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Being a Milestone Celebration and a Megamix Game, Sonic Mania has a lot of nods to previous games in the series:

Stages

  • Green Hill Zone has these in spades:
    • The original Green Hill Zone's background had misplaced some of the mountain peaks. The redrawn background in this game keeps them there but also fills the gaps with running water so they don't look like they're floating.
    • The lower sections of the stage feature an underground lake as the background, similar to both Act 2 of its 8-bit counterpart and its Sonic Generations incarnation.
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    • An astute player will notice that Act 1 splits into three distinct paths about halfway through, with each route taking inspiration from similar stages from the Genesis games. To elaborate: the central route is a near pixel-perfect replication of Acts 1 and 2 of the original Green Hill Zone, the upper route bears a heavy resemblance to Emerald Hill Zone (with loops ending in downward slopes and the signature corkscrew roads), and the lower route uses Palmtree Panic as its main inspiration (with complex, multi-layered ledges and twisting underground passages). Act 2 also mixes in the zip lines from Angel Island Zone, which are now affected by momentum, and the floating platforms with diagonal springs from Mushroom Hill Zone.
    • There's a secret room containing a Special Stage ring towards the end of Act 1. The way you get to it? You push a rock out of the way and drop through the floor, in an almost identical fashion to a well-known secret room in Angel Island Zone. Flying Battery Zone from the same game also has objects that need to be moved so Sonic can drop down to a Special Stage ring.
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    • Act 2 is the original Act 3 mixed with new content. The background is based on the one Green Hill originally had in the mythical Tokyo Toy Show prototype.
    • The latter half of Act 2 features shallow, underground pools of water, much like the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog, as well as long, multi-segmented bridges similar to those found in Bridge Zone.
    • Using Debug Mode in Green Hill will allow you place the boulder trap that was Dummied Out of Sonic the Hedgehog and later repurposed as Eggman's wrecking ball in the boss fight (and notably does not appear in the revamped zone otherwise). Once spawned, the boulder acts like you'd expect one to; if pushed down a hill it will gain momentum, allowing it to crush and destroy enemies (or allies, if you prefer).
    • If you have a fire shield on, you'll be able to burn certain bridges on contact. This is a shout out to a scrapped Emerald Hill Zone Badnik from Sonic 2, which was a Buzzer except its projectiles could burn down the bridges.
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    • Encore Mode in Sonic Mania Plus gives Green Hill a sunset backdrop, bringing Sunset Hill Zone from Sonic Advance 3 to mind, as well as Stealth's own Sunset Hill Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog Megamix before it evolved into Sunny Shores Zone.
  • Chemical Plant uses a hybrid of the coiled tubes from both Quartz Quadrant and Carnival Night, as well as the tubes from Metallic Madness that let you choose a path. The Catakiller, Jr. badniks from Angel Island are here, too. Although the bouncy slime pools are original enough ideas, they can be compared, amusingly enough, to those from Sonic Robo Blast 2's own expy of Chemical Plant. Or alternatively, to the bouncy floors from Wacky Workbench (and on this note, the soundbyte that plays when you bounce on a blue pool is the soundbyte that occurs from using a bouncy mushroom in Mushroom Hill, while bouncing on a green pool overlays this soundbyte with the sound that plays when you hit a bounce floor in Wacky Workbench).
    • When you transition to Chemical Plant after completing Green Hill, Sonic will have a drop of purple liquid splash onto him from the top of the screen, causing him to shake it off with the animation from the beginning of Toxic Caves in Spinball.
    • Sonic's pose when sticking to the wall-mounted purple sludge is similar to his and Mighty's wall cling in Sonic Crackers and Knuckles Chaotix.
    • Activating a set of block steps from below will cause them to shake before lowering, which is how the stepped platforms in Star Light Zone operated.
    • The mid-boss references the Iceball mid-boss from Ice Cap Zone, particularly when it orbits a shield of blue chemical balls around itself. Its shape is also like that of Iceball's, but upside down instead.
    • The boss fight consists of an Unexpected Gameplay Change to Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine - you play a round of Puyo Puyo against Robotnik.
