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Video Game 3D Leap

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Oh, so that's why it's called "Metal Gear Solid".

"People are bored of 2D worlds... this is the age of 3D!"
King Tezro of Dotnia, 3D Dot Game Heroes

This is when a Video Game series makes the leap from sprite graphics to Polygonal Graphics. The largest portion of video game franchises made the leap during The Fifth Generation of Console Video Games, when the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and Nintendo 64 released in the mid-90s. In that era 3D graphics were feasible on home consoles,note  and as a dream for many developers, it was the hot new thing. In fact, this trope was so desireable that it would take fifteen years for new games being in 2D to be acceptable, in large part thanks to the rise of indie games since 2D graphics, up to a point, are less intensive to make.

The leap usually comes in two forms: Total Upgrade, and Presentation Upgrade. Total Upgrades completely change the gameplay to accommodate the third dimension, while Presentation Upgrades change just the graphics while leaving the gameplay the same, usually because the gameplay works in both (although even then changes can and often must be made to accommodate the old gameplay in the new presentation).

A franchise does not necessarily have to have had prior 2D entries in order for it to count: if it was breaching new territory in 3D's formative years, it can still count for this trope because the style was still very new back then. Sometimes the upgrade involves a Sprite/Polygon Mix.

Compare 2½D, which is where a Side-Scroller with 2D gameplay is presented with 3D graphics. When a series has made the leap but then intentionally goes back to the original 2D art style, it's likely Retraux.


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    Total Upgrade 
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario 64 is widely regarded as the first Platform Game to successfully make the transition, establishing a number of the general rules and ideas that continue to form the foundation of 3D game design., and the first to really show what 3D games could accomplish. However, in the process, it also diverged from some of the staples of the prior 2D games; years later, Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World would attempt to marry the two styles of Mario gameplay to positive reception.
    • To throw fan games into the mix, Kaizo Mario Galaxy 2 brings the intense difficulty of the 2D Kaizo Mario games to a 3D realm.
  • X-Wing was perhaps the Ur-Example, using a 3D engine with great success. In 1993!
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time maintained much of the core gameplay as the 2D Zelda games (apart from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link); just adding its lock-on system was a great way to get around the camera issues in so many of these games and allow for more focused combat gameplay.
    • And the same game got the honor again, with a second upgrade to stereoscopic 3D (what most people think of when they think of, for example, 3D movies) on the 3DS.
  • GoldenEye 007, being far from the first 007 video game, but it was the first and most notable one, the first to make the 3D leap, and the first major example of the First-Person Shooter genre finding success on consoles. With its movie-accurate setpieces, split-screen multiplayer, focus on realistic environments and level design, and subversion of the usual problems with licensed games, GoldenEye 007 is still regarded as one of the most influential video games of all time across the board, and was a bonafide system-seller for the Nintendo 64 against the PlayStation.
  • Metroid: Metroid Prime received a great amount of acclaim for not only transitioning the non-linear adventure format of the series to 3D, but for doing so while also becoming a First-Person Shooter (er, First-Person Adventure). The Prime series would come to form its own branch of the franchise, with the 2D games continuing alongside them.
  • The Metal Gear series is something of an odd case, as the original Metal Gear Solid was mostly a presentation update with gameplay virtually identical to Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (the second MSX2 game), but successive games in the series would add new features to take advantage of the 3D presentation (Metal Gear Solid 2 letting you aim and fire weapons in first-person view) or to overcome limitations in the old gameplay style (Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence adding a proper third-person camera) that gradually turned it into a total upgrade, with the series by Metal Gear Solid 4 playing as more of a Third-Person Shooter with stealth elements.
