The Return of Side-Scrollers and a Quick Discussion of Other Trends in Gaming

Not long ago, I was playing a game on the Wii called “Muramasa: The Demon Blade”.  This game is a side-scrolling action game, and it got me thinking about something likely much more than a normal person should have.  But, since I’m already thinking about it, I may as well drag you into my thoughts, as well.

We’re all familiar with side-scrollers, right?  Lots of old games were this format.  “Mario” and “Metroid” and “Sonic” and “Donkey Kong”.  And I can keep going to take up space, but I shan’t.  These games were often like this on the old consoles, such as the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, but then that began to change.  I remember when the Nintendo 64 came out, we started to get these fancy, new 3D games, like “Super Mario 64”, “Donkey Kong 64”, and a new series I found superbly delightful, “Banjo-Kazooie”.  You didn’t really see side-scrollers so much anymore, except on handhelds and the “Kirby” series, which has remained in that format to this day.  And as you’d expect, side-scrollers that became 3D continued to be 3D down through the years because, well, what’s new and fancy usually becomes commonplace.  We haven’t seen a decline in graphics over the years, and a series that gains the addition of voice acting usually doesn’t lose it.  Nevertheless, I’ve been noticing a trend lately.

Side-scrollers are returning.  “Muramasa: The Demon Blade” is a fairly new side-scrolling series.  And other older series are returning to this format to some degree, as well.  The original “Rayman” game was a side-scroller, and then it followed the 3D trend for a few games.  And then not long ago, the side-scrolling “Rayman Origins” was released, followed by a similar game entitled “Rayman Legends” just a few weeks ago.  We’ve also been seeing those “New Super Mario Bros.” that mimic the gameplay of much older “Mario” games, along with the side-scrolling “Donkey Kong Country Returns”, which, quite obvious from their wording, returns to the gameplay of the “Donkey Kong Country” games on the SNES (though, in my opinion, doesn’t return to the same level of glee and delight).

And following my most important epiphany concerning the rise of side-scrollers again, I began to wonder why this was happening.  You see, side-scrollers were no doubt common in the past due to limited technology.  It was simpler to just make a 2D game rather than a 3D one I’m sure, so they did it.  But, once it became easier to make 3D games, they began to make more and more games in that format, just as games have better graphics now because of the advanced technology and the more powerful consoles.

So why are these games returning?  Why not make games with pixilated graphics and low-quality sound again?  Because, of course, there is a difference between side-scrolling vs. 3D and bad graphics vs. good.  People like side-scrollers.  They don’t like bad graphics.  Unless they’re silly.  Side-scrolling games are not simply a result of lacking technology that should be done away with once other means have been developed to replace it.  Depending on the game, a side-scroller can be just as much fun as a 3D game, despite the simpler style.  While I prefer 3D, I enjoy both, and I am sure there are those that enjoy side-scrollers more.  Today, even in a time of more advanced games, some may prefer the side-scroller because it may seem like a way to return to simpler times when many believed games were better because they focused on story and gameplay above graphics.  Maybe they just find these games to be more fun.  It certainly cuts down on the time wasted exploring large expanses of nothing, which can indeed plague certain 3D games (“Quest 64”!).  And in the case of “Muramasa” and “Rayman Origins”, side-scrollers seem to be capable of more beautiful scenery than 3D games, as well.  Whatever the reason, this kind of game is coming back because people obviously like them and miss them, or else developers likely wouldn’t put the effort into making them.

Well, no duh, Duck.  Of course, game developers are making side-scrollers because people want to play them.  Well, yeah, I suppose I am being pretty obvious.  I guess I really didn’t need to waste your time with this nonsense just to reach a conclusion we already knew, did I?  But, since I already did waste this much of your time, let’s waste a little more.  Ahem, because I have another point to make here.  And it’s about other trends.  With side-scrollers returning, what about other supposed “improvements” to games?

For example, I hear quite often that many people thought the motion features of the Wii controller seemed new and exciting originally, but once they tried it for a while, many wanted to return to the old controls.  I certainly agree with that.  While I don’t dislike such controls as much as some, I’ve been getting pretty sick lately of shaking the controller around like a nut when a simple button press would have sufficed.  And frankly, made the game much simpler to play.  (Plus, I just like buttons.  Buttons are good.  I feel like I’m piloting a spaceship with all these buttons and triggers.  And that makes me feel smart and neat.)  Motion controls are likely here to stay for at least a little while (maybe, shudder, forever even, to some degree), as game developers continue to try to lure in new customers, even if it may turn away long-time gamers.  But, once even the people new to games grow bored of these new controls, will they start to disappear, as well (the controls, not the people)?  Already, the Wii U has chosen to have a controller more similar to that of the GameCube controller (we get two control sticks again!) than the more recent Wiimote.  I still don’t know about a controller with a TV screen in it, but I suppose it’s still, overall, a step in the right direction.

