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The gaming scene of the mid to late 90s was almost defined by the 3D platformer. Given that the 2D run and jump adventures were the go-to games in the previous era, their jump into the next dimension was the logical next step for players to move onto. Despite this, the genre began to vaporise as the years went on. Reaching the point that the entire genre was considered dead. However, the argument can be made that the long-forgotten collect-a-thons are making their grand return to the gaming world.
Arguably the first big stepping stone in this revival was Yooka-Laylee. A Banjo-Kazooie inspired platformer by some of that franchise’s original designers. Becoming one of the most backed games on Kickstarter, almost overnight, Yooka-Laylee was on its way to be one of the biggest success’ of the year and be the true revival for the genre. Sadly, many people were disappointed with Yooka-Laylee. Mainly for its barren level design, exhaustive tasks, lack of memorability, poor design choices throughout and probably most damning of all was its lack of originality. This game isn’t just inspired by Banjo-Kazooie, its practically a copy-paste job. Tragically this all lead to many critics and gamers saying that this is exactly what was promised and they just didn’t realise they didn’t actually want 3D platformers to return. This was, quite frankly, a dumb reaction. People got too ahead of themselves and wrote off an entire genre based on one poor and boring entry. Plus, some upcoming releases would show these nay-sayers that they were speaking a bit too hastily.
The next big release would be one of different taste yet nevertheless just as important as Yooka-Laylee. Enter Crash Bandicoot: The N-Sane Trilogy. A complete remaster of the PlayStation 1 Crash games in HD and boy howdy did this thing clear some shelves. Crash sold A LOT of units and they sold quickly. Nothing frightens a wallet more than nostalgia and Crash certainly proved that. A great trio of remakes that got the 3D platformer back into households under one of the key names that got them there in the first place. Crash certainly helped in kick-starting this revival.
Next up would be my personal favourite game of 2017 A Hat in Time. A 3D collect-a-thon inspired by Psychonauts and Paper Mario and in the same vein as Yooka-Laylee, only done a whole lot better. A Hat in Time is one of the most joyous games to ever grace my television. I played it again and again and never once did the grin leave my face. Flowing as beautiful as a stream in Japanese garden with the silky smoothness of the finest butter. A Hat in Time is one of the key examples that this gameplay style and genre works in modern day. A Hat in Time also sold quite a few copies as well and almost everyone absolutely ate it up. If you haven’t played this yet then you really should (after browsing through some more of Headstuff.org’s fine articles that is). A Hat in Time did everything Yooka-Laylee said it would but better. Undeniably better. So much better it silenced the nay-sayers mentioned earlier.
The big one now, the most mainstream and best-selling example of the 3D platformer revival that’ll surely give the last kick that the movement needs, Super Mario Odyssey. Now I’ve expressed my less than popular opinions on this slog and unfulfilling entry in the plumber’s pipeline but I’m aware how clearly in the minority I am. And despite my opinions, it’s clear that Odyssey was eaten up by the gaming market who lauded the style of gameplay and call-backs to Mario 64 from start to finish. Odyssey proved that general audiences, as well as gamers, are still excited by collect-a-thons. Whether this was due to the 10+ year gap between Super Mario Sunshine (the last Mario game of this style) and Odyssey, or just the quality and polish of Odyssey speaking for itself, the point is it sold excellently and has shown game developers that the genre can return.
Moving forward, in the coming months we’ll have the return of Spyro the Dragon in the same vein as Crash did with the Reignited Trilogy, which will surely do a similar level of business to his Aussie pal. The success of the N-Sane Trilogy will surely result in new original Crash Bandicoot games and it’s very likely this will do the same for the almost forgotten dragon. We also have Psychonauts 2 next year, as well as the possibility of announcements at this year’s E3. The 3D platformer is slowly but surely making it’s comeback and gamers of the 90s are surely rejoicing.