The Sonic Second: Sonic 1’s Secret Paths

Even in the dark times before the advent of ROM hacking, the dedicated Sonic fan could still find a few ways to mess about with the inner workings of their favourite games and try to squeeze out every last secret. A subscription to a gaming magazine like Sega Visions could bring knowledge of cheat codes, allowing access to Level Select or the even more powerful Debug Mode, and hours could be spent examining every nook and crevice without regard for number of lives, time limits, or even physical barriers.

Even more options were afforded the true enthusiast by cheat devices. My personal experience was with the Game Genie, and I would estimate that fully half of my childhood hours logged on the Sonic games were done so with some modification code or another active.

Game Genie
This screen was nearly as ubiquitous as the SEGA screen when playing Sonic in my youth.

Between Debug Mode and Game Genie codes like “high jump” there were no hidden areas in Sonic 1 that I had not already discovered by the time I was able to find whole zone maps on the internet. But that’s not to say that such maps held no surprises whatsoever.

There were two secret routes in particular – one in Labyrinth Zone (Act 1) and another in Scrap Brain Zone (Act 2) – that had remained mysterious despite my ability to repeatedly access them through the use of cheats. I had visited them so often by using “high jump” codes that it actually took me a while to realise that these routes seemed to be wholly inaccessible when playing normally. My attempts to get to them without the aid of cheats always proved fruitless, and I wound up assuming that they were not meant to be accessed, and were perhaps leftover bits of level layout.

I should have given the level designers more credit, because it turns out that these two secret areas were certainly not leftovers, and there are methods available to access them – obscure, clever, mindblowingly weird methods that don’t bear any similarity to the way Sonic players are usually encouraged to explore.

Now, before we proceed: It’s entirely possible that what I’m about to talk about is already old news to you. It’s certainly no world exclusive revelation, and if you’ve spent enough time at Sonic fansites there’s a high chance you’ve already encountered this knowledge. But sometimes I will bring it up and be surprised at who hadn’t already heard of it, so in the spirit of The Sonic Second I’m showcasing these secrets again in the hopes of giving latecomers the thrill of discovery.

Labyrinth Zone Act 1


Right before the end of the act, the last thing Sonic does before running past the sign is jump on a switch to open a hatch that leads out of the water. If, instead of running right toward the sign, Sonic heads left, he’ll find another similar hatch with another switch beneath it. This is the end of the secret route. But it’s clearly an exit – how does Sonic find the entrance?

In the middle of the act, there’s a pit of water that’s patrolled by Jaws. The bottom is flanked by two doors, each activated by a switch and accompanied by nearby platforms that rise up when Sonic sets foot on them. The door on the right leads onward through the act, while the door on the left leads into a dead-end room with a ring monitor.

The secret to entering the hidden path is right here with one of those two switches. The one on the left, in a bizarre stroke, actually does more than opening a door to the ring monitor room. It performs double duty, both opening the door and making a tiny platform appear far above. If Sonic jumps on this left switch without triggering the rising platforms, he can step onto one of them after activating the switch, and use it to make his way back up above.

Jumping on the tiny platform that appeared will cause it to move slowly to the right, over a row of spikes. It will carry Sonic to the entrance of the hidden path, where he can find a couple of unusual sights – a solitary ring, and a submerged water slide (how does that even work?) The path constitutes a shortcut to the end of the act, bypassing all of the remaining swinging maces, thrusting harpoons, and dangerous conveyor platforms that might carry Sonic into spikes. As long as he watches out for a handful of Burrobots, this secret route is smooth sailing.

See the Labyrinth Zone Act 1 map at Zone:0.

Scrap Brain Zone Act 2

Scrap Brain

If Sonic takes the route that makes him encounter all six of the Ball Hogs at the end of the level, with the chance for an invincibility monitor right before them, he’ll have passed one of this act’s minor secrets. Before entering the Ball Hog corridors, to the left of the switch and the pit with the shield monitor in it, there is a wall with three platforms on it that only appear intermittently. The delay for their appearance is practically 15 seconds, so they are easy to miss for an impatient hedgehog.

Provided Sonic does climb these platforms, he’ll be rewarded with four ring monitors and an extra life. A handsome reward, to be sure, but the real point of interest is the set of conveyor belts above the monitors. These are part of the hidden route, and without cheat codes or knowledge of the following secret, it’s quite possible that Sonic has never set foot there.

If Sonic backtracks even further, to the area with the tiny conveyors that try to push him into buzz saws hanging from the ceiling, he can see other parts of this hidden route by jumping high enough. He should be able to catch glimpses of crumbling floors above the buzz saws. But how to get there?

It’s deceptively simple, and unique in the whole of the game. If Sonic enters the transport tube that led to this area with the buzz saws we were talking about, it will take him up to the hidden path – but only if he has 50 or more rings. Yep, it’s a transport tube that thinks it’s a Giant Ring.

Because of a one way door, it’s impossible to backtrack to the tube from the areas described above, and it’s fairly tricky to have 50 rings by the time Sonic gets to the tube the first time. What’s more, there’s little payoff for the bother – while the path avoids some hazards, it also passes up all the goodies along the normal path. In fact, it seems to taunt you with the extra life and ring monitors as Sonic runs over the conveyor belts above them.

But it’s fun to go through the secret route sometimes, just to prove you can. 🙂

See the Scrap Brain Zone Act 2 map at Zone:0.


h/t Sonic Zone: 0

Sonic 1 images from ReadySonic

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6 thoughts on “The Sonic Second: Sonic 1’s Secret Paths

  1. Overbound said on

    I have to admit I was not aware of how to access these paths legitimately. I too had a game genie and knew of debug mode, I explored those paths utilizing the cheats.

  2. Overbound said on

    Touches like that would be great for fan games wouldn’t they?

    1. As long as there was a way to find them. Unlike the classics, a fangame probably won’t be played by thousands of people for 20 years. And even if it was, it would still take 20 years. 🙂

      But yeah, the more weird secrets to enjoy the better.

  3. WindDragon said on

    its not just sonic 1. there are massive goodies and shortcuts in other games as well. I notice that not many people know of the shortcut in Chemical Plant act 2 that lets sonic bypass the Infamous “Mega Muck Elevator” and grab an invincibility monitor for the boss

  4. WindDragon said on

    Or the examples of sega planning ahead by placing a bunch of extra life monitors that only knuckles can reach in Sonic 2

    1. That’s actually not planning ahead, those are only added to the layout when Sonic & Knuckles is locked on.

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