When Sonic the Hedgehog 3 launched in 1994, it again improved over its predecessors like the sequel before it. New power-ups, better graphics, transitions between zones, and a popular new antagonist named Knuckles made it a worthy successor to Sonic 2 and Sonic CD, but something didn’t quite feel right. The game abruptly ends following a strange encounter with Knuckles and a tough battle against Dr. Robotnik in Launch Base Zone. Meanwhile, Sonic & Knuckles, which launched later that same year, almost felt like it picked up in the middle of the story, delivering the conclusion to Death Egg saga and Knuckles’ redemption arc.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is a top-tier Sonic game, as is Sonic & Knuckles. However, when you combine them using special Lock-On Technology (read more about its origins here), you get the best, most complete game in Sonic the Hedgehog franchise history. The cohesive story flows flawlessly from Sonic 3’s Angel Island Zone through the secret final boss in Sonic & Knuckles’ Doomsday Zone.
Not only does Sonic 3 & Knuckles string together all 14 zones of the two cartridges, but it fills in the missing pieces of the individual feature sets. The locked-on game spreads Sonic 3’s save functionality to the entire experience while including the option to play as Knuckles across the whole Sonic 3 & Knuckles journey. Each element of Sonic 3 & Knuckles – level design, story, music, characters – is among the best the series has ever seen, but the game is still somehow greater than the sum of its parts. Sonic 3 & Knuckles isn’t just the best Sonic game; it’s one of the best 2D platformers to come out of the ’90s.