News Article

Feature: The Future of Nintendo Gaming - 2D or Not 2D?

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

What next for 2D?

When looking at the games we’ve listed, with consideration for the experience they give the gamer, we’ll opt for one key word: simplicity. A lot of these titles aren’t simple to beat — far from it — but the principles of gameplay are basic and easy to pick up and play. There aren’t any concerns about navigating a 3D world, but rather the core of the experience is to run and jump. Sometimes shooting is thrown into the mix, but these are titles that, with practice, can be understood and enjoyed by everyone.

It is little surprise, then, that Nintendo and other developers reviewed the audience for the Wii and decided that 2D gaming would sell. Much has been said about the Wii and whether it caters for experienced gamers or not, but a lot of these titles find a good balance between challenge and simplicity of play. Although we’ve seen some efforts from Sony and Microsoft to target this genre, particularly in download offerings, Nintendo consoles are undoubtedly the place to go for classic 2D sidescrolling gameplay.

It was notable that the Wii U unveiling at E3 demonstrated the potential for the speculatively titled New Super Mario Bros Mii, with this game being one of the first features in the concept video. We expect the next few years to see another influx of 2D, or 2.5D, games flooding onto Nintendo consoles. Metroid on the 3DS, perhaps, while we’d also like to think a Donkey Kong Country Returns sequel will arrive sooner rather than later. It makes commercial sense from the perspective of other developers, as well, as the upcoming multi-platform release of Rayman Origins suggests.

This is a genre that can cut across divides in gamer’s abilities, and we suspect these titles will last as long as video games themselves. Simple, fun, challenging and accessible all at once; gaming without these franchises and modern re-imaginings would be a dull prospect indeed.

What do you think, is 2D gaming going to go on forever, or is it going to fade away? Let us know what you think in the comments below

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User Comments (78)



Wilford111 said:

I'm pretty sure 2D gaming will continue. I mean, you already mentioned New Super Mario Bros. Mii, and that will probably make a release on the new console. I'm also pretty sure there will be some 2D games on the 3DS. Already they've revealed Cave Story 3D, which will be a side-scrolling game. Yeah, I think the future of gaming will still have plenty of 2D. Nothing to worry about



Weskerb said:

Yeah I was pretty gutted when I found out Mario 3DS was more Galaxyish 3D gameplay than NSMBW 2D gameplay. I think Nintendo would be silly to abandon 2D Mario, especially when you look at the sales figures ( NSMBW outsold both Galaxy games put together, and then some).



bboy2970 said:

2D will be around as long as folks continue to buy them in droves. People will always buy 2D Mario games in droves and Nintendo will keep making them. So no, 2D games won't be fading any time soon. If Nintendo ever went out of business (yeah right) then maybe. As long as there is Nintendo, there will be 2D games.



Mao said:

I think we should just keep gaming graphics the way it was without unneeded 3D graphics, instead GAMEPLAY should be top priority!



CanisWolfred said:

Unless they go back to the exploratory formula that made Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine great, either way doesn't matter to me, because it'll still suck.



Mandoble said:

They can aim their resources to build more 2D marios, and if possible in grayscale and low res and then try to sell them for 46€ copy for 3DS or 65€ for WiiU, after all these are the games that require less effort to develop and Nintendo allways follows his primary rule of minimum effort/maximum profit. But later on, when they'll feel cheered only from here and a pair of other sites might be they will, once again, start singing the song of "We did something wrong somewhere ...", and Iwata will cut his salary by two again (not that he will notice at all).



Nintonic said:

Isn't this talking about 3d as in the 3ds? If so yes. First we will have 3d tvs, then a 3d console, and then maybe we'll have 3d computers! >



LordTendoboy said:

I prefer 2D games, especially platformers. 3D games are somewhat hard to navigate through, since you also need to coordinate the camera in relation to your environment.



King_Boo said:

I don't want to play 2D games on home consoles, but handehelds are fine, do a world, put it down, come back later. I can't stand running and jumping for hours on end anymore, that's all I did in the mid 90s. New super mario bros. I've finished 100%, but the Wii game I just rushed through it with the cannon.



