The late 90’s 3D platformer phenomenon seems to be making a full comeback, with modern titles like the recently released Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury and the upcoming PS5 exclusive Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. One particular game, however, is Balan Wonderworld, a bizarre entry into the genre from the same creative minds behind the Sonic Adventure series back on the Sega Dreamcast.
Trailers for the game showcase a trippy, hyper-stylized world to explore that evokes similar vibes to the wonderfully weird platformers from the N64 era like Banjo Kazooie. For any players hotly anticipating the upcoming release for the game, there are a number of older titles that both look and play similarly to Balan Wonderworld, and should serve as solid previews of what to expect.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular 3D platformers in recent years, Super Mario Odyssey blew expectations out of this world, delivering one of the best Super Mario titles in history and providing the-then brand new Nintendo Switch with a triple-A smash barely a year into its lifespan. The overall style of the game is completely insane, with giant rabbits as boss battles, Mario being able to transform into quite literally anything, and some wacky locations that wouldn’t seem out of place in Far Cry’s drugged up dream sequences.
The odyssey put forward with this game is one of pure, unbridled joy, almost attempting to re-capture that sense of carefree bliss as a child. Balan Wonderworld seems to similarly be priding itself on themes of energetic youth and the power of imagination, which quite honestly, is at the root of all fun and perfectly embodies both it and Super Mario Odyssey’s many wild locations in a nutshell.
If the art style and visuals of Nights into Dreams appear extremely similar to that of Balan Wonderworld, they should, because both have been worked on by many of the same game designers. Although initially launching on the now cult favorite gaming console the Sega Saturn, the game has found an audience over the years thanks to its charming graphics and enjoyable gameplay.
For gamers remotely interested in checking out this classic platformer, but worried about the accessibility of tracking down an actual Sega Saturn and copy of the game, need not worry as Nights into Dreams has been ported to Xbox Live among other digital platforms in the past. Either way, this lovably unique game is well worth the attention of any player remotely amused by the platforming genre and crazy cartoon like visuals.
Released at the tail end of the PlayStation 3’s life cycle, Puppeteer was acclaimed as a creative, lighthearted platformer with a fun fairytale twist. The game unfortunately flew under the radar being released during a holiday season stacked with heavy competition and the launch of the hotly anticipated PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Nowadays, used copies of the game can be in the pricey range and hard to come by, but any gamers able to snag a copy are in for a wonderful treat. This hidden gem boasts some of the most impressive visuals and art styles of its generation and the gameplay itself is consistently innovate and off-beat, and with the Puppeteer creators expressing interest in a sequel, it may be worth diving into this overlooked classic.
This Kickstarter funded indie hit was a love letter to classic games like Super Mario 64 while also standing on its own two feet as a creative addition to the genre. Becoming a breakout success on the gaming scene, receiving ports left and right including a Nintendo Switch port for A Hat in Time, the game has garnered positive reviews and a dedicated fanbase since its release.
Much like some of the best platformers in recent years, one of the most striking similarities is the use of a varied, bright color scheme to paint a feast for the eyes while gamers traverse the many outlandish worlds on display. It is sure to delight any gamers up for a lighthearted, jolly journey with silly characters, a quirky premise and of course, plenty of jumping around.
The previously mentioned Banjo Kazooie remains one of the most beloved games from the N64 era, with a devoted following to this day largely in part to its colorful worlds, catchy music and oddball cast of characters. When members of that same creative team formed Playtonic Games and launched the spiritual successor to Banjo Kazooie with Yooka-Laylee, fans naturally rejoiced the return to such a similar kind of gaming experience.
While not quite reaching the heights of its predecessor, Yooka-Laylee was still chock full of that same sense of glee and whimsy that a certain bear and bird combo delivered back in the late 90’s. Levels are huge and filled with collectibles, the visuals are crisp and clean and the soundtrack features catchy tunes, sparking more interest in the return of the 3D platformer.