      • It even uses almost exactly the same rule set as Mean Bean Machine. The only difference is that Puyo Puyo Tsu's double rotation mechanic is included.
      • The battle theme for this boss fight is a remix of "Final of Puyo Puyo", which was recycled in Mean Bean Machine as the 2-Player VS theme.
      • The Puyos also have idle animations, some of which are taken from Puyo Puyo Tsu: Blue Puyos look from side to side, Yellow Puyos wink at the camera, and Green Puyos shuffle from side to side.
  • Studiopolis Zone has a fair number of these:
    • The post lights look like the UFO objects that had been cut from Sonic 1's Marble Zone.
    • The CPU and COPE neon signs from Spring Yard Zone are seen on trains in the background.
    • The SegaSonic Popcorn Shop gimmick is named after an old vending machine whose minigame ROM was dumped in 2015.
    • Another gimmick occurs when you enter the Hornet news van, note  which beams Sonic to other satellite dishes throughout the level as a teleport. The rings that make up the "signal" are reminiscent of the ring shooters in the Death Egg Zone from Sonic 3 & Knuckles and serve a similar purpose (carrying Sonic to another location). The sound said news van makes when Sonic enters it is the same sound used for passing through certain doors in Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball. The lottery machines in Act 2 are decorated with the same Gallop logo that appeared on the Hornet stock car.
    • The TV sets that Sonic is warped to after entering those vans have buttons that strongly resemble the Game Gear logo.
    • There are a few sets of panels in Act 2 can be flipped over by passing over them, all referencing classic advertising campaigns. One reads "Genesis Does," a reference to the famous "Genesis Does What Nintendon't" ad campaign; another reads "Lock On", referencing Sonic & Knuckles' selling point; a third reads "Welcome to the Next Level", referencing a famous Genesis tagline; and a final one reads "Eggman Pirate TV", a shout-out to the European "SEGA Pirate TV" ad campaign.
    • An incredibly obscure one: after defeating the Act 2 boss, the TV in the background displays a "technical difficulties" message accompanied by a loud buzzing noise — the very same buzzing noise that plagued the Sonic 25th Anniversary live stream, confirmed by Word of God no less. To drive the point home, a set of numbers can be seen in the bottom right corner of the screen: "072216". July 22, 2016, the day of the stream in question.
    • Like the Hornet news van referring to another franchise, if you look closely at some of the neon shop signs you'll spot some signs that say "PINK BOT" in a stylized neon: these signs are a reference to the classic SEGA arcade franchise Streets of Rage, specifically the first game's first level where you can spot shops with these same exact signs but instead for "PINK POT."
    • Cluckoid, a chicken weathervane Badnik that first appears in Sonic & Knuckles' Mushroom Hill Zone, appears on the big-screen monitor in the background as a reporter during the Act 2 boss battle. Aptly, he's reporting the weather.
    • Throughout the zone, there are LED screens with scrolling messages on them, such as "To be this good takes ages... To be this good takes SEGA" and "Good! Great! Awesome! Outstanding! Amazing!".
    • Speaking of Egg TV, this is not the first time Dr. Eggman had a TV channel by that name.
    • An initially accidental reference comes in the zone's very name, as Studiopolis Inc. is the company that handles the English voice overs for the series. The team was unaware of it when they came up with the Studiopolis Zone name, but the studio let them use it anyway.
  • Flying Battery Zone:
    • Eggman’s encounter at the end of Act 1 starts with a homage to the sequence in Sonic the Hedgehog where Eggman, who is safely behind an energy wall, jumps on a button which destroys the floor Sonic was standing on.
    • The Egg-Spider boss actually once appeared in issue #199 in the Sonic Comic series.
    • Splats, an unused badnik from Sonic 1, is seen discarded on Flying Battery's trash heaps. The setpiece based on the boss fight from Wing Fortress reappears with the wall crushers redesigned as a trash compactor, and the Clucker enemies from Wing Fortress also make a return. The exterior of Act 2 in general has several design elements from Wing Fortress as well.
      • If you thought his appearance in the scrapheap was to be Splats' final fate, you'd be wrong, because he finally appears in the new stage, Press Garden, where he serves as one of the stage's enemies!
