't inflict damage, but can blow Sonic/Knuckles into nearby obstacles. ("Kekko" is Japanese for cluck.)
Technosqueek Chu-Chu (チューチュー) Technosqueekspr.png Mouse bots that scutter along the floors/walls/ceiling. ("Chu-chu" is Japanese for squeak.)
Blaster Pon-Pon (ポンポン) Blaster.png Rolling beetle bots that fire flashing projectiles from their cannon-like snouts.
Skorp スコープ Skorp.png Scorpion bots that roll along the ground, occasionally pausing to whip out their probing stingers at nearby hedgehogs. It's a very difficult attack to avoid.
Sandworm Nal (ナール) Sandworm.png Giant caterpillar bots that swim around in quicksand and only occasionally leap out to attack. Like the original Nal (Caterkiller) bots, they can only be damaged on their spike-free noggins.
Rock'n ロックン Rockn.png These heavily guarded bots charade as plain rocks until you get close enough. They're incapable of inflicting damage, but can push Sonic/Knuckles around. Rolling into them is the only way to destroy them.
Hyudoro ヒュードロ Hyudoro-right.gif These ghosts inhabit the pyramids of Sandopolis. They hover harmlessly in the air until the lights go out, then attack en masse. They can be momentarily scared away with a spin, but only turning on the lights will curb their assault. ("Hyuudoro" is the sort of noise a ghost would make.)
Fireworm Mamba (マンバー) Fireworm.png Fiery caterpillar-esque bots more or less identical to Sonic 3's Meramora. Only their heads are vulnerable.
Iwamodoki イワモドキ Iwamodoki.png Self-destructing bots that charade as plain stones until approached, then blow themselves up into a rocky shower. They can't be destroyed, only avoided, but you still get 100 points when they explode.
Toxomister Puwazone (プワゾーン) Toxomister.png Bizarre eye bots that release little clouds of vapor. Step into a cloud and it slows your character down almost to a halt, siphoning Rings out one at a time. Jump or Spin Dash to brush away the cloud.
Eggrobo Eggrobo (エッグロボ) Eggrobo.png Robotnik-shaped robots that fly down from the sky and fire laser blasts at approaching hedgehogs. When playing as Knuckles, these guys usually take Robotnik's place in the boss fights.
Spikebonker Guardy (ガーディ) Spikebonkerspr.png These bots hover slowly through the air, but halt to fling a spiked mace as soon as Sonic approaches. They'll repeat the attack constantly until destroyed.
Chainspike Crow (クロウ) Chainspikespr.png These bots zip by and pause briefly to prod Sonic with one of their pointy spear tips. They're difficult to hit.




  1. Mushroom Hill Zone: A lush forest, with pump elevators, sticky vines, and filled with mushrooms that also serve as trampolines or parachutes. The miniboss is a woodcutter robot, and for the fight with Robotnik, the player must avoid the spiked bars and cannon shots while hitting the satellite-enhanced Eggman Mobile.
  2. Flying Battery Zone: The player is propelled to this flying fortress with electrified robots. The mini-boss looks like the Flicky-capsule and must be tricked into hitting itself. Robotnik is fought twice: first, he traps the player in an arena with a moving laser blaster on the ceiling, very similar to the Wing Fortress Zone boss. Then, it goes to an exterior platform which Robotnik latches onto from below and crawls along, spouting flame from the top of the pod every time the character attempts to jump over, and swinging upwards to be hit. This zone is the only zone where Knuckles faces Robotnik instead of Eggrobo, due to his access to the blimp being a last-minute decision.
  3. Sandopolis Zone: The heroes fall in this desert zone, which houses a haunted pyramid which the character enters after beating the Guardian mini-boss. The boss, Egg Golem, must be hit in the face so Robotnik is exposed.
  4. Lava Reef Zone: The interior of a volcano, on which the Death Egg had crash-landed. The miniboss consists of mechanical hands that hit the player and orbs that shoot fireballs. Knuckles doesn't face a boss, but Sonic faces Robotnik in an invincible machine, which is only harmed by the landmines it drops.
  5. Hidden Palace Zone: The old Echidna temple. Knuckles just traverses the zone. Sonic and/or Tails however, has to fight Knuckles. After he is defeated, Robotnik steals the Master Emerald to deceive the echidna; Knuckles decides to help the heroes instead.
  6. Sky Sanctuary Zone: A secret passage leads to these crumbly aerial ruins. Knuckles just faces his final boss, Mecha Sonic, which uses the Master Emerald to go Super. Sonic and/or Tails has to climb the zone facing Mecha Sonic three times - one in the first flail-swinging mobile, another in a "Flying Eggman" and finally on foot.
  7. Death Egg Zone: Robotnik's space station, with electric traps, a vacuum chamber and sections with altered gravity. Two minibosses - Red Eye, a vulnerable laser shooting eye surrounded by spiked orbs, and Death Ball, which is only hit when the rotating shield bumpers are away - before facing a Robotnik-shaped mecha, Great Eggman Robo.
  8. The Doomsday Zone: Only accessible as Super Sonic, this zone has Sonic chasing Robotnik through space, avoiding meteors and missiles, and trying not to get his rings depleted.

Special Stages

The Special Stages in this game are essentially the same as in Sonic 3. There are a few differences though; mainly they are considerably harder than their Sonic 3 counterparts. As well as having the blue, red and grey-and-red bumper spheres, a new kind has been introduced: yellow spheres act as springs and propel the character a set distance across the stage (a distance of five spheres, according to the US manual). Most yellow spheres are helpful, however there are a few that will catapult the player into red spheres, spelling failure for the player.

