Follow TV Tropes


aka: Two Point Five D

Go To

Straddling the line between "style" and "genre," 2½D is an uncommon but generally recognized term. While there is some ambiguity among gamers as to what, exactly, constitutes "2½D," it is most commonly used to refer to one thing: Two-dimensional, side-scrolling platformers with some three-dimensional elements, be they just graphics or interactive objects.

In a "traditional" platformer, players can only move in four directions: jumping up, falling down, and walking left and right. That's two dimensions (height and length). 2½D games mess with this formula by adding a third dimension, but not dedicatedly. Players can still only control their character in four directions (generally), but there are some options as to where the extra half a dimension comes from:

  • The player can only move in two dimensions, but the path doesn't have to. The "plane" that the 2D character follows curves through three-dimensional space, and the Player Character follows along that.
  • Off-path objects. While the player is stuck on one path, there are things outside the path that can be interacted with.
  • Layers: There are things visible in both the background and foreground, and it is possible to switch between paths to reach the goal. This gives the level a layered feeling, like a delicious, platforming pastry.
  • Other tactics that are more localized.

Sometimes, if an otherwise 3D game takes the time to have a 2D interlude, those segments will sometimes be referred to as "2½D." Occasionally, 2D Platformers that simply use 3D graphics will be referred to as "2½D", though that is less common.

In older material the term 2.5D is sometimes used in reference to 3D games that use 2D surfaces, with various graphical tricks used to make it seem 3D (e.g. Doom), also called pseudo-3D. This specific usage died with the Game Boy Advance, the last well-known platform to use this technology, but it overlaps with the sense of only moving in two dimensions. The term can also be used for Isometric Projection or Sprite/Polygon Mix.

See also Background Boss, which may or may not utilize 2½D characteristics.

Let's not dwell on the confusing terms that are sure to arise for 2½D games on the stereoscopically-3D Nintendo 3DS.

Compare Fixed Camera. Do not confuse with the 2.5D theatre phenomenon, in which Japanese stage shows and musicals attempt to emulate the visuals and atmosphere of anime/manga/video games.

If you want to pothole this trope, the WikiWord for it is TwoAndAHalfD.

Examples of games that are 2½D or use 2½D segments:

    open/close all folders 

  • ANNO: Mutationem utilizes full third-dimensional environments with 2D character designs. All areas have fully explorable 3D settings while it switches to 2D for areas where combat occurs.
  • Assassin's Creed: Chronicles uses 3D models while playing in a 2D style.
  • Metroid:
  • Shantae: Most of the games Risky's Revenge and onward features a "layered" approach, where you can hop between the foreground, regular-ground, and background in certain areas.
  • Super Castlevania IV allowed Simon to use gates in the first level to go in front of, or behind, a fence. Doing so would allow him to traverse obstacles in front of or behind said fence. There were other similar parts through the game as well, including enemies that appeared from the fore/background.

    Fighting Games 
  • One of the downloadable packs for Batman: Arkham City is the Black Mask campaign. In the action campaign, the normally 3D game becomes a side-scrolling beat-em-up that still uses the standard 3D graphics.
  • The Bleach fighting games for the Nintendo DS allow you to 'line jump' between two planes to avoid attacks and play keep-away.
  • Dragon Ball Fighter Z follows the same style as the Xrd games.
  • Classic Neo Geo fighter Fatal Fury (and its descendants) allow a player to jump from the foreground to the background, and to launch attacks back and forth. The jumps were replaced by slides and the system was progressively refined over the course of the series until being completely dropped in Garou: Mark of the Wolves.
  • Guilty Gear:
    • Isuka features a "line change" system. Now imagine the sheer insanity resulting from a 4-man free-for-all in the already fantastically bizarre GG verse.
    • For another example, Xrd combines this with cel shading, deliberate recreations of certain sprite-based issues, and animation done so well, you'd almost think that it was 2D like the rest of the series. This continues in Strive where ASW have utilized the high capabilities Unreal Engine 4.
  • The 2013 reboot of Killer Instinct follows in the footsteps of Street Fighter IV with fully 3D rendered characters and backgrounds, but 2D gameplay.
  • After years of keeping alive the spirit of "dot art" sprites, The King of Fighters XIV went for 3D graphics (previously, the only KOF games to use 3D graphics was the Maximum Impact sub-series, but leaned more into the 3D aspect of the game). The game remains a 2D fighter, however. Previously (for XII and XIII), SNKP had been using 3D character models as templates to create sprites from but did not actually use the 3D models in-game. This style would also be used for The King of Fighters XV, with a notable update to its art direction.
  • The Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm games had combat similar to the Bleach example listed above.
  • Savage Reign allows an upper and lower plane. Especially notable is that in some stages, the "upper plane" consists of hanging off something while fighting.
  • Modern fighting games like Street Fighter IV and Mortal Kombat 9 feature 2D combat with 3D engines, allowing different cinematic views during certain moves or scenes. (Such as Ultra Moves in the former, and Fatalities in the latter.) Around the same time, the little known Street Fighter Online: Mouse Generation for the PC was also not full 3D.
  • The Street Fighter EX titles (SFIV actually owes a lot of its design to the EX series), although many were erroneously under the impression that EX was purely 3D.
  • Super Smash Bros. for Wii U: The main gimmicks of the Jungle Hijinx stage are the rocket barrels that launch fighters between two platforms in the foreground and background.