  • Grand Theft Auto III is one of the most famous examples. While the first games were million sellers, this boosted the series to the top tier of game series by simply taking the top-down open world of the first two, making it 3D, and then filling it with lots of details and non-essential gameplay mechanics like earning cash as an ambulance driver or winning street races that had nothing to do with the main story itself. In a time where games were still doing linear segmented levels with nothing else to do, this was a major innovation
  • Mega Man Legends was an Enforced Trope for this, since Capcom was told by Sony they needed to make a 3D Mega Man before they could make 2D games for the PlayStation. As a consequence, it's more of an Action-Adventure/RPG than a run-n-gun platformer like the main series. As you would expect, it turned out to be a very polarizing game — some consider it an excellent game in its own right, while others view it a prime example of a poorly done jump to 3D, with the Unexpected Gameplay Change and clunky camera controls. They later would release a main-line 3D installment of a Mega Man game in the form of Mega Man X7, but opinions are more unanimous on it having poorly executed its 3D leap, with the random jumps between camera angles and poor level design.
  • Ninja Gaiden leaped, with the difficulty preserved.
  • Shinobi likewise leaped, and was doubly hard as a result (the Scarf of Asskicking was a nice bonus too).
  • Phantasy Star is one of the few RPG series to make a full upgrade, since the gameplay was changed from turn-based JRPG to online action RPG.
  • Sonic Adventure brought Sonic into 3D and had a huge overworld complete with full voiceovers and multiple characters. Depending on who you ask, it also first had problems with jumping to 3D here. Sonic was supposed to make the jump with Sonic X-treme on the Sega Saturn, but that game was cancelled, with the only 3D Sonic games on the Saturn being the racing spin-off Sonic R and Sonic Jam's Sonic World.
  • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne for the PlayStation 2 was the only game in the mainline series to conduct battles in full 3D until Shin Megami Tensei V in 2021. All further mainline games returned to 2D battles (with the occasional 3D models for some of the bosses). This can be correlated to a Channel Hop of the mainline series to the Nintendo DS and later the 3DS.
  • Aero Fighters Assault was a 3D flight simulation instead of a wacky arcade 2D Shoot 'Em Up like the older games.
  • Bethesda:
    • The Elder Scrolls made the leap to fully polygonal 3D graphics with its third installment, Morrowind, which was a very natural as the previous installments (Arena, Daggerfall) already used sprite-based 3D. This also meant a major shift if design philosophy for the series from the "Width" side of the scale to the "Density" side. Arena and Daggerfall have absolutely massive game worlds, on the scale of real life countries. However, to fill out these worlds, any areas not related to the main quests (or a few prominent side quests, in the case of Daggerfall) are Randomly Generated, with Procedural Generation used for dungeons. This allows for huge game worlds with nigh-infinite content...but at the cost of that content getting very repetitive, very quickly. Starting after the 3D leap, Bethesda significantly scaled down the game world (to a "mere" nine square miles compared to thousands) but was entirely hand-built. It helps that, through the use of Space Compression, it is nowhere near the size of it's predecessors, but is still far larger than most game worlds. Another reason for this philosophical change was Morrowind's Multi-Platform availability on console (specifically, Xbox) as well as PC, a first for the series (and first for a prominent Western RPG in many, many years at the time). This changed helped Morrowind to get into the hands of a wider audience, being the Breakthrough Hit for both the series and the development company. Follow-up games (Oblivion and Skyrim) swung the series back toward the middle of the scale. Both increased the size of the game world compared to Morrowind, but also brought back elements of random and procedural generation to fill out those larger game worlds. Coupled with enemy and loot spawns being spread sheet generated, much of the "density" uniqueness seen in Morrowind was lost.
    • Fallout:
      • Follow the series' acquisitionn by Bethesda, it made the leap and the gameplay changed significantly. What was an isometric turn-based tactical role-playing game became a Wide-Open Sandbox First-Person Shooter with RPG elements and many similarities to its The Elder Scrolls sister series. The new version has been generally well-received, though grouchy old-school fans might point out that it took so long for the 3D Fallout 3 to come out that most people who play it have never played the 2D originals - and despite being set in the same universe, there's little story connection between 3 and the 2D games, though its sequel Fallout: New Vegas, developed by the developers of the original games at Obsidian Entertainment, contain multiple Continuity Nods to earlier games.
