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Simply put: when a 2D original's transition to a 3D turns out to be difficult, usually because a VideoGame3DLeap often requires more skill and talent than some developers have.

There are two aspects of dimensionality when it comes to games. A game can be rendered in 2D or 3D, and the gameplay can be 2D or 3D. All 4 combinations have been seen.
Switching from one of these combinations to another, especially going from 2D/2D to 3D/3D is fraught with peril. Particularly in the early days of 3D rendering, art styles that were painstakingly developed in 2D could be lost in the transition to 3D rendering due to lack of hardware capable of bringing it to life in 3D. And of course, there are some art styles that simply don't work in 3 dimensions at all.

Gameplay offers some very perplexing challenges too. A direct adaptation of 2D gameplay into 3D gamespaces can cause things like the dreaded CameraScrew. 3D gameplay, by necessity of both viewpoint and larger gamespace, needs to take things a bit slower than their 2D cousins.

Then, there's the version where developers forgot about trying to port the 2D gameplay into a 3D world, and just use 3D gameplay that is not entirely unlike what the 2D gameplay had. Freedom overload can ensue, where developers become so enamored with building a gigantic world that they forget to actually put interesting things into it. Puzzles that would have been simpler in a 2D game can become exceedingly complicated because of the changed viewpoint.

Oddly enough, for [=RPGs=] and adventure games, 3D rendering once was much more limiting than 2D. Consider a set of shelves with miscellaneous bottles on it. In 2D, this is part of the background; it costs comparatively little. In 3D, each bottle must have polygons, which means the quality of that bookshelf goes way down. You only get so many polygons per frame, so they should be spent on actual characters. Some games tried to cheat by [[SpritePolygonMix using 3D backgrounds but computationally cheap sprites for the actual objects]]; this seldom resulted in a pleasant experience to the eye. [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII Others]] [[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaOcarinaOfTime did the opposite]], with 3D model characters but 2D images for backgrounds.

Add to this the lack of tilemapping: a common 2D technique for reusing images. Through tilemapping, it was possible for designers to create large terrain, with stuff in it, fairly easily. The time to develop one area would be pretty much the same as any other. You couldn't do that with 3D in the early days; every room had to be hand-built from scratch. You could reuse textures, maybe certain decorations (chairs, tables, etc), but that's about it: the basic blocking of each area had to be done from scratch.

What you get is that some games that had large 2D worlds seemed to get compressed in their 3D outings. This isn't as much a problem nowadays, but in the early days of 3D rendering, it was pretty widespread.

Be aware though, sometimes good 3D video-game adaptations are accused of this, mainly because the [[TheyChangedItNowItSucks fans don't like to see their original product change]]. Notice that very similar games with no 2D predecessors were often well received.

On the other hand, when this trope was common, not being in 3D could also invoke ItsTheSameNowItSucks among fans, so some game producers [[MortonsFork didn't have a real choice but to try]].

Do not confuse with TheyChangedItNowItSucks, which is about the ''reception'' of such games.



[[folder:Action Game]]
* ''VideoGame/BlasterMaster'' made its only journey into the third dimension with the UsefulNotes/PlayStation game ''Blaster Master: Blasting Again''. While some of the spirit of the 2D games was preserved in the transition, the presentation took a serious hit, and the hero and his vehicle became harder to control. The next installment, the prequel/spinoff game ''Blaster Master Overdrive'', went back to 2D graphics.
* ''VideoGame/{{Bomberman}}'' hit the Polygon Ceiling a bit harshly with the ''[[UsefulNotes/{{Nintendo 64}} 64]]'' series. They later tried again when the Gamecube rolled around and broke through the ceiling just fine with ''VideoGame/BombermanGeneration'' and ''VideoGame/BombermanJetters'', having made the smart move of giving only the single-player mode 3D gameplay while keeping the multiplayer the same as with the 2D games. It's a pity, though... They could have paved the way for a ''lot'' of [[{{Pun}} remarks]] about why he's called Bomberman.