  • The Adventures of Lomax utilizes this at times, with you moving between various planes of the level set in the background and foreground. There are also some obstacles that attempt to use 3D perspective, like spiky balls that are attached to a chain and swing towards and away from the screen.
  • Another Sight has three dimensional graphics and two-dimensional gameplay, for the most part, although Kit can hide behind some objects in the foreground and background. Hodge and Kit are actually on slightly different layers of the world, which means Hodge can be blocked by things Kit can walk around and vice versa; usually Hodge is behind Kit, but sometimes he weaves in front of her to jump on foreground elements.
  • Ayo the Clown: The game is rendered in 3D, but Ayo moves in 2D. This can result in him being attacked or pushed off a platform/ the stage from the foreground.
  • Black The Fall: The game is rendered in 3D, but the Player Character moves on a 2D plane. As a result, he can be attacked by enemies in the background.
  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night uses 3D graphics and powered by Unreal Engine 4, but its gameplay is 2D similarly to past IGA-vania titles. It does play around with this, however, by having the game rotate the screen and Miriam can traverse areas in this fashion.
  • Bug: An experimental take on 2½D, the titular character (a 2D sprite) could move through a 3D maze.
  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate on the 3DS is one of these, featuring 2D-style platforming but with 3D graphics and a few bosses who move in and out of the background as the fight proceeds.
  • The 3DS version of Cave Story uses both polygonal 3D and stereoscopic 3D graphics instead of pixel art for the character models, platforms, and backgrounds, without changing the side-scrolling gameplay of the original game in any way.
  • CID the Dummy, an obscure Wii platformer, is set on a 2D plane and uses 3D grapics, but the titular character controls in 3 dimensions. This, alongside the poor controls, can cause you to experience several extremely cheap deaths.
  • Both Clockwork Knight games are 2D platformers that use 3D graphics.
  • In the original Commander Keen trilogy, the games were mostly flat. Starting with Keen Dreams in 1991, the games change to this perspective. As this was years before the rise of 3D modeling in video games, the developers at id Software used collision boxes and 2D textures to make the 3D platforms, walls, and terrain. Keen, enemies and other foreground objects are 2D sprites.
  • Crash: Mind Over Mutant: From time to time, the gameplay is close to entirely a side scroller.
  • Crescent Pale Mist uses 3D graphics for the environments and visual effects, but the gameplay is 2D and allows players to jump between different 2D planes at key points at a given level. Many of the 2D sprites are also uses pixel art for the characters and hand-drawn sprites for the enemies.
  • Crossbow Warrior - The Legend of William Tell: Most of the levels are rendered in 3D, but William Tell moves in 2D, barring a couple of levels that have him moving forward in a 3D environment.
  • Donkey Kong:
    • Donkey Kong Country Returns was designed this way. It not only features levels with full-fledged 3D visuals that are still played in 2D fashion, but in some of them Donkey and Diddy have to use barrels to launch themselves to a part of the scenery that is located in the background and keep exploring from there. This reaches a logical conclusion in the Temple level of World 8 (Volcano), where the Kongs complete small tests to proceed further into the level's backside, instead of going forward or backward.
    • Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze expands on what Returns did by adding curving paths and Camera Perspective Switch during segments like barrel cannon sequences and Rocket Ride levels. Certain Minecart Madness levels also involve jumping back and forth between parallel rails.
  • Duck Dodgers Starring Daffy Duck, a Nintendo 64 game, was a 3D platformer with 2½D sections.
  • Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project constrains the action to a plane, but can make the playable plane go around corners or allow the player to move between planes in certain areas by hitting the up-arrow in locations marked as such.
  • Fez plays around with this considerably. All the action is 2D platforming, but the engine is 3D and allows rotating the level to form a new perspective. Manipulating camera angle to exploit the Rule of Perception is a core gameplay mechanic. For example, if you have several disconnected chunks of a ladder, and you rotate the camera so they appear to line up, then as long as you stay at that angle you can climb them as if they were a single connected ladder.
