Sonic Mania guide: How to beat Blue Sphere bonus stages and unlock all extras

Sonic the Hedgehog returns in Sonic Mania, an amazing 2D platformer filled to the brim with secrets. Many of these secrets must be unlocked by completing challenging bonus stages. This guide reveals the best bonus stage strategies — and an easy trick for replaying them at will!

How Sonic Mania bonus stages work

Sonic Mania Bonus Stages guide

Sonic Mania has two different types of "bonus" levels: special stages and bonus stages. Bonus stages are based on the special stages from Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. In fact, they play identically.

Each bonus stage takes place on a spherical planet. Your character constantly runs forward. Tapping left or right on the stick or D-Pad will turn 90 degrees, and you can also jump forward one or two spaces. Because the planet is spherical, if you move forward in a straight line, you'll eventually circle around and end up back where you started.

The primary object in each bonus stage is to collect every possible blue sphere , as indicated by the counter at the top-left corner of the screen. After touching a blue sphere, it will turn red. Do your best not to touch red spheres , as contact with one will instantly cause you to fail the bonus stage. After collecting all of the blue spheres, the bonus stage will end and you'll receive a silver medallion.

The secondary goal in each bonus stage is to collect rings. The counter at the top-right corner of the screen reveals the total possible number of rings left to collect. While some rings naturally appear on the spherical planet, you'll need to convert blue spheres into rings to get the rest of them.

To create rings, you just need to enclose at least one blue sphere inside a perimeter of red spheres. For instance, running around the outside of a group of nine blue spheres will cause the interior blue sphere to become surrounded by red ones. The moment you enclose the blue sphere(s), all of the spheres in the group will turn into rings. This has the side benefit of reducing the total number of red spheres, making it safer to move around the area.

If you manage to collect every possible ring and then collect the final blue sphere, you'll receive a gold medallion instead of a silver one. Only silver medallions are necessary to unlock extras, but there is an Achievement/Trophy for collecting all 32 gold medallions.

The longer you remain in a bonus stage, the faster your character runs. The music will speed up as well. Thus it gets more and more dangerous, so try not to get lost or waste too much time!

There are a total of 32 regular bonus stages to complete. After winning or losing a bonus stage, the next one you encounter will be the next harder stage in the rotation. Collecting all 32 medallions unlocks the Blue Sphere Mode, in which you can play bonus stages directly from the menu. Blue Sphere Mode also includes an extra set of Mania stages that add green and pink spheres into the mix.

Later bonus stages become super difficult and will require numerous tries to complete. Try to follow the perfect routes in the embedded video guides to make things easier.

How to access bonus stages as many times as you want

Sonic Mania Bonus Stages guide

To access a bonus stage, simply touch a star post (which acts as a checkpoint should you die) while holding 25 or more rings. This will create a star circle above the post. Jump into the circle and you'll be transported to the bonus stage.

Because each zone has multiple star posts, it's already pretty easy to access bonus stages. But there are two different ways to make it even easier, after you beat the game. Here's how:

  1. Once you beat Mania Mode with any character, you'll unlock the ability to replay past zones.
  2. When you replay zones, the star posts will once again create star circles when touched with the proper number of rings.
  3. Select Green Hill Zone Act 1 and you'll find it has two star posts quite close together. Use each of these to attempt the bonus stages.
  4. After you've used up the act's star posts, pause the game and choose to exit.
  5. Repeat step three as necessary.

You can also do it in Debug Mode. Here's how:

  1. First, you'll need to unlock Debug Mode by collecting approximately 16 medallions. In other words, complete the bonus stage several times until debug mode unlocks.
  2. Now that you have debug mode, select Mania Mode.
  3. Pick No Save from the top-right corner of the save file selection screen.
  4. Set Debug Mode to On.
  5. Start the game.
  6. Press the debug button (Y on Xbox One) to switch to Debug Mode. Your character will become a floating ring.
  7. Hit the switch button (A on Xbox One) a few times until your character becomes a star post.
  8. Now press the place button (X on Xbox One) to place the star post. Place as many of them as you'd like.
  9. Push the debug button again to switch back to your character.
  10. With 25 rings in hand, start using the star posts to play bonus stages! You can spawn ring boxes to get the rings faster.
  11. This is the fastest possible way to access bonus stages, since you can create as many as you want. Even though the game won't save your zone progress, it will still record the medallions you've collected.

Bonus stage rewards

Sonic Mania Bonus Stages guide

Several extras are tied to the number of medallions you've collected from bonus stages. To view your medallion progress and unlocks, choose "Extras" from the main menu.

The following extras will unlock after collecting enough medallions:

  • Super peel out — Enable this move in No Save mode to let Sonic charge up a dash from a standing position.
  • Insta-shield — This is a jumping attack (first introduced in Sonic 3) that slashes enemies from a short distance.
  • & Knuckles Mode — Knuckles will replace Tails as your AI companion in Mania Mode.
  • Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine — Play the Mean Bean Machine boss fight as much as you like. The Sega Genesis/Mega Drive game Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is a unique version of Puyo Puyo, a popular Japanese puzzle game series. Puyo Puyo Tetris is available on Xbox One in Japan and on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch in North America.
  • Debug Mode — Spawn as many items as you like and move anywhere throughout an act. This bonus mode is usually accessible via code in older Sonic games.

Time to break a few eggs!

Sonic Mania Bonus Stages guide

Now that you know how to easily access bonus stages, you're on the road to unlocking some of those sweet extras. The later bonus stages are extremely hard and will require numerous attempts to complete. But, hey, at least you get to enjoy the sweet bonus stage music while you play!

Fans of the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive games will love Sonic Mania's return to form. The entire game looks and plays just like a lost sequel to Sonic & Knuckles, with cleverly revamped classic levels, brand new levels, devious bosses, and even new moves for Sonic and friends. As our review declares, it's a nearly perfect game for newcomers and Sonic veterans alike.

Sonic Mania costs $19.99 on Xbox One, Steam, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. The Steam version is expected on August 29.

Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!