[[folder: Adventure Game ]]
* {{Adventure Game}}s, generally speaking, have not dealt with the transition to the 3D era well (Creator/TelltaleGames' games being an exception), as they usually require ''a lot'' more attention to detail than your average FPS, platformer or what have you. Rarely will players need to explore too much or pay attention to ''everything'' in a run-and-gun shooter, whereas an adventure can easily require one to, for instance, look behind furniture, under objects, or to search ''everywhere'' for that one missing piece of the puzzle. The difference in developing time and resources was rather significant -- though it's gotten less so nowadays, due to procedural generation making creation easier and a much higher detail requirement in most other game types equalizing things.
* After an extremely successful run with ''VideoGame/GabrielKnight'', the series went through two separate clashes with this trope. The first sequel had FullMotionVideo ''gameplay'' in a 2D environment, while ''VideoGame/GabrielKnight 3'' went into 3D. While both sequels had strong storylines, they were very difficult to play.
** Jane Jensen later said that they did not foresee the amount of details (and work) a full 3D game required. For her future projects she would prefer a 2D game on pre-rendered 3D backgrounds; it would look good enough while being much cheaper.
* ''[[VideoGame/KingsQuestMaskOfEternity King's Quest 8]]'', while ambitious in its design; was both the FranchiseKiller and a GenreKiller for adventure games for quite some time.
* ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfKyrandia 1'' and ''2'' were widely praised, while the third game had a mixed reception. Transition from painted to rendered backgrounds and objects was not the main peeve, but it definitely [[TheyChangedItNowItSucks affected the game atmosphere]]. The primitivism of models also did not help.
* Dialogs in ''VideoGame/StarControl 2'' used bright-colored low-resolution[[note]]about half of a 320x200 screen[[/note]] still pictures with a bit of animation. That seemed adequate. ''Star Control 3'' upgraded that to [[RealIsBrown dim]] higher-resolution[[note]]up to 640x480[[/note]] videos with compression artifacts. The animatronic puppets were intended to look like a more realistic 3D, but instead [[http://www.mobygames.com/game/dos/star-control-3/screenshots/gameShotId,4821/ Spathi]] looked like a flayed carcass, [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGwRDMr-IKw Pkunk]] looked like a sock puppet and [[http://mx.utabby.com/v?i=hH57VFpUGj8 humanoids]] went to UncannyValley.
* ''VideoGame/EscapeFromMonkeyIsland'' could have easily avoided this trope by merely changing the graphic style and nothing else. But since they decided to port the game to the UsefulNotes/PlayStation2, they changed the control scheme from point and click to one similar to ''VideoGame/{{Resident Evil|1}}'' or ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII'', which was [[CameraScrew ill-fitted]] for the genre.