Weskerb said:

I agree with @Mickeymac . I'm sick of the isolated 3D platforming levels in Galaxy. Give us a Mario game with a fully realised Mushroom Kingdom to explore!



scrubbyscum999 said:

2D gaming will always be a staple of games in general. The fact that many games still use 2D graphics when 3D is fully available is evidence of that. I love 2D gaming, it's why I love buying SNES VC games.

@11 So basically if it doesn't have a wide exploration element it sucks. That is just ridiculous. That means Super Mario Galaxy is a bad game, which is a bunch of hogwash. I just don't see how you can say that seriously. There is more than one way to do things.



KAI7321 said:

Will take quite a few generations and proper implementations of 3D technology to become a household thing.



AbuJaffer said:

Platformers (especially 2D ones) are my favorite genre and the past few years have been great to me as a gamer. I hope I get a ton of original 2D games on my 3DS and on the Wii U.

@Mandoble That's some incredibly deep sarcasm you got there. At first I thought you were being incredibly retro and joking slightly.

@Shockerz If you're joking then completely ignore the next statement.

Hear about that Toshiba laptop for $1699? Uses glasses-free 3D. And the 360/PS3 already have 3D support, and the Wii U will have some as well. And we already have 3DTV's.



NintyMan said:

2D platformers are never going to go away. I love the platforming genre more than any other genre for a simple reason, it captures the charm of video gaming. Besides the challenges of enemies, all you have to deal with is running and jumping at the right moment. 2D gaming would also tie in well to Nintendo's aim for less gaming people by showing how a game can look very fun and yet still be playable. I love 3D games, but the idea of a wide-open world would put some people off, simply because they're not concerned about collecting certain items to progress through the worlds.

2D games are console-pushers, and we'll see that happen again when Super Mario 3D Land releases this November. The 3DS sales will go up when that comes out. Nintendo needs to make sure that a 2D Mario will come on or at least be close to the launch of the Wii U, and that would put the console over the top. There's just something about jumping on enemies and collecting items to reach the goal at the end of the level that people find stimulating, so 2D games will always stay at the top as far as taking into account of the whole population.



daznsaz said:

i remember when they started making 3d games i thought that 2d was done with but they kept it there still a lot of fun like wario shake and boy and his blob and smb etc its like going back to your roots the last 1 i think i played was the rabbids 3ds platformer not a good example but yea gotta love the 2dness oh i forgot ive been playing riskys revenge which is a good example★



FonistofCruxis said:

@Mickeymac The exploration in those games are great but the SMG and its sequel definitely do not suck!!! They are two of the best games ever but while those games are master pieces, I do think nintendo should mak another 3D Mario platformer with more exploration.



JebbyDeringer said:

2D will go on because it's what a lot of people want. Nintendo doesn't seem to care about 2D gaming though and neither do most companies. Indie devs do though. Most of the big companies only release the odd 2D game to appease what they see as a niche market. Super Mario Brothers Mii is B.S. Mii's are crap. Skip that. Put some real production $ in a 2D Super Mario Brothers. NSMBW was a large step in the right direction but they were even too cheap to animate princess peach.




2D games wil lreamin at least on Ninty consoles and handehelds. I mean really you can't go to microsoft and sony and get 2D experiences liek this. Now if you want a crap load of FPSes then thats the place to go but those get stale after awhile.



Sneaker13 said:

I think that there's a place for both. But sometimes I'm really impressed with how well the 2D looks years after it came out. The problem with 3D is that most of the times, it doesn't age very well. Especially realistic graphics. Games with cartoony or cel-shaded 3D looks much better after many years. I also think that we are nearing a point soon where 3D can't really get any better in a few years. I'm hoping for a big return of FMV though, huge fan.



Henmii said:

As long as Nintendo stays around, 2D stays around. Because Nintendo loves 2D. And I think that because of Nintendo indie-developers that develop for xbla and Ps-store keep making 2D games. Wich is good (but I rather had them on Wii!).

As long as 2D sidescrolling games have good gameplay, with new ideas and interesting art-styles, they stay relevant. Both 2D and 3D have their charm!

