2D Side-scrolling games are so commonplace nowadays that it’s getting hard to call them old-school games; when you think about the fact that they’re on nearly every single platform that you can think of, can you really say that they’ve technically aged?
While the jury is still out on that one, there’s a “new” retro throwback that’s quickly turning out to be a comeback, and that’s the 3D Platformer, a genre built around the idea of treasure hunting and adventure across an assortment of unique locales that make up one giant world to explore. Thanks to KickStarter and nostalgia, 2017 will play host to a number of collectathon romps have you thinking that the days of the Nintendo 64 and original PlayStation never left us; here are some of the few that’re worth looking out for!
Super Mario 64 is a game that still lives on in the hearts of many gamers who grew up playing Nintendo 64, as it was a game that had this larger-than-life scale to its world, and abundance of possibility to its three dimensional take on the Mushroom Kingdom. Every 3D platformer that came after it did what it could to adapt its pocket-filling mechanics around their own distinctive themes and gimmicks, but they did everything they could to be different without alluding a lot to the source material that inspired them.
Polykid’s Poi does the exact opposite of that -- it does everything within its power to openly tribute the mechanics of the Italian Plumber’s first 3D outing.
In its conceit, Poi definitely nails the colorful backdrops and engaging worlds as it hands you control over two orphan siblings that you can alternate between in a journey to collect shiny Explorer medallions for a kind old man who know more about your journey then he’s letting on. Each world is broken down into segments that center around one specific object to collect the prized collectible much like the 3D Mario titles, significantly changing something about the level each and every time you enter it. Poi does expand upon the foundation it heavily homages though as it gives players the chance to collect coins that they can spend on tools and skills that will come in handy later for the more challenging medallions that require their use in order to be collected.
Poi is out now on Steam, and is currently enjoying its first sale, I recommend any fan of the genre that doesn’t particular need a heavy reverence towards Rare in their 3D romps to be enjoyed should go check it out.
A Hat In Time
Sometime before Playtonic came onto KickStarter with their less than conspicuous Love Letter to that one Bear & Bird game that people seem to love, another studio by the name of Gears for Breakfast teased a revival of that brand of gameplay with their own crowd-funding project name A Hat in Time.
Starring the endearing Hat Kid, A Hat in Time will follow its namesake and have you exploring the different worlds through various points of history in search of Hourglasses to help her fuel her ship after she was attacked by, no joke, the Mafia.
Did I also forget to mention that her arch nemesis is another lady named Mustached Girl?
A Hat in Time is reminiscent of the open hub-world formula made famous by the Rare 3D platforming classics, as you’ll hop ‘n bop through 5 huge worlds that are filled with loads of challenges and puzzles to solve. The game is currently in Beta, and the groundwork that Gear For Breakfast has laid down so far is nothing but impressive. The scale and scope to A Hat in Time’s level design is what makes it stand out from its peers as gives you so much to do without ever overwhelming you in the process.
There’s no word yet on when the final version will be released, but needless to say that this game should be on the radar of anyone who’s looking to get in on the 3D Platformer renaissance.
Super Mario Odyssey
You know, this list already mentioned big open worlds, and Mario, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the latest game to feature Nintendo’s iconic mascot wouldn’t get name dropped sooner or later.
There isn’t a whole to add here though, other than that we know that this Mario adventure is going to ditch the conventional hub-area from the previous titles, in favor of giving the plumber some free reign to explore a giant open world that’s modeled after real-life locations. From New York to Mexico City, and the South American jungles, the scenery will be unlike anything ever seen in a Mario adventure before, complete with lifelike NPC civilians that will creep the shit out of you on an entirely different level of the uncanny valley.
Along for the ride is a new hat companion that Mario that grants the hero some new skills, like channeling his inner-Bond villain to throw the hat like a projectile weapon at enemies, or in some instances, as a makeshift platform that can give Mario that extra umph of distance once bounced off of in the air as well.
We don’t have a whole lot beyond that, and for all we know, the game might ditch the collectible formula altogether, but until then, it’s a safe bet that this next-gen sequel won’t stray too far away from its platforming roots.
Crash Bandicoot: The N. Sane Trilogy
The wacky jorts-wearing Marsupial is scheduled to make his glorious return with an HD remaster of the games that made him the famous character that he is today, and a part can’t help but get really excited over what’s included in this package.
It’s strange because as much as we would all like to think that this is a remake of the original Crash Bandicoot games, it’s more like a reboot considering that Activision has none of the original assets to the series, and had to rebuild every detail of the initial games by scratch.
As such, Activision will have their work cut out for them with the N. Sane Trilogy as they’ll be improving upon a lot of the quirks in the first and second one that didn’t quite age so well, including new checkpoints and time trial modes across all three games. The bundle will not only be remastered for High Definition visuals, but will also be optimized for 4K support as well, and contain remastered compositions of the original audio and soundtracks.
Sony’s classic answer to Mario will be back in style come June 30th, and it’s poised to have that huge reunion tour sensation on everyone.
I’m just going to come out and say it now: I think you should play ALL of the games on this list, but if you’re really strapped for time, cash, or both, and can only play one of them, then please for the love of Jiggies, make it Playtonic’s Yooka-Laylee.
Never before has there been such a delicate artisanship to a love letter quite like this Modern take on the classic formula, as you take control of animal duo as they set off on a quest for mysterious pagies that hold an answer more valuable than the gold that they happen to be printed on.
Every analog and contrast that you can make between the two is in full effect, as you travel through 5 giant worlds that can be expanded into bigger stages with the more you collect, giving you access to new moves and abilities so that you can repeat the process again, and again. The presentation spares no expense either as it delivers some of the best fourth-wall breaking commentary towards the video game industry and game culture it panders to with writing that hasn’t been this cheeky or clever since Banjo-Kazooie itself.
Yooka-Laylee takes every single concept that was celebrated by the classic Banjo games, and amplifies them tenfold, it truly is the new-age Banjo-Kazooie, and is easily the genre finest return to form that I’ve seen so far for the genre as a whole.
There are so many other titles I could’ve listed, but if I did that then this list would go on surprisingly longer than you’d think. Some of these games might not do it for all of you, and some of you might even think that the genre is better left behind in our memories, but you can’t deny the importance of what this could mean for the upcoming landscape of games -- especially as this nostalgic trend continues to catch footing the way it has so far.
I for one hope to see a 3D platformer that can reinvent the genre the way games like Braid, Chariot, and Shovel Knight have for Side-Scrolling affairs.