The fifth generation of gaming (PS1, SEGA Dreamcast, and N64) introduced 3D games and with it a new dimension to game design; every genre of gaming was going to change in one way or a another with this new perspective. Mario 64 changed the future of 3D platforming in a very drastic manner — this is something we can see when comparing it to Crash Bandicoot, a 3D platformer, but one which very directly translates 2D platforming into 3D. Crash goes through an obstacle course in a straight line towards his goal, while Mario64 took a different approach where you're given a small world to explore and interact with — the world had it's share of obstacle courses, but it was more dispersed and changed the challenge to be more about finding stuff while jumping through an obstacle course rather than making the obstacle course its main appeal.
I like both games, but do favor Crash Bandicoot, and I think it's telling that when it comes to Mario64 and other games in its spirit, termed Collectathons, that there is an apparent favor towards some of the more linear levels. Mario64 has Bowser's castle, A Hat in Time (another Collectathon) has it's Cookie Dimension if I'm not mistaken.
While I can't say for sure, I think this is something that Nintendo noticed and attempted to make in their Super Mario 3D Land/World games. These games unabashedly sell themselves as linear obstacle courses for the player to go through rather than an open world, reflecting this simplicity (possibly to a fault) through a simple world design — the levels are pretty, but have a blocky, almost superficial, appearance. I think Nintendo where aware of it, but the intent was to sell the games as simple and direct platformers.
I really liked these games and would love recommendations of games like them if you have any but the common consensus was that they struck people as too simple, which is kinda ironic, seeing as that was the intent all along, but these simplistic impressions people had were largely negative.
This made me think of Crash Bandicoot and how it added a much more palpable context to its levels/obstacle courses. In retrospect, I think without this context, the game would've failed to appeal the audience it garnered simply due to a lack of presentation than a lack in gameplay.
I also think 3D World's reception was a great contributor for Mario Odyssey which feels like the complete opposite with a vastly stronger context but with much less obstacles impeding the player's progress. It's a very beautiful and fun game to play around in, but it made me yearn for content that used its movement system in a challenging manner.
but really though, I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel over here — please share some 3D linear/obstacle course platformers with me
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