There’s something really special about early 3D platformers. Before mainstream games embraced hyperrealism, there was more freedom to create weird worlds where logic could be thrown out the window in favor of fun physical challenges and loads of secrets and collectibles that kept players busy exploring — not to mention all the loud and cartoonish mascots that came out of them.
The 3D platformer never disappeared, but it’s certainly been experiencing something of a renaissance, with a number of spiritual successors, remasters, and straight-up remakes announced in the last couple years — most recently a new Bubsy, Psychonauts, and the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy.
As an ode to the 3D platformer of yesteryear and their modern counterparts, here’s a list of other awesome (and not so awesome) ones that deserve a revisit.
Ape Escape was one of the original PlayStation’s greatest hits. Its quirky style, creative utilization of dual analog controls, fantastic soundtrack, and overwhelming charm earned it critical acclaim among fans, a few sequels and spin-offs, and even a 2005 remake on PSP. None lived up to the greatness of the original, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t love to see another try.
Should it come back: Heck yes.
It’s true that Yooka-Laylee was something of a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie, created by several ex-Rare developers, but a lot of Banjo fans would love to see the beloved franchise officially revisited.
Should it come back: Marty says I have to put “yes” or I’ll lose my job.
It’s been 21 years since the Bubsy series got a new entry, if you don’t count the bizarre tribute made by the Arcane Kids a few years ago. We actually had this on our list-in-progress as a joke before Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back was announced in June. So that’s happening.
Should it come back: Well… it is, so what we want doesn’t really matter at this point.
The iconic foul-mouthed squirrel is getting a Microsoft HoloLens game at some point in which he is nearly unrecognizable, but fans of the Nintendo 64’s Conker’s Bad Fur Day are looking for something more faithful to the series’ crude and offensive side.
Should it come back: People want it, so sure.
Croc: Legend of the Gobbos got mixed reviews across the board when it first launched in 1997 — some praised its graphics (hey, it was 1997) and most panned its terrible controls (1997, man). What many don’t know is that Croc was actually one of the earliest 3D platformers conceptualized, pitched first to Nintendo as a game starring Yoshi. Argonaut Games eventually reworked the reptilian hero into the goofy looking crocodile we know today after Nintendo turned the idea down. Its only sequel was Croc 2 in 1999. It never even made it into the 21st century… and maybe for good reason. But hey, some folks have fond memories of Croc — even if they did only play it on that Interactive CD Sampler.
Should it come back: Who else is gonna save the Gobbos!?
40 Winks is one of those games that I am increasingly convinced I’m the only one who ever played. It does have a review on IGN, though — we gave it a 5.5. It had a silly kid-friendly story, mediocre platforming, and the sort of bad camera expected from a PlayStation-era platformer from 1999. I do remember thinking it was cool that you could choose to play as either the brother or sister, even if the option only amounted to beating the crap out of goblins with a teddy bear or a candlestick.
Should it come back: Nah.
Speaking of goofy looking reptile mascots that need no introduction… this smug-looking gecko (voiced by comedian Dana Gould) used to serve as the mascot for Crystal Dynamics, the studio behind Legacy of Kain and the gritty Tomb Raider reboots. The ‘90s were an interesting time. You either have a nostalgic (perhaps ironic) fondness for Gex’s constant and often perverted wise-cracking or you harbor some genuine disdain for the shades-wearing lizard. For most of us who grew up with the original PlayStation, it’s probably some combination of both.
Should it come back: Can I just leave this blank?
It’s Glover. The game where you play as a glove. Glover is on a quest to find the missing crystals. Because it’s the ‘90s and that’s what you do in video games made in the ‘90s. But there’s another evil glove that wants to stop him, so you two have a showdown in outer space. I don’t make the rules.
Should it come back: While writing this entry, I found Glover creepypasta on a Nintendo forum board and just thought you should know that exists.
Jersey Devil is a video game that IGN gave a 5/10 in 1998. We called it “the ultimate bland platformer,” which is not very high praise. I rented it from Blockbuster several times in the late ‘90s and all I remember is that you fight vegetables and have to collect tokens that spell out the word KNARF, which was the name of the guy behind the vegetables you have to fight, I think.
