Game music of the (holi)day: Sonic 3

Game: Sonic the Hedgehog 3

Song: Ice Cap Zone

Composer: Bobby Brooks, Brad Buxer, Jun Senoue, Michael Jackson (?)

Above: Ice Cap Zone

As 2010 comes to a close and winter's ice-cold deathgrip wraps its frigid claws around our increasingly sore throats,  it seems like the perfect time to share the best snow and ice themed game music from years past. We'll kick things off with one of the most popular and remixed snow levels of all time - the Ice Cap Zone from Sonic 3.

Such a piece of work. Both chilling and upbeat, Ice Cap somehow mixes the inhospitable excesses of a freezing landscape with a backbeat fit enough for clubbing. It's easy to see why this song, above all others from Sonic 3, has persisted over the years. The Sonic 3 composers were apparently aware of how strong their work was, and in a Sonic first, created their own remixes of each Zone's theme:

Above: All Sonic 3 zones contain a re-imagined Act 1 song that plays in Act 2 - here's Ice Cap's

Above: The final boss theme is one of the best "final battle" songs I've ever heard. Go nuts!

But what of the alleged Michael Jackson connection to Sonic 3? The rumor has persisted for years that Jackson, who was already on good terms with Sega via Moonwalker, lended some of his considerable skill to the Sonic 3 soundtrack. However, this was never 100% officially confirmed, leading mostly to elaborate speculation and "evidence" like this:

Above: Did Jackson use the Sonic 3 ending song as the basis for "Stranger in Moscow?" Maybe!

Above: How about "Who Is It?" Is this the genesis of one of my favorite VGMs? Could be!

But did Jackson really collaborate with Sega? This aforementioned video seems to think so, and recently Brad Buxer "confirmed" the decade-old rumor in a French magazine interview. However, Sega's official stance says Buxer's account is incorrect, so we actually STILL don't know the truth. If it were true, it seems strange that Sega would continously deny involvement with one of the most popular humans who's ever walked the Earth... unless Sega and Jackson's armada of legal defense came to some kind of understanding. I could add to the speculation, but Ken Horowitz has done enough legwork for all of us, which suggests the Sonic 3 score is more "inspired" by Jackson than an actual team-up. A fascinating read, for sure.

Oh right... Sonic 3. Really good music, every last song. Buy the game in whatever manner you see fit, fire up the sound test and go to town. Or just find 'em all on YouTube, that works too.


Game music of the day: Beyond Good & Evil
Dancing with DomZ by Christophe Heral



Game music of the day: X-Men Arcade
Surprisingly funky tunes from Fukami, Takenouchi, Nakano and Hashimoto



Game music of the day: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Aquatic Ruin Zone by Masato Nakamura


  • SillyPigeon - December 21, 2010 10:10 p.m.

    Love that stranger in moscow mix
  • philipshaw - December 21, 2010 2:43 p.m.

    Ice Cap Zone has to be my favorite 16 bit song ever, thanks for posting this Brett
  • wladodragovic - December 21, 2010 9:04 a.m.

    Heheheheh, I spent one summer listening to Sonic soundtracks, and I wasn't in the best of moods at that time... It feels very trippy for me now when I hear'em again. I liked Chrome Gadget, Desert Palace(?),Select Screen and the special stage best, too bad you didn't put 'em here. :) Happy holidays!!(?)
  • elpurplemonkey - December 21, 2010 6:55 a.m.

    Great, great songs. And as a big fan of Sonic 1 & 2, I've never played 3. That's so weird. Only $5 on XBLA I believe. I really need to get on that.
  • TruckThunders - December 21, 2010 6:29 a.m.

    Had to comment because of my love for the Sonic 3 music. Thanks for the article, Brett.
  • NanoElite666 - December 21, 2010 5:45 a.m.

    Ooh yeah, good picks there. Gotta love me some Ice Cap Zone.
  • CancerMan - December 21, 2010 5:06 a.m.

    My favorite VGM of all time! Sonic the Hedgehog made me the gamer I am today. The soundtrack to Sonic 3 is particularly amazing. I feel a little ashamed I hadn't noticed the Zone themes were remixed in the next act, although I always had a suspicion.
  • goochbiscuit - December 21, 2010 3:48 a.m.

    That Ice Cap Zone jingle was my ringtone for a while. Always did love it!
  • KnightDehumidifier - December 21, 2010 2:11 a.m.

    It seems it was only Sonic games and perhaps Streets of Rage games that maximized on the music and sound designed for the Genesis/Megadrive.
  • GamesRadarBrettElston - December 21, 2010 1:38 a.m.

    ^ True, but those allegations came AFTER Sonic 3 was finished.
  • Imgema - December 21, 2010 12:57 a.m.

    "it seems strange that Sega would continously deny involvement with one of the most popular humans who's ever walked the Earth" Not so strange... Maybe having any relationship with someone accused for child molesting wasn't a good publicity, regardless if the accusations were true or not.
  • Memph - December 20, 2010 10:33 p.m.

    I'm pretty sure Wacko did not do the Sonic 3 music as we know it. Youtube is just swimming with fanboi morons. Hydrocity Zone's are the best tunes in Sonic 3 i reckon. It suited the stage perfectly. The Walk on Water remix is freakin' awsome too.
  • batmanboy11 - December 20, 2010 10:02 p.m.

  • enlargedhousecats - December 20, 2010 9:53 p.m.

    Mr.Elston, you never run out of fantastic music.
  • SuperStingray - December 20, 2010 9:46 p.m.

    It's not even just the developers who remixed it- this is by far the most popular Sonic song to remix- I've seen countless variations- even more than Chemical Plant or Green Hill.
  • sternparez - December 20, 2010 9:43 p.m.

    yes! Final boss is one of the best VG songs ever, I personally like Hydrocity act 1 and 2 as well.
  • Tenfey - December 20, 2010 9:43 p.m.

    I could never decide if I like the vanilla Sonic 3 mini-boss music with the "come on!" or the more intense Sonic 3 & Knuckles one.
  • CH3BURASHKA - December 20, 2010 9:40 p.m.

    This takes me back all the way to Talkradar 57 and 58, the Sonic and Micheal Jackson podcasts. Great music, and even greater when it's discussed by my favorite podcast personalities. That "Stranger in Moscow"/"Credits" mix is especially awesome. I love both songs, and their combination is almost too much. Also, I just noticed Sonic (and Tails) have 5 fingers per hand. I've always assumed all cartoon characters had 4 or less.
  • BodyDamage - December 20, 2010 9:37 p.m.

    just listened to this entire soundtrack the other day while doing a paper. its one of my favorites.
  • KrEid - December 20, 2010 9:18 p.m.

    'bout time this was up :D

Showing 1-20 of 22 comments

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