The resurgence of 3D platforms, a generation of great leaps

We review the best that the genre has given in recent years, a resurgence that raises new ideas and, with it, horizons yet to be explored.

What makes a platformer a good platformer? The 3D aspect has been and continues irremediably more pending than what technology says. Designing a three-dimensional world is more complex and expensive; For this reason, the indie scene has not explored — yet — so much this aspect, but 2D, where it can express its message without so many sacrifices. Fortunately, during this last five years we have been able to identify new names, new sap, as well as the will to reinvent ourselves in the one that accompanied us in our childhood or adolescence.

Those names make up a lineup of titles that allow us to say that 3D platform video games are in top form; surely not in an overwhelming amount, as many would like, but enough to direct this way of understanding the jumps in an encouraging direction. From those more linear and classic, through the most open collectathon. Even ideas that are not specifically framed in the three-dimensional platform genre, but that do incorporate natural mechanics of these in aspects such as speed or the puzzle. Variety enriches the whole.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time

This article does not pretend to be a top with the best platform games of the generation, for that reason they are not ordered under that criterion, but we are going to go step by step, jump by jump, investigating what these video games and studies have contributed that, On their own merits, they have advanced 3D platforms to the present day.

Ratchet & Clank, when all the pieces fit

Anyone who has bought a PlayStation 5 knows that they should not stop observing what Ratchet & Clank promises to offer us: A dimension apart. There was a time when we didn’t really know where the Insomniac Games saga wanted to go, almost more used for mid-range experiments than bets emblem of the PlayStation ecosystem catalog, as it happened with the first trilogy and, more moderately, in PS3 with the anthology of time, just as essential as the original. The popularity of this duo increased with the still young PS4 title published in 2016, a production that is not just a remake, but a reimagining of the original PS2 work with a more cinematic, realistic and shocking look.

Ratchet & Clank

Insomniac Games designed an action adventure with a more agile camera, animations to match the circumstances, shooting everywhere, new tools and a total twist that rejuvenated Ratchet and Clank to the point of establishing intellectual property as a reference. popular, again, which now takes AAA gallons. It is evident that they are the couple least anchored to the platforms of the classics like Jak & Daxter, Sly Cooper or Banjo-Kazooie; here we seek more to combine jumping with shooter, action and adventure mechanics, but still respecting its origins. The work of PS4 is an example of how to recover a series taking advantage of all the technological benefits that its mother console offers.

A Hat in Time, a trick for breakfast

A Hat in Time’s Kickstarter bell didn’t beat around the bush: an old-school collect-a-thon in three dimensions. We must go back to the year 2013 (yes, 2013) for the origins of the Gears for Breakfast title, finally published at the end of 2017, the worst possible year to stand out in the genre considering the concert that Nintendo had mounted with Super Mario Odyssey . Word of mouth, forums and social media did their job and managed to establish A Hat in Time as a true success. Steam curators and press critics warned; people responded. History, for its part, has proved this small Danish group in love with traditional platform adventures right.

A mix between Super Mario Sunshine with elements of Odyssey and Banjo-Kazooie? Yes, with a touch of imagination, magic and a variety of situations that make it seem impossible that so much could be achieved with so little. The original Kickstarter campaign only had 9,169 backers, a paltry number relative to the number of people who have purchased the game and are looking forward to a future DLC on the way. Such is its impact that it even has physical distribution.

A Hat in Time
A Hat in Time

The reason why A Hat in Time has a place in this report is none other than the movement of the character, so pleasant, fluid and precise that it reduces small design problems due to not having as much budget as other large productions. It is challenging, colorful, with a superb soundtrack and attention to detail typical of the great references.

Even having a structure that always repeats the same patterns —the search for the hourglasses—, each level tells you a story, each phase is an adventure in itself, with small narrative elements that mix action, stealth, verticality, moments humor, puzzle … There is nothing missing in this remarkable game, only the thorn in the face of not having made more noise when his name was news. In any case, there is no doubt that the best is yet to come, that Gears for Breakfast has a lot to say. Until then, his magic doesn’t seem to have an expiration date.

New Super Lucky’s Tale, on the right track.

The history of this title is curious. Lucky’s Tale has traveled through virtual reality, walked without success on Xbox and, finally, with the New Super Lucky’s Tale version for the rest of the platforms —now on Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One— it manages to consummate its most remarkable and comforting edition; because it is not excellent in anything, but everything manages to place it where it should.

It seems incredible how important camera freedom can be in a video game; in this case it is essential. Examples like Sackboy: An adventure in a big way or Super Mario 3D World have been designed with the idea of ​​not allowing the movement of it because it is part of the gameplay, of the perspective. The depth is exploited, secrets are hidden … An orchestra led by the developers.

