RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 Complete Edition Review: Don't Call it a Comeback

RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition is a nostalgic trip down amusement park lane that feels every bit its age.

RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 Complete Edition is an odd bird. It's a game with a huge nostalgic fanbase and a ton of behind the scenes baggage regarding aggressive legal battles between then-publisher Atari and developer Frontier Developments. Originally released in the ancient times of 2004, RC3 followed in the well-honed footsteps of its predecessors to create the ultimate PC theme park simulation. 

The original RollerCoaster Tycoon came out in the nearly Mesozoic era of 1999, and the sequels and expansion packs that followed mostly served to expand on a good thing. As it turns out, many things have happened since then in the world of virtual theme parks. A lot of those things actually by Frontier themselves, who have made several great theme park sims of all kinds since. 

RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 Complete Edition Review: Don't Call it a Comeback

The problem with RCT3 is simply that it looks and feels like a 16-year-old game.

The main draw of this Complete Edition is nostalgia. For older PC players, some might notice this is essentially just the Platinum Edition (from 2006) with the Atari branding stripped away and a default 1080p resolution. For Switch players, of course, the situation is a little more confusing.

Atari already ported their mobile version, RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch (under the name RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures), to the portable (to very mixed reception), because who doesn't like paying $50 for a port of a F2P phone game?

The problem with RCT3 is simply that it looks and feels like a 16-year-old game. The graphics are quaint, low-poly, and have a certain charm, but also look a little muddy and low detail for a game fixated on every little detail. That said, it's not an ugly game, and the character designs have a distinctive, almost 70s-era cartoon vibe to them.

The big problem is simply the interface feels like an old PC game. Even on the Switch, where the interface has been adapted to be largely based on radial dial menus, there's a steep learning curve to get the hang of park building. Where modern park building games have intelligently evolved to the almost seamless laying of things like fences, roads, tracks, and other features, RCT3's clunky sub-menu method of clicking on directional arrows and individual spots on the game world feels positively outdated.

This isn't just a rollercoaster design kit, although there is that too, but an entire theme park ecosystem creator.

Those gamers who put hours into the original will likely feel right at home, but anyone outside that group will have to spend a lot of time ramping up. The entire interface has a distinct early-Windows look that has long since been superseded by better games. 

If you do get over the hump, however, Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 Complete Edition inarguably gives gamers a metric ton of content to play with and a wide range of ways to do it. The base game is huge, with tons of customization options, and the water and jungle park expansion packs nearly triple the content.

This isn't just a rollercoaster design kit, although there is that too, but an entire theme park ecosystem creator. The campaign mode teaches the basics and gives a wide range of goals and challenges for park building and management. The sandbox modes let you pick any setting and go crazy. Then, there are the standalone creation tools that let users make dream coasters, buildings, even people that they can import into their parks. 

RCT3 definitely feels a little more comfortable with a mouse and keyboard, but the Switch port, once learned, does an amicable job of getting players into the nitty-gritty of being a park overlord. It is a little annoying that there's no use of the Switch's touchscreen, but overall, it works.

RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 Complete Edition — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Tons of Content
  • Nostalgic blast for old fans
  • Not much like it on the Switch

Cons

  • Interface and graphics both feel incredibly dated
  • Steep learning curve for newcomers
  • No touchscreen support on Switch

RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 Complete Edition feels a lot like an historical artifact. There's nearly endless gameplay here for fans of park creation sims and the inclusion of not just coaster-focused amusement parks, but zoos, waterparks, and even dino-themed settings give it a real kitchen sink appeal.

The downside is that sim creation games have come a long way since 2004 and RCT3 feels very dated as a result. 

[Note: Frontier Developments provided the copy of RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition used for this review.]

Our Rating
6
RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition is a nostalgic trip down amusement park lane that feels every bit its age.
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch

Contributor

Jason D'Aprile has been writing about games and technology for a very long time. His bylines have appeared on and in countless sites and magazines over the years, including Paste Magazine, Playboy, G4TV, Indie Game Website, UploadVR, Techhive, Lifewire, the Brick Moon Fiction podcast, United Front Gaming, and others he's mostly forgotten about. Jason lives in a house in the woods and does not twit.

Published Oct. 12th 2020

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