    • During Act 2, along the lower side of the airship, you'll find the electric coils that were the bane of many Sonic CD players during their trip through Wacky Workbench, and were originally found in Sky Base in the Master System/Game Gear version of Sonic the Hedgehog.
    • Act 2 also has purple, stormy outside skies with wind currents that intermittently work against you, similar to the second segment of Sky Deck from Sonic Adventure.
    • A new zone transition added in the Plus update has Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles boarding hang gliders that resemble those seen in the Game Gear version of Sonic 2 to fly to Press Garden.
  • Press Garden's Act 2 boss uses Asterons as throwing stars, and the sounds for either hitting him out of a jump or letting his throwing stars explode are ripped straight from the Shinobi series.
    • Act 1 of Press Garden contains the rotating cylinders from Launch Base Zone and the red-and-white parasol-like objects are reminiscent of the large spinning discs from Sky Sanctuary. During Act 2, you'll run across the Newton's cradle-esque swinging platforms (the pair of platforms that swing into each other with one always remaining stationary) originally from Mystic Cave Zone and also found in Sonic Advance 3's Toy Kingdom Zone. It also has hollow logs you can run through the center of and statues that shoot projectiles which cling to walls and which you can stand on, like Aquatic Ruin Zone. Said projectiles also appear to be Asterons. The Harmless Freezing gimmick is inspired by Wacky Workbench, even using the same graphic and shattering sound effect. Also, the Dragonfly Badniks from Mushroom Hill make an appearance here.
  • Stardust Speedway Act 1 takes heavy design cues from Marble Garden, with the pull cords, spin dash discs, and double-sided loop exits from the latter stage all present in the former. The unfurling vine ledges from Mushroom Hill and the diagonal slingshots from Sandopolis also make appearances.
    • In Act 1, our heroes can climb onto a rocket firework and shoot into the sky, where they can find a set of rings patterned as diamonds. This is most likely referencing the Sonic R song, "Diamond in the Sky", the normal theme of the Radiant Emerald racetrack.
      • Rideable firework rockets previously appeared in the 3DS version of Sonic Generations, during Classic Sonic's version of Tropical Resort. There were also similar rockets in Sonic Advance 3's Toy Kingdom Zone.
    • The transition from Act 1 to Act 2 involves Sonic destroying one of the Badnik-creating machines from Sonic CD, before going through the complete time travel process from Sonic CD (including passing a Future sign, getting to a sustained high speed, and then going through a modernized version of the warping cutscene), and the Act 2 boss fight has Sonic destroy the Metal Sonic projector... only for the real thing to appear moments later.
    • The first half of the boss fight against Metal Sonic involves him summoning clones of Silver Sonic from the 8-bit iteration of Sonic 2, complete with appropriate sound effects. You have to knock them into Metal Sonic while they're spinning. In addition, the machine Metal Sonic enters when summoning the Silver Sonic clones is similar to his machine from Knuckles Chaotix.
      • The machine itself is the Robot Generator from the OVA, which Metal Sonic was "birthed" from.
      • In Sonic CD, Metal Sonic dies by crashing into a wall. Here, Metal Sonic dies by a wall crashing into him.
      • As part of the Sonic Mania Plus update, the Knuckles Chaotix comparisons are taken even further: prior to the final phase of the battle at the top of Stardust Speedway, Dr. Eggman tosses the Phantom Ruby to Metal Sonic and turns him into a Phantom Ruby-powered version of Metal Sonic Kai (while keeping his blue color scheme as opposed to the blood red design from Chaotix). The battle also takes cues from the second phase of the Kyodai Eggman Robo battle from Death Egg Act 2 in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, where Metal Sonic Kai stomps forward and destroys the ground while the protagonists try to keep ahead of it.
    • In Encore Mode, Stardust Speedway Act 2 is recolored to resemble its Bad Future.
  • The prelude to the Act 1 boss fight for Hydrocity plays almost identically to the prelude to the Act 2 boss fight from Marble Garden, with Eggman causing the ground to start rising and Sonic having to climb up rapidly to avoid getting crushed into the ceiling. The boss fight proper has you turning Eggman's machine from the original game against him. Meanwhile, the second half of the Act 2 boss is literally a carbon copy of the Act 1 boss from the original Hydrocity.