  • Garfield's Nightmare: The game plays like a 2D platformer, but the levels' designs and assets are in full 3D. The cutscenes introducing the bosses, as well as the credits scene, are also played in 3D.
  • Goemon's Great Adventure is done in full 3D, but the character can only move along one plane. The paths curve and branch off, but outside of towns, left and right are your only choices.
  • Grey: An Alien Dream: The game is 2D, but has worlds rendered in 3D.
  • Though Heavenly Bodies uses three-dimensional models for its characters and objects, you only move through two-dimensions. This makes the game's zero-gravity movement much simpler.
  • A Highland Song uses numerous layers, with the player only on one at a time. Each layer is the next mountain further along the path, and your goal is to find the exits that allow you to move to the next background layer (which then zooms in and becomes the foreground), again and again until you reach the goal.
  • Keep Out: The game is presented in 3D, but Mr. M moves in 2D. This means he can be attacked from any direction.
  • The Kirby series has a few:
  • The Klonoa series, which uses all of the tricks listed above and more. Klonoa can even be controlled in three dimensions, even if he's limited to only two.
  • Most platforming levels in LittleBigPlanet and its sequels take the layered approach. However, thanks to the Level Editor, a good deal of user-generated levels opt for a different genre or disable moving between layers.
  • Mega Man:
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie: In the game for the SNES, you could press the shoulder buttons to flip to the "back" or the "front" to avoid obstacles, such as in the very first level to avoid cars. The enemies could do this as well.
  • Mighty No. 9 features 3D visuals also powered by Unreal Engine 3, but its gameplay solely 2D like its spiritual predecessor.
  • Despite its pixel art style, Mutant Mudds lets the main character hop into the background of the levels.
  • Napple Tale: Arsia in Daydream uses 2D platforming and curving, though linear, paths. It switches to Free Rotating Camera for its Hub Level.
  • Ninja Battle Heroes: The game is played in 2D, but it has 3D graphics, to the point that enemies can appear in the background and attack from there. Saizo Kirigakure can't go back there to attack them, but he can throw ninja stars at them from the foreground, or summon Kamanosuke Yuri to attack them.
  • Oddworld is a purely 2D side-scroller, but has several levels with two layers. Sometimes the player can go to the background layer, sometimes the background layer simply has enemies that shoot at the player.
  • Pandemonium! (1996) was a 2D platformer in a 3D environment. Stuff like spiral stairs, or two paths at different heights splitting into different directions, was common.
  • Shadow Complex, an Xbox LIVE Downloadable title uses 3D visuals powered by the Unreal Engine 3 with a 2D movement area. Some enemies and mini-bosses are also fought in the background.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • The 2D segments in Sonic Unleashed are really this. The only thing keeping them from being 3D is the complete inability to move to the side under your own power (which you have in the 3D segments) — you can easily be, and often are, moved in the third direction by bumpers, spiral paths, and paths with loop-de-loops.
    • Sonic Colors also does this, but with greater focus on the 2D platforming aspect.
    • Sonic Generations plays with this trope to varying extents with its two playable characters: Modern Sonic's use is similar to Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colors with its 3D/2.5D shifts at certain points of a given level; Classic Sonic's use, on the other hand, is all 2.5D. The 3DS version, meanwhile, is entirely 2.5D except for parts of the final boss battle.
    • Sonic Rush and its sequel plays in 2D (except for bosses, in which the paths curve and twist, thus being 2.5D), but Sonic and Blaze are 3D models with outlines put around them to make them look 2D. This allows segments where Sonic and Blaze are "closer to or further away" from the screen during certain level specific gimmicks. The DS version of Sonic Colors by Dimps uses the same engine and gameplay style as the Rush games.
    • The Sonic Rivals series for the PSP has 3D graphics, and linear paths that twist and curve.
    • Sonic CD had Metallic Madness zone, where you could go behind certain walls to progress and get powerups, before going back into the front again to continue the level proper.
    • Sonic Mania brings back Metallic Madness, where it introduces a gimmick that lets Sonic enter parts of the level in the background.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode II. The entire game is in 2½D, more than Episode I is, Sonic is fully rendered in 3D and the levels are in 3D but you move along a 2D path. In fact White Park Act 2 and the Boss Act has you running along a roller coaster track and there are springs that'll send Sonic to the tracks in the background and vice versa.