But personally I hope they will go more for 3D in the future. Not abandoning 2D games (that would be terrible), but giving more love to free-roaming 3D games. For example: It's really about time Kirby goes totally 3D. Maybe a free-roaming 3D Wario? What about a Zelda-like Kid Icarus? Or a free-roaming 3D Yoshi's island. I would love it!

We will just see what happens!



dimi said:

Well 2d Mario in Wii sells more than double than the 3d parts so that should give big N some hints. Same thing in DS. Nintendo was always gameplay over flashy tricks. Look at "Time traveller" 1992 arcade game for holo experience. Very impressive at the time but unplayable. The first half-life game can make you ten times more dizzy than the 3d effect of 3ds. Just run at full speed at a modern computer.



HostX9 said:

All to this date there were 2D games. Sometimes I grow sick of them but then again couldn't imagine how it will look like to be without them in the future. The experience whether 2D or 3D is what count's in making a game a great game.



Mandoble said:

@dimi, it happens that now Nintendo wants to target to these that would hardly buy any Mario, and much less a 2D one. Yep, these that made it possible for PS3 to be the Console with best sales in 2011, way ahead than Wii, these that made it possible the same for "outclassed" PSP compared with 3DS. But then again, Iwata may keep singing the "we did something wrong somewhere" song as many times as his shareholders allows, might be only once or twice more.



SunnySnivy said:

I enjoy both 2D and 3D gaming. I hope 2D stays around for a while!

The thought of 2D side-scrollers on the 3DS fascinates me. I can't wait for Cave Story 3D!!



Odnetnin said:

2D is not inherently worse than 3D, it's just different. There's a place for both. And yeah, can't wait for Cave Story 3D.



Dr_Salvador said:

I got 2 words:
Simple + Fun!
That's what 2D is all about!
I prefer my platformers and beat 'em' up's in 2D!



Javin said:

But if Mario games were simple, they wouldn't be as fun! I mean, Mario sports games can be simple and they'd still be fun! But if Mario games like Super Smash Bros and 3D adventure games were simple, it wouldn't as fun! and I'm awesome Mario games!!! @Mickeymac



IronMan28 said:

2D gaming will likely continue to be successful, as it allows for simpler controls that are accessible to more people. I personally think there is a great place for both 3D and 2D games.
I must disagree with one portion of your article as it seems that the author of this article is falling victim to the rest of the media's sensationalist attitude toward the recent price drop of the 3DS. In no way can one say the 3DS had a sluggish start, selling almost 4 million units at launch and continuing to sell the system (albeit at a somewhat slow pace) when there is an apparent lack of software and a perceived steep price is actually quite an accomplishment when one truly examines the situation. Regardless, this article did bring up some great points and it seems as though 2D gaming is here to stay in the foreseeable future.



CanisWolfred said:


What's there to be sarcastic about? I agree with Dr.Salvador that 2D games are supposed to be simple, but Mario's games are not. There's always so many new things to learn in every level besides just the level itself. It's frustrating, especially for someone who never grew up with games like that.



ThomasBW84 said:

@Daisaku36 - Thanks for the comments. It may just be one line in the first page of the piece, but I stand by the reference to 'sluggish' 3DS sales in its early months, and don't agree that this is sensationalist. The initial burst of sales was impressive, and clearly reflected a core group that were passionate about the device. However, April to June saw just 700,000 sales worldwide, a severe drop. It's been discussed and examined in detail elsewhere, including our own articles this past weekend, and I don't think Nintendo would be dropping prices and producing apologies in the manner that they have been if the 3DS had met expectations and targets. The 3DS is facing a very different market than the DS with smartphones, Vita etc, and Nintendo have clearly recognised that fact.

All of that said, I'm a supporter of the 3DS as a device, and believe it will do well with the new price point, particularly in the holidays at the end of the year.

I think 2D gaming is in a very strong place, with the Wii really bringing it back to living rooms in a big way. I have relatives and friends of all ages who enjoy the likes of Mario Bros Wii a great deal, and I think the simplicity of gameplay, mixed with the potential level of challenge, will keep people coming back for years to come.



