3D World’s 3D Worlds

No contest, frankly.

Sometimes a good list article is all you need. I highly enjoyed old-comrade-in-arms Jim McCauley’s article for 3D World magazine. As you may imagine, a games list article for a non-games-mag takes a slightly different shape – and this one is about 3D milestones in gaming. The article itself is divided into 5 parts, and it’s worth working through – though for my money, the fifth part is the best. As in, the first eight are ones which I’d have included in a list of – oooh – 15 most important 3D games. Because I’m terribly Brit-centric, and not ashamed about it. Mercenary! I should write something about Mercenary. Er… do go read. And since – to steal a line – a good list is meant to be the start of a conversation rather than the end of one, what do you think’s missing?


  1. blah says:

    “What do you think’s missing?”

    The Dark Engine.

  2. jsutcliffe says:

    Ah, nostalgia. I was surprised to see that I’d played almost all of the non-console titles in the list. I’ve been aching for remakes of Stunt Car Racer and Midwinter for ages, and I had no idea Geoff Crammond was responsible for Sentinel.

    It’s also interesting because I think if I were to write such an article it’d probably just end up talking about differences in DirectX versions, with DX8’s shiny water being a particular highlight.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      Oh, yes. The question. What is missing?

      HDR lighting needs a mention, possibly citing GRAW as the first game to get it right.
      Wing Commander for its hardcore sprite nonsense
      Whichever flight sim got us away from flying over vast flat landscapes with the occasional pyramd in lieu of a mountain range. The first I remember playing was Apache Longbow on the Amiga — you could drop into river valleys, just about.
      Something voxel-based, possibly Delta Force

  3. frymaster says:

    that bloody paylar commander and his bloody brother in law…

  4. leederkrenon says:

    part 5 is cool! nice to see driller (the engine was called freescape) link to ysrnry.co.uk – i had the 3d construction kit they released after this. i think i managed to build a box with a door on it.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      Me too! I made probably the blockiest, least Apache-like Apache you could imagine with it. And a portal that let you step inside. It was pants. :(

  5. leederkrenon says:

    and that 3d monster maze on the zx81 is actually mind blowing, given what the programmer had to work with. here’s some more zx81 wizardry: link to youtube.com

  6. zornbringer says:

    nice to see virtua figher and daytona usa on that list. i played virtua fighter on my mega drive 32x (genesis 32x for our us readers). it was soooo awsome when i first saw it. so smooth, fast, and 3 fucking d!!! i still remember how awsome i found the animations of virtua fighter. you just cant describe the feeling i had when i saw this. this was actually THE first real 3d polygon game ive ever played and it blasted my mind for a long time.

    i played daytona on my sega saturn some years later. 3d games were already “normal” at that time, but i think it was the second real 3d racing game ive ever saw and played (i had virtua racing on my mega drive as well, which was the real first 3d racing game i know)

    just have to say thanks to rps for reviving my memories.

    did i mention in one of my very few comments that rockpapershotgun rocks? well, it does, keep it up guys, i just love you more and more every time i come here and read your posts.

  7. Mark says:

    Yes, yes! You should write something about Mercenary!

    Man, I loved that game. Wrote an enormous FAQ for it back in the day, and everything.

  8. phil says:

    Something like early 90 VR headset 3D mech games could also have got a mention, if only because of the amount of nausa they produced. I only ever a saw one installed in an achingly hip jeans store, they removed it after a couple of weeks as people keep vomiting on the denim.

  9. Ed says:

    No Star Raiders on the 8-bit Atari? Gaping hole in the list right there. Not only that, it remains to date one the finest space combat games ever created, despite being made in 1979.

    The sequel was guff though.

    • Weylund says:

      Agreed. I loved that game to pieces. It came with my Atari 800 and I destroyed two joysticks playing it. Open-ended games have appealed to me ever since.

  10. Andrew says:

    I have fond memories of 3-Demon, a 3-D Pacman clone from the early 80s:
    link to en.wikipedia.org.

  11. Uwe says:

    Have I misunderstood the article or shouldn’t Ultima Underworld be in that list?

  12. Chaz says:

    Its like a potted history of my childhood. Those YouTube videos really bring back the memories. As a rite of passage, all children should have to hang out in a seedy smoky arcade with a pounds worth of 10p’s. Good character building stuff. Especially the toasted cheese sarnies from the adjoining greasy spoon cafe.

  13. Roland says:

    Seeing I Robot again brought back some great memories, my local arcade had one hidden away in the back and I seemed to be the only person who ever played it.

  14. neolith says:

    Midwinter! That was a kickass game!

    ‘Tunderhawk’ for Amiga500 and ‘Comanche’ for PC are missing though.’Test Drive’ and ‘X-Wing’ might also be worth mentioning.

  15. tycho says:

    I can’t believe they had racing games and didn’t include Death Track – man that game was awesome.

    link to youtube.com

    I loved the bomb on rocket-powered skateboards…

  16. Jetsetlemming says:

    I agree with Uwe, I feel like either Ultima Underworld or System Shock 1 should be on the list. System Shock was definitely the first game I ever played with the game world in full textured and lit 3d. Also a huge jump forward for 3d movement in 3d space with the additions of crouching, crawling, mantling, and an extreme accurate control to the ability to lean we’ve never seen in any other game since.