    • Sonic Superstars follows Sonic 4 Episode II's lead, having the playable characters and zones rendered in 3D, but keeping most of the action on a 2D plane. Like the White Park boss (and Metallic Madness in Sonic Mania), certain zones feature gimmicks that transfer characters between the foreground and background.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Virtual Boy Wario Land has foreground and background areas given a 3-D effect with the system's dual projections. There's trampoline blocks in specific places Wario can use to jump between the two layers, and all of the bosses use foreground/background movement as part of their attacks. The first boss demonstrates this perfectly when flinging his ball-and-chain at Wario from the background- the spiked ball appears to come hurtling towards YOU, the player, stopping just short of crashing through the fourth wall.
    • Mario Clash, also on the Virtual Boy, was basically Mario Bros. with action taking place on a separate foreground and background, connected (of course) by pipes. Shells could be aimed from one into the other. The cancelled VB Mario Land (which Mario Clash was originally a minigame from) also let Mario enter the background, and had top-down segments as well.
    • Super Mario Bros. 3 did this by occasionally letting Mario and Luigi move behind the background elements. Crouching on white structural blocks (the earliest and best-known is in World 1-3, but they appear throughout the game) would make you fall behind the block, which allowed Mario to walk behind bushes, structural blocks (but not item or breakable blocks), and even the end-of-level "curtains".
    • Super Mario World had, in various castle levels, fenced grates that Mario (and Koopa Troopas) could climb and switch from the back to the front.
    • The New Super Mario Bros. games all use 3D models in traditional 2D platformers. The final level of New Super Mario Bros. 2 takes a step further by having the Koopalings and the final boss attack Mario from the background.
    • Some of the two-dimensional segments of Super Mario Galaxy are like this. In Super Mario Galaxy 2, there are levels which go from 3D to 2D just by walking past a certain point. It's the entire gimmick of the Rightside Down Galaxy, but the Flash Black Galaxy and Honeybloom Galaxy have elements (former starts 3D, becomes 2D and turns back to 3D) while the latter has 3D for a secret star area. Bowser's Gravity Gauntlet is this taken to the extreme.
    • The Super Mario 3D World theme for Super Mario Maker 2 is like this. The objects used in this style have noticeably more "pop" than the ones used in the New Super Mario Bros. U style, and won't pass through walls or most other objects - donut blocks and springs are fully solid to both the player and enemies, power-ups bounce off enemies, and Bullet/Banzai Bills collide with walls and most objects, blowing up Bullet Bills while Banzai Bills plow through everything but (ground) walls, pipes and donut blocks, much like giant shells and Thwomps do. Both types of Bill will kill enemies, detonate (red) POW Blocks, and destroy bricks, hard blocks, and ice blocks, unlike in the other styles.
    • The Yoshi's Island series does this with many of its games:
      • While Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island is mostly 2D, there are brief segments that introduce fire bars and platforms that rotate along a z-axis, as well as a final boss that attacks Yoshi from the background that many future games replicate.
      • Yoshi's Story on the N64 is another fine example of a 2D platformer with 3D levels, Yoshis, and such. It notably has split paths that branch off into the z-axis.
      • Yoshi's Woolly World has several 2.5D elements, such as bosses who attack Yoshi from the background and doors that let Yoshi go behind the walls. Yoshi's Crafted World takes things even further by allowing Yoshi to throw eggs into the background and foreground as well as use bridges to travel forwards and backwards in the level.
  • Tomba! lets the titular character cling onto walls to enter the foreground and background of many of the levels.
  • Trine: 3D graphics, sidescrolling movement. This occasionally gets you an odd camera angle that lets you see something that should be Behind the Black.
  • The Super NES Scooby-Doo game had doorways that Shaggy and Scooby could enter by walking toward or away from the player.
  • Wells is rendered in 3D, but plays 2D.
  • Wild9 had the usual forward/backward/jump on a curving and branching path for most of its levels. To shake things up, there were also a few sections that changed how the dimensions were presented (e.g. vehicle sections involving steering, but no jumping; or a boss battle fought while fleeing into the camera, so that only sideways and vertical movement looked relevant).