[[folder:Fighting Game]]
* There are two key aspects to the Polygon Ceiling here. First, 3D gameplay is usually slower than its 2D counterpart, making the games less dynamic (something required for a fighting game). Second, the projectiles, which are a key element of 2D fighters, hardly ever work effectively in 3D, which is why 3D-based fighters like ''VideoGame/VirtuaFighter'', ''VideoGame/{{Tekken}}'', ''[[VideoGame/SoulSeries Soulcalibur]]'', ''VideoGame/DeadOrAlive'', and ''VideoGame/{{Def Jam|Series}}'' are almost purely physical and contact-based.
* One can say, [[BrokenBase though not without debate]], that ''Franchise/StreetFighter'' originally had stumbled into 3D gameplay with its non-canon, Arika-developed ''VideoGame/StreetFighterEX'' line (especially and most specifically ''[=EX3=]''), which had a very mixed reaction. However, as every ''EX'' installment [[TwoAndAHalfD retained the 2D gameplay mechanics even with the use of 3D graphics]] (only certain moves made use of 3D camera angles), it has been questioned if the pushback against ''EX'' can be attributed more to Creator/{{Capcom}} "abandoning" sprite-based gameplay and [[OnlyTheCreatorDoesItRight having a third-party developer handle the work]] than tangible faults. Capcom later "fixed" things with the (also) 2.5D and well-received ''VideoGame/StreetFighterIV'', [[GenreRelaunch which revived the fighting game genre in the process]]. Because of the successful 2.5D approach of ''SFIV'', Capcom later pulled the same 2.5D move when it was time to bring the ''[[VideoGame/CapcomVsWhatever Vs.]]'' series from the SpritePolygonMix of ''[[VideoGame/MarvelVsCapcom2 Marvel vs. Capcom 2]]'' and ''[[VideoGame/CapcomVsSNK2MarkOfTheMillennium Capcom vs. SNK 2]]'' to the full 3D of ''VideoGame/TatsunokoVsCapcom'' and ''VideoGame/MarvelVsCapcom3''. The success of ''IV'' also led to ''EX'' [[VindicatedByHistory gaining a more favorable reputation in the ensuing years]], largely because the passage of time allowed critics to realize that many of the elements that had earned ''IV'' praise were [[OlderThanTheyThink already present]] in ''EX''.
* ''Franchise/MortalKombat'' is particularly guilty of this, with the gameplay and Fatality systems being rebuilt with almost every new game:
** ''VideoGame/MortalKombat4'' was a weird case. Even when it was fully 3D, the gameplay was not greatly altered from the previous games (with only one limited way to move on the z-axis), making it very faithful to the original 2D games.
** The following games, ''[[VideoGame/MortalKombatDeadlyAlliance Deadly Alliance]]'', ''[[VideoGame/MortalKombatDeception Deception]]'' and ''[[VideoGame/MortalKombatArmageddon Armageddon]]'', varied in quality but were said to be somewhat decent.
** For ''[[VideoGame/MortalKombatSpecialForces Special Forces]]'', it probably doesn't help that the creative team behind it (including series co-creator John Tobias) quit Creator/{{Midway|Games}} [[{{Pun}} midway]] through development, thereafter the remaining brood rushed it to development.
** With the release of ''VideoGame/MortalKombat9'' and continuing this with ''[[VideoGame/MortalKombatX X]]'', they've gone back to the series' roots with 2.5D gameplay a la ''Street Fighter IV''.
* ''VideoGame/OneMustFall Battlegrounds'' attempted to do jump to 3D but failed due to many functionality problems. It was one of the most promising games ever made, but the bugs, lack of pilot/robot progress, inability to go through the arenas fast and awkward controls made for a big disappointment.
* ''VideoGame/TheKingOfFighters'' got around this with a "2.5D" subseries a la ''SFIV'' (in fact, predating it), the ''Maximum Impact'' line. For those who still aren't comfortable with the idea, it is explicitly an AlternateContinuity; the main games still use sprites. In a strange inversion, ''KOF XII'', which is sprite-based, proceeded to bomb. One of the main reasons is how they scaled back on everything -- half of the roster had been cut, and the main gameplay mode was nothing more than a glorified time trial.
** Came back with a vengeance with ''KOF XIII'' which [[AuthorsSavingThrow rectified]] the previous game's shortcomings, added some new modes, and wrapped up the StoryArc that began with ''KOF 2003''.
** Then they again tried the 2.5D approach for ''KOF XIV'' with mixed reactions, more so because of aesthetics than gameplay; while ''XIV'' fully reversed the roster and moveset deficits caused by the [[ArtShift switch to hand-drawn, HD sprites]], the graphics are widely seen as underwhelming for a UsefulNotes/PlayStation4 title (comparisons to the aforementioned ''Maximum Impact'' series from the [[UsefulNotes/PlayStation2 PS2]] era were common reactions to [[TaintedByThePreview the reveal trailer]]), especially pit against rival fighting game series in the same generation (''VideoGame/GuiltyGear Xrd'', ''VideoGame/StreetFighterV'', ''VideoGame/{{Tekken}} 7'') and even the previous one (''VideoGame/VirtuaFighter 5'', ''[[VideoGame/SoulSeries Soulcalibur]] IV'' and ''V'', ''VideoGame/DeadOrAlive4'' and ''[[VideoGame/DeadOrAlive5 5]]'').
* [[http://insomnia.ac/commentary/domination_101/2d_vs_3d/ This article]] by Seth Killian, who would later become Capcom's [[PromotedFanboy adviser for all things]] ''[[PromotedFanboy Street Fighter]]'', pretty much explains why 2D has remained viable in the face of 3D.
* In regards to ''VideoGame/{{Darkstalkers}}'', this is the given reason why most of the characters haven't shown up in games with 3D models. The original games had sprites with cartoonish and exaggerated animations, and while this hasn't stopped some characters like Morrigan (who appeared in games such as ''VideoGame/TatsunokoVsCapcom'' and ''VideoGame/MarvelVsCapcom3'' without any problems), it makes others such as Lord Raptor and Jedah difficult to translate into 3D. The animators at Capcom appear to have found some sort of solution as of ''VideoGame/MarvelVsCapcomInfinite'', where Jedah was included as a combatant alongside [[WolverinePublicity series mainstay]] Morrigan for the first time in full-fledged 3D, BloodyMurder and all.
* Not counting the [[BrokenBase extremely divisive]] ''[[VideoGame/GuiltyGear Guilty Gear 2: Overture]]'' (which [[GenreShift completely changed genres]] along with being a 3D title,) there was some worry about ''VideoGame/GuiltyGearXrd'''s shift to 3D graphics and whether the high-res anime sprite aesthetics of the series would take a hit as a result. Fortunately, ArcSystemWorks went out of their way to perfectly replicate the feel of the 2D games, right down to animating 3D models in a stop-motion style instead of through tweens, allowing the game to match the style of the previous games on top of being able to pull off more cinematic moments during special attacks and intro/victory scenes that wouldn't have been possible in a purely 2D game.