      • An earlier version of Fallout 3 from the series' original developers, codenamed Van Buren, would've fit into the latter category, keeping gameplay nearly the same, but switching graphics entirely to polygonal 3D with a rotatable overhead camera.
      • Ambitious plans were announced for Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel (an interquel released shortly after Fallout 2). The game was going to get the 3rd dimension and the characters were to be full 3D models. Among other things changing armour was going to be done by swapping textures. In the end the game did get the 3rd dimension—which is used in two missions (watchtowers in the raiders' base and tunnels in the beastlords' base)—and extremely inconvenient interface—the use of ladders and staircases is strictly automatic and there's no interface command to rise the view point. The former means that once the character touches a ladder or a staircase, he/she will ascent/descent automatically and cannot stop unless the turns run out; the latter means no way to manually aim at an enemy directly above you (autofire can be used and it was implemented surprisingly well). As for 3D models, all characters in the release were still done as sprites.
      • The console-exclusive Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel was a top-down Action RPG and the first Fallout game to use 3D models, but it was universally derided by fans and declared Canon Discontinuity by Bethesda.
  • Tales of Symphonia was the first game in the Tales Series to use 3D battles, although free-range 3D running didn't come until later with Tales of the Abyss.
  • Lemmings 3D is pretty similar to the original, but has to add the “turner” skill to compensate for the extra dimension, and also adds devices like teleporters and springboards that weren't in the original (but were in Lemmings 2.) However, it still has issues with its jump to 3D, and much of the split-second timing crucial to the original gameplay is lost as a result (lemmings can only perform skills in the middle or edge of a tile).
  • Prince of Persia changed tremendously, accompanied by a total Continuity Reboot. Of course, the first try was an abject failure, ultimately requiring another reboot to correctly execute a 3D leap.
  • Worms 3D did a pretty decent job at the previous games' weapon systems and deformable landscape. To some it still was unsuccessful in 3D and wasn't as fun.
  • Duke Nukem 3D was outrageously more successful than its two predecessors, becoming massively more violent and with the main character's attitude significantly changing at the same time. Despite its name, Duke Nukem 3D wasn't a true 3D game, but a 2.5D game that used clever level design tricks like room-over-room and sloped surfaces to create an illusion of verticality and 3D space. It wasn't until Duke Nukem Forever and spin-off games such as Duke Nukem: Time to Kill that Duke went truly 3D.
  • The Wolfenstein series switched to a 3D perspective in 1992 under the name Wolfenstein 3-D, which is frequently pointed to as one of the games that established the first-person shooter genre. (Doom would be the other common one). Despite the name, Wolfenstein 3D is an aversion as it uses 2D sprites, the leap would be done by Return to Castle Wolfenstein in 2001.
  • Solar Assault Gradius.
  • Pitfall 3D: Beyond the Jungle
  • Project Sylpheed is a FreeSpace-style Simulation Game, unlike its In Name Only predecessors which were vertical shoot em ups.
  • After testing the polygonal waters with War Gods, Midway brought Mortal Kombat into the third dimension with its fourth installment. It remained a 3D fighter until Mortal Kombat 9 reverted to a 2½D style with polygonal graphics but two dimensional gameplay.
  • Grim Fandango was the first post SCUMM LucasArts Adventure Game. The transition was traumatic to the genre. The 3D graphics were still crude next to crafted and detailed sprites in the late 90s. Grim Fandango suffers from the loss of mouse control and just moving across the map becomes tedious. All-in-all it was Gamespot game of the year, but it sold so poorly it became a Genre-Killer in the minds of videogame producers. (the game's engine being used with the company's flagship adventure series in Escape from Monkey Island got an equally uninspiring response)
  • The Rayman series is a very strange case. The initial entry in the series was a 2D platformer that underwent a 3D upgrade for the second and third entries, while Origins switched back to 2D animation and gameplay.
