3D Platformer GameDev Series – Weekly Blog #1: Introduction

Welcome to the start of my new GameDev series for my blog! This series will focus exclusively on the genre of 3D platform games which are also referred to as ‘3D platformers’ and will be herein referred to as such. Unfortunately, games that contain ‘platforming’ mechanics but are not classified as 3D platformers will be excluded from this blog post. For example, these games primarily fall under the genres of action and/or adventure albeit contain secondary 3D platforming mechanics as well (sorry Zelda and Goemon fans!). Simply put, “3D platformer” is defined as a subgenre in such games where platforming is not the main focus or element of the game.

Further along in this opening blog post, we will deepen our understanding of what defines a 3D platformer technically. After, we will take a stroll down memory lane and name some of the best and most popular 3D platformers, which may arguably be the golden era when they were first being developed and released. And in subsequent weekly blog posts, I will share my journey of making my own simple 3D platformer beginning with my progress in another Udemy course I have recently enrolled in: “Learn to make a 3D Platformer Game with Unity“.

So technically-speaking, what makes a true 3D platformer? As a gamer, the answer may not be as clear as one would expect. As a game developer, the answer is simple. As the name suggests, in a 3D platformer, the player needs to be able to control the ability to jump and move while jumping in an exclusively 3D environment. This means that 3D games whereby jumping is automated (i.e. – the player cannot control the movement of the character whilst in the air) are not true 3D platformers. Rather, these games may contain ‘platforming’ mechanics but fall outside the genre of them being classified as 3D platformers. The same goes with ‘isometric’ games (2D graphics with 3D gameplay) and 2.5D (3D graphics viewed on a 2D plane); these are not true 3D platformers by definition.

Alpha Waves (1990) – First 3D Platformer developed by Infogrames. Primitive 3D graphics. Click here to check out its gameplay!

So what are some of the best and most popular 3D platformers? Personally, I think some of the best ones were released on the Playstation 1 and N64. Ah yes.. the mid 90s to late 90s. Super Mario 64, Crash Bandicoot, and Spyro the Dragon were no doubt many fan favourites. What are some of your favourites, personally?

Super Mario 64 (1996)
Crash Bandicoot (1996)
Spyro The Dragon (1998)





For a comprehensive list of what was claimed to contain every 3D platformer made from 1990 up to 2018, be sure to check out out Gameranx’s article on the subject matter! Below is also a graph from the article which seems to suggest there was nearly a decade (1998 to 2006) when 3D platformers were especially popular.

3Dplatformersgraph (1990 to 2018)_gameranx
A chart showing the number of 3D platformer titles released each year from 1990 to 2018. Source: Every 3D Platformer Ever Made, Gameranx (Filippidis, 2018).

Despite less mainstream 3D platformers being released nowadays, you may be wondering why I still want to learn how to make a 3D platformer. First and foremost, I just think they’re a lot of fun to play. Not to mention, they seem to be one of the only genres of games I can tolerate watching an entire speedrun of – and in absolute awe at that. But above all, I feel that 3D platformer as a subgenre is what defines and brings many action-adventure games to life that we have all come to love.

Be sure to drop a comment and let me know what some of your favourite (and least favourite) 3D platformers are. And stay tuned for the next blog post in this weekly GameDev series, every Sunday!

– Taklon

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