[[folder:First-Person Shooter]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Blood}}'' hit the ceiling hard with the with release of ''Blood II: The Chosen'', which traded the first game's sprite-based 3D Build Engine for the full-3D [=LithTech=] engine. The game was rushed out to compete with the likes of ''VideoGame/HalfLife1'' and ''VideoGame/{{Unreal}}'', resulting in an ObviousBeta. On top of that, many felt the second game lacked the feel that made the first game fun.
* The ''VideoGame/SystemShock'' games hit this ceiling in regards to the visuals. The original used a 2D "pseudo-3D" engine that was so advanced for 1994 that a major reason the game bombed was because most people couldn't run it at a playable framerate. The sequel went the opposite way (due to both rushed development and an attempt to make it playable for everybody) and used the dated Dark Engine, resulting in the game looking notoriously ugly, with its blocky polygons and blurry textures occasionally managing to get beat out by the original's crisp, detailed 2D environment despite coming out ''five years later''. Compare ''[[http://www.mobygames.com/images/shots/l/3396-system-shock-dos-screenshot-a-corridor-leading-to-the-central.gif SS1]]'' to ''[[http://www.visualwalkthroughs.com/systemshock2/where/8.jpg SS2.]]''
** Note that this only applies to the visuals. Gameplay-wise, they're both regarded as classics.