  • Guilty Gear 2: Overture was a 3D Beat 'em Up/RTS hybrid, a departure from the usual 2D Fighter fare the series is known for. Reactions were mixed, and even then many who didn't dislike this game wanted a 2D fighter.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies still retains Visual Novel in the jump to 3D for the Ace Attorney series, but also features 3D investigation scenes that can be viewed at multiple angles, from different vantage points, and actually show a few characters at the scene as opposed to only appearing when you want to talk to them. Especially notable in Case 3 where you have to find pieces of rubble littering the scene; in order to do so you have to use multiple camera angles either from simply rotating the scene to examining objects that could be used as vantage points for further examination and two characters actually being present that can't be spoken to normally.
  • Much like Mario 64, Pac-Man got the Pac-Man World series, which did fairly well. The series went from maze-based to a 3D platformer.
  • Castlevania tried making the leap on the Nintendo 64, but it too was unsuccessful in 3D. The series would keep trying, however, though the 3D titles would be nowhere near as popular as the 2D Metroid Vania titles that would also be made alongside the series, at least until Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was released.
  • Subverted with the Mother series. The third game in the series was originally meant to be a Nintendo 64 title known internationally as Earthbound 64. It was put on Development Hell until it was ultimately revamped into a sprite based Game Boy Advance game, Mother 3. Mother 3 is the last Mother game so the series never made the leap to 3D.
  • The Sims was mostly 2D styled to look like 3D via Isometric Projection, with simplistic 3D characters who had a basic set of needs to take care of. Aside from having an upgrade to full 3D, The Sims 2 also expanded on gameplay by adding aging, familial relationships, genetics, and more; which caused it to dethrone The Sims as the best selling PC game of all time.
  • Picross 3D introduces, well, three-dimensional Picross puzzles, although it does make a number of changes to the gameplay mechanics in order to be human-friendly. In particular, rather than simply filling in cells, you break blocks until it's "carved" into the solution.
  • The first Risk of Rain is a 2D roguelike/platformer with infamously tiny character sprites. In its jump to 3D, the sequel modifies the gameplay to fit the new dimension, blending the platforming and randomized gameplay of the original with a control scheme not unlike a third-person shooter. (You can also see yourself — and enemies — in proper detail in it, thanks to the camera pulling in much closer than before). Alterations are obviously needed to make sure characters still fit their niches (now everyone can run and shoot, but the Huntress has been given autoaim and the ability to sprint while shooting to compensate), and it has made melee-only classes Difficult, but Awesome.
  • Blood Omen, the first in the Legacy of Kain series, was a top-down 2D game, with focus on melee combat and spells. Its immediate sequel, Soul Reaver, jumped into 3D with gusto and focused more on puzzle-solving, using Raziel's ability to shift between realms to progress. The rest of the series kept the third-person perspective.
  • Command & Conquer had two.
    • Up to the fourth game, the series had consisted of 2D sprites and/or voxel models on an isometric sprite background. Command & Conquer: Generals brought the series to full 3D in models, maps and camera controls. However, Generals also changed significant chunks of the C&C formula in the process, leaning much more toward a StarCraft style of RTS compared to prior C&C titles. The storyline also took place in a completely different continuity to its predecessors — basically being a Ripped from the Headlines War on Terror setting rather than sci-fi Alternate History. Later C&C titles (Tiberium Wars and Red Alert 3) would move back toward the traditional C&C style of RTS and work within the previous non-Generals story settings, while keeping the fully 3D environment and engine.
    • Command & Conquer: Renegade took the setting and story of the 1995 original and transplanted it into a full-3D FPS. Multiplayer still plays as much like the RTS games as possible, with players on each side being able to spend credits to change into more advanced infantry classes and purchase vehicles, and full bases with unique buildings that take away abilities as they're destroyed (e.g. taking away the enemy's access to higher-tier infantry types by destroying their barracks).
  • Kirby's Blowout Blast is an expanded version of Kirby: Planet Robobot's Kirby 3D Rumble mini-game, with traditional gameplay put into a 3D plane. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is the first ever mainline game with fully 3D gameplay.
  • Technobabylon is a traditional 2D point-and-click adventure game. The sequel Technobabylon: Birthright, which is currently in development, is transitioning to full 3D..
