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Sonic Wiki Zone
Sonic Wiki Zone

If you collect a certain amount of Rings, you can warp to the Secret Zone where you'll ricochet off multi-colored blocks in a 360° rotating maze! There are six Secret Zones. In each Zone, your goal is to touch the Chaos Emerald.

— Description, Sonic the Hedgehog (16-bit)[1]

Special Stages (スペシャルステージ[2] Supesharusutēji?), also known as Secret Zones,[1] are a series of six extra levels in Sonic the Hedgehog (16-bit), and its numerous ports and remasters. The player can access these levels through the Giant Rings which the player can summon at the end of the first or second act of the game's first five Zones by holding either fifty or more Rings. Each successive Giant Ring that the player enters will take them to the next Special Stage, regardless of whether or not they successfully collected the Emerald in the one prior.

In each of the Special Stages, the goal is to reach the end of their rotating mazes and collect one of the six Chaos Emeralds. Collecting all six Emeralds unlocks the good ending of the game.

Concept and creation[]

The Special Stages were inspired by the 1989 video game Cameltry, which has a similar gameplay. Unlike Cameltry though, Yuji Naka designed the Special Stages so that, instead of rotating the stage itself, the player had to control Sonic himself.[3]


The Special Stages are mystical and colorful dimensions with mazes whose perimeters are bordered by flashing square blocks. The background features floating bird models with clouds which change to floating fish models with large bubbles.


Upon entering a Giant Ring, the player is sent to the Special Stage after their score from the previously cleared Act is tallied. Within a Special Stage, the playable character is constantly using the Spin Attack while the maze constantly rotates in a 360 degree angle. However, the Spin Jump is still usable, although Sonic can only jump when he has a solid object from which to do so.

As the Special Stage's maze rotates, the player has to navigate the tunnels using Controlpadds. At the same time, the direction of the gravity in the Special Stage changes according to the maze's rotation (although Sonic will always fall downward from the screen's perspective), which the player can manipulate using the Reverse, Up and Down blocks. Like in normal Zones, Rings float around in the Special Stages' passages, although they cannot be lost like in normal Zones, as no hazards are present. Collecting fifty grants a Continue, and collecting one hundred gives an extra life. Some Ring formations also help lead the player through the Special Stages' mazes.

Come to papa

A Chaos Emerald in the middle of Color Blocks, from Sonic the Hedgehog (16-bit).

The player's goal in each Special Stage is to reach the end of its maze. Along the way, the player has to avoid touching blocks with Goal signs which make the player exit the Special Stage. Upon reaching the end of a Special Stage there will be a Chaos Emerald, usually surrounded by Color Blocks. These blocks will disappear if the playable characters touch them four times. By touching the Chaos Emerald, the player exits the Special Stage with the Emerald, and the Special Stage's result screen showcasing Ring Bonuses and the Chaos Emeralds that have been collected thus far will be depicted. The game then progresses to the next Act of the Zone.

Gimmicks and obstacles[]

Sprite Name Description
Goal[1] (ゴール[2] Gōru?) This is the end of the zone. Touch this to return to the previous zone.[1]
Bumper[1] (ボビン[2] Bobin?) Bounce off these.[1]
Jump Stand
Jump Stand[1] (ハシラ[2] Hashira?) Jump off those.[1]
Up and Down
Up[1] (アップ[2] Appu?) When you touch this, the maze will rotate faster.[1]
Down[1] (ダウン[2] Daun?) When you touch this, the maze will rotate slower.[1]
Reverse[1] (リバース>[2] Ribāsu?) When you touch this, the maze will rotate the opposite way.[1]
Special Stage Diamonds
Color Block (カラーブロック[4] Karā Burokku?) The Chaos Emerald is protected by blocks like in the picture so the Chaos Emerald cannot be obtained. This block changes color every time Sonic touches it, and eventually disappears when touched many times.[5]

Special Stage information[]

No. Emerald
Ring requirement
Sonic 1 blue Chaos Emerald
Sonic 1 yellow Chaos Emerald
Sonic 1 pink Chaos Emerald
Sonic 1 green Chaos Emerald
Sonic 1 red Chaos Emerald
Sonic 1 grey Chaos Emerald
Sonic 1 2013 cyan Chaos Emerald


Getting all the Chaos Emeralds changes the cinematic ending of the game after clearing the Final Zone. Should the player complete the game with less than six Chaos Emeralds, Robotnik appears after the credits, where he juggles the missed Emeralds with the words "Try Again" beneath him.

If the player gets all the Emeralds from the Special Stages, the result screen reads out "Sonic got them all". The cinematic ending also changes to Sonic arriving in Green Hill Zone where the Chaos Emeralds will emerge from him and rotate in the air before disappearing, leaving the Zone full of new flowers. Afterwards, the player sees Robotnik repeatedly stomping on the word "End" in anger.


  • There are several leftovers and unused sprites that are not used in the final version of the game. Many of them include six different "Zone" blocks that mark each area, an unknown W-block and a collectible extra life block. All of these can be found with Debug Mode.
    • Sprite01
      The North American and European instruction manuals still list the 1-Up item, showing that it was supposed to be included in the final game.[6]
  • The 2013 remaster of the game features a seventh Special Stage with the turquoise-colored Chaos Emerald. The only way to enter this Special Stage is by activating the Level Select code, edit the Chaos Emerald count from six to seven and then enter to the Special Stage from the Level Select menu. Collecting the seven Chaos Emeralds in the re-release enables the Super State of Sonic, Knuckles and even Tails.
    • Interestingly, if the emerald count is changed from six to seven, the colors of the other Chaos Emeralds will be changed slightly to resemble their appearances in future games.
      • If the Max Emeralds is left at 6 and the player plays 06 in the Sound Test before selecting Special Stage, the player is treated to an incomplete Special Stage with the blocks spelling out "custom".
  • In the Sega Genesis Collection, there is a glitch where if Sonic collects an Emerald, the typical sound will not be emitted.
  • The transformation of birds to fish is similar to the mosaic transformation paintings of OP art made by M. C. Escher.
  • These Special Stages have reappeared in Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I and Sonic Superstars, with the latter being Bonus Stages.


Name Artist(s) Length Music track
"STH1 Special Stage 〜Mega Drive version〜" Masato Nakamura 1:32




See also[]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Genesis) United States instruction booklet, pg. 8.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Mega Drive) Japanese instruction booklet, pgs. 26-27.
  3. (in Japanese) ソニックジャム オフィシャルガイド. SoftBank. 2 October 1997. p. 109. ISBN 978-4797303377.
  4. (in Japanese) ソニックメガコレクション最強攻略ガイド. Shogakukan. 1 March 2003. p. 52. ISBN 978-4091060907.
  5. (in Japanese) Sonic the Hedgehog Official Guide Book. Tokuma Shoten. September 1991. p. 47. ISBN 4197410905.
  6. Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Genesis) United States instruction booklet, pg. 9.

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