New Super Lucky’s Tale
New Super Lucky’s Tale

Not here, it was necessary for Playful Studios to allow the game to fly at ease and … they ended up doing it. New puzzles, new enemies, interesting minigames and the realization that the adventure of this friendly fox should have been thought differently from the beginning. Sometimes, it is noticed that the implementation of this function is artificial, that it does not quite fit. Luckily, when it does, it works wonders, posing a rather varied adventure, with the feeling that a future New Super Lucky’s Tale 2 that takes note of the mistakes of the declared “first” project can be an excellent game. Without a doubt. They have the aesthetics, they have the character and they have a well-programmed base of mechanics.

Playtonic Games, a couple named Yooka-Laylee

Playtonic Games earned the trust of fans thanks to its background. At a time when crowdfunding was beginning to show an escape route from big publishers, with Koji Igarashi sweeping Kickstarter for what would later become Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, a small British studio founded in 2014 by six former employees de Rare would end up spawning one of the genre’s most promising couples; one of those that reminds us of Banjo-Kazooie. And it is no coincidence, because that group of veterans worked on the original adventures of said license, with the exception that the intellectual property did not belong to them.

But the team of Steve Hurst, Gavin Price, Mark Stevenson and company had plenty of ideas and talent. Such was the impact of the Project Ukelele campaign that raised a million dollars in twenty-four hours. Yooka-Laylee didn’t turn out as well as we would have liked; Perhaps because the expectations were very high and the Reviews version has little to do with the optimization implemented some time later, but that that title published in 2017 overflowed with an intention that we had not seen for years is something verifiable, something that every lover of the genre can identify .


Yooka-Laylee is not one of the best 3D platform games of the generation, but it is one of the most important, because it recovered the spirit of “collect everything”, of jumping and calculating jumps like in the nineties and early 2000s, when many thought that it no longer made sense to bet on these productions. The community trusted and responded, making clear the defects of this work, but also that know-how of Playtonic; a hatching that, surely, will give great news to lovers of the genre in the future. Two years after the original creation, in 2019, we had Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, which replicated the best of the Donkey Kong Country saga in two dimensions (with special design and mechanical nods to Retro Studios’ Tropical Freeze ) and allowed the English team to fly higher than the original. Although, we insist, this has only just begun.

Snake Pass, experimentation is on the skin

The case of Snake Pass is as complex as it is representative of the talent that exists in Sumo Digital, commissioned this year to give color and shape to Sackboy: An adventure in a big way for PS4 and PS5. Based in Sheffield, England, we are talking about a really large team, used to receiving commissions from publishers on an international scale. From Codemasters to Sony, Ubisoft or Sony, in Sumo they have had the opportunity to work in practically all imaginable genres, although it is true that where they are best expressed is in those titles where the playability is known as a main element.

We saw it with LittleBigPlanet 3, we saw it with Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed and more recently with Hotshot Racing. Great works, as well as Snake Pass, with the particularity that the one who is the protagonist here no one saw it coming. To be fair, the title works better as a puzzle game than as a platformer, but without its great level design and the challenge of its proposal it could not sustain the former. Because it is a precise, demanding; frustrating even.

Snake Pass
Snake Pass

We handle a snake that has to be grasped through the movement of both triggers (one to move the character and another to grasp), while with another button we raise the head. That is, there are times when we have to keep three actions active at the same time, and that is not easy to program or understand, it requires concentration, but the bet was so brave that it raised inspiring ideas for the platform genre, especially for what Well that took advantage of the three-dimensionality.

“The structure is very familiar, like other platform games, but the focus is on trying to understand it as a snake, because you can’t jump,” said David Dino, designer at Sumo, in DualShockers. And here is the crux of the matter: we cannot jump. Something shocking, that we take almost for granted in the genre and that, however, was not present here. This Snake Pass was successful, it was among the best sellers of the Nintendo Switch eShop when there was little competition, so we hope that this execution improves and explodes in the future. Think like a snake.

Team Asobi: the day Astro Bot became a hero

Throughout this last five years, virtual reality has found its place little by little, genre by genre. It has not come to replace the traditional video game, but to live with it. It is perhaps the greatness of Half-Life: Alyx that has opened the eyes of many skeptics; but Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is surely the real reason to buy a PlayStation VR. Not only because it is an excellent video game, but because it is a superb platform game, unthinkable without virtual reality, and that has a lot of merit. It is not a great adaptation of a platform to VR, but a title essentially thought in 360 degrees, thought and designed taking into account the depth of field, distance and the magic that the Nintendo plumber began to make a habit with his adventures .

His main adventure does not last long, but long enough to express everything he needed and to record everything that this technology can offer. Not only then, but now also, because unlike many works of the genre, it will not matter when we play this Astro Bot, it will not age. Come up with mechanics and solve certain ideas so that it will always work: all the pieces in place.

