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While some of our readers are young enough to have never seen the early days where 2D graphics were a necessity, many of us remember the first steps into 3D fondly. Often ugly, slow, and lacking color, the first attempts at 3D were extremely limited, yet they were still more captivating than the mere sum of their parts.

3D games gave us more than just entertainment, they provided a more immersive way of experiencing a digital world. With this being the defacto choice for most games today, we wanted to take a look back at some of the landmarks in 3D gaming to see how we got here, and just how far this visual style has become.

3D Monster Maze

Released in 1981 for the Sinclair ZX81, 3D Monster Maze boasts the place as the first 3D game available for home play. Rendered in extremely low-resolution monochrome, this was still a standout for the time, although the limitations and step-by-step framerate made it difficult to appreciate this game in an immersive 3D sense.

It did have a T-Rex, though, which aren’t really monsters but have historically been known to be big fans of mazes.

Mainstream and Texture Mapping Success

One of the biggest early success stories in terms of immersive 3D gameplay came from id Software’s Wolfenstein 3D, released in 1992. In no small part due to the programming prowess of John Carmack, this game included texture mapped walls, smooth and fast-paced gameplay, and all of the Nazi shooting a person could want. More importantly, it led the way for the granddaddy of them all.

Dooming the Competition

Doom, another id Software creation, released in 1993 to global acclaim. Leaps and bounds ahead of the already impressive earlier efforts, Doom was a revelation which quickly cemented itself as one of the most important gaming achievements of all time. With texture mapped walls (which could be placed at degrees other than right angles), ceilings, floors, different levels, and huge variety, Doom’s influence cannot be understated.

For a couple of years after release the term first-person-shooter was also known as Doom-clone, so genre-defining it had proven to be.

Shrugging off the Past

The final step into what would be the new world was once again born from the minds at id with Quake, released in 1996. This was the game that finally embraced the full capabilities of 3D, throwing off the major reliance on sprites, and allowing more complicated scenery and maps than ever before.

Atmospheric, dark, and brutal, Quake was yet another feather in id’s cap, which they maintain carefully to this day.

Modern Worlds

Modern 3D games take inspiration from their predecessors but combine it with modern technology to achieve a scale which has to be seen to be believed. Now offering enormous open worlds to explore, new games are rapidly approaching the long-held promise of photo-realism, for good or for bad.

With real-time ray-tracing now raising the bar for lighting effects to an entirely new level, 3D games have come an astonishing distance in just a few decades, and there’s still no telling what the next generation will bring.

Growing out to Mobiles, Casino Slots and Beyond

Development and adaption of gaming into the 3D realm hasn’t been entirely consistent over all devices and aspects of the industry, however. Take mobile games, for example. These started out simply with 2D entries like Snake, and have since moved into proper full-3D games.

Online casino gaming is tied into this in that it has also strived to offer accessibilities over as many systems and channels as possible. This meant keeping pace with early computers and then mobiles. As now even the weakest mobiles are capable of some degree of 3D, this has allowed them to expand heavily into this territory.

These have now become so popular and widespread that there are lists of the top 3D slot machines for 2019 already, with the likes of Turning Totems and Jungle Jim El Dorado offering graphics far superior to what consoles were capable of just a few short generations ago.

Going Sideways

Despite 3D being the standard for most games these days, the industry has shown that 2D will always remain a viable option for some. Retro-style games of today heavily rely on 2D settings, and other developments have gone further in blending 2D and 3D styles.

Cel-shading, a form of 3D rendering, uses advanced techniques to create what appear to be 2D images out of 3D models. Recently this has been seen in Dragon Ball FighterZ, and it continues to be refined with each generation.

In other words, there is room enough for 2D, 3D, and a combination of both, and that suits us just fine.