    Racing Games 
  • Super Scramble Simulator, on first glance, appears to be a straightforward, always-move-to-the-right Side View game. However, the top-down map below is a few tiles high, and there are in fact obstacles that have to be shifted around.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Dragon Saga has an interesting take on this. The game is in full 3D and some sections of the game allow 3D movement. However, most combat areas only allow the player character to face and aim attacks to the left or right with movement towards or away from the screen causing them to slide sideways. Needless to say the few sections of the game that allow 3D combat take some getting used to and reveal that the hit boxes for attacks are always much longer on one axis than on others.
  • There's an example of the "3D game with a 2D interlude" variety in the 2D platforming stages of Kingdom Hearts coded.
  • Super Mario Bros.: Some gaming media outlets classify the Paper Mario series as this, depending on whose reviews you read. While Mario can move in three dimensions, the areas he moves through tend to be narrow and reminescent of traditional sidescrolling levels and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door gets a lot of milage out of the "Layers" variant. Super Paper Mario only complicates things by being a 2D platformer you can flip to 3D in some instances.

    Shoot 'Em Up 
  • Einhänder plays like a linear 2D side scroller, but your homing missiles can home in on enemies in the foreground and background. There are also a few enemies who will attack you in (relative) safety from the background on occasion, particularly bosses. A few gain extra abilities to do this only when the game is played on Hard mode, such as the "monkey" mid-boss of Stage 5 gaining the ability to back-hand your ship from the background if you're not watching out for it; although it has some other forms of background attacks regardless of what difficulty mode is being played.
  • Ether Vapor takes it a step further, to the point of being marketed as a "2.75D" shooter. The 3D graphics mean that the player can hit background enemies with the lock-on and, at set points in the game, even change perspective in the middle of the stage, between Vertical Scrolling Shooter, Horizontal Scrolling Shooter, and behind-the-back corridor shooter.
  • The Irem Arcade Game Horizon allows the player to move on the Z-axis between three parallax-scrolling paths.
  • Vertical Force for the Virtual Boy had a button to move the player's ship between two layers.
  • The RAY Series is best-known for the limited degee with which the player interacts with the third dimension. Your two basic weapons are a standard shot that attacks same-altitude enemies, and lock-on Homing Lasers that can target enemies below you that your shot cannot hit. Additionally, while the latter two games in the series, RayStorm and RayCrisis, use 3D graphics, RayForce is notable for achieving 3D effects with 2D sprites; the effect is especially pronounced at the end of area 4 when you descend through a fissure into the underground city below.

    Strategy Games 
  • Diggles has a fully fledged 3D-engine, but you can only dig and build in a vertical plane reaching down into the earth.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Danganronpa series allows you to pan around and explore the school; however, all of the students and props are presented as paper cutouts. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair continues this, even lampshading it by using 2.5D in a few places where 3D would normally be expected, such as the 2.5D Headphones.

    Other Games 
  • Progressbar 95: The Screensaver 3D levels. You control the progressbar on x and y axis as usual, while segments come from the background in several directions (and not the top as they usually do). Segments turn larger/closer as they approach, and can only be collected once they're close/large enough.
  • Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story is a Survival Horror game inspired by classics such as Clock Tower (1995), leading to its focus on horizontal movement with some depth/height instead of fully three-dimensional environments.
  • Tails Noir is an Adventure Game which plays like a 2D side-scroller, with 2D characters in a 3D environment.

Alternative Title(s): Two Point Five D