I have the same questions concerning the games with the 3D images, you know, like the movies that you have to watch with those dorky paper glasses that turn everything red and blue.  And that feel like things are trying to reach out of the TV and stab you in the eyes.  Yeah, well, I’ve never played those, as I lack and plan to lack for eternity a 3DS and a 3D TV, but this is similar to the motion controls, I believe.  When will this get old?  They tried to push 3D movies decades ago, and it didn’t catch on, so will it work with games?  I don’t know.  As I have never experienced these kinds of games, could anyone who has tell me your thoughts on them?  I heard they are tiring to look at, but I know little else.  But, based on my assumptions thus far, I think these games will be gone someday, too.  Or at the very least, they certainly won’t replace traditional games that are kind enough not to try and murder your face.  I just think that, just like with motion controls, once the novelty wears off, these games won’t be so popular anymore, either.

Because fancier technology doesn’t necessarily make a game better.  Yes, now that we have the ability to have games with fantastic graphics, that should continue.  Why not?  But, it doesn’t make the games better.  They look nice, but is it the graphics alone that endear a game to us?  No.  It’s the story and the characters and the gameplay.  Not whether or not a game allows you to swing a battery-powered stick around like a buffoon or if the TV decides to jab you in the peepers.  Often, these detract from the experience.  Especially the peeper-jabbing.  So just as side-scrollers are coming back because people obviously miss them, our traditional controls and non-eye-jabby TV’s will hopefully become more prevalent again, as well.  I already know people got tired of the Wiimote.  Let’s see how quickly people get sick of being poked in the eyes.  Because you will.


Screenshot by Flickr User: Entertainment Nexus


  1. Vitosal says:

    I like a few side-scrollers, i prefer 3d spaces but there are a few that are just fantastic like Badland that i downloaded for Iphone. So freaking beautiful, simple game-play but with challenging levels. An excellent side-scroller. 3d movies and games is just a phase. They even tried 3d way, way back in the day, it just seems to come and go like a tide. Just a phase thank god


    1. duckofindeed says:

      I prefer 3D spaces, as well, and so was disappointed that “Rayman Origins” was a side-scroller. It, too, ended up being a wonderful and challenging game, though, and I happily got “Rayman Legends” once it came out.

      I’ll be glad to see 3D games and movies go away (again). They keep pushing it every once in a while, and I just don’t see it becoming the norm. Even though they’re sure to return once again years down the road.


  2. Hatm0nster says:

    I too thought 3D could add something to games, but so far it hasn’t been anything more than a gimmick. Oh, and you can’t look at them for very long either unless you want a headache. I agree, the 3D fad is on its way out again. Especially since we have 3DS without the 3D.


    1. duckofindeed says:

      I heard of the eyestrain and headaches associated with 3D games. Gee, that sounds fun. I’ll be happy to see 3D go, even though they’ll certainly try to bring it back again someday.


  3. cary says:

    I had the chance to play Arkham City in 3D and it was…well, it didn’t give me quite the headache I expected, but it didn’t really add to the experience. I think that I moved around a little more on the couch in reaction to the effects, but I didn’t feel any more immersed in the game than I did playing without 3D. The ebb and low of 3D has died down a bit recently, but it’s still a niche thing. I don’t think it’s dead, but we probably haven’t seen the last of it. (4k 3D TVs? Probably.)

    I’m trying to think of the last true side-scroller I played. I want to say Little Big Planet, but that’s like a side-scroller plus. Maybe it was New Super Mario Bros. Wii U? Or just Super Metroid, more likely. I don’t know that I prefer 3D over 2D environments, but my recent game choices just haven’t included 2D side-scrollers. There’s a definite return to 2D side-scrollers in indie game market as more and more developers seeks to recapture the simplicity of what made video games to popular years ago. (Plus, it’s easier to develop a fun 2D game than an large-scale 3D game, I imagine.)


    1. duckofindeed says:

      It’s silly, but I remember occasions in the past where I was disappointed a game was side-scrolling, but then when I played them, they always ended up being fun, and now I look forward to my side-scrolling “Rayman Legends”. Still prefer 3D spaces, though. I like the freedom, and I can walk around obstacles rather than needing to jump over. But, I no longer have any ill will towards side-scrollers. They probably just brought back frightening memories of my days playing “Super Mario Bros”. As in old “Super Mario Bros”. Those games were pain sealed in a cartridge.

      Yeah, I just don’t see a game actually being benefitted from being 3D. It’s different, but it seems people forget sometimes that such things don’t make a game any better. These things are really one of the least important factors in making a game good. No matter how fancy the technology is, bad characters, story, and gameplay make a bad game.


  4. tacticalcraptical says:

    There are several genres like this, were technical limitations basically created an entire genre but because these genres turned out so well, they come back. Other examples are turn-based strategy and turn-based RPGs that phased out due to the rise of RTS and action-RPGs and then have started coming back.


    1. duckofindeed says:

      That is so true. I didn’t think of turn-based RPG’s and stuff like that. I actually prefer those to the battle systems used today, where you only control one character (sometimes you barely even get to do that) and the others act on their own. When playing games like those in the “Final Fantasy” series, I enjoy the older games much more because of the older system of fighting. I hope Square Enix decides to bring that older type of battle system back. I miss it.


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