Sonic 3 & Knuckles: The Challenges

From Sonic Retro

Sonic 3 & Knuckles: The Challenges
Version: 1.0
Last release: September 11th, 2009
Status: Complete
System: Sega Mega Drive
Original game: Sonic 3 & Knuckles
Credits: ColinC10

Sonic 3 & Knuckles: The Challenges is an award-winning hack of Sonic 3 & Knuckles by ColinC10. In this hack the player must complete various levels from S3&K, which newly feature specific challenges to complete, e.g. collecting a certain number of rings or protecting Tails from danger. Completing challenges unlocks more challenges, and players' progress is automatically saved to SRAM.


In the main screen of the game, which resembles a Level Select, the player has a choice from twelve groups of challenges. In each challenge, they must accomplish a certain goal with a specific character and reach the end of the level, within the given time limit. On doing so, they receive a Rank based upon the amount of time left and their ”score”, a figure that depends on the content of the challenge itself.

The timer goes backwards in every level of the game, and if it reaches 0:00 the player's character instantly dies and the player is teleported back to the main screen (regardless of how many lives they had left, or the time remaining when they last passed a checkpoint; see below).

Several levels have been slightly altered, particularly in the fact that the Special Stage rings have been removed completely from the game and that the Checkpoints no longer teleport you to any Bonus Stage. Additionally, the bosses of some levels have been transported to another level for a different challenge (such as the Death Egg Zones Act 1 Boss). Back to checkpoints, if the player dies in a level (not by a Time Over), once they are returned to the last Checkpoint, the timer retains the time remaining upon death, not when they hit said Checkpoint.


Following is a list of all the challenges that create the game, their respective characters and the levels where they are set.

Time Attack

There are two Time Attack groups of challenges. In both of them, the player must simply reach the end of the act before the time runs out.

Ring Grab

In this one, available from the start, you play as Tails, whose goal is to grab a total of 200 rings throughout the level and reach the place where the pre-boss cutscene with Knuckles the Echidna occurs. If he arrives there without the needed rings, Knuckles will become angry with him, a Game Over message will show and the player will have to replay the entire level again, starting from the main screen.

Being hit by a Badnik and losing all your rings is not fatal to this challenge, because every ring collected adds a point to the “Score”, so you simply have to collect rings until you have a Score of 200 points.

The levels are Hydrocity Act 2 and Carnival Night Act 2, bosses included; the cutscene of the latter where Knuckles turns the power of the carnival off has been altered, giving you the choice of turning it off by yourself or just passing it by.


Available from the start. Here you play as Knuckles, and you get I point for every breakable object you smash. In order to face Robotnik, you've got to score a total of 35 points. Reaching the boss area without doing so results in the Game Over message displaying, and you will return to the main menu with the challenge incomplete.

Breakable objects include Badniks, monitors, destroyable walls/rocks/etc., and essentially anything normally destroyable by jumping or Spin dashing.

The levels are Mushroom Hill Act 2 and Flying Battery Act 2, all bosses included.


Sidekick is unlocked after completing other 4 challenges.

Here, the Player I controller will move a Player 2 Tails; you'll have to make Tails follow Sonic through the hedgehog's programmed route on the levels. Every time Tails is left off-screen and must fly back to reach Sonic, the player loses a point (shown in ”Score”). If their points drop to 0, the level ends.

It is worth noting that the only factor that will determine this level's Rank is the number of points remaining upon finishing the level, as the time left is always the same due to Sonic's route being pre-programmed.

Angel Island Act 2 and Sandopolis Act 1, with their bosses included, are the levels where this challenge takes place.


This mode is also unlocked after completing 4 other challenges.

Probably the hardest of all the levels of the game, players must reach (as Sonic) the end of the level but with the gravity switching every time they jump. (Not to mention that they still have to go as fast as possible, as the time limit is 5 minutes.)

The levels for this challenge are Death Egg Act 1 and Lava Reef Act 2. The first ends right before the sub-boss area, while the second ends several steps before triggering the cutscene (where Knuckles smashes you with a boulder right to the boss level). In other words, neither of them have bosses, as it would be impossible to defeat them with the gravity switching, and trying to reach Knuckles’ cutscene in Lava Reef would make you die by ‘falling up’.