    • Act 1 of the zone proper features the spear hazards from Labyrinth Zone, the jellyfish badniks from the 2013 remake of Hidden Palace Zone, and the rideable bubbles from Aqua Lake Zonenote , whereas most of Act 2 is virtually identical to its original layout (though the background graphics have been swapped with Act 1's and vice-versa).
  • Mirage Saloon Zone is basically the long-scrapped Dust Hill/Sand Shower Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 mixed with its also-scrapped Desert Dazzle reinterpretation from the 2011 version of Sonic the Hedgehog CD, minus the Time Travel gimmick. The connection to Dust Hill/Sand Shower Zone is further enforced by the level transition cutscene at the end of Mirage Saloon Zone, which reveals that it's located in Westside Island from Sonic 2. The zone also features elements from Collision Chaos (the design of the flippers and bumpers) and Palmtree Panic/Wacky Workbench (the saloon seats behave the same as certain platforms from those levels).
    • Bean and Bark appearing on wanted posters with Fang in Mirage Saloon is a nod to Sonic Generations' own wanted posters.
    • At the end of Sonic/Tails' Act 1, one of the three will appear at random riding an Armadilloid, and then attack the Tornado with a popgun shot (Fang), bomb (Bean), or smashing the Armadilloid to make it fire (Bark), taking it down. They're of course most probably illusions of the Heavy Magician.
    • The three appear as actual bosses — albeit, illusions of the Heavy Magician. Fang bounces on his tail and shoots his popgun and Bean throws bombs ala Sonic the Fighters, while Bark slams his fists onto the ground, another reference to Sonic the Fighters, with the additional effect of causing debris to fall, like the bosses of Mystic Cave Zone and Marble Garden Zone. To swap between these illusions, Heavy Magician retreats to a magician's box, which shakes in the same manner as the Combi Catcher's capsule in Knuckles' Chaotix and uses the same sound effects. When the box actually opens, it uses the same sound effect from the Game Gear Sonic games when a character is damaged.
    • The red Roller badniks found here use the filtered jump sound effect from Sonic CD. Those armadillo bots have also been recolored from blue to red, bringing Mighty from SegaSonic the Hedgehog and Chaotix to mind.
    • Act 1 can aptly be described as Sky Chase: Desert Edition. Tails and Knuckles ride the Tornado as they did in Sonic Heroes, with Tails flying the plane and Knuckles sitting on the back. There's even an enemy that's basically an armadillo version of the Turtloids, another that's a cactus version of Nebula, and a third that's a homing vulture version of Balkiry. And in its music, towards the end of the loop is a phrase from Sky Chase's own theme. The boss at the end, a large Caterkiller that jumps towards and away from the screen, brings to mind the bosses of Space Harrier.
    • Knuckles' Act 1 has him traversing the ground below (the Heavy Magician knocks him off the back of the Tornado at the start of the act). Thus he fights a different mid-boss: the multi-segmented Caterkiller boss from Gigapolis Zone. Sonic and Tails also fight this guy, but because of the setting, the battle is entirely different (and somewhat reminiscent of the Marble Garden Act 2 boss with its attack strategy, where it moves through the background before attacking the protagonists).
    • When Tails is piloting the Tornado, he has on an aviator hat with goggles, which is just like in the Sonic OVA.
    • Likewise, if Sonic is piloting the Tornado, he also wears a pair of goggles. This is a nod to a Dummied Out feature from the original game that would give Sonic a pair of goggles if he hit a certain monitor (speculated to be a method for breathing underwater without needing air bubbles).
    • The locomotive beacon on Eggman's train is taken straight out of Spring Yard Zone.
  • Act 2 of Oil Ocean Zone marks the return of the light switch mechanic from Sandopolis Act 2, with the primary hazard this time being poisonous fumes that slowly drain your rings (but won't kill you) if they get too thick. Pulling switches scattered throughout the stage clears the fumes out. These switches are similar to the ones used to keep the torches lit and the ghosts at bay in Sandopolis Act 2.