Waxedfloss76 said:

sm64 had great coloring...and much exploration. im sure sm3dl will go back to this. seems that way. wii u needs mario or zelda or metroid at launch...preferably metroid n donkey kong 3d not 3ds but regular3d



Wolfenstein83 said:

I love 3D games, but I throw in my vote for 2D simply because I grew-up surrounded by 8-bit sprites.
Yes, it's true, I actually lived inside a videogame!
Nah, but I will play any game, no matter what dimension it's in, so long as it's good of course.
I am really waiting for 4D and 5D graphics, that will really blow our socks off. (Hahaha, yeah right)
Then again, if I was stuck on a desert island that happened to have an electrical outlet someplace, and a tv, I would be content with an NES, and all the 2D goodness that came with it.
Nobody has to grow up with it though, the experience will be pretty much the same for anyone who is new to it.
Heck, there are modern 2D classics, like Cave Story.



scrubbyscum999 said:

@MickeyMac Well maybe it is just me but Mario is pretty simple. I mean, obviously you have to get good at like ANY game, but Mario is pretty simple in my eyes. Not trying to start a debate but I don't see how Mario is complicated.



komicturtle said:

Well- Mario's gameplay is simple. But his games are sure challenging and rewarding.

How about that?



WaveBoy said:

If 2D gaming were abondoned I'd quit gaming all together.
Wario Land Shake it!, Mega Man 9 and Castlevania ReBirth were some of the most greatest 2D Titles I've ever played. I wan't more of those....Super Mario Galaxy imo didn't hold a candle to the greatness of WLSI.



WiiAboutU said:

This is awesome news to hear, 2D all the way Nintendo! It's almost like Nintendo has read some of my postings on nintendolife and actually gave a damn. That's my point exactly @WaveBoy. Why does Nintendo waste their money mainstreaming titles with 3D graphics, when they can create even more innovative 2D gameplay with limitless possibilities. (<:
Example being: Super Metroid > Metroid: Other M



MasterGraveheart said:

There is no definitive path. However, I forsee an option of 2D or 3D in gaming becoming a standard in gaming in the near future.



Peznaze said:

So long as they keep selling, companies will keep making 2D games. So I'll keep buying so they keep selling.



Dyl_73 said:

It's not just the graphics and whether they are in 2 or 3 dimensions that make a game. I thnk most people have played naff looking games but thoroughly enjoyed them. That's not to say the all 2D games look naff, because some look absolutley brilliant. However, there are plenty of games that look stunning but are poor games, (Duke Nukem Forever).
It's the gameplay that "usually" makes a game with the graphics just helping in the background. So 2D will always be around. It might just evolve slightly.



tweet75 said:

both in my opinion the best move nintendo has made in many years is releasing a full 2d mario game and a full 3d mario game mario galaxy 2 in the same year both were spectacular



tweet75 said:

I think companies should make there popular 3d games continued in 3d games as downloads. I think that would appeal to alot of fans. Its an interesting dinamic.



StarDust4Ever said:

3D Marios and 2D Marios are both great games, but lend themselves to different experiences. I always thought that Super Mario World had the best 2D experience, so here's hoping that the next NSMB has a unified overworld map similar to SMW, instead of those cookie-cutter type 1-8 maps.

The Galaxy sagas were epically great, but I believenthat a 2D overworld map in a 3D Mario game feels a little cheap. Nintendo really needs to go back to the exploration-type nature of SM64 and Sunshine for their next 3D outing, with expansive 3D hub worlds to explore an unlock/find portals to other worlds. Nintendo seems to be moving away from this aesthetic with the up-coming Mario 3DS release, trying to remove the discovery elements to make the 3D Mario games more like traditional 2D Mario games, which is run through a big obstacle course from start to finish to unlock the next world. 2D and 3D Mario games are different gaming experiences, and should be kept as such.

Also, people keep using the fact that NSMB Wii outsold both Mario Galaxy games. Let's see... Nintendo advertised the heck out of NSMB Wii, even putting Mario's face on a race car. I don't recall seeing much ads for Galaxy 2. Also, given the fact that the NSMB Wii game was bundled with special edition red Wiis only acts to boost it's sales even more. The Galaxy Games were far superior to NSMB Wii in every way. NSMB Wii had an epic boss sequence yes, but in other areas, I actually believe I enjoyed the DS outing even more, at least in single player mode. It just seemed Nintendo took too many shourtcuts with the Wii version. Would it have killed them to add just three more levels so that the game would have an even 240 star coins?



