Since the days of the N64 and PS1, we’ve fallen in love over and over again with 3D platformers. Sure, there might not be hundreds of them to choose from, but the few that are out there have captured our hearts and imaginations since we were kids. They’ve taken us through vibrant mascot-filled worlds, with intense platforming challenges and compelling exploration. There’s so much to love about 3D platformers! So a few of us at Culture of Gaming all communed to make a list of our 25 favorites. And 4 voice calls later, we finally have our picks! Before we get started with the list, though, there are a few notes:
We’ve moved away from the traditional ranking format that we used in our Top 25 2D Platformers list. We believe that games that are wonderful enough to be considered “The best of all time” shouldn’t be ranked in minute detail. The reality is, these video games are all amazing, and whether or not one ranks higher than another comes purely down to personal taste (sorry, Metacritic). That being said, we’ve separated our rankings out into a much, much broader scope. Next to each title, we will give one of three levels of recommendation: “Recommended“, “Highly recommended“, and “Essential“. This way, you can get an overall impression of how much we love each game, without specifically calling one game greater than another. We’re hoping to stick to this ranking format as we move forward with more lists in the future.
All that being said, this is Culture of Gaming’s Top 25 2D Platformers of All Time!
Jak 2 – Highly Recommended
Kevin Alverez: The sequel to Jak and Dakter: The Precursor Legacy came out two years after the release of the first game. Jak 2 dramatically changed the Jak and Daxter series.
The first Jak and Daxter solely focused on platforming while also delivering a cast of colorful character. Jak 2, on the other hand, brought the series to a whole new level by adding vast locales, a darker story and a combo style weapon system that rivals the Ratchet and Clank series. Jak, who didn’t speak in the first game, went through a radical change as he was given a voice and new power through Dark Eco. Jak 2 is a highly polished game when compared to other platformer franchises at the time.
Naughty Dog, the same developers of Uncharted and The Last of Us, were ahead of their time, and it shows. Only a few developers are capable of take a fledgling new IP and radically changing its core design for a massively successful sequel. Jak 2 in many ways was not only a great platformer but also a precursor of the pedigree of Naughty Dog and their future projects. Several games often copy the GTA formula by making an open world with not much in it. Jak 2 carried itself with a similar structure but populated each area with races, collectibles, upgrades and enemies with great emphasis on platforming combat mixed with gunplay. Jak 2 is one of the best platforming games of all times and is available in an HD remaster trilogy.
Donkey Kong 64 – Recommended
Anthony Dennis: Donkey Kong 64 is one of those games that takes you right back to your childhood. I remember rummaging through some old stuff at a friend’s house one day and finding the good ol’ Nintendo 64 with DK64 in it. That was the day that truly captivated me and started me down the long winding road that is gaming.
Its unique cast of characters, cleverly orchestrated music and captivating worlds left my 6-year-old-self dumbfounded and my imagination running wild. DK64 was my first exposure to the Donkey Kong series and it still holds up to this day as one of the best DK games around.
Not many people may agree with this, but to us, it truly is unique compared to all of the other Donkey Kong experiences out there. King K-Rool seems more powerful than ever, your friends get kidnapped, and there’s a freaking boxing match, for crying out loud! DK64 is one for the ages and firmly cements itself as one of the best 3D platformers of all time.
Super Mario Sunshine – Highly Recommended
Aidan Simonds: The “black sheep” of the Mario series. Super Mario Sunshine is, simply put, a weird game. Instead of the Mushroom Kingdom, this game takes place on a tropical paradise populated with living palm trees. And if that wasn’t weird enough, Mario utilizes what is essentially a water gun backpack in his quest to clean up Isle Delfino. Sunshine is definitely a departure for the franchise in a number of ways.
But what it lacks in the usual Mario mechanics, it makes up in some truly innovative gameplay. Using FLUDD (the water gun backpack) is a literal game-changer, and can make for some truly challenging platforming. Sunshine’s cult status has led to FLUDD being a mainstay of the Super Smash Bros. series as one of Mario’s main attacks (well, until he was replaced by Cappy for Ultimate.) The GameCube was one of Nintendo’s most experimental eras, and it definitely shows in Super Mario Sunshine.
Just ignore the voice-acting. There’s a reason it hasn’t been used in a Mario game since.
Super Mario 64 – Essential
Ethan Braun: Super Mario 64 was a flawless transition.
