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The 1990s can be defined as a time of significant changes for video games in general with the transition from Two-Dimensional (2D) to Three-Dimensional (3D) graphics. Some of the classic games that were released around this time were ranked as the best video games ever created. Today we will talk about the transition of video games that hold our childhood memories of the ‘90s and 2000s.
Unlike the transition from analogue gaming to digital gaming, the 2D to the 3D transition of video games was an ultimate game-changer in the gaming world. Since it was a completely new concept, it was met with an equal measure of praises and thumbs down.
Over 30 years down the line, the 2D to 3D transition is now a thing of the past. Nowadays an extra effort is being put in the development of even more sophisticated Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Video game systems are now becoming smarter every day.
We cannot delve into the transition of video games from 2D to 3D without talking about the general history of video games.
A brief history of the evolution of Video games
The genesis of video games goes back to the early 50s when academic computer scientists started to design simple games and simulations for research and recreation.
Professors and students played games like 3D tic-tac-toe and Moon Landing at MIT way back in the 60s. These games were played on computers like the IBM 1560, and movements were made using punch cards.
Back then, Video games did not achieve mainstream popularity until the 70s and 80s, when joysticks, buttons, and other home computer graphics were introduced to the general public by video arcade games and gaming consoles.
Since the 80s, video gaming in most parts of the world has become a popular entertainment form and an element of modern culture.
Spacewar was one of the early games that computer scientists developed. Early arcade games were created between 1972 and 1978. In the 70s, the first generation of home consoles, including the popular Pong game and several clones, emerged in the mainframe computer games era.
Then came the golden age of video games. This was the period between 1978 and 1982. Video arcades of large, graphics intense coin-operated machines were common in malls. They slowly became popular and affordable in the form of home consoles like the Atari 2600 and Intellivision.
The home consoles allowed games to be played at home on TV sets. In the eighties, gaming computers, early online gaming, and handheld LCD games emerged. But was affected by the collapse of the video game era that occurred in 1983.
The 2nd generation of video game consoles emerged from 1976 to 1992. The third generation of 8-bit consoles emerged from 1983 to 1995. The fourth generation of 16-bit consoles was produced between 1987 and 1999.
The 90s saw a massive change in the gaming world as the arcades reemerged and declined simultaneously. It is around this time that many handheld games were introduced that had improved display and improved PC gaming experience.
The 5th generation of 32 and 64-bit consoles was between 1993 and 2006. Mobile phone gaming also emerged during this period.
The 6th generation of consoles came into being during the 2000s (around 1998 – 2013). In this period, online gaming and mobile games had become a major aspect of the culture of people in the USA and all over the world.
It is round this time that there was a great increase in casual PC games that appealed to non-gamers. Also, online games developed, thanks to cloud computing integration in video games.
In 2013, the 8th generation of consoles, including the Wii U and 3DS Nintendo, Xbox One from Microsoft, and PlayStation 4 came into being. PC gaming has held a large market share for decades in Asia and Europe and continues to grow because of digital distribution.
Since smartphone development and are widely used by people in the world, mobile gaming has recently become the driving force in games since the game makers could reach both game die-hards and casual gamers who cannot afford super performance gaming PCS and expensive games consoles.
The transitional phase
The ‘90s was a transitional phase for many sectors globally, right from healthcare, technology, human resources etc. The gaming industry was not left out in the transition.
Video games in the 90s went through a very tough transformational phase. Many gaming franchises were struggling to make a transition to 3D, while others like Super Mario 64 delayed the growth until much later.
It was not a smooth ride for all games. Some video games were driven into an early grave by being forced to develop a 3D version. Later in the article, we will also talk about the games that were not lucky during the jump. They lost the appeal instead.
We will start our discussion with those that successfully transitioned.
Here are some of the ‘90s Video Game that successfully transitioned from 2D to 3D.
Change is inevitable. And in the technology world, change is mandatory, and it is a good thing.
At this point, we will look at video games that made successful transitions in the world of 3D gaming back in the ‘90s and the 2000s.
These are some of the games that became phenomenal after the upgrade from 2D to 3D. These are some of the games that did set the bar high for the new games of the current generation:
1. Super Mario 64 (1996): The jump from 2D to 3D
Nobody can question Mario’s influence on the video game industry. It was only a matter of time after consistent successes in the 2D category that he would take a stab at 3D. Mario's adventures on the next-generation console, including the great Super Mario World on The SNES, served as the launching pad.
Not only did it set the bar high for practically all the games that would follow, but it also created the Mario we all know and enjoy today. The tossing, the hitting, and excitement just got even better when Mario switched to 3D. It was a whole new experienced with crisp transitions and superb controls.
