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Door to Phantomile
It's a pity that the 2.5D moniker is so liberally applied nowadays. In the 90s, an extra half-a-dimension really meant something.

While most 2.5D platformers are content with replacing their sprites with polygons, Door to Phantomile pioneered and refined some of the more clever tricks in the genre like twisting paths, circular boss arenas, and branches that lead off the main path into the background/foreground. All of these are accessible with a shockingly simple controller layout, and I find it amazing that so much depth of movement can be achieved with a control scheme no more complex than Super Mario Bros's. Disappointingly, this is a series where the First Installment Wins: The Play Station 2 sequel was sadly lacking in this regard and no amount of wizardry could have pulled it off on the Game Boy Advance, so Door to Phantomile will endure as the series's crowning jewel for the foreseeable future.

Every game designer should feel obligated to play through this game. It's a magnificent lesson in "doing more with less" and overcoming technical limitations through brilliant level design, as relevant today as it was in 1997.
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