    • The transition between the first and second Acts involves the entire zone going up in flames, much like Angel Island Zone in Sonic 3.
    • The Act 1 boss' design seems reminiscent of the Sonic 3 & Knuckles boss Hei Hou, from Mushroom Hill Zone. This time, instead of a lumberjack, they're a plumber. Sonic fighting a plumber? Why does that seem familiar?
    • The Act 2 boss itself is a giant submarine shaped like the Octus Badniks seen throughout the zone. It combines the attacks of Oil Ocean's original boss from Sonic 2 and Heat Arms, the miniboss of Sonic & Knuckles' Lava Reef Zone, specifically the bullet-shooting tentacles. Speaking of submarines, the submarines scattered around Act 2 that you can enter for bonuses and shortcuts are lifted directly from the Marina Madness Zone of Knuckles Chaotix.
  • Act 2 of Lava Reef Zone features conveyor belts taken from Quartz Quadrant, with switches that can reverse the direction of their travel. Also, the transition to the boss area references the transition from Lava Reef Act 2 to Hidden Palace Zone from Sonic 3 & Knuckles.
    • Sonic and Tails face Heavy Rider for Lava Reef's Act 2 boss. She rides a Motobug that sometimes jumps over you using a telescopic wheel. This references a Sonic 1 ROM hack, "Motobug the Badnik in Sonic the Hedgehog", in which Sonic is replaced by a slow-moving Motobug who depends on a telescopic wheel to jump. Furthering the reference, the game's digital manual names the Motobug "Jimmy" — a tribute to said hack's creator Polygon Jim, who passed away in 2013. The jump and revving sounds Jimmy makes are the jump and Spin Dash sounds used for Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball.
    • From the same stage, Knuckles faces Heavy King at the Master Emerald shrine, using the Super Emeralds as platforms. Before the fight, Knuckles has an illustrated flashback to when Eggman tried to steal the Master Emerald from him and electrocuted him back in Sonic & Knuckles. The boss jumps on top of the Master Emerald and absorbs its power, much like Mecha Sonic did in Sonic & Knuckles.
    • Sonic Mania Plus adds a level transition from Lava Reef to Metallic Madness by modifying the battle against Heavy Rider where the platform Sonic fights Heavy Rider begins rising up. Once Heavy Rider is defeated, Sonic turns to the background as Little Planet comes into view. The animation of him turning away references the end of Launch Base Zone in Sonic 3 & Knuckles where Sonic watches the Death Egg fall. Knuckles’ stage transition after the Heavy King is dispatched has him jump into a teleporter, similar to traveling up to Sky Sanctuary in the same game.
  • The Act 1 boss of Metallic Madness is a throwback to the final boss of Sonic the Hedgehog 1 where Eggman hides in some piston-like crushers and you have to hit him when he comes down, avoiding energy balls between each phase. However, hit him enough times, and the machine goes haywire and changes to a more erratic pattern, forcing you to think faster.
    • Act 2 ends with Eggman attacking a tiny Sonic from what is essentially a giant gashapon machine. Hitting the crank drops miniaturized versions of Eggman's boss machines from Marble Zone in Sonic 1 and Emerald Hill Zone in Sonic 2, as well as Amy Rose dolls that, like in Sonic CD will try to immobilize Sonic with a big hug... and then EXPLODE!
    • Entering the revolving doors in Act 2 will produce the same sound as the cannons in Carnival Night Zone.
    • The new stage transition to Titanic Monarch added in Mania Plus has the characters look off into the distance as the Titanic Monarch looms in shadow with strikes of lightning accentuating its foreboding nature. If Tails is there, he'll jump up in surprise at the lightning, a reference to his Fear of Thunder that was prominently featured in Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie.
    • Just like in Stardust Speedway Act 2, Encore Mode recolors the entirety of Metallic Madness to better resemble the color scheme of its Bad Future.
  • The zone name Titanic Monarch is most likely a reference to the "Gigantic Angel Zone" from the obscure Sonic Pocket Adventure. Gigantic Angel was a remake of Metropolis dressed up to look like Scrap Brain and one of its acts used the Chrome Gadget theme. Titanic Monarch can be described as a fully realized Chrome Gadget that is combined with both Scrap Brain and Metropolis.
