Sonic & Knuckles Collection is a compilation for Microsoft Windows based PCs, released originally in 1997 and re-released in 2000 by Expert Software as a budget title. Games included are Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and Blue Sphere (listed as "Special Stage Mode").
Compared to the original console versions, most of the original music is emulated, with the user able to choose between MIDI and FM formats. Furthermore, some of Sonic 3's music tracks, including those of Carnival Night Zone, Ice Cap Zone, Launch Base Zone, Knuckles' theme, the Competition menu, and the credits music, were replaced with original compositions. One possible explanation for this is that the tracks featured sampled sound effects not supported by the MIDI standard, and some sound cards during this time were not capable of playing these alongside the standard MIDI instruments. Another potential explanation is that the original tracks may have been composed by Michael Jackson, and were removed due to legal reasons that arose since their original release. Aside from this musical difference, the game plays virtually identically to its original incarnations.
Other differences include the fact that the Sonic 3 & Knuckles Level Select Cheat works on Sonic 3 alone, in Angel Island Zone. This code (usually input at Mushroom Hill Zone in Sonic & Knuckles) does not enable debug mode as in the original, though it does still allow characters to play stages they couldn't access otherwise from the level select. Examples include Tails in Doomsday Zone and Knuckles in Sky Sanctuary 1. When the level select code is performed in Sonic 3, and the first special stage option is selected (which unlike in the original accesses the blue sphere mini-game), this enables the player to use Knuckles in the Sonic 3 levels, though they are incomplete and thus cannot always be beaten.
In the US and in Europe, "Sonic the Screen Saver" was included in the compilation. This disc allowed users to customize Windows with Sonic themes, wallpapers, icons, and play music from Sonic 1, 2, 3, S&K and the Japanese version of Sonic CD. In Japan Sonic the Screen Saver was sold separately.