Continuing straight on from the events of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog and Miles "Tails" Prower have just knocked out Doctor Robotnik's Death Egg of orbit, but it has happened to crash-land on a mysterious island. The Floating Island is a natural structure that seems to float in midair thanks to the power of the Master Emerald and is watched over by the island's guardian, Knuckles the Echidna. Unfortunately, Robotnik has caught up with the echidna first and convinced him that Sonic is on his way to steal the Master Emerald and does his best to impede the heroes.
After losing the Chaos Emeralds when Super Sonic first ventures on to the island, Sonic and Tails attempt to get to the bottom of this new problem and prevent the repairs to the Death Egg. Despite getting flushed down to a flooded underground chamber, barely escaping the complete collapse of another Zone and narrowly avoiding an avalanche, the heroes eventually reach the Death Egg just as it launches and manage to take it down minutes into its second flight. However, the story is not quite over yet...
Strictly speaking, Sonic 3 is the smallest of all the classics in terms of number of levels, only featuring six:
- Angel Island Zone
- Hydrocity Zone
- Marble Garden Zone
- Carnival Night Zone
- Ice Cap Zone
- Launch Base Zone
The game also contains a new variation on the Special Zone, as well as the first full Bonus Stage. Multiplayer mode also introduces five new Zones: Azure Lake, Balloon Park, Chrome Gadget, Desert Palace and Endless Mine.
- Monkey Dude
- Catakiller, Jr
- Mega Chopper
- Turbo Spiker
- Spiker 2
- Star Pointer
The majority of the listed Badniks only actually made an appearance in Sonic's World, a feature in the first Sonic the Summer Special, namely Badniks from the first three Zones. This means that certain Badniks such as Bubbles, Batbot, Sparkle, Flybot767 and Snail Blaster made absolutely no appearance in the comics.
Sonic 3 was the second game to receive a full adaptation in the comic, again written by Nigel Kitching and Richard Elson. The 7-part arc began the same as the game, with Robotnik crash-landing on the game and enlisting the help of Knuckles. However, the Freedom Fighters kidnapped Robotnik and took them back to Kintobor's Laboratory for questioning. Knuckles rescued the villainous doctor and the final showdown took part on the Floating Island.
Despite that strictly being the end of the story arc, Sonic 3 would continue to play a part right up until the Sonic & Knuckles adaptation. Knuckles returned home to find the Carnival Night Zone built on the island in his absence, the Ice Cap Zone was the scene of another scheme from Robotnik (and a truce between Sonic and Knuckles), while it all led up to the Death Egg's repair.
The only lasting elements from the game are the introduction of Knuckles the Echidna and the Death Egg, although that was destroyed at the end of the Sonic 3 & Knuckles story arc.
Combined with Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic 3 is often regarded as the best ever Sonic game in the Message Zone. The game received a Review Zone special in Issue 19, Vincent Low going into some detail about the game and awarding it [score unknown].