[[folder:Platform Game]]
* 3D ''Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog'' games are typically accused of suffering from UnexpectedGameplayChange syndrome (''VideoGame/SonicAdventure'', ''VideoGame/SonicAdventure2'', ''VideoGame/SonicUnleashed'') and/or being too unpolished (''VideoGame/SonicHeroes'', ''[[VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog2006 Sonic 2006]]'', ''VideoGame/SonicLostWorld'', ''VideoGame/SonicBoom'', [[ObviousBeta especially]] ''Sonic 2006'' and ''Sonic Boom''). In 2010 and 2011 respectively, Creator/{{SEGA}} released what ''most'' consider to be successful 3D Sonic games in ''VideoGame/SonicColors'' and ''VideoGame/SonicGenerations'', both of which kept the well-received daytime stages from ''Unleashed'' (though both games featured large amounts of 2D stages).
* ''VideoGame/EarthwormJim'' fell victim to this trope heavily, as it abandoned almost all of the gameplay elements (not to mention many of the series' characters) in its jump to 3D. It also didn't help that the series creator, Creator/DougTennapel, was completely excluded from its development.
* ''VideoGame/{{Bubsy}}'' [[FranchiseKiller utterly splattered against the Polygon Ceiling]] with the release of ''Bubsy 3D'', in which the entire game looked completely unfinished and had a very restrictive control scheme. This was especially awkward considering the platforming success of ''VideoGame/SuperMario64'', which was released several months before.
* While ''Franchise/PrinceOfPersia 3D'' was not as well received as its predecessors, the Sands of Time reboot was widely regarded as a classic, using exaggerated LeParkour elements for its platforming as well as one of the consequences of the trilogy's time travel elements being the Rewind function [[AntiFrustrationFeatures giving the player a certain number of do-overs if they botch a platforming segment and fall to their death.]]
* ''{{Inverted|Trope}}'' with the crossover games ''VideoGame/SpyroOrangeTheCortexConspiracy'' and ''VideoGame/CrashBandicootPurpleRiptosRampage'', whose [[Franchise/SpyroTheDragon source]] [[Franchise/CrashBandicoot franchises]] were originally 3D platformers but were made 2D, resulting in a widely-disliked pair of games (more so for ''Spyro Orange'', as Crash already had two side-scrolling forays on the UsefulNotes/GameBoyAdvance while the three other Spyro games released on the system were isometric, making a side-scrolling Spyro game even more polarizing for people who had played those games). ([[{{Pun}} A Sprite Ceiling]], if you might?)
* The ''Franchise/MegaMan'' franchise has made two runs at the Polygon Ceiling so far.
** The ''VideoGame/MegaManLegends'' series was divisive, looking clunky and featuring gameplay that was ''Mega Man'' InNameOnly, though it was later VindicatedByHistory when Creator/KeijiInafune expressed his love for the duology and fans realized that having a ''[[Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda Zelda]]''-style exploration/adventure game instead of the usual side-scrolling shooter wasn't as bad as they initially thought. [[note]]''Legends'' was not the only ''Mega Man'' sub-series to [[TheyChangedItNowItSucks receive flak]] for branching out into different genres of gameplay, as ''VideoGame/MegaManBattleNetwork'' and ''VideoGame/MegaManStarForce'' will attest.[[/note]]
** ''VideoGame/MegaManX7'' looked gorgeous and played closer to previous ''Mega Man'' games, but sorta screwed up the gameplay; levels switched between true 3D and a more familiar 2.5D, and both had their own set of odd perspective and balance issues. Capcom (mostly) dropped the 3D segments for ''[[VideoGame/MegaManX8 X8]]'', leaving ''X7'' an OddballInTheSeries.
* ''VideoGame/BionicCommando'' ran into this with the 2009 reboot. The following game, ''Rearmed 2'' (itself an original sequel to a slightly earlier HD 2.5D remake of the original NES game), returned to 2D gameplay.
* The UsefulNotes/{{Nintendo 64}} ''Franchise/{{Castlevania}}'' games are pretty much the poster boy of this trope for the entire series. True they did make a few more on UsefulNotes/PlayStation2 and ''much'' later with the ''[[VideoGame/CastlevaniaLordsOfShadow Lords of Shadow]]'' sub-series, but ask any fan and he'll tell you the series only truly shines in 2-D and point you in the direction of ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaSymphonyOfTheNight'' or possibly [[VideoGame/CastlevaniaChroniclesOfSorrow the]] ''[[VideoGame/CastlevaniaChroniclesOfSorrow Sorrow]]'' [[VideoGame/CastlevaniaChroniclesOfSorrow duology]].
* Even Donkey Kong suffered from this with ''VideoGame/DonkeyKong64''. While the game is not considered actually bad, it is still considered much inferior to the Donkey Kong Country Trilogy of 2D platformers and a disappointment for many. [=DK64=] followed the same steps of Super Mario 64, which averted the trope really well, and Banjo-Kazooie, a new franchise that started well on 3D, but [=DK64=] actually took the problems of these games and made them worse. Banjo had many items to collect, but [=DK64=] cranked the item collecting UpToEleven. [=DK64=] had 5 characters, but everything in the game must be done with one specific Kong, even collecting items that are in front of you but only collectable by one Kong. [=DK64=] is also criticized for having not a very good level design, making the segmentation even worse.[[/folder]]