JimLad said:

The question should be: Are 3D platformers going to fade away? cause I think they have shown a much more rapid decline in the last 5 years as 2D games have come back with a vengence. Especially now we have download services.
My theory is 2D games make for better level design. Because the player is restricted to a single plane of movement, they can focus more on other aspects of the game introduced by the developers. Also the camera angle doesn't change, so you always have the best view of the action, allowing you to achieve more than in a 3D game.

There are other reasons, such as they cost a lot less to make, and are easy to learn for casual gamers. It's sort of like the perfect bridge actually between 'hardcore' and 'casual', that's probably why Nintendo is so interested in them now.
I hope 2D goes on forever as it's much more than just an outdated format, but I also hope 3D platformers don't die because they also have a lot to give in the way of exploration.



Omenapoika said:

As long as people like to read and write (->draw and view) material on paper and other such medias (including screens) 2-dimensional gaming will have advantages that impossible in 3-dimensional gaming.
(Means to say pretty much that as long as people are still humans, there will be 2D-games)
Information is easy and fast to recognize and set up in two dimensional space. 3D makes our brains go on another gear which is more hectic and intuitive, and doesn't as much space for the individual's interpretation. (Similar to as when color is added to a picture, it will take people a lot more time to figure out the outlines and remember what it is that they saw. My teacher called this phenomenon "color craze".)

Relying on these arguments, I presume that the accessibility and undeniably wide range of possibilities of 2D-gaming makes it immortal and as human as arachnophobia.

Thank you.



IronMan28 said:

@ThomasBW84 I didn't mean to sound offensive there, so if I did I apologize but I stand by my sentiments. Although I worded it a bit differently than I intended to. I said you can't call it a slow start and vaguely contradicted myself by saying it had somewhat of a slow start, so that was a Freudian slip on my part, I guess. I won't talk much more on the matter as the basis for my opinion is that most people aren't factoring in a lot of things about the 3DS (when it launched, Nintendo's lack of a digital store at launch, their perceived lack of quality software at launch, stiff competition from smartphones, etc.) that when considered, makes the 3DS almost a success.

Regardless, I feel that Nintendo will continue to keep core franchises in 3D while making 2D games when it makes sense for the title or genre (games like Donkey Kong Country and Mario games lend themselves to this as they began in this format). I don't have any problem with the continuation of 2D games, as they tend to age well, as well. Thank you for your well thought out argument and points on the 3DS sales, but I respectfully disagree with your (and many others') opinions and sentiments on the matter.



RonF said:

It is a matter of audience. I find 3D platformers more interesting than 2D ones. I have no problem playing them, in fact, I am a much better Galaxy player than a Super Mario Bros. player. That said, a lot of people have trouble playing in a 3D environment through the 2D representation of a TV set and using the kind of controllers we have. As the Wii an the DS reached a wider audience than the hardcore, it became obvious that 2D platformers were more accessible. I have a few friends that have a lot of fun dying in NSMBW (that was basically what they were doing) but couldn't even orient themselves in Galaxy. It seems that Nintendo is finally getting the idea.



pntjr said:

Both. I beleive 2D will fade away in about 40 years. but i prefer both.



Negi444 said:

i think that 3d will eventually be on every single game but it must always be optional



alLabouTandroiD said:

I think titles with 2D gameplay will always be made. But as with all other media genres hypes will come and go and sometimes the mainstream will long for something different. So while it’s likely that games like Super Mario 3D Land will sell well nobody should take it as a given fact.
And it may very well be that in the future only Nintendo will see success in releasing 2D retail games but as far as I’m concerned there’s always room for one more 2D-DLC-platformer.

Another factor is co-op play. 2D platformers sure are amongst the easiest games to pick up and play. It’s quite easy to see how you can help out your partner(s). In contrast to other pick up and play genres like puzzle games and racing games that are not Double Dash.. And playing them together on a home console is an experience I’ll never want to miss.