Tag Team

Also available after completing a minimum of 4 challenges.

This is one of the most creative challenges of all, yet not so difficult: you start the level as either Sonic or Knuckles but you can transform into the other character whenever you want (pressing A), complete with his abilities. Your mission is to reach the end of the level and defeat its boss.

This is one of the two challenges that consist of three levels rather than two (the other one being the Final Battle). In this case the levels are Marble Garden Act 1, IceCap Act 1 and Sandopolis Act 2, all bosses included. In all of them you can take which character's route you consider the fastest or shortest. And to make things harder, the light switches in Sandopolis were removed, and the ghosts are already released when you start the level, so you will have to deal with them too.


The Bodyguard challenges aren't available until 8 challenges have been completed.

This one is another of the most creative challenges, but also one of the hardest, as you play as Knuckles with Tails as your partner, and your goal is to reach the end of the level without Tails dying. You share with him your rings and your lives, and he will always try to follow you; that means that if either of you get hit by a Badnik all your rings drop to 0, and that if one of you dies you lose a life no matter who died (you start with 3 lives).

However, not everything is maximally hard in this challenge, as the player has the full 10 minutes to complete it.

This challenge is set on Mushroom Hill Act 1 and Hydrocity Act 1, bosses included. Curiously enough, Mushroom Hill plays Knuckles' background music and doesn't show a title card at the beginning, while Hydrocity plays its normal music and displays a title card.

Ring Drain

Unlocked with a minimum of 8 completed challenges.

In a race against both the timer and a constantly draining ring counter, the player must hurry to the end of the level while keeping Sonic's “Rings” meter as high as possible. Much like Super Sonic, he will gradually lose rings, but the more rings you have, the faster they'll drop; you start with just 10. If you run out of rings, you will lose your current shield (if held) and then a life.

Getting hit and losing all your rings can be really dangerous, but for the few seconds you are invincible (when you're blinking after being hit) you can recover some rings so you won't die. Moreover, running out of rings is like being touched by a Badnik or by spikes, as the character doesn't die right away if they have a shield or if they grab some rings before they stop blinking.

The settings for this one are Marble Garden Act 1 (boss included) and Launch Base Act 2 (entirely until you defeat the first boss).

Double Team

Unlocked after completing at least 12 other challenges.

Much like Tag Team, the Double Team challenge involves Sonic and Knuckles working together to reach the end of the level, but each taking their own route. You can switch between both characters by pressing A, which costs 50 rings.

Here, the meaning of switching is that you get warped to the other character's parallel position in the level, NOT to the beginning of it. Shields are shared between characters. Switching can be performed in the boss area, were it acts like switching on the Tag Team challenge but still costs 50 rings.

Carnival Night Act 1 and Lava Reef Act 1 are the levels of this challenge, both bosses included.

High Voltage

Also unlocked after completing 12 other challenges.

From the creator of the Gravitation dare, Doctor Ivo Robotnik, here players must control Tails across the whole level, with the condition of not touching the floor with his feet (i.e. running or standing). He must Spin Dash, roll, hang onto handles, and fly until the end to avoid being electrocuted; each time this happens, the player will lose a point from its “Score”, and if they reach 0 points they are returned to the menu. It's important to note that after being hurt by something else than the floor, you’re invincible for a few seconds and thus the floor doesn't electrocute you.

Floor in this case means the main level layout, so floating platforms, monitors and several other objects (e.g. magnetic platforms) are fair game. The full 10 minutes are available, so players can take their time to get to the end. Because of this, finishing the level with all “Score” points intact guarantees an excellent S Rank.

This time, the chosen levels were Flying Battery Act 1 (boss included, as it is possible to defeat it by just jumping when appropriate) and Sonic's Sky Sanctuary level (everything, except for the final showdown with Mecha Sonic; here you end by standing on the teleporter the Mecha would destroy).

Final Battles

After completing the other challenges, players unlock the final showdown of each character against Robotnik’s most intimidating machines.


Download.svg Download Sonic 3 & Knuckles: The Challenges
File: S3K - The (2.44 MB) (info)
Current version: 1.0

This version only works in some emulators.

Known Bugs (or maybe not =P)

  • All challenges are unlocked at the beginning (except Final Battle 3). The levels are locked after finishing / failing a challenge or resetting the game.