3 Video Games That Did The Best Job Of Moving From 2D To 3D [MUO Gaming]

Dave LeClair 10-07-2012

2d to 3d gamesSome video games stand the test of time. Sure, they may have started as 2D games, but they were able to evolve and get with the times. There is, and always will be, a place for 2D, but to be successful, a franchise needs to move on and enter the realm of 3D. I am not talking about 3D as in glasses and images popping off the screen. I am talking about a three-dimensional world for the characters in the game.


Some games have made the transition from 2D to 3D better than others. Some have struggled to adapt in a 3D world. Sonic the Hedgehog is a great example of a franchise that never seemed to find its legs in a 3D world. Sonic games were fantastic back in the day as side scrolling platformers, but when Sega tried to adapt to 3D, it just never seemed to work well. Today, we are going to talk about some games that were able to make the move, and do it incredibly well.

Metal Gear

Many people think Metal Gear started in 1998 with the release of Metal Gear Solid, but it actually began in 1987 with the release of Metal Gear. This top-down game actually followed a similar formula to the modern iterations of the franchise. It featured Snake trying to move stealthily around the world, taking out enemies silently and without detection. It played like many other 2D top down games at the time, and certainly had a cult following.

2d to 3d games

Fast forward over 10 years later, and Metal Gear became the game we all know and love today on the PlayStation. It featured Snake wandering around a beautiful (for the time) 3D world and performing similar actions to those of the 2D games. It was adapted to 3D so well that it became easy to forget about the 2D roots. When I think of Metal Gear, I think of it as a game that has always been 3D, and that is a testament to how well it was brought to the 3D world.


While Mario has not let go of his 2D roots, his 3D adaptations are incredible. Mario 64 is one of the single best Mario games ever made. Super Mario Galaxy took three-dimensional platforming to another level and made gamers everywhere realize that you can still innovate on the platforming genre. While Mario may have started as a 2D mascot, he has certainly evolved into a multi-dimensional character that can do it all.


2d to 3d video games

Whether you prefer your Mario in 2D or 3D, it is impossible to argue that he has not made the switch to 3D look smooth and effortless. Nintendo has yet to release a bad 3D Mario game, and I cannot imagine a situation where they would.

Grand Theft Auto

GTA is in a similar situation to Metal Gear. An entire generation of gamers will never play the top-down Grand Theft Auto games. People forget just how revolutionary Grand Theft Auto is as both a 2D and 3D game. Open world games were not all the rage when the first GTA hit the market.

I remember the first time I played the original GTA and how blown away I was by the ability to wonder around this sprawling city, and I thought that it could not get any better.


2d to 3d games

I had a hard time imagining a vast, open world making its way to 3D. It seemed beyond the limits of the hardware, but Rockstar found a way, and they have improved each game since GTA 3. The worlds become larger, the characters deeper and the gameplay more fun. GTA lives in the 3D world, and it does it with the style and grace of a game that has always been there.


These three franchises show us that you can evolve. Just because a game is something today, does not mean it cannot be something else entirely in the next console generation. These games figured out a way to literally move to an entirely different dimension in their gameplay, and they are more successful and better off for it.

What is the bigger lesson we can learn from these games and their ability to adapt to a changing market? What games do you think made the transition from 2D to 3D the smoothest? Let us know in the comments!


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  1. jay
    July 10, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    Never thought about the advance from ff6 2D to ff7 3D?

  2. Alex Downs
    July 10, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Don't forget Sonic... oh wait lol

  3. HuitZiloP
    July 10, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Also, Zelda, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter are worth the mention.

  4. Doc
    July 10, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    You forget about the Metroid Prime: it went from a side-scrolling (and up/down scrolling) platformer (NES/Gameboy/SuperNES) to a first-person game (GameCube).

  5. Vipul Jain
    July 10, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    GTA really tops the chart here.
    Also not 2D to 3D but 1D to 3D, Prince of persia is admirable, though i hate its gameplay coz running on walls is tough :/

    • BestGeeK
      July 10, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      Dude, 1D? are you kidding me?

      • James Bruce
        July 11, 2012 at 7:22 am

        We should totally go all pre-retro and make more 1D videogames. Get some line action...

        • Scutterman
          July 16, 2012 at 9:30 pm

          I was addicted to LineRider for a while, but that's definitely 2d, and a flash game. Highly creative though, if you know how to adapt to it's physics

        • Scutterman
          July 16, 2012 at 9:32 pm

          Personally, I liked Sonic 3D when I played it as a kid. I never liked the idea of some of the more modern Sonic games though, some of them are blatantly games that should have been released as a new game, but got mangled together with Sonic to make them sell.