  • Sega tried to do this to two of their most famous Beat 'em Up games in Altered Beast (2005) (changing the Ancient Grome setting to a contemporary Bio Punk one) Golden Axe: Beast Rider (tried to keep similar to the old games, aside from only featuring Action Girl Tyris as a playable character). Neither was well received, with complaints that the gameplay was not well implemented in three dimensions.
  • The first Spark the Electric Jester game is in 2D, featuring sprites. Its sequels feature both 3D graphics and gameplay.

    Presentation Upgrade 
  • Final Fantasy VII doesn't have much that couldn't be done in 2D.
  • For the Mario & Luigi games that used 3D graphics, the gameplay was kept the same as in the 2D games.
  • The Fire Emblem series did add elevation bonuses to Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn but removed it in later games.
  • The only handheld games in The Legend of Zelda series with polygonal graphics that don't fall under the "presentation upgrade" category are both enhanced versions of the Nintendo 64 games Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks are both top-down games played with the touch screen, and A Link Between Worlds intentionally plays like A Link to the Past due to its status as a fairly direct sequel.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • The series was even more careful in this regard. Dragon Quest VII only just barely went above being a 2D game with polygons, while Dragon Quest VIII was a full presentation upgrade.
    • Dragon Quest V: The PS2 version is the only 2D Original Dragon Quest to be completely remade in 3D.
    • The 3DS remake of VII played this more straight, with the entire world and its characters presented in 3D after the DS rereleases of Dragon Quest IV through Dragon Quest VI remained in 2D after the graphics upgrade.
  • Mario Kart didn't need much of a change. It used Mode 7 (a hardware kludge to dynamically scale and rotate its 2D background layer, giving the illusion of 3D space) originally, so the visuals were already a convincing simulacrum of 3D. Mario Kart 64 added elevation to the flat stages (and thus true 3D gameplay, although the practical difference was very subtle).
    • This also applies to the F-Zero series, though the F-Zero X course design heavily exploits the new 3D perspective with steeply banked curves and loop-de-loops.
  • The first Klonoa game, Door to Phantomile, was a Sprite/Polygon Mix, but the sequel was cel-shaded 3D.
  • Kirby:
    • Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards had almost everything rendered in 3D, but was a 2½D platformer that kept the gameplay from the rest of the series intact, taking advantage of the new presentation by utilizing curving paths and dynamic camera angles. Kirby's Return to Dream Land, Kirby: Triple Deluxe, Kirby: Planet Robobot, and Kirby Star Allies would pare back on this dynamic design slightly, though continue to play with ideas such as Kirby traveling between the foreground and background.
    • When Return to Dream Land was known as "Kirby GCN" and was a GameCube game, early screenshots show they had attempted at one point to make it into a full 3D game. They ended up changing it to a traditional sidescroller. However, Planet Robobot does feature an experimental score-based subgame called Kirby 3D Rumble, which translates the gameplay into a 3D environment for the first time in the series. This was later expanded into the adventure-based Kirby's Blowout Blast, and even more so for Kirby and the Forgotten Land, the first fully 3D game in the series.
  • Street Fighter IV. Admittedly fighting games with 3D movement outside of dodging rarely work.
  • After over 20 years and thirteen 2D games, the 3D King of Fighters XIV fell under this—As the first main series game to make the leap, still having 2D gameplay. As opposed to what was technically the first 3D title in the series as a whole, the Total-example King of Fighters: Maximum Impact, released a year after the tenth game, 2003.note 
  • Guilty Gear Xrd is a 2.5D fighter that uses the Unreal Engine 3 and ditches the sprites in favor of models, but the models themselves are created to imitate the 2D visuals as much as possible, such as emulating the choppy animation and lots of model morphing.
  • Pokémon:
    • The purpose of the Pokémon Stadium series was directly stated to be this for the battle portions of the series, while the Colosseum duology also brought in the classic gameplay with an overhead view.
    • Likewise, the mainline series did this as well. Gen IV and V featured 3D environments with character sprites, and while there were small effects on the overworld gameplay, the battle system changes were minimal. Gen VI onward had the series make the full leap, with the only substantial change outside the usual battle system tweaks being that movement is no longer restricted to a grid.
