Top-10 Best Jumps from 3D
I am of the generation of gaming who started playing games in the 2D 8- and 16-bit systems and then saw a massive transition from stylistically in the 32/64-bit console generation (the 5th generation). As such, many of my favourite franchises made the leap, but some less successfully than others. In this list, I’ve compiled a list of games that, in my view, successfully made the transition.
Metroid is a bizarre beast. A game series seemingly universally praised, but when Nintendo shifted from the SNES to Nintendo 64, there was no official follow-up to Super Metroid. Samus Aran wasn’t entirely forgotten of course, as the space treking bounty huntress made an appearance as a playable character in the very first Super Smash Bros. – but for some reason while Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong and even Kirby made the transition, Nintendo’s only serious sci-fi franchise got left behind (StarFox is a bit debatable in this regard).
Fans of the Metroid series had to wait until the GameCube for Samus’s big return game and Metroid Prime seemed to be the answer to their prayers. Metroid Prime really owed up to its roots, being an atmospheric action title with all the intricacies and scavenger hunt elements present as had been in previous games. Everyone seemed to agree the jump was a success, hence why the game later spawned two sequels and revived the Metroid franchise as a whole.
I’m putting this game as tenth on the list, mainly because while it did revive the franchise, I’ve never personally found it to be that great of a game. I’m not gonna lie, I suck at the old school Metroid titles and end up losing patience. This is why I’ve always preferred the more straight-forward approach of titles like Metroid Prime 3 and Other M. However, this game had to make the list so it certainly deserved to be here.
Worms is one of my favourite games ever. I very rarely get to say that because I always kind of take it for granted that everyone knows and loves Worms. This cartoony, strategic turn-based shooter has been the bread and butter of friendly, competitive computer pastime since the mid-1990s. Worms 2 definitely belongs into the canon of immortal games, even if only by the courtesy of being one of the most re-released games in history.
It has always bothered me though, that the Worms’ 3D outing never seemed to take off in the same way as the original. I remember playing this game at my friend’s house and we had endless fun with it. The simplistic controls and the customisation options were almost as endless as those in the 2D incarnations. And it was just loads of fun.
I suspect the same thing happened with Worms as what tended to happen with a lot of 3D jumps of classic 2D franchises. Fans simply rejected the new and exciting concept because it didn’t look the same as the original. It seems like such a horrible waste of a good idea. Worms earns its spot on the list as one of the most under-rated 3D jumps in history.
Yes, Duke was originally a 2D game series. Didn’t you know? Thought not… that’s the power of the Duke Nukem 3D. It was such a revolutionary (and infamous) title in its day that it effectively buried Duke’s humble past in its wake. The first two Duke games were quite unremarkable 2D shooters which few have heard of and even fewer have ever played. The first game was so insignificant that Apogee originally changed the title to Duke Nukum due to fears they would get sued by the Turner Corporation who owned Captain Planet and the villain in said show baring the same name as Duke (just ponder the irony there for a second).
Duke Nukem 2 was a slightly bolder project with cinematic openings and probably the first instance of Duke stealing a famous quote from an action movie (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s legendary “I’ll be back!” from Terminator). However, Duke Nukem 3D jumped on the 3D FPS bandwagon which was created in the wake of Doom and wiped the floor with the competition. Duke Nukem 3D wasn’t just a gratuitously violent game – it was also politically incorrect, cartoony, laden with adult references and tongue-in-cheek quotes from Duke’s voice-actor Jon St. John. This Duke became a pop culture icon.
It’s sad that Duke couldn’t owe up to its success. Many spin-offs followed, but audiences were left in suspense for a true-sequel for far too long. And when it did arrive, for most of them, it was way past late (yes, I liked Forever, shoot me). Duke 3D was sadly the beginning and the end of Duke’s greatness.
Another classic figure of the 90s who’s had a rough time living up to his own legend was Sega’s blue hedgehog. Sega headed into a business nosedive in the mid-90s with the failed launch of the Saturn system, the failure made even greater by the cancellation of the first official 3D Sonic game (Sonic X-Treme). Sonic fans had to wait for Sega’s next and ultimately final console, the Dreamcast, before they saw the true-3D Sonic game they had all waited for.