It took the pure joy of Super Mario World and brought it into a space no one had attempted up to that point. It had all the Mario trimmings – precise jumping, effortless physics, a wealth of secrets, insane boss fights – but it did it in 3D. You could run, jump, swim, fly, slide, stomp, throw, and so many other verbs I can’t possibly name. And what’s more, it put all of these into a sandbox game that let you roam free – there was no linear level design to be found. Peach’s castle remains to this day as one of the most interesting open-spaces in video game history.
Super Mario 64 kickstarted a revolution.
Before Mario 64, 2D gaming reigned supreme. Prior Mario games like Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario World showed the world the joys of platforming. Prior action games like A Link to The Past and Super Metroid showed the world how to make an action-adventure masterpiece. Prior RPGs like Chrono-Trigger and Final Fantasy 6 showed the world what a fully-realized battle-system should be like.
But once Mario 64 exploded into the 3rd dimension, nothing was ever the same.
Mario 64’s brilliance and perfection paved the way for countless masterpieces after it. Ocarina of Time, Metal Gear Solid, Metroid Prime, Final Fantasy VII, Grand Theft Auto 3 – these and so many other influential 3D games were preceded and influenced by none other than Super Mario 64. It’s hard to imagine the current video game landscape without this massively influential game.
Forget 3D platformers – Mario 64 is one of the best, most important video games… period.
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time – Highly recommended
Anthony Dennis: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time takes the very best aspects of all the Prince of Persia games and implements them into a single package. With its unique and fast paced combat, Assassins Creed-style parkour, unique storyline and fantastic soundtrack, this game really offers something for everyone to checkout.
Sands of Time follows the plot of an unnamed prince whose father sacks a Maharaja’s city at the instigation of its treacherous Vizier. During the attack, the Prince obtains an artifact called the Dagger of Time, while his army captures an hourglass containing the Sands of Time. Visiting Azad to present the Sands as a gift to the city’s ruler, the Vizier tricks the Prince into releasing the Sands, transforming the city’s population into savage monsters. Together with the Maharaja’s daughter Farah, the Prince works to correct his mistake and return the Sands to the hourglass.
The gameplay revolves around the Prince’s platforming abilities, broken up by fights with the creatures created by the Sands. A key mechanic in the game is using the Dagger to rewind time if the Prince makes a platforming mistake, and using it to kill and freeze enemies. My experience with Sands of Time was by watching my brother play through the Prince of Persia Trilogy for PlayStation 3. The world captured my imagination and the game’s mechanics truly made you relate to the princes struggle and journey. This game does everything near perfectly right from the get-go, making it one for the ages. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time still holds up today and deserves a spot on our top 25 3D platformers list.
Banjo Tooie – Recommended
Anthony Dennis: Banjo is back, baby, and this time more powerful than ever. Taking place two years after the original, Banjo, Kazooie, Bottles, and Mumbo Jumbo get caught in an explosion while Gruntilda is attempting to destroy the inhabitants of Spiral Mountain. Tooie improves on Kazooie by bringing new game worlds, more characters, better music and a completely new set of moves to each character.
This was the game in the series that I feel really eclipsed the series and improved on everything from the previous game. I played Banjo Tooie before Kazooie, so that may be the reason I am more inclined to offer up Tooie as the better game, however I did watch my brothers playing Kazooie. There is no mistaking that Tooie has more content. With worlds twice the size as Kazooie, I feel that Banjo Tooie does enough right and offers up enough nostalgia to earn its spot on our list.
Sonic Adventure 2 – Recommended
Omar Banat: The original Sonic Adventure on Dreamcast featured three large hub worlds for you to explore. When the sequel came around they decided to nix those worlds. That instantly made the Sonic Adventure series magnitudes better. Without that barrier to the action, Sonic Adventure 2 became one of the best 3D platformers of all time.
SA2 gives you what made playing as Sonic in 2D so fun. The exploration combined with speed is unmatched by any other series. The platforming doesn’t require the same kind of precision you would see in a Mario game. It’s the speed of platforming that is the challenge in these games. Quick thinking and fast button presses are what make SA2 an immensely fun and entertaining 3D platformer. Then there are plenty of hidden upgrades, items, etc. which encourage you to come back and find. The hidden upgrades then let you play levels in all different ways.
