As the player characters wander through a dungeon or walk along the city streets, the player sees the corridors in a first-person perspective. However, the view isn't truly rendered in 3D. Rather, it is composed of multiple algorithmically assembled 2D building blocks; to render the view, the game appropriately arranges these images on top of pictures that depict the floor and ceiling. Sometimes, enemies and items present are overlaid as sprites. Early on, the walls were black-and-white wireframe, or filled with a uniform color.
This differs from games where each individual view is basically a single image, like the first Myst, or games that have each node as a single panorama, like the third Myst or Google Maps Street View.
In games that use this, the player moves from cubic node to cubic node of an Invisible Grid. All walls are orthogonal while all ceilings and floors are the same level.
Compare First-Person Shooter.
- 3-Demon was a classic MS-DOS game that recast Pac-Man into this kind of environment.
- Scarab of Ra.
- Particularly advanced examples were the early CyberFlix DreamFactory games, like Lunicus and Jump Raven. They looked like flat-shaded 3D, but were in fact prerendered images and animations turned into 2D vector art. This allowed the appearance of realtime travel and rotation through 3D environments.
- Buildings in The Addams Family: Fester's Quest.
- Escape From The Mindmaster.
- The Lone Ranger, The Goonies II, and Friday the 13th on the NES all had segments like this.
- The underground bases in Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode.
- Ratrun, produced for Cursor, a "magazine" produced for the Commodore PET in the late 1970s that came on a cassette tape that usually included a game or two. Ratrun was a game simulating a rat in a maze looking for a piece of cheese. The maze is rendered in a faux 3-D view from the rat's perspective.
- Quite a few examples later from actual magazines for the Commodore computer series (which usually included multiple games printed in BASIC or assembly source, to be typed in and saved to disk); the C-64 (and -128) happened to have a character set well suited for basic game backgrounds, simplifying the programming.
- Maze War (1974), the Ur-Example a.k.a original First-Person Shooter.
- Silent Debuggers for the TurboGrafx-16
- Last Survivor, a 1989 Arcade Game by Sega, makes heavy use of scaling and rotation to disguise that the backgrounds are made of flat 2D panels.
- Death Mask, a 1995 game designed to run on older Amigas with a horizontally-split screen.
- Most Driving Games until the 32-bit era. Many were simply an endlessly repeating grey strip with a car sprite on it, surrounded by layered 2D buildings/cliffs/bridges/whatever.
- Toy Story had a level inside the Claw Machine (called "REALLY Inside the Claw Machine") which was basically this. The only 3D elements were the Little Green Men, which you had to rescue, and Woody's arms.
- The Bards Tale
- The Gold Box games, as well as those created with Unlimited Adventures.
- The Eye of the Beholder series
- Dungeon Master
- Swords And Serpents for NES
- Megami Tensei, Megami Tensei II, Shin Megami Tensei I, Shin Megami Tensei II, Shin Megami Tensei if..., and Persona are all Shin Megami Tensei examples of this.
- Dungeons from he original Phantasy Star.
- The overworld in Sword of Vermilion
- Shining in the Darkness
- The sequel Shining the Holy Ark, however, is fully 3D, although the gameplay still uses grid-based level design.
- The main Might and Magic series up to and including World of Xeen.
- The main Wizardry series up to and including Crusaders of the Dark Savant.
- Dungeons in early Ultima games:
- Ultima I and Ultima II use wireframe black-and-white graphics. II upgraded the monsters to blocky pixel art.
- Ultima III and Ultima IV fill the walls with uniform color, and dispensed with visible wandering monsters.
- Ultima V added some detail to the walls and floors, and brought back visible in-dungeon monsters (at rather higher quality than in I and II).
- Stonekeep used pre-rendered backgrounds to animate each step the party makes, even resizing and re-angling enemy live-action sprites.
- Realmz originally just had an overhead automap that controlled like this for indoor areas, but an optional 3D feature was added in 4.0. The twist? Scenarios were then updated so that some dungeons permeated with especially sinister magic would disable the overhead view unless you cast a certain spell.
- The Black Onyx
- Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure Of Tarmin
- Legend of Grimrock is a modern revival of this fashion of gameplay, albeit using fully polygonal graphics.
- Tunnels Of Doom for the TI-99
- Double Dungeons for the TurboGrafx-16
- For a really primitive-looking version (despite being released the same year as Ultima II), Crypts Of Chaos on the Atari 2600.
- The Keep on 3DS uses this gameplay with polygonal graphics.
- Crystal Rift combines this with polygons and a VR display.
- The Etrian Odyssey series is another throwback to this style, complete with a built-in cartography system to give the feel of old-school pencil-and-paper dungeon mapping.
- The Haunted Ruins