Astro Bot: Rescue Mission
Astro Bot: Rescue Mission

It is something similar to Astro’s Playroom, which we can describe as a sleeper for 2020. The game is included in PlayStation 5, a symptom that can lead to misunderstanding: it is not a technical demo. In just three hours we can complete it, a couple more if we want the Platinum trophy. The Japanese team, which we hope will have the opportunity to make a complete video game on PS5 soon, has taken advantage of everything that the DualSense is capable of offering and is an unbeatable gateway for the new generation of Sony.

It’s also a great platformer, thankfully. A proof of this is that, if we remove the haptic feedback, the gyroscope and the resistance function in the triggers, if we turn it into a conventional title, it still stands out above the average: level design, positioning of the camera to hide secrets, the handling of Astro, the variety of situations and incentives to find it all… A world that arouses interest and invites exploration, a fundamental rule for 3D platforms.

We want more from Team Asobi, a game with a box, disc and promotion at the height of the greatest within PlayStation Studios. Astro is the new PlayStation mascot.

Super Mario Odyssey, the unmistakable sound

Nintendo. 2017 is surely one of the best years in the video game industry and, why not say it, it was also one of the best release years for a console. Link did not fail, Monolith did not fail, squid in their ink did not fail, the plumber did not fail. Surely none of us would want to see ourselves in the position of having to respond to a certain Super Mario Galaxy, who together with its sequel established a ceiling that it will take a long time to see overcome, if it happens. But there was Super Mario Odyssey to remind us that if there is someone who must challenge the formula of Super Mario 64, Sunshine and Galaxy, there is Nintendo, which is the one that best understands the idiosyncrasies of the character.

Super Mario Odyssey is a celebration of everything that came before, it is a magician’s hat where things do not stop happening. It is also a waste of mastery with – for many – the best control that has ever been experienced with Super Mario in three dimensions. The amount of movements and mechanics to deepen the jump is such that you can see real madness; all this accompanied by an excellent level design, more open, vertical and risky than what we saw in the three previously mentioned. More focused on discovery, balanced in extension.

Super mario odyssey
Super mario odyssey

Breaking barriers and betting on exploration, experimentation and variety did not appeal to everyone, but that is already a matter of taste. Being more compact and direct reduces the margin for deviation. Luckily, Super Mario Odyssey is an injection of life into the saga that, as happened in 2007 with Galaxy, makes it almost impossible not to recognize that a Super Mario Odyssey “2” would not make anyone feel bad. Quite the opposite. Neither wings nor cape to fly, it is genius and good taste with the best background orchestra.

Crash Bandicoot 4 did the hardest thing: justify that number

It makes sense to stop, take a deep breath, and be calm when you finish Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. That number is major words. It’s been two decades since we saw the original Naughty Dog trilogy; everything else is not canon. We can argue with the quality of spinoff games when Activision took over the licensing reins, but none managed to come close to what we originally saw on PlayStation, a unique way of understanding the genre.

With Toys for Bob it is not only that the task has been fulfilled with note, it is that it has become one of the greatest exponents of the genre in recent years, with an almost perfect playability and few fringes (which it has) that open the doors to a hypothetical new trilogy. Don’t be in a hurry with Crash. Vicarious Visions and the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, with their more than 10 million units sold, already evidenced the popular interest in new canonical adventures of the character. And here we have it. But for each launch to be an event, it is necessary to prevent wear at the first change.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time

CB4 feels new, but tastes like before. “We realized the undeniable evidence that there is an audience that had forgotten the genre we all at Toys for Bob love: precision rigs,” commented Paul Yang, co-leader of the North American study, at GFinity. After the success of the remastering, his endeavor was none other than to turn what we now consider old to be new once again. To reconvert ideas of the past into fresh ideas in the present, a completely legitimate will that we have seen with various genres, although without success along the way.

Despite its appearance, Crash 4 is not aimed at the smallest of the house, but at those who dedicate hundreds of attempts to find everything, to speedrun in each phase. To do the perfect run. It is deliberately complex, but not unfair. This rule is also basic when designing titles of this kind: the difficulty should not be linked to frustration, but to the effort to improve and achieve the objective.

The introduction of the four Quantum Masks has been a success, especially when all four converge on the same level. And although the jump in difficulty between the main adventure and the additional challenges is extremely high, the end result is remarkably high. There was no need to implement so many new features, but Toys for Bob has done it; a double-edged sword that lays the foundations for a fifth installment with more and better, but which also invites reflection to discard what has not finished fitting.

We have to celebrate the existence of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, because if this means that there is something new about the purple dragon behind it, we cannot do anything other than take the best possible seat in this platform show, especially after two remastered trilogies —Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited Trilogy— which have served as a reminder that it was time to go back.

About author

Chris Watson is a gaming expert and writer. He has loved video games since childhood and has been writing about them for over 15 years. Chris has worked for major gaming magazines where he reviewed new games and wrote strategy guides. He started his own gaming website to share insider tips and in-depth commentary about his favorite games. When he's not gaming or writing, Chris enjoys travel and hiking. His passion is helping other gamers master new games.

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