Sonic Adventure was a quite literal game-changer for the franchise. Sonic Team embraced the 3D designs but without compromising the thing that Sonic fans wanted most. Speed! On top of that they added the first truly significant storyline in a Sonic game, multiple playable characters and took advantage of better sound-technology than had been available to the developers before. The end result was magic. Despite the inevitable sad end of the Dreamcast, everyone seemed to agree that the Sonic Adventure titles were the peak of Sonic’s 3D escapades.
Since then of course, the Sonic franchise has teetered between success and embarrassment with uneven quality and occasionally rushed development hindering Sonic’s image. However, the first jump to 3D proved it could be done right. The Sonic Team is just apparently having a hard time finding the balance between innovative game design and bug testing.
As Mega Man is one of my favourite game franchises, you can understand my frustration on the realisation that I missed out on the blue bomber’s nearly only 3D outings as they were almost entirely exclusive to the Sony PlayStation. Last year, I finally got to experience Mega Man 64 (/Legends) and I was sold. This game honestly begs the question, why haven’t there been more 3D Mega Man games.
Mega Man’s creator Keiji Inafune has been known to hop between the development of each of the various Mega Man series. He abandoned the classic series for Mega Man X circa Mega Man 5 and left the X-series in the late 90s to work on the first true-3D Mega Man game. Mega Man Legends was a vastly different gaming experience from previous Mega Man games in the sheer scope and depth. Mega Man went from a simple 2D action-platformer into a plot-driven 3D action adventure game (think Zelda) and did so in style.
Unfortunately, the somewhat mixed reception to the first game and the still ongoing popularity of the 2D Mega Man games meant that this franchise was to go in the same direction as Worms 3D, with Capcom abandoning the series (at least temporarily) after only two full-fledged instalments and one spin-off. Fans were later outraged by the announcement and the abrupt cancellation of the long-awaited third game (culminating perhaps with Mr. Inafune leaving Capcom). Legends is a series I wish would have continued for far longer than it was allowed to shine, yet another highly under-rated title.
Of course, Ocarina of Time had to make the list and some might be a tad surprised it’s this low on the list. Firstly, let’s get the obligatory praises out of the way. One of the greatest games ever made? Definitely. Trend-setter for every expansive 3D title released afterwards? Without a doubt. Still incredibly fun despite its age? Absolutely.
Ocarina of Time probably more so than any other Nintendo title has completely changed the way people looked at the franchise in question. Much like Metroid, The Zelda games in the past had all been well-received and loved – but for some reason didn’t posses that extra “Umpf!” that would have made them legends in their own right (despite some awesome innovations each contributed to the platforms they appeared on). Ocarina of Time is when Zelda became a big deal and unsurprisingly, it was what got me hooked on the series (the only game I had played before this was A Link to the Past).
So why isn’t Ocarina of Time number-1 despite all the industry changing elements contained within? Maybe because Ocarina of Time didn’t really innovate anything new gameplay-wise. It basically just took all the good things of prior Zeldas and put them all in a nicer package with beautiful cutscenes…
- Wide open environments: Zelda 1 & A Link to the Past.
- More action-packed combat system: Zelda 2.
- Wide-variety of NPCs: Zelda 2 – Link’s Awakening.
- Awesome weapons and items: Zelda 1 – Link’s Awakening.
- Awesome music: Zelda 1 – LA.
- Dramatic story-telling: A Link to the Past & Link’s Awakening.
Ocarina of Time deserves all the recognition it gets, but people also need to remember that it had a rich history to work off of.
In the same vein as Duke Nukem, Metal Gear Solid was another title that buried the humble (and in this case, practically obscure) past of the game franchise upon its release. Metal Gear had been Konami’s nut-job cousin running around the mountains of Japan and hiding under rocks, never achieving recognition and having its reputation further ruined by bad ports and posers (Metal Gear on NES & Snake’s Revenge). MGS brought the stealth genre from obscurity to the mainstream and also turned Metal Gear from an “a series” to a “THE series”.