The collectibles in this game are little Sonic the Hedgehog emblems. You get one for each level, boss, race, pretty much anything. If it can be beaten or won, then you can get an emblem for it. I still don’t think a platformer has handled collectibles better than SA2.
This game perfected the 3D Sonic formula. It’s a shame that the last 17 years of 3D Sonic games have missed the mark, but it just goes to show how hard it is to live up to the standard of Sonic Adventure 2.
Sly 2 – Recommended
Michael Solseth: For some, Sly Cooper might not seem like a game you’d call a platformer. While there is a higher emphasis on stealth and fighting, there’s no denying that there is a lot of platforming and traversing. The first Sly Cooper caught so much attention with its unique art style, story and gameplay, but they improved everything with Sly 2.
While chasing down the Clockwork parts, players get to traverse many locations across the world. Sly is still the focus and carries over his main moves from the last game, but this time, he has Bentley and Murray to back him up. The three characters all have their own unique ways to move around the map, and gameplay all took place in the same location than it being treated as its own separate level. What also helps is that the three characters play different from each other, but Sly provides more challenge with his platforming parts. You can chain together a stream of jumps that have you hanging off hooks, balancing yourself on a spike, and running along a rail alongside with making those tricky jumps.
Sly 2 represented what it is to make a sequel to an already great game better. While you could say that Sly just barely edged this list, there’s no denying that the game provides more than enough challenge for anyone who wants to get their feet wet with the platforming genre.
Ratchet 2: Going Commando – Highly Recommended
Mike Nigrelli: The late 90s were a wonderful time for the 3D platformer. But once the 2000s hit, the shift in focus of game development shifted from platformers to shooters. In comes the Ratchet and Clank series to bridge the gap. Ratchet and Clank 2: Going Commando takes the series’ original concept and cranks it up to 11. You play as the titular duo as they shoot, blast, and jump their way through multiple-pathed planets in order to get back a secret project for MegaCorp, the corporation that provides all of your weapons.
While the later PS2 Ratchet games shift their focus more towards battle arena fights, Going Commando has more variety in gameplay than the rest of the games in the franchise. There’s rail-grinding, dogfights in space, hover bike racing and giant robot battles. The music score has more personality, and the story is not a broken mess like the most recent reboot game.
Going Commando gets so much right. It has the quirky humor that the franchise is known for. The currency system makes sure that you are always collecting “bolts” to upgrade or buy new weapons – it kind of serves as a commentary on our capitalist society. But while the humor and upgrade system are major highlights, it’s really all about the platforming.
It feels great to jump around and explore the different planets. But more so, it feels even better to jump around while strafing bad guys with the latest crazy weapon you upgraded, like the lava gun or the gun that turns enemies into sheep! And sometimes, the most addictive element of the game is when you just want to rampage maniacally and break every box in site.
There’s so much I haven’t mentioned, but the point is, if you haven’t tried this series, you really need to. Going Commando is a fantastic 3D platformer.
Ape Escape – Recommended
Ahmed Lulat: Around the release of Ape Escape in 1999, many developers struggled with the jump to 3D. The traversal into the multi-plane form was incredibly hard to achieve with the traditional 2-dimensional button movement. This is exactly where the game truly shines; in the mastery of the movement around the 3D world.
Ape Escape contains around 20 unique levels, similar in size to Super Mario 64. Each level has you capturing several monkeys with the ever-glorious Time Net and infamous Stun Club – which is pretty much a lightsaber.
As you progress through the game, the difficulty also increases, with the monkeys having access to their own gadgets, as well as speed and strength. The game allows you to overcome these obstacles by giving you access to even more gadgets. Cartoon-inspired weapons such as the Slingback Shooter and the Magic Punch will have you adventuring previous levels once more to ensure capture of all estranged monkeys. As if that wasn’t enough, you can interact with the world by jumping, climbing and swimming in areas loosely-based on famous time periods.
In addition to this, every level in Ape Escape is filled to the brim with color and backed with a crazy soundtrack that brilliantly captures the essence of the bizarre nature of the game.
It is also one of the few games on the PlayStation to fully realize the potential of the Dual Shock controller. The use of the analog sticks to navigate the numerous levels and controlling the gadgets is genius and impressively responsive. Assigning camera movement to the d-pad is also a very creative way to nullify issues in viewing the open world. You can even set four gadgets to the action buttons, which does a great job in keeping you immersed into the game world.
