3-Dimensional Gameplay

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3-dimensional gameplay means that the player can control the movement of game entities along 3 orthogonal axis. Usually, this means left/right, up/down and forwards/backwards. Movement does not necessarily have to be allowed along more than one axis simultaneously. In certain cases, launching projectiles (i.e. shooting) could be considered within the scope of controlling the movement of game entities (by determining the initial direction). It is also important to note that due to the obvious restrictions of flat (2-dimensional) displays, what the player sees on screen is a 2-dimensional representation of a 3-dimensional gameworld. However, it is important to distinguish between the cardinality of the gameworld (see 3-Dimensional Gameworld) and that of the gameplay (described here). In particular, the quality of a game's graphics or how they are displayed on the screen has nothing to do with the dimensionality of its gameplay. For that matter, the quality of its gameplay has very little to do with its dimensionality. Games with 3D graphics but 2-dimensional gameplay (i.e. the player can only move and act/shoot in 2 dimensions), such as Ikaruga or Street Fighter 4, are not examples of 3D gameplay. By contrast, games with 2D graphics but which enable movement or action in 3 dimensions, such as X-Com or Wing Commander, are examples of 3D gameplay.

Nowadays, most games allow for 3-dimensional gameplay. For instance, most first-person shooters and third-person platform games require that the player successfully navigate 3-dimensional environments. Players control characters that can move in any direction on the ground in addition to jumping. Even games that do not allow for jumping often incorporate a 3rd dimension in their gameplay when they allow for the player to throw or launch some projectiles in a non-horizontal direction, with an attendant game effect (e.g. the ability to strike a flying target). Alternately, thrown projectiles can be thrown in order that they bounce or ricochet off surfaces in order to reach otherwise inaccessible locations.

First Person Shooters

These distinctions are perhaps best illustrated by looking at 3 successive first-person shooters. Wolfenstein 3D is an early first-person shooter whose visual presentation was arguably 3D. However, its cardinality of gameplay is [[2-Dimensional Gameplay| 2-dimensional]. The player can control a character that move anywhere on a 2D plane (the floor) but there is no way to jump or change height. For all intents and purposes, all of the game entities are situated at the exact same height. This was not the case in Doom where enemies were located at different heights and the architecture of the gameworld included stairs and ledges. However, the player isn't able to aim up/down; the projectiles simply adjust their height when aimed at an enemy who is not on the same horizontal plane as the player character. Quake, on the other hand, allowed for full 3D gameplay allowing the player to move and aim in 3D. In particular, Quake allowed the player to use a grenade launcher whose ammunition (grenades) behaved in a reasonably realistic manner, allowing the player to bounce them off surfaces. In this way, for example, enemies that were around a corner could be killed.

Lightgun Games

In principle, most lightgun games have 2D gameplay since the player is essentially sweeping a reticule over a flat surface. Even though most modern lightgun games feature 3D gameworlds, the player is usually not able to control movement of the camera and shots fired at targets in the game do not take into consideration the depth (ie, how far away they are from the camera) in any meaningful way.


Please explain exactly how 3-D is used in the gameplay. General descriptions of the game should be kept as concise and objective as possible. Please see the Starfox example below.

Strong Examples

Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64 allows the player to control a character in three dimensions (when jumping). The action of jumping is necessary to navigate certain obstacles which cannot be navigated via 2D movement. The camera is also movable so that the player can always have Mario in the position that he wants. The player can also jump, swim, and even slide across the surfaces of the environment. Mario's full motion in the game is what makes this game a strong example of 3-dimensional gameplay.

Halo (series)

The Halo series of games follows standard 3D shooter genre conventions, in which the player-character cannot move freely in the vertical direction but can jump, crouch, and shoot in any direction. In addition, the player can control flying vehicles which move freely in all 3 dimensions.

Marathon Infinity

In Marathon, the player can move in two horizontal dimensions and jump or aim in three dimensions, even though the character and object graphics are sprite-based 2D graphics. Certain levels feature altered gravity which affects the vertical movement (via jumping) of the player.

Gears of War

In Gears of War for the XBox 360, there is a 3D gameworld, but the player is generally restricted to 2D movements. There is no jump button, so the player is not allowed to freely move up/down; instead there is a dive button which allows the player to jump over certain game objects. However, the player can shoot in directions that are not horizontal, in order (for instance) to attack targets at different elevations.

Rainbow Six: Vegas

In Rainbow Six: Vegas, the player have most of controls in 3D maps. However, there is limit of controls in 3D game and that is a jump control. Player is only allowed to move on the ground. Although player may have an action key to use a fast-rope to move to lower level or climb ladders to move to above level, player is not allowed to jumb in the game. However, the player can launch projectiles in directions that are not horizontal.

Wing Commander

Wing Commander is a game where the player pilots a spacecraft to attack enemy spacecraft. Although all the objects in the game are represented as 2D sprites, the game takes place in a 3D environment from a first-person view, and any object in the game is capable of moving in all 3 dimensions.