    • The WiiWare and Gen 5 and 6 Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games are rendered entirely in 3D; alterations to gameplay appear to be minimal.
  • Gradius IV is the same as the earlier Gradius, only in 3D. It doesn't do much to fully utilize the third dimension.
  • G-Darius brought the series into 3D while keeping the action in a 2D plane. The extra dimension is used heavily to make bosses huge, dynamic spectacles that weren't as easily doable with sprites.
  • Despite going into 3-D, Warcraft III is still definitely a Warcraft game—though the jump did allow it to supplement its FMV cutscenes with cheaper and more numerous realtime ones.
  • While in 3D, Starcraft II has very similar gameplay to the original. As does Diablo III to its predecessors. Blizzard does a good job at this it seems.
  • The transition to fully polygonal graphics was very natural for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, since earlier games were already in sprite-based 3D.
  • Lemmings Revolutions is essentially a pseudo-3D version of the original, although does add extra objects like teleporters.
  • The Myst series is an interesting example, as its first 3D installment was actually a Videogame Remake of the first installment, with only its MMO spinoff and the main series' final game originating as realtime 3D.
  • UFO After Blank's switch to 3D graphics from the tile-based (cube-based?) isometric 2D graphics of the prior XCOM series actually resulted in most levels becoming less 3D, geometrically speaking, due to engine limitations. This loss of verticality is exacerbated by the lack of flight or destructible terrain.
  • Sid Meier's Civilization IV gives 3D landscape and characters to the franchise, but still plays similarly to the third game.
  • The original OutRun, was a "3-D" driving game that used advanced scaling technology (as did other racing games from the mid-late 1980s), so Out Run 2 isn't much of a change, save for the graphics.
  • Space Invaders Infinity Gene was originally a 2D Shoot 'Em Up released for the iPhone which takes the Space Invaders formula and gradually turns it into a modernised shmup. The Platform/PlayStation Network/Xbox Live Arcade version takes the concept to its logical conclusion by implementing 3D levels in addition to the 2D levels. Your ship still moves in a horizontal axis in the 3D levels, but it definitely allows for more creative boss battles.
  • Syndicate Wars gained a 3D engine, but while the ability to rotate the camera and destroy buildings were neat, they didn't really improve the gameplay that much (building destruction was a little weird since they were prone to catastrophic collapse when a car nudged one corner). Also the sharp, hi-res graphics of the original were replaced by blocky polygons.
  • Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim uses 3D graphics with 2D character sprites (except in the PlayStation 2 version, which renders characters in 3D as well), but still has the overhead view of previous games, aside from the original version of the third game (the remake, Ys: The Oath in Felghana, of which is more similar to Ys VI). Ys SEVEN is fully 3D, even with character graphics, but still doesn't make any radical gameplay changes. Similar to The Oath in Felghana borrowing elements from VI, SEVEN's visual and gameplay styles also carried over when Ys IV was reimagined as Ys: Memories of Celceta.
  • Although the first two Golden Sun games on the Game Boy Advance already used pre-rendered 3D sprites, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn transitioned to actual polygonal graphics, though since the entire series uses more or less the same perspective, the gameplay is mostly the same aside from the option to control the game using the Nintendo DS's touch screen.
  • Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney keeps both games' Visual Novel style, but now the characters are in 3D instead of using sprites, as part of the platform shift to the Nintendo 3DS. For the main series, Professor Layton already made the leap in Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, while Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies later did this for the Ace Attorney series proper.
  • While the titular Sims of The Sims game were 3D, the environment they lived in was not. The Sims 2 was completely in 3D, and The Sims 3 took said 3D further. The core gameplay remains the same, with some added features here and there.
  • Mega Man 11 is the first non-remake entry in the Mega Man (Classic) series to use 3D graphics, but apart from some minor quality-of-life tweaks, the series' famous platforming gameplay is intact.
  • Mega Man X8 learned from X7's failures and turned the 3D conversion from Complete to Presentation, and the series was much better for it.