Ape Escape is one of the most underrated platformers out there, and one that truly masters the 3D platforming genre with solid gameplay and level design. The fact that the insanely original game has seen several successful sequels is a testament to the series overall quality.
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy – Highly Recommended
Mike Nigrelli: After people went nuts for Naughty Dog’s fun yet linear franchise Crash Bandicoot, Naughty Dog thought about how they could up the ante in Sony’s next generation of consoles. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is what they came up with.
Right away, you notice that the game does have similar characteristics to older 3D platformers; a silent protagonist, collectibles after collectibles to obtain, and a secret ending for the most devoted players. What makes Jak and Daxter stand apart from what came before it, is the open world. That’s right, every level you platform and attack through with your furry loudmouth friend all takes place in the same world. There are absolutely no paintings or entrances to go through. And with a day and night cycle, and (seemingly) no load-screens, this ain’t a game. This is a world.
And that sense of a living world and a believable story is what makes Jak 1 so special. There’s the fun platforming and collecting we all love, but eco, the energy that gives Jak invincibility or the ability to shoot energy, has a reason to exist outside of gameplay function. Eco is the energy source of the entire planet. So you feel the weight when the plot focuses on turning Daxter into a person again after falling into a pit of dark eco.
With quirky characters and a “lived-in” world, Jak and Daxter really is something special.
Psychonauts – Highly Recommended
Michael Solseth: It’s hard to judge a game’s popularity or success if the two don’t mix as they should. Over time, these kinds of games can develop a cult following where years after a game came out, it could find a newfound audience it might have missed the first time. With Pyschonauts, we got a nice mix of platforming, comedy and an overall surreal presentation that left some confused at the insanity and others falling in love with Double Fine’s first game.
Raz is a runaway from the circus as he sneaks his way into a summer camp that trains special agents with psychic abilities called Psychonauts. What is great about Raz is that he strikes a great balance between him not only having special powers but also as an acrobat to help him traverse the mental worlds of other people. With each new world Raz dives into, there are crazy new challenges to combat and explore. The more you collect in the stages, the more powerful Raz will become to upgrade existing abilities. While the start of the game can be a touch slow for some with the tutorials, it definitely comes in handy for the later stages.
You can play Psychonauts right now on PC and even on the Xbox One through backwards compatibility. If you haven’t had the chance to lose your mind yet in Tim Schafer’s masterpiece, be sure to check it out – especially since there’s a sequel scheduled for 2019.
Spyro 2 and 3 – Highly Recommended
Ramy Abou-Setta: No gamer of the modern era can talk about platformers without mentioning the Spyro franchise, especially Spyro: Ripto’s Rage and Spyro: Year of the Dragon. These games stole the heart of many young kids back in the PlayStation 1 generation of gaming. That little purple dragon even managed to flap his little wings and sneak into my own heart.
Spyro was a unique platforming game with its flying mechanics, quirky characters and voice acting to even your cute little sidekick Sparx. However, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage managed to push the limits of the purple dragon, and increase the popularity of the franchise, ultimately becoming a classic to platformer fanatics. Ripto’s Rage introduced power-ups for those who loved collecting, included more side-missions in levels, increased the size of levels, challenged us more and introduced us to an amazing villain, Ripto. The game itself has introduced many kids to gaming, including myself, so of course, Spyro has a special place in my heart. Of course, the PlayStation 1 has its hardware limitations, so the camera angles in both games were terrible.
Spyro: Year of the Dragon recreated the quality from the second game, and only raised the bar even higher. Furthermore, there was an increase in playable characters, who had their own level designs carved out for them in specific sections of the game, eliminating repetitiveness and generating a new layer of gameplay. Spyro: Year of the Dragon is widely known as the best of the trilogy. However, I believe that to have a great experience you have to venture into the lands of both titles, and enjoy what both amazing platformers have to offer you.
Banjo Kazooie – Essential
Anthony Dennis: Banjo Kazooie laid the foundations for a series that we all still remember to this day. From the moment you become acquainted with bear and bird, you start falling in love with the world around you. From the opening title screen to the closing credits, Rare did a fantastic job of capturing gamers hearts all around the world.
A near perfect platformer, Banjo Kazooie takes you on a journey to dethrone Gruntilda who plans to swap her beauty with your sister Tootie. You must journey through 13 sand-box-style levels and a final boss to free the world, save your sister and head on home to have another nap. Banjo Kazooie’s unique environment, catchy tunes and pure nostalgia give it a rightful place on our top 25 3D platformers list.