The Chaos Emerald appears at the end of the Special Stage just like in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, although when playing the complete game Sonic 3 & Knuckles this will be a Super Emerald. The same rules apply throughout; enclosing a patch of blue spheres by touching the ones on the outside will turn all those spheres into rings, and collecting all rings in a stage awards a Perfect bonus of 50,000 points (an extra life). 50 rings awards a continue.

The Special Stages in the Sonic & Knuckles zones are not quite as straightforward as in Sonic 3. The player will often have to perform clever tricks to complete them, such as making several jumps and turns in succession. As well as being harder in difficulty themselves, there are fewer opportunities to even attempt to get Emeralds. They all have to be collected before the end of Lava Reef Zone and the Giant Rings can be hard to find.

Bonus Stages

There are two Bonus Stages, Slot Machine, and Glowing Spheres.

Lock-on technology

Sonic & Knuckles utilizes "lock-on technology" that lets the cartridge plus the Genesis/Mega Drive access data from Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 so that elements of both Sonic & Knuckles and the locked-on game are combined. To play these combined games, the hatch on top of the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge can be flipped open and the second game placed inside.

The lock-on technology was actually a way of making up for the fact that the developers could not meet the deadline for Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Originally, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was to be released with Knuckles as a playable character, and with all the Sonic & Knuckles levels playable (the level select screen in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 features inaccessible Sonic & Knuckles levels and music for said levels can be played in the sound test). Time constraints forced them to split the project in two, releasing Sonic the Hedgehog 3 with the completed levels and continuing work on the uncompleted ones, plus adding the Super Emeralds and the lock-on feature. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 had once run into similar problems, resulting in the original Hidden Palace and several other levels being removed.[3]

Notably, no other video game in history features a "lock-on" feature quite like Sonic & Knuckles. Some NES games released by HES, as well as the Super Nintendo game Super 3D Noah's Ark, feature a cartridge port on the top to accept other games for the system, but this was purely to override the systems' respective lockout chips, as these games were not licensed by Nintendo. Some video game peripherals require being joined with a cartridge in a similar manner (i.e. Game Genie; GameShark), or transfer data between games (the Transfer Pak) but don't allow the "lock on"-style merging of data from 2 different video games. The technology was considered ahead of its time.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3

The title screen of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles is the combination of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles in one large game. This would have been the Sonic the Hedgehog 3 that was originally meant to be released until time constraints caused the game to split into two. While gameplay remains identical, there has been several gameplay changes to accommodate the combination of the gameplay of both Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, especially the level layouts. New features have being added as well, most notably the Super Emeralds.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

The title screen of Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is identical to Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (aside from a few changes to make it more playable with Knuckles) but with Knuckles now playable instead of Sonic or Tails. The title screen features Knuckles and the only option is "Press Start" (Options and the versus mode have been disabled but the level select is intact). There are no new Zones. The only differences in gameplay are that Knuckles can explore once inaccessible areas (where secrets such as 1-Ups have been added for Knuckles), some areas are harder because Knuckles cannot jump very high (in particular, the final boss).

Sonic the Hedgehog

Main article: Blue Sphere

Any other Sega Mega Drive game

When using most other Genesis/Mega Drive game cartridges on top of Sonic & Knuckles, players are still treated to Blue Sphere but will only play one randomly generated level per cartridge.


These are the achievements that are added to the player's Gamerscore on the Xbox Live Arcade version of Sonic & Knuckles.

Image Name Requirements Gamescore
Sonic Finale.jpg Sonic Finale Complete the game as Sonic. 25
Knuckles Finale.jpg Knuckles Finale Complete the game as Knuckles. 25
Please Continue.jpg Please Continue Earn a Continue in either a Bonus or Special Stage. 25
Complete Chaos.jpg Gettin' Super Collect all seven Chaos Emeralds. 25
Fast Freeze.jpg Chaos Emerald Collect a Chaos Emerald. 15
Hot Feet.jpg Hot Feet Finish the Lava Reef Zone. 15
Desert Runner.jpg Desert Runner Finish the Sandopolis Zone. 15
Grease Monkey.jpg Grease Monkey Finish the Flying Battery Zone. 15
Fun Guy.jpg Fun Guy Finish the Mushroom Hill Zone. 10
Extra Hedgehog.jpg Extra Hedgehog Collect 100 rings. 10
Two Sided.jpg Two Sided Start the game once as each character. 10
Extra! Extra!.jpg Extra! Extra! Enter a Bonus or Special Stage. 10


The soundtrack for this game was released as the album Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic the Hedgehog 3.

Comic adaptations

The Archie Comic book adaptation.

The main storyline of Fleetway's Sonic the Comic in between issues 47 and 53 is loosely based on the game with several changes and plot patterns.

The Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog comics have made an adaptation of this game in Sonic & Knuckles Special, which was second issue of Sonic Special comic books.




  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 ソニック&ナックルズ セガ Wii(R) バーチャルコンソール公式サイト (Japanese). Retrieved on January 28, 2015.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sonic & Knuckles (Sega Mega Drive) Japanese instruction manual, pgs. 12-13.
  3. GameSpy: Sega's Yuji Naka Talks!
  4. Matthew Felix. Highest Score In "Sonic & Knuckles" (Sega Genesis). Recordsetter. Retrieved on 25 January 2015.

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