[[folder:Puzzle Game]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Lemmings}} 3D''. ''Lemmings Revolution'' kept the 3D graphics, but reverted to 2D gameplay.
* Parodied in one minigame in ''WesternAnimation/LooneyTunes Duck Amuck'', where WesternAnimation/DaffyDuck wants to be in a really advanced game "with graphics up the wazoo", and becomes a very blocky collection of polygons.

[[folder:Real-Time Strategy]]
* Poor ''VideoGame/{{Stronghold}}''. Once Firefly had to start making 3D RTS games, it started to show very obvious problems that had gone worse with each sequel.

[[folder:Role-Playing Game]]
* ''VideoGame/DawnOfMana'' already deviated from formula by turning a successful 2D action-RPG into an 3D action-platformer with minimal RPGElements. It went on to have [[CameraScrew one of the worst camera systems]] for a [=PS2=] platformer, and mission-objective arrows that pointed directly at solid walls. It also [[LevelDrain stripped you of all your upgrades at the end of a level]], making what few RPGElements it had entirely pointless.
* The first eight ''VideoGame/MightAndMagic'' games used sprites for [=NPCs=], monsters, trees, etc (in a 3D world in 6 thru 8) and were quite good. ''[=M&M9=]'' was fully rendered. It was also full of bugs, had ridiculous looking characters with flat faces, trees with a few "blades" of leaves, and a UI with a fraction of the functions of its predecessors.

[[folder:Shoot 'Em Up]]
* The nearly-forgotten ''[[VideoGame/{{Gradius}} Solar Assault Gradius]]''. It's a perfectly fine game, but it's arcade-only and hard to play using emulators. All subsequent entries in the ''VideoGame/{{Gradius}}'' series went back to 2-D.

[[folder:Sports Game]]
* ''VideoGame/BackyardSports'' in 3D has downright ''blocky'' models.
* After a licensing dispute, ''Acclaim'' grabbed the ''VideoGame/NBAJam'' name from Creator/MidwayGames and made ''NBA Jam Extreme''. ''Extreme'' suffered from long load times, blocky character models, and painful overuse of the word "extreme." It added two changes to the formula established by the original ''Jam'': First of all, players no longer caught fire, but became "Smokin'", which could be achieved either by scoring three straight baskets without the opponent scoring or blocking three straight baskets. If the player did both, he became "Unstoppable." The second change was the addition of an "Extreme" button, which was even stronger than Turbo, but drained the Turbo meter twice as fast. Neither did much to change the gameplay. Now, ''Extreme'' is barely remembered, if at all.

[[folder:Turn-Based Strategy ]]
* While the 3D ''VideoGame/{{Worms}}'' games definitely have their fans, general consensus is that they were inferior to the originals, and Team 17 responded in kind by returning to 2D only after ''Worms Mayhem''.

* ''VideoGame/DwarfFortress'' is an inverted, or rather ''reversed'' example. Its creator initially attempted to combine his vision for immensely detailed ProceduralGeneration and deep simulation with 3D graphics, and the result was ''Slaves To Armok: God of Blood''... Which ended up becoming VapourWare[[note]]Er... sort of. Just like Dwarf Fortress, it was made available during development, PerpetualBeta-style, and can even still be downloaded [[http://www.bay12games.com/armok/download.html here]], but it is ''extremely'' incomplete and there are [[http://www.bay12games.com/armok/plan.html officially]] zero plans to continue it.[[/note]] because making a game ''look'' good as well as play good is really hard when you have NoBudget and [[IWorkAlone a noted aversion to hiring extra coders]]. Eventually he gave up the 3D aspect as more trouble than it was worth and switched to the faux-ASCII we know and love.