Gaming is an evolving medium, that much is undeniable. As hardware continues to advance, so too do the games that find themselves on it, but something happened after the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo 64 eras came to a close – the 3D platformer died. No, the genre itself didn’t completely fade from existence, but the importance of focusing on those types of titles lessened, as the need to innovate in other ways took priority and new franchises began to be born.
It’s been some time since 3D platforming games ruled the roost, and it’s likely that they may never again thanks to the lofty expectations that accompany most full-price, blockbuster games nowadays. Even then, it’s evident that now more than ever demand is surfacing to see a return to form from the likes of Banjo-Kazooie and Jak and Daxter, and I can’t help but agree with those longing to see these beloved gaming mascots resurrected. It’s time for the return of the 3D platformer.
Many fans will recall a time when it was hard to find a game on store shelves that didn’t fall into the genre of discussion. Regardless of console, classics like Super Mario 64 and Spyro The Dragon were always present, and those titles were found alongside often forgotten ones like Chameleon Twist and Croc: Legend of the Gobbos. Developers from all walks were getting in on the craze, which is what eventually oversaturated the market and lead to the genre’s decline.
Still, those that managed to innovate thrived, and this is where games like Sly Cooper and Ratchet & Clank established their consumer base with their own unique focuses. Even Microsoft attempted to gain some of that space with titles like Voodoo Vince and a remake of the beloved Conker’s Bad Furday on the original Xbox, but the market was moving in a different direction and over time many of these series began to fall to the wayside.
In recent years it has seemed like these types of games are now reserved solely for Mario and friends, but even then Nintendo has made solo platform titles for its mascot few and far between. Games like the multiplayer-centric Super Mario 3D World certainly fill a void, but it’s still been over eight years since Super Mario Galaxy came along and turned heads with its revolutionary gravity-based mechanics and innovative design – and five years since gamers suited up for a direct sequel.
Now some of the most common complaints about the gaming industry today are that the market is filled to the brim with gritty shooters and retreaded franchises. In the wake of diminishing sales for games like Call of Duty, however, gamers have shown how badly they want to see the return of classic franchises using the most powerful tool at their disposals, their wallets.
The success of fan-funded games like Yooka-Laylee demonstrate how willing consumers are to jump back into something akin to Banjo-Kazooie. Not only did that KickStarter project reach its initial goal within an hour of going live, but it managed to amass over $3,250,000 USD by the time its funding window had closed. That’s some serious money, and the success for those associated with the Rare Ware brand didn’t stop there either, as the recently released Rare Replay climbed the UK charts and secured the number one spot for the developer for the first time since Banjo-Kazooie in 1998.
While this particular collection may not have been filled solely with 3D platforming titles, it’s evident that games like Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Twooie, and Conker’s Bad Furday were major reasons that gamers saw to pickup the game. Even Microsoft put the two protagonists from the aforementioned titles as the two central characters on the box art for Rare Replay, likely in a bid to give audiences a better chance to tune into their inclusion. Regardless, it has paid off and the company will undoubtedly be looking into ways to further capitalize on the IP that it has once again brought into the limelight.
The market seems ready – if not incredibly eager – to see the iconic platforming mascots of the past return. Fans have proven it with sales number, they’ve shown it with their eagerness to fund projects over a year out from release, and they continue to rally for it in online forums. Demand doesn’t seem to be dropping either, so there’s little doubt that the once-major players in the genre will resurface in time. For now, however, gamers will have to make do with ports, remasters, and the promise of a brand new 3D platforming adventure in the form of Yooka-Laylee next year.
Do you think it’s time for 3D platforming titles to make a return? Which franchise would you like to see resurrected? Get at us in the comments.
Image: Sean Hicks