3D platformers were once one of the most popular genres in gaming, but they have undoubtedly fallen out of vogue over the last decade or so. Although Nintendo is still doing its best to keep the genre alive with its routinely excellent 3D Mario titles, most developers and publishers long ago abandoned mascot platformers in favor of more “mature” fare like action-adventure and first-person shooter games. Still, for anyone who grew up gaming in the PS1/N64 era, it’s hard not to feel a pang of nostalgia for the glory days of platforming games, as the genre is a shadow of its former self these days.
Still, there are some developers still trying to keep the genre alive. Super Mario Odyssey is the most anticipated game for the Nintendo Switch right now and Insomniac Games continues to pump out excellent Ratchet & Clank games, a franchise that has been going strong for 15 years now. And even though the game isn’t very good, the very existence of Playtonic’s Banjo-Kazooie spiritual successor Yooka-Laylee shows that there is still interest in these sorts of games. Platforming games may not be as vibrant as they used to be, but they’ve still given us some of the best gaming experiences of the last 20 years.
To avoid half this list being comprised of just Mario games, I’ve decided to only consider one game from any given series. In other words, while I’m aware that Super Mario 64 still deserves to be considered one of the all-time great 3D platformers, you will not find it on this list because subsequent Mario games have outclassed it.
11. Rayman 2: The Great Escape
While Rayman Legends is arguably the best overall game in the franchise, it’s not technically a 3D platformer, so we had to go with the much older, but still excellent Rayman 2: The Great Escape. Representing Rayman’s first foray into three dimensions, The Great Escape received nowhere near the popularity of titles like Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, but it arguably stands shoulder-to-shoulder with those titles as one of the best 3D platformers ever made.
The Rayman games have earned a reputation for their beautiful graphics, excellent soundtrack, and precise controls and while each of those elements have aged quite a bit in The Great Escape’s case, it holds up remarkably well for a game that was ported to just about every console on the market in 1999/2000. If you’ve never experienced Rayman 2, you owe it to yourself to track down a copy (we suggest going for the Dreamcast or PS2 versions, as they are the best from a technical standpoint).Photo: Ubisoft