I wouldn’t want to say that 2D or 3D is better because both have their very strengths and are way too different to really compare them. I mean some 3D titles like Crash Bandicoot or on-rail-shooters are not so far away from 2D titles. The biggest difference I see is the different perspective.

I don’t know about launching a 2D Mario game alongside the Wii U. Imo during this period it’s more important to have titles that use a lot of the console’s / controller’s unique features. If that’s given a supplementary 2D platformer can’t hurt though.

For the future of (2D) platformers it will be very interesting to see how Super Mario 3D Land turns out and when we will see more multiplayer in 3D platformers.

Okay okay, I’m slowly coming to an end, Mr. impatient.
The secret exits in Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. and Wario Land, the collectibles in Yoshi’s Island and the “everything is exploding around you” in Contra Rebirth, Donkey Kong Country Returns and Gunstar Heroes will always have a special place in my heart

And last but not least here are the some other post-GBA games that I think show a lot of potential for future 2D platforming goodness.

  • Super Paper Mario – for RPG elements in a game without weapons and for the 2D to 3D mechanics
  • Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – for giving a glimpse of how a new Zelda II could turn out
  • Henry Hatsworth – for “zany”characters and the blend of puzzling and platforming

PS: A Donkey Kong Country games in the vein of “Returns” has to be made for the 3DS !



Token_Girl said:

I hope that we'll continue to see a mix of both styles of gameplay. To be fair whatever sells, we'll see, but my thirst for 2D platformers, while deep in the beginning of of this generation has been more than satiated recently. If nothing else, we'll see plenty of 2D from smaller studios and indies, since 3D is so much more expensive and time consuming. I still can't wait to see what new, more groundbreaking, things Ninty has to offer - and this will be in the 3D realm (stylistically, even if not with actual 3D that needs a special screen or glasses).



SuperLink said:

2D, because it is just something you can pick and play. You already know what to do, and there is no "special controls". It's sidescrolling 2D games that people love and know as some of the first games they were ever able to play, like Super Mario Brothers.

2D will live as long as time itself.



gabrielwoj said:

That happens with Metroid series. Man, I remember when I was younger, playing that great game, with mapping system and stuff...
So, where is the Metroid 2D? It have been passed already 7 years without some!

I think 2D really is good, 2D games are masterpieces



Henmii said:

"The question should be: Are 3D platformers going to fade away? cause I think they have shown a much more rapid decline in the last 5 years as 2D games have come back with a vengence. Especially now we have download services"

So true!



StarDust4Ever said:

Another thing to keep in mind, is that everybody jumped on the 3D bandwagon during the N64/PS1 era, because it was a new experience. 11 years passed between Super Mario Brothers and the birth of 3D gaming, Mario 64. 12 years passed between Yoshi's Island SNES, and the next time a non-remake 2D Mario title was released, was New Super Mario Brothers (DS) in 2005. Just be thankful Nintendo now offers Mario platform titles in both formats, and for once we are getting more than one Mario game per generation.

I still long for a return to more exploratory 3D Mario titles, and a true sequel to Mario 64 (Mario 128?).



motang said:

I hope 2D games won't die off, I enjoy them so much. I have a pretty good collection of 2D games on my Wii and my DS, and I look forward to Rayman Origins and Alien game on the DS



GeekiestGuyAround said:

I hope that Castlevania's first 3DS entry is a side-scroller. 'Order of Ecclesia' was one amazing game. I would also like another 'New Super Mario Bros.', for the 3DS. Right now I am waiting for 'Rayman Origins', which will be the first Rayman title I ever play.



GotWii said:

I think both 2D and 3D will exist. They each provide a different approach to gaming. It is almost as much as when you think of Arcade VS RPG games.
2D Are more Arcade style with a forced flow with obvious goals, 3D is more RPG style with a roam and discovery approach. In our home both types are loved, but I do find that the 3D games get more hours of game play and I think its do to that discovery time. Now if 2D is going to last they need to get some new ideas, too many similarities going back too many generations. Like lets get rid of the floating blocks with some other obstacle.



Simon_Deku said:

Couldn't agree more. 3D will last for generations to come, probably because most Zelda games are 3D. But 2D will stay too I'll bet. If it does die out, what will happen to our favorite Italian plumber?

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