I was enjoying games on PC while the 3D platformer was in its prime. Nintendo never made it to this part of the world and the genre didn’t established itself on PC so my experience with the kind of game is severely limited. Surveying from a distance I feel that outside of the Mario games, most 3D platformers fall more under the action adventure category. Mario games put more focus on the movement aspect of play unlike most other games where players don’t come so much of a fun jumping experience but stay for the funny story, unique characters and quirky dialogue. There’s plenty of reasons for why I think it works like that.
For starters, moving around and jumping in 3D never took off like it did in 2D. I think we realized the fact a little after the transition to 3D finally took place. Developers reacted haphazardly by drawing players in with relatable characters and an entertaining story instead of tight gameplay and good game design. We never really went back to solve that problem because it was a lot easier to push pixels and direct cutscenes complete with realistic characters delivering crisp dialogue.
I feel to some extent, the modern action adventure game is just a traditional 3D platformer with the jump button replaced. Players approach a ledge to immediately snap into a mini-cutscene that sees the character make a dramatic leap across a treacherous gap. They also introduce more action elements to make up for the lack of interesting movement mechanics. Picking off targets from a distance with auto-aim is a lot easier to understand and it’s made all the more satisfying with cool explosions and a variety of special effects. There was a time when Tomb Raider had you navigating high ruins over dangerous pits with only a trusty jump button, but to see its latest iteration as a platformer would make for a silly comparison.
We systemically dismantled the platforming aspect to make room for these new mechanics and in that process the genre evolved into something else entirely. They’re not platformers and we don’t find 3D games that revolve mostly around the movement aspect alone because somewhere someone was convinced that genre was dead. If the sales figures of the Mario franchise are anything to go by, we can be sure that the style of game is definitely dying a very slow death if it’s not dead and gone already.
There is still hope because Nintendo hasn’t buried the genre just yet. In the next post we’ll sit down with the Italian plumber and discuss his many adventures in the third dimension. Here’s hoping he doesn’t go into a rant about Ganon. I mean Bowser.