Video Games

2D to 3D: Games That Did it Right

Previously Published by Megan E. Pearson on 30plusgamer, a no longer active site

The shift from 2D to 3D was a major turning point in video game history. Both gamers and technology seemed to be driving video games towards something new, but 3D was a massive shift. It was harder to develop for and a lot more expensive. It’s not that surprising to look back and realize just how many franchises failed to make the jump. Other franchises took awhile and a few failed games before eventually working out the kinks. A few though seemed to jump straight from the world of 2D to 3D in the best possible ways. While there are many of games out there that did a good job these five deserve a special place at the top of the list.



Mario is one of the top video game franchises ever invented. By the time Nintendo 64 came out it was already highly successful for Nintendo. Taking Mario to 3D made perfect sense with Nintendo’s new console they needed to take this franchise to the next step, and they did it so well. Mario is not perfect, but honestly as far as the shift from 2D to 3D goes it’s damn near close. Mario traveled to many fun and interesting worlds, giving the game a fresh new feel. They also brought in what made the franchise so successful in the first place, with the enemies and a few of the power ups. Mario 64 managed to feel brand new while keeping what made Mario, Mario.

Legend of Zelda


Legend of Zelda first went 3D with Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. Part of what made this jump so successful was how epic it really was. They transported Link to a 3D world, still blending puzzles, action and adventure, and RPG elements of gameplay. People were also really impressed by the open world feel of the game. The biggest challenge that faced this game was the memory limitations that came with the Nintendo 64 cartridge, and was actually the largest game that Nintendo had ever released at the time. This was reflected in the game, it was large, with a rich story, and many rich environments. It really helped take the world of epic adventures for console gamers to a new level.

Metal Gear


Possible what helped this series transition to 3D with Metal Gear Solid, was the fact that they tried to make it similar to the 2D predecessors in many ways. The movements, use of environments, and the field of vision system was pretty similar to the past games. Making sure to not change too much about gameplay, but instead focus on just shifting the graphics helped make the transition smooth and successful. Snake was taken into a new world of gaming and took stealth gaming to a whole new level.

Grand Theft Auto


In addition to being the first 3D game in the series Grand Theft Auto 3 also made changes to gameplay. In the past the series had taken a top down view, and even had levels. GTA 3 instead combines a 3rd person shooter with a driving game, as well as expanding on the open world experience (slightly more limited in the first two) that the series is now known for. Despite making so many major changes to the series, these changes along with the 3D really did help create a great and popular series.

Final Fantasy


In the world of RPGs Final Fantasy is one of those franchises that stands out. Even if you don’t play them most gamers know what Final Fantasy is. Final Fantasy VII was the first in the series to use 3D graphics. It was first planned for the Nintendo 64, but the cartridges still used by Nintendo lacked the memory needed for the game. So Square took the series to the Playstation and not only released their first 3D game, but a game that lived up to the epic adventures gamers had come to expect from the series. To many fans of the franchise it’s still considered the best in the series, but best or not it does mark an amazing shift from 2D to 3D. The characters and environments looked wonderful, movement and combat transitioned smoothly from 2D to 3D. If companies wanted to know how to bring their games to 3D right this was a perfect example to look at.



Unlike Mario and Legend of Zelda this popular Nintendo franchise did not go 3D with the release of the Nintendo 64. Instead Metroid Prime, the first 3D Metroid game was released for Gamecube 8 years after the last game in the franchise. Metroid Prime took the series into 3D and it was amazing. It had interesting worlds, found a way to use the ball function perfectly, and made the switch from side scroller to 3D FPS wonderfully. It may have taken awhile for Metroid to make the switch but it still did so wonderfully.

Ninja Gaiden


Ninja Gaiden has been featured on many consoles. Nintendo had the older triology of the series in 2D, then Ninja Gaiden kind of disappeared for awhile. A new game was brought to the Xbox in 2004. Less of a sequel, this Ninja Gaiden was a whole new story in the franchise with the same Ryu and the same insane difficulty. Like Metroid perhaps waiting for the 3D phase to have a little time served this series well. Instead of rushing into the 3D world, Ryu took his time and gamers were giving a great transition for their waiting.

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