    • The zone references Sonic 3's bonus stages with the side springs (also from Metropolis Zone in Sonic 2) and electric orbs that can shoot Sonic omnidirectionally. It also includes enemies that imitate Star Light Zone's fans and the seesaw bridges from Death Egg Zone (where you stand on one end to raise the other then have to get off in time before the whole thing collapses).
    • The Act 1 boss marks the return of Red Eye from Sonic 3 & Knuckles' Death Egg Zone (now called "Crimson Eye"). The first phase of the battle is the same as it is in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, where you hit the eye and avoid the detonating eggs it shields itself with. However during the second part, the lift the characters stand on begins moving up and down wildly, which changes the effect of gravity inside the lift. The Crimson Eye, now detached, begins floating around and will lodge itself in the roof or floor and fire off projectiles.
    • The final boss takes place inside of a giant Eggman robot, a la Panic Puppet Act 2. The final boss itself is a round machine with Eggman inside, and every hit removes a piece of the machine, like Sonic CD's final boss. The boss is the "heart" of the arena, shielded by a golden shield, like Sonic 4: Episode 2's final boss, and when it's destroyed, the protagonists run from an encroaching explosion, like the end of Sonic 2. It's also designed after a sketch from Sonic CD that depicted that game's final boss as a bug-like battle suit. The targeting icons for its missile attack are based on the level icons from the world map of SegaSonic the Hedgehog.
    • Further still, the game's final boss theme even references the Sonic 3 & Knuckles final boss theme 28 seconds in.
  • Within the game's secret stage select menu, the Egg Reverie Zone is represented by an icon of the Death Egg, the icon itself originating from Sonic the Hedgehog 2's own stage select.

Special Stages

  • Special Stages are accessed by giant rings in hidden rooms, just like in Sonic 3 & Knuckles.
  • The Blue Sphere special stages return as bonus stages, with several of them being a direct copy of one of the old stages. It's also possible to unlock a bonus version of the special stages, with section-based randomized levels similar to those in Blue Sphere. The mode includes "original" stages in the usual style, and "Mania" stages that include green (turn blue when passed) and pink (teleport the player to another pink sphere) spheres; these concepts came from Simon "Stealth" Thomley's proposal for DS remakes of the Genesis games.
  • The Special Stages play like a combination of those from CD and Chaotix, with Sonic having to chase down a single UFO on a Mode 7-style track while having to gather blue spheres to increase his running speed and rings in order to stay in the stage longer. There are also multiple visual nods to the Sonic 1 Special Stages (mainly the birds and fish that would appear in the backgrounds of the latter).
  • The trio's appearances in these stages are quite similar to their Sonic Jam and Sonic R 3D models, in line with the design idea that Mania would look like a Saturn-based Sonic title.
  • Encore Mode introduces a new pinball-themed bonus stage that brings to mind the bonus stages from Sonic Spinball (albeit in full 3D). In addition, the minigame for earning powerups and new characters in said bonus stage mimics the Combi Catcher from Knuckles Chaotix, even having the word "COMBI" below its screen. Appropriately, the music for the pinball bonus stage is a remix of Trap Tower from SegaSonic the Hedgehog (the first game to feature Mania Plus newcomers Ray and Mighty).

Other

  • The "Press Any Button" text at the title screen is written in the same font as the "Press Start Button" message that was supposed to be shown at the start of the original Sonic the Hedgehog (a bug in the game's production code caused it to be masked in the final ROM and can be restored as the text is still present in the game).
  • If you lose more rings than you're allowed to pick up, some of them fall towards the screen, like in Knuckles Chaotix.
  • The Combi-Ring item from Chaotix is back too, though somewhat nerfed so instead of releasing a single large ring worth all the rings you had upon getting hurt, it releases a few that are worth fractions instead.
  • The fist pump Victory Pose cut from Sonic 1 is part of Sonic's victory animation in this game.
  • The save screen is heavily reminiscent of Sonic 3 & Knuckles.
  • The game proper opens almost identically to Sonic 3, with Sonic and Tails arriving on Angel Island in the Tornado before getting ambushed by a squad of Egg Robos emerging from the ground and being warped to Green Hill Zone by the Phantom Ruby.