Should it come back: Only if Jersey Devil looks like what the Jersey Devil actually looks like.
Jet Set Radio and Jet Set Radio Future were early 2000s gems. The short-lived series’ rollerblading, graffiti-tagging action set on the colorful, cel-shaded streets of Tokyo paired perfectly with the high-energy, genre-spanning soundtrack, embodying the spirit of youthful rebellion in a way that’s rarely been captured in games again. A student game called Zineth was a joyful tribute from a few years back, a reminder of how much we’d love to see another full-scale Jet Set Radio sequel.
Should it come back: Yes please.
Jumping Flash, originally created as a tech demo for the PlayStation in 1994, holds a world record for being the first platformer in “true 3D.” It wasn’t only genuinely fun and impressive as an early 3D platformer, but one of those extremely early PlayStation-era games that managed to be so expressive and weird that it’s still admired by many today. Jumping Flash embodies that stylish abstraction, freedom, and spirit that made a lot of us fall in love with these types of games in the first place.
Should it come back: Yes!
Mechanically side-scrolling, but technically still 3D, the lesser-known Klonoa maintains a faithful cult following two decades after its debut on the original PlayStation. That’s thanks in part to its several spin-offs and its 2008 remake, which was ported to the PlayStation 3, PSP, and Vita, but also because Klonoa is actually pretty fun. It received high praise when it launched, including in our own review, which called it “the best platformer on the market” back in 1998. Its fuzzy hero even won the Best Character award at the 1997 Tokyo Game Show.
Should it come back: It would probably make people very happy.
While I’m getting away with sneaking not-quite-3D-platformers on this list, let’s talk Little Big Adventure. This game and its sequel were highlights of my early PC gaming days and seeing its weird isometric pseudo-3D world recreated for the modern era is probably one of the few times I’d let my personal nostalgia get the best of me. The series had a ton of heart, from its low-poly cast of alien characters to its cyclable “play modes,” which added freedom and personality to your every move. Parts of it are outdated for sure, but it was also surprisingly innovative for its time, with its non-linear questlines and free-roaming, near open-world approach to exploration.
Should it come back: I just want to be not the only person who remembers these games.
Oh boy. Time to talk Rascal. Rascal might be one of the worst games ever made. There was such a nightmarish style clash between character models that they looked like default avatars in an early 2000s visual chat program. Movement was sluggish, tank-controlled torture and the platforming was absolutely miserable. It was one of those early PlayStation games where the camera just hated you and the cutscenes were blotchy and ugly enough to be a physical strain on the eyes. Your only weapon was a bubble gun, and yet Rascal couldn’t even touch water without dying immediately. The music was also laughably generic — okay, sometimes I get the castle theme stuck in my head. Everything about it was so atrocious that I actually feel bad talking about it, since somewhere out there is a handful of people who were probably very proud to work on it. Shout-out to those people. It’s also pretty fun to revisit today, if only for a glimpse into the obscure world of early ’90s PSX games. But whether or not anyone should spend time and money reviving it for modern gamers is another story.
Should it come back: lol no
Oh, Running Wild? You mean the on-foot racing game featuring creepy bipedal animals?
Should it come back:
Spyro the Dragon has received quite a few sequels and spin-offs, including an entirely separate series called The Legend of Spyro, where they tried to make Spyro look edgier. He’s also made unfortunate appearances in the Skylanders series, looking like a disgruntled Digimon. People want a proper Spyro reboot so badly that someone even recreated part of the original in Unreal Engine 4. Whether you need your cartoonish mascot-driven ‘90s platformers to look that sharp is up to you, but it’s pretty clear that old-school Spyro fans want something new and shiny from the series, which is good to hear considering the recent report that we’ll be seeing a remastered trilogy later in 2018.
Should it come back: Crash got remastered, so it’s only fair.
It’s about time Mario got a new game. That guy never gets games.
Should it come back: Give Mario a game.
What are some of your favorite and least favorite 3D platformers? Are there any glaring omissions on this list? Yell at me in the comments.
Chloi Rad is an Associate Editor for IGN. Follow her on Twitter at @_chloi.