Super Mario 3D Land – Highly Recommended
Omar Banat: Most games I played on the 3DS up until Super Mario 3D Land were a letdown in terms of using that extra dimension. This game finally gave the handheld a reason for the 3D effect to exist. Not only is this the only game on the list with stereoscopic 3D, but it’s also the only one that’s exclusive to a purely portable console.
Historically speaking, being the first original 3D Mario on a handheld is huge. However, simply being Mario isn’t enough to get into the top 25.
Super Mario 3D Land is one of the easier Mario games out there, but it’s also ridiculously good. The verticality of some of the levels is not even seen in some console platformers. I still can’t believe how nice it looked and how well it ran for being on a handheld. But the belle of the ball was the 3D effect. It used this extra dimension to add platforming challenges I never experienced before or since. All these bits and pieces add up to make Super Mario 3D Land one of the best 3D platformers of all time.
Super Mario 3D World – Highly Recommended
Andrew Marcus: Super Mario 3D World is a masterpiece. This game has several stages that feel unique because each stage can stand alone and will feel memorable. Players are given a ton of freedom to roam around stages with 2D platforming mechanics and 3D roaming. This gives players the opportunity to explore and find collectibles, which gives immense replay-ability and creates different playthroughs for each stage.
Green stars (a collectible) also allow players to unlock certain stages which incentivizes players to explore stages freely. Super Mario 3D World’s level design is also a stand-out. Each stage has different nooks and crannies and artwork, that separate them from the rest. Additionally, Captain Toad stages, quick timed stages, and other stages with different gimmicks introduce more variety. The introduction of the double cherries and cat suit were also welcome. Co-op was a fantastic addition – rotating between Toad, Luigi, Mario, Peach, and Rosalina changes your sense of physics as you adapt to each character’s moveset.
Overall, Super Mario 3D World offers tons of replay-ability with great level design and could also create several fun hours with friends.
Super Mario Galaxy – Essential
Joel Yap: One of the greatest games of all time, and my favorite Mario game. Few games in general match it’s complex world. You play as Mario, as Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach (again) and vows to rule the universe. There are many galaxies full of adventure, and a story with a beautifully-designed world made with it.
Amazing atmosphere, amazing characters, amazing graphics. But what makes it so great is what the galaxies have to offer. No two of the dozens of galaxies are similar, each with a unique design past the brink of imagination. The atmosphere, as I mentioned, is great, the orchestral soundtrack relaxing you can just listen to it for a whole afternoon. It’s truly magical when a game can make you think “what if?” From baby giant flowers to a giant skeleton shark, the bosses are unique in every sense of the word.
The creativity synergises so well with the game, and the overall light-hearted tone. The addition of Rosalina and her heroic story is such a fresh and welcoming change to the Mario formula. The hub world is probably my most favourite hub world in gaming period. There’s just so much that has to be played to truly experience how great this game it.
In terms of mechanics it’s strange, as the angles and camera are awkward at times as gravity is an equation to factor. But it is such a unique approach to platformers that it makes it challenging. I personally love the approach and wish it was introduced more with later games, but sadly it isn’t.
There are few platformers that can match this masterpiece. The atmosphere is great, mechanics are mostly smooth, and story and the world is something that I will never forgot. I truly recommend Super Mario Galaxy as a must-play and a must-experience.
Jet Set Radio Future – Recommended
Michael Solseth: While Jet Set Radio Future wasn’t a launch title when the Xbox came out in the US, it was there day one when the system came out in Japan. Acting as the sequel to the popular game from the Dreamcast, the game follows the GGs, a gang of in-line skating graffiti artists as they set out to bring the “Freedom of Expression” back to Tokyo. Gone were the days of time limits and levels as you can skate all across Tokyo to paint the town with any funky design you can come up with.
While the game’s primary goal is to tag the world, you still have to reach those out-there locations. To do so, players need to wallride, grind and use halfpipe locations to reach higher places. You might not think much of it, but when you traverse the sewers of Tokyo, you can tell right away that the platforming wasn’t just a half-baked idea thrown together to pad the game out. Plan your lines carefully so you can land your jumps and keep your forward momentum as you spray away the rivals and the law and bring color to an empty canvas that is the city.