2. The legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
It is said it is not about the end but about the journey. That exactly describes the Zelda Fans. Zelda franchise upped their game when they transitioned from 2D to 3D version. But they managed to maintain the gameplay. Both the 2D and 3D versions offered the great gaming experience irrespective of the difference in graphics and user experience.
Zelda team nailed in on the User Interface/User Experience (UI/UX) of both varieties.
It is nearly difficult not to love the original or its 3D version. The sense of adventure in the game is epic; the gameplay is incredible, visuals are beautiful. The legend of Zelda 3D is everything that you may expect.
Terrorism, robbery, and violence have always been the central features of the GTA video games. Still, the 2D topdown view and the cheesy advertising “Grand Theft Auto 3 sounds like the title that the franchise tried to maintain back in the ‘90s. The transition to 3D made the sceneries clear with a clear portrayal of crime and violence.
The 3D version of GTA came when computer makers were struggling to fit better GPUs and powerful Intel Pentium processors to the otherwise basic computers. This was timely because the first 3D games did not require too many resources compared to its 3D peers today.
3. Metal Gear Solid (1987 -1998)
Image Credit: RocketMinx
When it was released, Metal Gear was not the most popular of its peers in the video games industry. The 2D version had a top-down view of the action. Metal Gear Soldi was among the games that transitioned from 2D to 3D without causing much of a fuss to the gamers. Back then, gamers would complain of the steep learning curve and the “draggy” nature of 3D versions of the original game. But in this case, Metal Gear Solid did a “Solid” transition with not many issues reported from the fans.
The original 2D video game was not bad at all. It is just that gamers realized that they needed more of it and thought a 3D version would be great. And that is precisely what was delivered.
4. Donkey Kong 64 (1981 – 1999)
This is among the top video games that benefited from the transition from 2D to 3D. in 1981; Donkey Kong was a massive ape that attacked a man with barrels. A few years later, King Koopa (aka. Bowser) took Mario’s top spot, which meant DK was out of a job. But in 1994, the banana man got an upgrade. Donkey Kong video game had a series of fantastic 2D adventure games with some support from the Rare. It resembled Banjo Zazooie at the time.
For DK, transitioning to 3D was not only successful, but it also opened up to a wider audience and introduced the famous DK rap
5. Ninja Gaiden – XBOX (1008 – 2004)
When anyone is trying to change something on an old classic video game, it will always raise concerns. Ninja Gaiden was and is still praised as one of NES’s greatest video games. Luckily, like Ryu Hayabusa’s NES version, the XBOX ninja is hailed as one of the greatest in the console world at the time. The latest game has most of the features reserved from the original 2D version.
The jump to 3D saw the improvement of graphics, quick, sleek gameplay, and the aggression that was adored by gamers was still intact.
This is another case of successfully transitioning to 3D. This was a giant leap for XBOX, which was at the time facing stiff competition from up and coming consoles.
Other classic Video games that made a successful transition from 2D to 3D include:
Some other video games that made a successful transition include:
- Duke Nukem 3D (1991 -1996)
- Final Fantasy VII
- Fallout 3
- Metroid prime
Not all 2D to 3D video game transitions were successful.
While the above games made a successful transition from 2D to 3D, some other video games were not so lucky in the transition. The following games were a fail; they should have remained 2D.
What happened? Let’s explore some games that were not successful in the jump.
1. Bomberman: Act Zero
Bomberman: Act Zero, released for Xbox 360 in 2006, marked a significant departure for the series. In the end, the game was a nightmare, with a third-person camera viewpoint and a first-person mode that was introduced, making the game unplayable. I found the levels boring; the gameplay was monotonous. The entire transition to 3D was forced and did not go well.
2. Mortal Kombat 4
Functional limitations drastically reduced the ability of the game, and polygonal graphics slowed the gameplay. This made the game lose its classic touch. In the end, the game was a failure. The 3D rendering was amazing but the graphics were way much inferior compared to the 2D version.
3. Sonic R
The first 3D version of Sonic R was released in 1997. It was a driving game set in a world where sonic was not faster than his anthropomorphic pals. The graphics of the game were impressive at the time, but the controls were a disappointment. The game lacked the appealing design that the gamers were accustomed to in the 2D version.
Other games that did not successfully transition include:
- Castlevania 64
- King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity
- Golden Axe: Beast Rider
- Final Fight: Streetwise
- Bubsy 3D
- 3D Tetris
- Mega Man X7
What was your experience during the Video games transition from 2D to 3D? Which games do you think made a successful jump?