The many casino zones of Sonic the Hedgehog
Friday, 25th September 2020, 11:49am (UTC), 0 Comments
Ask most people to name, off the top of their head, the most iconic Sonic the Hedgehog level themes, and the casino zone will no doubt fall from their lips - albeit right after the obligatory introductory tropical paradise level of course. Dr. Eggman has to fund his nefarious schemes one way or another, so perhaps this explains the abundance of casinos throughout the series history. Let's look back at some of the most notable entries..

Casino Night Zone

The grand daddy of them all, from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, released in 1992. Taking cues from the first game's vaguely similar Spring Yard Zone, the Casino Night Zone pushes the Las Vegas vibes up to eleven with glitz and glamour strewn across a vast metropolis set at night. Illuminated brightly by dazzling neon, the colours are bright and garish with reds and blues decorating the luxurious golden buildings. Sonic's movement physics naturally lend themselves to pinball style gameplay elements, which this level takes advantage of with its iconic flippers, bumpers and drop targets. Perhaps most memorable though are the potentially lucrative slot machines - drop into them and aim to match three icons for huge ring jackpots! Whatever you do though, just be careful about matching three of the Eggman icons!

Casino Night Zone was included in both versions of 2011's anniversary classic, Sonic Generations - though in the home console version it appeared only as a themed DLC pinball table. The 3DS game managed to include it as a full level, and in both, you can hear a tremendous big band version of the original level's classic theme tune - the way it was no doubt always intended.


Sonic Adventure, first released in 1998, took on a far more realistic design for its stages than ever seen in the series before, placing itself in the world of humans. With that too came perhaps the most realistic of the casino levels, Casinopolis. Sonic's take on the level has an ahead-of-its-time open world flavour to it, consisting of multiple parts, including two separate pinball tables and a sewer system underneath. Most striking though is the lobby, designed much like a real casino's interior, with slot machines and game tables. When explored as Knuckles, you'll even find a large decorative pirate ship hanging from the ceiling!

Casino Park and BINGO Highway

Sonic Heroes (2003) harked back to the more abstract visual designs of earlier games, bringing with it a key characteristic - the casino zone. Split into two named stages, Casino Park is a nod to the original Casino Night, with its heavy use of pinball tables and slot machines, though it also adds large spinning roulette wheels and moving dice platforms. The visual design is very much its own too - everything is glowing neon in all sorts of vibrant colours. Its sister stage, BINGO Highway adds more blue to the colour scheme, and the tables become long roads to build up speed as your team of characters roll across them. Grab the numbered icons to match up the BINGO numbers displayed along the way.

Both of these stages have reappeared multiple times as race tracks across the Sonic & SEGA Racing series and Team Sonic Racing.

Casino Street Zone

2010's Episode 1 of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 was heavy on nostalgia as far as its levels went, with every single one of them leaning heavily on particular stages from Sonic 1 and 2. Casino Street Zone came in as the second level, and there's no prizes for guessing which stage it was based on. Visuals are very similar to Casino Night Zone, with golden buildings adorned with luxurious red carpets backed by a bustling nighttime metropolis. The golden buildings have interior sections this time, and Act 2 welcomes some new playing card mechanics, both as spinning platforms and forming winding trails on which to run.

Frozen Factory Zone 3

The casino theme occupies only one sub-stage of a larger, predominantly ice level in 2013's Sonic Lost World, the rest of which, it bears no resemblance to whatsoever. It does, however, bear more than a passing resemblance to the Casino Night Zone once again, particularly in its pinball tables which are separated from the rest of the stage and accessible only by collecting enough small silver coins, seen only in this act. Also watch out for the huge slots themselves - now free from the machines that once spun them as they roll slowly towards you.

Mystic Jungle

Don't let the name fool you. This is a group of levels found in Sonic Forces (2017) that depict a previously undisturbed jungle being transformed into one of Dr. Eggman's casinos, already full of bright colours and all the glitz and glamour you've come to expect. An unusual merging of the casino theme with another common platforming trope - the jungle theme. Classic Sonic's stage, Casino Forest, again borrows heavily from Casino Night Zone, deploying all the usual bumpers, flippers and slot machines, while Luminous Forest sees Modern Sonic on one of his typical high speed dashes through the region. There's little in the way of unique features here, save for a set piece at the end in which a gigantic jungle snake attempts to eat him for dinner!

As you can see, the casino theme has long been established as a go-to Sonic level trope that's absolutely iconic to the near 30-year franchise. We're still eagerly awaiting news of the next Sonic game to hit the consoles - maybe it will include an all new iteration of the long-standing casino theme!
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