  17. MrFake says:

    Hard Drivin’ Bitch!!

    These lists are never fair. I couldn’t possibly appreciate any significance when being overburdened with nostalgia. Next week: revisiting all the hangouts I frequented as a teenager, followed by a panoply of the scents of ex-girlfriends and dead relatives.

  18. Ashurbanipal says:

    Being terribly British and not ashamed of it, I’m surprised you didn’t mention Magic Carpet. If only for the engine, which went on to power such disparate games as Dungeon Keeper, Populous: The Beginning, Syndicate Wars, and Hi-Octane (which for a game knocked out in eight weeks is pretty damn awesome). Man I loved Bullfrog.

  19. leederkrenon says:

    maybe carrier command over midwinter.

  20. ZeeKat says:

    Nice article, didn’t know about the I Robot, looks amazing for a 1983. I agree with addition of Ultima Underworld and Magic Carpet (its engine was remade for 64 kilobyte then 4 kilobyte demoscene intros, by the way – amazing stuff). And maybe Way Out for Atari – I think it was earliest (one of earliest?) example of raycasting 3d engine, and it was 1982 or something. Not to mention of MIDI maze – multiplayer FPS from 1987.

  21. TheSombreroKid says:

    lol they should’ve got someone who knew what they were talking about.
    Loosely it should go, perspective projection, texture mapping, voxels, shaders, dynamic lighting, pick games that done this well and early done.

  22. TheSombreroKid says:

    i don’t think any raycasting engines should be allowed like system shock and doom, cause it’s a bit too much of a cheat.

  23. TheSombreroKid says:

    just noticed this is the first 5 of 50 which makes it more reasonable.

  24. Ravenger says:

    System Shock’s environments were fully 3D. The enemies were sprites though. I’d love to see a remake in a modern engine, with a modern keyboard and mouse interface, but keeping the plot, dialogue, and essential gameplay the same.

    3D Monster Maze was one of the first games I got for my ZX81 when I bought a 16k ram pack. In later years I programmed a version of it on the Psion Series 3A pocket computer, but mine had high-res graphics and sound effects. How’s that for progress? :-)

    • TheSombreroKid says:

      shit you’re right, i just assumed based on the time ,that makes system shocks technichal acheivements even more monumental.

  25. Caiman says:

    3D Monster Maze… I still can’t play this game on an emulator because it’s terrifying to me. The lack of sound really added to the atmosphere, as did the 30 seconds of FAST mode that the game needed to create the map (sadly missing from the emulated versions, for obvious reasons). When rex did get you, it was often from a side corridor very suddenly. Scared the crap out of me on numerous occasions, scarred for life I am.

  26. Andthensobecause says:

    Apparently, Star Fox was just a massive ripoff of I,Robot. :( Nintendo :(

  27. Chaz says:

    What about Liberation on the CD32? Oh, OK, maybe not then.

  28. Ergates says:

    I had a tip printed in Your Sinclair for Mercenary. It included the advice that you could fly a block of cheese.

  29. Starky says:

    Personally I’d have preferred a bit more detail on each game and what made them unique, maybe some discussion on the technical aspects – but them I’m a bit of a 3D geek (Mainly CAD).

    Maybe some order and structure, a chronological walk through the history of 3D in games would have had me salivating.
    Though perhaps a bit beyond the remit of a top 50 using youtube video’s.

  30. unacomn says:

    The article was written by someone with little understanding of what 3D rendered graphics actually are.

  31. terry says:

    Man, I would kill for a remake of Hunter. Windsurfing to a distant island over a moonlit sea, entering an isolated shack containing only a melancholy tumble dryer. Inexplicably getting shot off my bicycle by a mortar, boarding a fish and circling a lake, grenading lonesome lighthouse keepers, complete ignorance of any mission beyond “find helicopter, crash helicopter”.

    Hunter was the original bomb. The fleeting nod to it in the article is disappointing.

  32. golden_worm says:

    Speaking as someone else with little understanding of what 3D rendered graphics are, I would nominate Robocop 3 off of the Amiga. The on foot shooty bits were not the best looking, but it had a very tense atmosphere and at the time I hadn’t experienced a more immersive game-play experience using such minimalist stylings. I remember thinking at the time “this is how games will be in the future”.

    I’d also give an honourable mentions to A10 tank killer, killer 7 (gamecube), Kulaworld (psx) and (props to Ashurbanipal) Magic Carpet.

  33. Jim McCauley says:

    Surprising ratio of non-angry comments. I’m pleased.

    Any such list is bound to be incomplete, as Kurt Gödel would doubtless tell you if he wasn’t mad or dead, but I think I mostly got away with it, largely thanks to input from a bunch of friends who really know their stuff. TBH, Garriott-fans, if I hadn’t been up against it getting the last part out on Friday afternoon and had actually had time to think about it, I’d have probably ejected Midwinter on the grounds of video fail and replaced it with Underworld, and then we’d have loads of angry Singletonites here instead :D