  • EggRobo makes its return, with a series of modified versions serving as a Quirky Miniboss Squad known as Hard-Boiled Heavies.
  • Sonic's animations mostly take inspiration from many of his classic era games, such as his spinning spring jump animation from Sonic CD. Some of Sonic's new sprite animations, such as his signature Wheel o' Feet, are based on some Dummied Out animations from the original Genesis games.
  • The goal sign behaves differently depending on how it appears at the end of an Act. At the end of Green Hill Zone's Act 1 boss, it falls from the sky and can be juggled for points and unearth hidden monitors, just like in Sonic 3 & Knuckles. At the end of Studiopolis Zone Act 1, which is after a "Get Back Here!" Boss sequence against the Heavy Gunner, it leaps into the air and lands when Sonic passes by it, much like the 8-bit Sonic games (though it can also be juggled for points if the player wishes).
  • Similar to Sonic the Hedgehog 4 before it, the box art for the game's Collector's Edition references Sonic the Hedgehog's box art. The background behind Sonic is Green Hill once again, just like Sonic 1's American box art, while Sonic himself is drawn in the same style he had in Sonic 1's Japanese and European box art.
  • The online "infomercial" for the Collector's Edition is an extended call back to an earlier commercial for Sonic the Hedgehog 2, complete with Retraux VHS filters.
  • The beginning of the pre-order trailer features a simple doodle of Sonic, dubbed "Sonic the Sketchhog", that was prominently featured in the manuals of the classic games. He's also briefly drawn with bunny ears, a reference to his prototype Feel, who would later evolve into Ristar. In addition, there was also an app called "Sonic the Sketchhog" used as promotional material for Sonic 4.
  • The opening animation not only has Sonic using copious amounts of the Super Peel-Out maneuver, but upon going down a road, he goes spread eagle, then flips into a Spin Attack like he did in the opening to Sonic CD.
    • Also from the opening animation, Sonic noticeably almost loses control near a tight corner and later runs on thin tubes instead of grinding on them. It might seem odd until you remember that Classic Sonic hasn't figured the tricks to those maneuvers — he won't learn powersliding until Sonic Unleashed and grinding famously debuted in Sonic Adventure 2.
  • The options menu uses a Sega Saturn controller to represent the control options.
  • The splash screen for unlocking & Knuckles Mode references his theme from Sonic Adventure.
    • The idea of playing with two characters besides Sonic & Tails hasn't been seen since Sonic Advance 3.
    • This mode also allows players to play as Knuckles with Knuckles, a loving reference to the "& Knuckles" meme.
  • The ending of this game pays homage to Sonic CD's ending with Sonic (and Tails and Knuckles) watching Little Planet's chain break and its metal shell explode. In the standard ending, Sonic pulls off the same pose from the standard ending of Sonic 2. In the good ending, Little Planet explodes again, this time giving a winking silhouette of Sonic like in CD's good ending. Finally, Sonic gives off the same pose Classic Sonic pulls off in the first trailer of Sonic Forces, which itself based of an artwork in the History of Sonic the Hedgehog book.
  • A few achievements reference some things from the series.
    • "The Most Famous Hedgehog in the World" references the tagline on the Japanese Sonic 1 box.
    • "Triple Trouble" references Sonic Triple Trouble.
    • "No way? No way!" references the message found in Blue Sphere.
  • The opening cutscene for Knuckles' game references the way Sonic & Knuckles begins, with Knuckles relaxing while watching some animals play nearby. It may also indirectly reference the Sonic 3 Complete ROMhack project, as the cutscene is set on Angel Island, which is a modification made in the Sonic 3 Complete version of Sonic 3 & Knuckles (placing Knuckles' opening cutscene in Angel Island Zone instead of Mushroom Hill).
  • Tails can now transform into Super Tails with just the Chaos Emeralds rather than having to get all of the Super Emeralds like in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, though he doesn't get his Super Flickies to assist him this time. Sonic the Hedgehog Megamix, a Game Mod by Simon "Stealth" Thomley, the lead programmer of Mania, has previously done the same thing, including the lack of Super Flickies.