There is no word on if we will ever see Jet Set Radio Future make its return through backwards play for various reasons. If you have the chance to get your spray on though, put on your best skates and go out on the town with JSRF!
Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Essential
Aidan Simonds: Nothing will compare to your first zero-gravity experience in Super Mario Galaxy, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 doesn’t try to emulate what came before. This sequel takes everything that works about the original (so, everything) and brings it to the next level. The classic Galaxy gameplay is still there, but with some fundamental additions, including Yoshi, who makes his first playable 3D appearance.
True, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is very similar to its predecessor. But when that predecessor is one of the defining titles of its generation, that reads more as a strength than a weakness. The truth is, Super Mario Galaxy didn’t have a lot to improve on, only build upon. And so that’s what Super Mario Galaxy 2 did. It may not be quite as impactful as the first game, but it certainly might be more enjoyable. It has everything that made Super Mario Galaxy special, but offering even more than what came before. There’s a reason Super Mario Galaxy is the only 3D Mario with a direct sequel, after all.
Mirror’s Edge – Recommended
Joel Yap: Mirror’s Edge is one of the most fun experiences in platforming, period, with a great realistic story and parkour puzzles. The levels are challenging and intriguing, with an open-world like feel. Set in a domineering and totalitarian city, you take the role of Faith Connors, a free runner, as you scale and soar from building to building in an immersive 3D environment.
The setting is great, the audio creates an amazing atmosphere, and the graphics and mechanics are smooth, adding to the experience greatly. Many games in general cannot match up to the experience and adrenaline that Mirror’s Edge dishes out. Its art and vibrant color paints the world in an amazing light. The feel that you get jumping from rooftops is just plain exhilarating. It feels realistic in a sense that adrenaline is constantly encouraging you to want more from this game.
Sadly, the downside is that it’s a relatively short game, and even though the story is realistic, it doesn’t give a huge wow factor and is outclassed by many other games in the platforming genre. Despite a wealth of great mechanics (the biggest factor in platformers), it just doesn’t have enough to stand out more.
Overall I recommend this game for a quick time killer. It’s not essential, but it is very fun.
A Hat in Time – Highly Recommended
Mike Nigrelli: For around ten years, there was a noticeable drought of 3D platformers – Jonas Kærlev and the rest of the crew at Gears for Breakfast felt it. A Hat in Time is their love letter to 3D platformers of the early 2000s. In fact, the graphics and art style are rather reminiscent of Super Mario Sunshine and other platformers of the time.
What truly makes A Hat In Time something special is not just how faithful it is to what came before, but how much it advances the genre after years of being dormant. A Hat In Time takes the tried and true formula of accumulating collectibles to progress from world to world and switches it up. It adds context and choice to which prizes you collect first, affecting what happens in the game. For example, in the second world you visit, which is a movie studio run by two bickering birds, you can choose whose tasks you complete first. This changes whose movie gets the award and ultimately, which boss you fight at the end of the world. And instead of only getting power ups in certain levels, Hat Kid finds balls of yarn in every level that she can spin into hats with different powers. She can then use them at any time.
With its love of all things 3D platformer, its cute aesthetic and memorable characters, A Hat in Time is one game to make the time for.
Crash 2: Cortex Strikes Back – Highly Recommended
Andrew Marcus: I personally liked the original Crash Bandicoot. However, Cortex Strikes Back learned from the mistakes of the original Crash Bandicoot and pushed forward with great improvements. The trial-and-error gameplay is back (for some people this is a deal breaker), but the difficulty has been toned down a little and the level design still feels great. The arctic theme within the first stages immediately caught my eye, and the platforming felt less punishing than the original Crash Bandicoot. Crash himself also received a few much-needed upgrades. He can now slide on the ground, perform a body slam, and can jump a little higher if following a slide.
Players also now must collect 25 different crystals spread throughout each level. Each stage contains 5 levels and a boss. Bosses are still easy – however, I still got a kick out of fighting each boss. All Crash games I’ve played have had funny, colorful, and cool bosses which made them very memorable. Bonus stages are also back and are still very rewarding due to the extra lives supplied. While Cortex Strikes Back is a bit shorter, the game still has very solid level design, boss fights, and mechanical improvements that make it a solid game to have in your library. Nevertheless, the N’sane Trilogy would probably be the best way to play Crash Bandicoot.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day – Highly Recommended
David White: “Did that fuzzy character (worthy of starring in an adorable Saturday afternoon cartoon) just drop an F-bomb?”