  • Sam & Max Hit the Road was to have a 3D sequel called Sam & Max: Freelance Police, then LucasArts cancelled it in 2004, leading to some employees leaving the company to form Telltale Games. It took until 2006 for the episodic 3D point-and-click Sam & Max Save the World to be released.
  • Once the Atelier Series games made the jump to the PlayStation 3, they went from a mixture of "strictly 2D" and "2D character sprites with some 3D environmental elements" to "full-on 3D presentation" starting with the release of Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland.
  • Rayman Origins and its sequel, Legends, share the same style of 2D platforming; however, Legends drops the Thick-Line Animation art style of its predecessor in favor of a 2.5D, painting-like look with 3D lighting.
  • The Aliens franchise went from Alien Trilogy (2D-and-a-half world with sprite-based entities) to the full-3D Aliens vs. Predator, with excellent results.
  • Super Robot Wars makes most of its games in 2.5D (the last "fully 2D game" was Super Robot Wars L for the DS), but even in full 3D (as a few games have used), the most they really do is make the attack animations involve 3D robots.
  • RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 added a few things that couldn't be done before in 2D such as riding rides, but for the most part the core gameplay was unchanged. This caused some frustration with fans who were expecting a more sophisticated coaster editor that wasn't restricted by sprite limitations.
  • This was the main complaint The Angry Video Game Nerd had with the Virtual Boy. Despite the system's capacity for "true" 3D graphics, just about all of its games could have been perfectly done in a 2D setting.
  • Inverted with The Magic School Bus video games. The adaptations released from 1994 to 2000 use a mix of 2D gameplay and 3D cutscenes while the activity centers released from 2000 to 2003 only use 2D animation.
  • Harvest Moon:
  • ESCHATOS is one to its spiritual predecessor, Judgement Silversword, by using full 3D graphics reminiscent of a Sega NAOMI arcade game, but its gameplay remains mostly 2D as it uses an overhead perspective during some segments such as the boss battles and shifts angles during stage transitions.
  • Etrian Odyssey games all have 3D dungeons and world maps, but the fourth game, Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan, upgrades the battle interface to 3D backgrounds and enemies, which have been carried over to the series (even applied to the first two games' remakes) since.
  • Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, unlike previous games in the series which were fully 2D, is a Sprite/Polygon Mix with 2D hand-drawn sprites on 3D backgrounds.
  • Lethal League's playstyle remains the same between its sprite-based first iteration and Blaze. The only real difference from the polygonal upgrade is the ability for the camera to shift in key moments, as it's still a 2½D fighter.
  • Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile is the first City-Building Series game to be rendered in 3D. Its tweaks to the series' gameplay conventions make it an Oddball in the Series, but the core gameplay model — plan and build a city that meets certain victory conditions, providing specific amenities to its residents and making use of natural resources — is unchanged.
  • Discounting DA!, Chronicle is the first Puyo Puyo game to be presented fully in 3D. Gameplay is still the traditional rule sets, but the cut-ins are now 3D models, much like how 39 presented theirs. Chronicle's RPG mode also utilizes a 3D free-roaming overworld.
  • Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny is the first in the series to use 3D character models, where all the previous games used a Sprite/Polygon Mix with 2D character sprites.
  • Creeper World has mostly been a series where you're playing an RTS from a top-down 2D perspective where the enemy is essentially simulated Grimy Water. Creeper World 4 brings the experience to full 3D, but the gameplay elements are largely same as the previous games. One subtle difference, however, is that the real-life formula used to simulate Creeper movement was changed from thermal flow to wave equation.
  • The Nintendo 64 port of Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn upgraded the presentation, with everything except infantry - the maps, the buildings, and the vehicles - rendered in 3D, though compared to the later total upgrade in Generals the gameplay is otherwise identical to the original.
  • The Raiden series starting with Raiden III uses polygonal graphics as opposed to sprite-based, which allows for bosses and stage designs not possible in the sprite-based games. However, it's still a conventional Vertical Scrolling Shooter with two-dimensional player movement and automatically-scrolling levels.

    Discussed and Conversed