There really isn’t much to add here. Metal Gear Solid was perhaps destined for recognition only once its cinematic and story-heavy elements could be appreciated by a wider audience. The 3D gameplay was also considered innovative and you can find this game on most people’s Top-10 PlayStation games list easily.
One could argue that MGS turned the series to the mainstream, but as Hideo Kojima has proved time and again, his brain operates on a rather bizarre level. In other words, the Metal Gear series have continued to display increasingly more “outside the box” elements (no pun intended) and not always with similar success as MGS. Regardless, everyone expects the new game each time, so in Metal Gear Solid’s case, it definitely took an obscure and underappreciated franchise and put it on the map.
The crowd who for some reason never seemed to hop on-board the 3D bandwagon (and ended up paying the price for it) are the adventure game fans. Despite excellent precedents from Grim Fandango, Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon and The Longest Journey – somehow the idea of 3D point-and-click adventure game never quite took off. It’s sad, especially considering one of the crowning examples of this type of game was released in the twilight of one of the genre’s greatest contributors (Sierra Online).
Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned got everything right to such a staggering amount, it makes you wonder why Sierra fans had to endure the horrendous King’s Quest 8, when the same company could also churn out gold. GK3 gave you a free moving camera, minimal interference from keyboard controls, dynamic camera-angles, excellent voice-acting and a positively exhilarating private dick atmosphere, the likes which has been replicated by very few titles. GK3 also didn’t abandon its roots, but was still clear enough in its intent that one could enjoy the game without having played the first two instalments.
This game is easily in my Top-3 of favourite adventure games and it saddens me that Gabriel’s tale seemed to end just as the series was getting ready for a new paranormal mystery.
As we’ve seen on this list already, the jump to 3D can very effectively sever the past of a franchise from what it has become and nowhere is this more evident I think, than Grand Theft Auto 3. Most people probably don’t even remember there was a GTA1 and 2 to begin with, but I remember how shocked and exhilarated I was to experience something as wild as those two games. GTA2 was my favourite with its semi-futuristic setting, great atmosphere and insane DJs playing hilarious parody music from the game’s numerous radio channels.
GTA3 changed the direction of the franchise considerably from an open-world/sandbox shooter into a more story-driven and in many ways more intricate game. Some of you may laugh a little reading that part, but GTA3 felt so expansive when you played it for the first time. It was one of those games where you had as much fun screwing around in the game world as you had just doing missions. The missions were also changed in nature, now the game had a storyline and this drove it to a whole new direction. While GTA3’s plot may not seem like anything to write home about – you have to appreciate that cutscenes of characters having conversations (especially ones as out there as in the GTA universe) was something quite novel.
GTA3 lead to a number of sequels and spin-offs and it so cemented the idea of the sandbox game in people’s heads that no-one would come to think this series was ever 2D. Sure, the story elements had to wait until San Andreas to be realised to their full potential (whereas Vice City relapsed into a money collector akin to the first two games), the series has gone quite far thanks to this jump.
I can’t surprise anyone anymore, can I. Super Mario 64 perfected the 3D platformer. It got the level design right. It got the camera-controls right. It got the feeling of sheer freedom right. In fact, no Mario game has managed to match its design, which is why the only time I’m impressed with Mario now-a-days when they release another 2½D game (because I’m actually having fun instead of complaining about how something was done better in 64).
Super Mario 64 showed first that jumps into the 3rd dimension were possible without losing the most essential element of the game: fun. Some games have had to change somewhat drastically due to the larger scope offered by the 3-dimensional environments, but Mario has always kept it simple and fun. And though I’m constantly criticising them, Mario 64’s 3D sequels have always managed to offer me that, fun. Maybe not in as high of an abundance, but as a general promise. You know what you’re getting when you buy a Mario game: fun.
In fact, the only thing that didn’t seem to transition well into the 3rd dimension of gaming along with the platformers was their prestige and prominence. These games, along with many others, lost their place as the defining examples of gameplay to the shooters and the RPGs in later years. Even Mario struggles to reinvent itself, but at least they succeeded in it once. And yes, I still love playing this game which is why it’s number-1.