    • This is probably taken from earlier prototypes for Sonic 3 and Knuckles which also have Tails with a chaos emerald super form, also without flickies.
  • Some of the messages you get when you unlock new content reference various iconic lines.
    • The message displayed upon unlocking the hidden & Knuckles Mode reads "Knock knock!", which is taken from Knuckles' iconic theme song in Sonic Adventure, "Unknown From M.E.".
    • The message you get for unlocking Debug Mode reads "You can do anything!", which is a reference to the Japanese/European theme song of Sonic CD ("Sonic - You Can Do Anything", AKA "Toot Toot Sonic Warrior").
    • Unlocking the hidden "Mean Bean" mini-game mode is accompanied by a message reading "Yeehaw!", a fairly memetic line that gets spammed constantly as the opponent's Chain callout in Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine.
    • Unlocking Blue Sphere displays a message that reads "No way!", as a reference to the Blue Sphere hidden minigame in Sonic & Knuckles.
  • Activating Debug Mode allows you to access a Sonic 2-styled Stage Select screen by holding a certain button combination before starting the game. It includes its own sound test with numbers represented in hexadecimal (counts up to 0F before reaching 10), like in Sonic 2.
    • Also like in Sonic 2, playing tracks from the sound test in a specific order can unlock various cheats.
  • Completing the game as Knuckles with & Knuckles Mode activated reveals a secret ending. Knuckles is shown reading "Sonic Mania & Knuckles" to the animals as the main theme from Knuckles Chaotix plays.
    • In addition, watch the ending carefully — 2P Knuckles has a different colour palette when the screen turns red, causing him to temporarily take on the scrambled Wechnia colour palette from Chaotix.
  • The fade transitions of the game have a blue tint to them, similarly to how they looked in the Genesis games.
  • Ray's new design in Mania Plus combines his original design from SegaSonic the Hedgehog with the blue shoes he gets for his Archie Comics redesign.
  • In Sonic Mania Adventures, the Robotnik head on the spring after Sonic opens the capsule is almost exactly like the one that appeared in the post-Egg Albatross cutscenes of Heroes. The device Eggman sets to capture Sonic is identical to a similar device from the obscure Sonic: The Ride, though it was originally an anvil rather than a bear trap.
  • The second episode of Mania Adventures has Eggman battle Sonic and Tails in a machine consisting of his Eggmobile with two drills on either side, very reminiscent of the Egg Hornet.
  • Knuckles' continue screen animation is very similar to his losing animation in Sonic the Fighters.
  • In Encore Mode, selecting your first partner plays the same jingle as when you get a partner from the Combi Catcher in Knuckles Chaotix.
  • Mighty and Ray's top-speed running animations are almost exactly like the universal one used in SegaSonic the Hedgehog.
  • The "?" monitor that originally appeared in the classic games as a Debug Mode / multiplayer power-up makes its first appearance in Encore Mode as a legitimate power-up. Popping it randomizes the order of the currently-collected party.
    • Ditto the "swap places" monitor, which is similar but only switches the player character for the next one in the line.
  • Mighty's idle animation is to face the screen and shrug his shoulders much like Sonic's was in the Game Gear games.
  • During Encore Mode, the infamous drowning music from the Genesis games is replaced with the ghostly countdown siren from Sonic the Hedgehog CD
  • The animation Ray uses for moving between monkey bars like those seen in Flying Battery Zone is inspired heavily by the strange way he did the same in SegaSonic.
  • Having your partner respawn in Encore Mode causes them to spin jump back into the scene from the foreground, which is the same way that your partner rejoins you in Knuckles Chaotix if you lose them briefly.
  • The last episode of Sonic Mania Adventures has Eggman juggling the Chaos Emeralds like in the bad ending of Sonic 1.
  • Said episode also has Metal Sonic powering up with the Master Emerald, reenacting a similar scene from Sonic 3 & Knuckles, in which Mecha Sonic did the same.
  • In the Sonic Mania Adventures Christmas Special. Doctor Eggman's pajamas's brings to mind one of the earliest concepts for the game featuring a mustached man wearing pajama's

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