X-Com features a mode of play wherein the player controls a squad of soldiers in turn-based combat. Although the game environment is represented by 2D graphics using an isometric point of view, it is in fact a full 3D environment with different elevation levels and a crude simulation of gravity (destroying the floor on which an object is standing will cause it to fall down). In the later stages of the game, the player can acquire soldiers and vehicles with the ability to fly (i.e. freely change their elevation); this has a strong effect on the game strategy.

Counter-Strike: Source

In Counter Strike: Source, it is a simulation of counter terrorist versus terrorist. You can move around in any direction of the game. It can be played through PC or the XBox. In this game, yu have the ability to buy weapons, and work as a team with others to wipe out the opposing team. The rendering in Counter Strike: Source is better than the original Counter Strike because the weapons are more realistic and so are the players. That is why Counter Strike: Source is such a strong game.

Zelda:Ocarina of Time

Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a prime example of three dimensional game. Not only does it look really amazing, it also allows the player to move more freely, with a great map cardinality. It enhances the gaming experience 10 fold. In this game you are allowed to move in all direction in a 3 dimensional plain. There are camera angles to further emphasize the 3d feature. Characters look more life like as well as objects seen in the game.


Not only the character movement is three dimensional in this game, allowing for game cardinality for any direction, but also the terrain itself acts as an integral and important part within the larger concept of a three dimensional playing field. Mountains, valleys and swim-able rivers are all set within a three dimensional world containing both perspective (vanishing point oriented to players sight), and sprite and terrain shading (oriented to actual light source). These specific naturalistic examples of three dimensional properties enables the game Oblivion to be both successful at providing the necessary immersion of the 3d cardinality and also allow the game to be an extremely strong example of 3 dimensional gameplay overall.

Dark Messiah

Dark Messiah features a fully 3D environment littered with detailed landscapes, destructible terrain, and thoughtfully placed landmarks and obstacles. Utilizing a strong game physics engine, a modified Source engine, Dark Messiah offers a whole new degree of versatility in game play.

Final Fantasy XI

In Final Fantasy XI a player can move around in any direction of the game. They can explore anything from underground caves, to sandy beaches, to snowy mountains. Most of all players can ride chocobos which can go in any direction just like the player. The availability of how many ways players can maneuver across Vana'diel is what makes Final Fantasy XI a strong example of 3-D gameplay.

NBA 2K series

The basketball simulation series allows players controlling the ball handler to move anywhere on the court. The ball handler can pass, dunk, steal, block, etc in any specified direction. There are multiple camera angles which can be rotated from behind or on the side of the players to enhance the 3-D aspect of the game.

Weak Examples

Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door

In paper mario there is 3D rendering and obviously 3D graphics but the character tends to stay on a 2D plane. Mario can go through warp pipes to change his z-level but the movement is up/down left/right once through the pipe. Though you can obviously see the difference between z-planes and thus avoid objects by changing the third dimension. 2D gameplay through most of the game but 3D in parts.

Starfox Super Nintendo

The game takes place in a moving 3D environment. Within narrow constraints, the player can move up, down, left, and right, as well as change speed. However, the ability to turn and completely change direction does not exist. Gameplay takes place on a set course and your cardinality of movement is limited within that course.

Resident Evil 4

The game world is fully 3D but the player is limited by human constraints: he can only move up or down if there is something like a ladder or rope to climb up, and down only if there is something to climb down or jump down from. Most of the time the player is moving in 2 dimensions along the ground.

The Sims 2

While the gameworld is 3D, and the player may move the camera in 3 dimensional directions, the player can only more the characters themselves around a 2D plane.

The House of the Dead

The House of the Dead seems to have 3D game play since it is made with 3D graphics. However, The House of the Dead is just a clicking game. Player is only allowed to shoot. Instead of player controlling to move around the map, the camera automatically moves the player. Since the player is limited to shoot the target, this game is a weak exammple for 3D gameplay.


The game is modeled and rendered in 3D. Clicking on different parts of the screen change the direction in which you are looking or moves you to a different spot. This can be considered three dimensional movement or a web of two dimensional areas.

Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth

In this game, while on the world map, the character can move up and down, and change their altitude, giving them 3 dimensions of movement. However, this is just on the world map, as the entire rest of the game (aside from the battles) is only capable of movement in 2 dimensions.

Skies of Arcadia

The game allows the player to move Vyse around in a 3-dimensional environment, yet limits your ability to move up and down on the vertical axis (unless you are climbing a rope or walking up an incline). There is no jump button in the game so you are really unable to move in full 3-dimensions.


Rayforce is, in many respects, a 2D scrolling shooter. However, the enemies in the game are capable of movement in 3 dimensions. The reason why it is not a pure 2D game is that certain weapons can be used to attack targets which are at a different level from the player-avatar.