- For Special Stages in general, see here.
Within a Special Stage, the player has to chase down a single UFO. The player will then be rewarded with one of the seven Chaos Emeralds. Collecting all the Chaos Emeralds for each character unlocks their respective Super State. It also unlocks the good ending of the game for Sonic.
The Special Stages are ominous environments with winding roads suspended in midair. Each stage features a different layout and visual setting; one Special Stage may have a night setting with Greek architecture and floating fish while another may have a sky setting with clods and strange planetoids. All of this is viewed from a parallax background.
Upon entering the Special Stage, the player arrives on a pseudo-3D board with a racing track. The track is designed like a circuit, meaning that after following the road for a while, the player will return to the starting point. There, the player is tasked to chase down a UFO holding a Chaos Emerald within a certain time limit. This UFO will attempt to distance itself by traveling down the road ahead at high speed, so they player must run after it. During gameplay, the playable characters will be stuck in automatic run. Furthermore, the player can only turn left/right and perform the Spin Jump to leap. Along the way, they can pick up different items and take shortcuts by jumping across lanes. It should be noted that when completing a lap on a racing track in a Special Stage, certain objects will respawn.
Running outside the racing tracks on the boards lowers the player's movement and speed significantly. Should the player gets too close to the edge of the board as well, an invisible wall will bounce them away from it. There are likewise Catapults set around the latter Special Stages that the player can use to navigate the roads and reach items. As the player progresses with the Special Stage however, the Catapults become a hindrance, and are best avoided to maintain speed.
Displayed on the top of the screen's HUD during Special Stages is an indicator. The "Mach" icon and the number/bars next to it rate the playable character's currently running speed. The golden numbers with the Ring icon above the "Mach" icon shows the seconds that remain before the Special Stage's time limit expires. Finally, there is a gauge on the left side of the indicator. By filling that gauge up completely, the player increases their "Mach" level, and thereby their playable character's speed. It should be noted though that by increasing speed, the playable characters become harder to control. The player can reach a maximum speed of Mach 3; while the player can continue to fill up the gauge after that, they will instead receive a "Mach" point bonus for each time the gauge is filled, which will be accumulated on the result screen.
Upon catching the UFO, the playable character will Spin Dash into it (regardless of obstacles) and the player will be rewarded with its Chaos Emerald. The result screen will then be shown, which rewards the player with points based on their Ring count (Ring Bonus) and accumulated Mach rank (Mach Bonus), before the game deposits the player back into the Zone from where they entered the Special Stage.
|Blue Sphere||Obtainable spheres dotting the roadway in the Special Stages. These Spheres appear in specific formations and can even more around in certain patterns. Collecting Blue Spheres increases the gauge on the HUD's indicator; collecting enough will raise the player's Mach speed, making it easier to chase down the UFO. These objects will respawn every time the player completes a lap on the Special Stage's race track.|
|Yellow Sphere||Obtainable spheres dotting the roadway in the Special Stages. These Spheres appear alongside the Blue Sphere in specific formations when the player achieves "Mach 3" speed. Collecting Yellow Spheres increases the gauge on the HUD's indicator; collecting enough will raise the player's Mach speed, making it easier to chase down the UFO. These objects will respawn every time the player completes a lap on the Special Stage's race track.|
|N/A||Hitting this capsule increases the player's Mach gauge. These objects will not respawn should the player complete a lap on the Special Stage's race track.|
|Ring||Can be found along the roadway and in midair, either in the form of strings or small clusters. Collecting Rings increases the player's time limit in the Special Stages. Each Ring adds one second to the time limit. These objects will not respawn should the player complete a lap on the Special Stage's race track.|
|N/A||Hitting this capsule increases the player's time limit by ten seconds. These objects will not respawn should the player complete a lap on the Special Stage's race track.|
|N/A||Hitting this capsule instantly fills the player's Mach gauge. These objects will not respawn should the player complete a lap on the Special Stage's race track.|
|Spiked ball||These can be found in certain areas along the road. Touching spiked balls slows the player down and decreases their Ring count, and by extension their time limit, by ten.|
- The Special Stages for Sonic Mania combine several elements from past Sonic games:
- The Sphere concept from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles.
- The open layout, abstract background design and UFOs of the Sonic the Hedgehog CD Special Stages.
- The floating fish/bird from the Special Stages in the original Sonic the Hedgehog.
- The 3D gameplay from the scrapped Sonic Saturn and polygonal 3D model from Sonic Jam.
- The use of Rings to increase the time limit from the Special Stages in Knuckles' Chaotix.
- The hunt for a Chaos Emerald that floats down a course like in the Special Stages from Sonic Heroes.
- The collection of multicolored spheres to increase the playable character's speed like in Sonic Heroes. In Sonic Heroes though, the player must collect the spheres to fill the Power Dash Meter, while in Sonic Mania, the player must collect them to fill the gauge that raises the speed.
|"Dimension Heist"||Tee Lopes, Falk Au Yeong||2:34|
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Steven Page on Twitter (22 July 2017). Retrieved on 23 July 2017. “Only one UFO, has chaos emerald, Sonic needs to catch him, Sonic collects blue spheres to run faster”
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Sonic Stadium on Twitter (22 July 2017). Retrieved on 23 July 2017. “Collect rings for more time and Blue Spheres for more speed, all to chase down that UFO for a Chaos Emerald!”
- ↑ Steven Page on Twitter (22 July 2017). Retrieved on 23 July 2017. “Collect rings to increase time”
- ↑ Sonic Stadium on Twitter (22 July 2017). Retrieved on 23 July 2017.
- ↑ Sonic Mania OST - Special Stage ("Dimension Heist"). YouTube (23 July 2017). Retrieved on 29 July 2017. “Sonic Mania OST - "Dimension Heist" (Theme of Special Stages). Composer: Tee Lopes. Mixed / Mastered by: Falk Au Yeong”