I seem to recall saying something like this during my initial playthrough of Rare’s Conker’s Bad Fur Day. I knew going in that it wasn’t quite “PG”, however it turned out to be more insane, grotesque, violent and just plain “adult” than anyone expected. I wonder how many parents expected to see their child controlling an adorable, chubby, fuzzy cheeked squirrel, that should be perhaps digging the game world for nuts and helping his furry pals. But instead, they found their kid pounding on enemies with a baseball bat, feeding a rat full of cheese till it explodes, getting hammered on ale or shooting blood soaked psychotic teddy bears in an experimental laboratory! Originally, Conker was meant to be cute and family friendly, but was redesigned as a more adult game to differentiate itself from previous Rare games, such as Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64.
Even though Bad Fur Day’s focus is outright absurdity, violence and shock humor, it doesn’t forget to be a great platforming adventure. Its creators made a game as gross and bizarre as possible without being horrific. Though things really reach new heights further into the game when our hero squirrel battles a literal singing giant pile of excrement. Its fight takes place to the original tune of “The Great Mighty Poo” and its hilarious lyrics are sung by the gargantuan fecal fiend himself, all while Conker runs around the slippery caverns of Great Poo Mountain. Despite what may seem like outright juvenile humor (and it is), this boss battle is one of the best and challenging of the game. There is no gross for the sake of gross here, while the setting may be hard to stomach, it’s hardly crossing the line and manages, despite its color palette, to be a great setting and one of many great moments. All of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, with its bonkers dialogue, nonsensical world and offensive characters, somehow comes together cohesively to create a very unique, smirk inducing 3D platforming experience.
Its themes and humour aside, Conker is more than just a three-dimensional playable joke about farts. It’s a varied and challenging game, it has stellar voice acting and vivid and beautiful level design that at times could be described as “Disney-like” (especially with the game’s remaster Conker: Live & Reloaded). Conker’s designers must have had so much fun making it. Perhaps they thought: If my 9-year old self could design a game using the experience of game design I have now, what would it be like?
While the jokes can be hit and miss for some and the references and movie pastiches are a little dated, you can’t help but enjoy Conker, a game that is a rich and diverse adventure, full of unique lands, quests, enemies, characters, gameplay, puzzles and weapons. And it’s all so colorfully charming, wonderfully stupid, unapologetically immature, and outright offensive you can’t help but love every moment of it. It’s one of the finest 3D platformers.
Super Mario Odyssey – Essential
Ethan Braun: I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun existing in a video game.
Every time I bounce across Metro Kingdom in Mario Odyssey, I’m breath-taken at how effortless it feels. Every single move I perform as Mario gracefully leads into the next like an orchestrated gymnastics performance. As I stomp off a building into a roll, then jump onto a taxi and easily bound my way to the top of another building, I feel as masterful as I ever have in a video game. As I triple jump, throw my cap out in front of me and dive bomb off it onto the roof of a waiting castle, I realize that Mario is hardly the one in control here. I am.
I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun fulfilling objectives in a video game.
Odyssey is a game of delight – it’s inescapable. I climb to the top of a pole, and I’m delighted. I swim through a lake, and I’m delighted. I shimmy down a pipe, look through a binocular lens, race down a hill, peek down a back alley, and my curiosity is literally always rewarded every step of the way. And all these objectives are different – they challenge my abilities in so many different ways, forcing me to think outside the box and keep me on my toes. Some of them may force me a little too hard, but I always know that there’s that shiny reward at the end – it’s just within my grasp.
I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun exploring everything in a video game.
Every single space I could dig into in Odyssey, I did. I 100-percented this game – it was the easiest, most carefree completion run I’ve ever done. Why? Nintendo made every minute detail in Odyssey enjoyable in one way or another. How could I not complete the game when there are still Sphynx’s to riddle, rabbits to chase, enemies to capture, and kingdoms to explore? I couldn’t. It’s too perfect.
Super Mario Odyssey is the evolution of the 3D platformer, full stop. I believe that it’s one of the few essential video games, alongside A Link To The Past, Portal, and a handful of others. If you haven’t played it, you’re missing out. This is one of the greatest video games ever created.
And that’s our top 25 3D platformers! Let us know in the comments below which games you think deserved a spot here, and what your top 3D platformers are! And as always, stay with us here at Culture of Gaming for more editorials like this!