Remember when 3D platformers were all the rage? Although Jumping Flash holds the honor of being the first true 3D platformer, Super Mario 64 was the game that made the genre skyrocket in popularity. The months and years following its 1996 release were rife with look-alikes vying for similar acclaim: Spyro the Dragon, Rayman, Croc, Gex, Bubsy 3D, Banjo-Kazooie, Jak & Daxter, Donkey Kong 64, Crash Bandicoot, Maximo, Vexx, and others experimented with the formula with varying degrees of success.
Some, like Donkey Kong 64 and Jak & Daxter, had the benefit of an experienced development team and platform exclusivity, while others (Bubsy 3D) were doomed to fall into obscurity. The genre was so alluring thanks to the advent of 3D polygonal rendering, which made it possible for players to explore bigger, deeper worlds in ways they couldn't before. But not all were equal; Super Mario 64 was an example in master-class level design, while games like Croc were competent but ultimately pale imitations of what came before.
One of the most influential 3D platformers to release during this era was Banjo-Kazooie, which appeared at first glance to be riding Super Mario 64's coattails, but ended up being another commercial and critical hit. Banjo-Kazooie made collecting items fun - the genesis of the affectionate appellation "collectathon" can likely be traced in part to it - and its sequel, Banjo-Tooie, was one of the last games in the genre to be released at the height of its popularity. Then the wellspring dried up, and 3D platformers fell out of style for a considerable amount of time.
In 2015, however, they returned to the scene in a big way. Key staff from the Banjo-Kazooie development team took to Kickstarter to fund Yooka-Laylee, a spiritual successor that smashed its funding goal within an hour of going live. Yooka-Laylee is now a few short months away from release on all major platforms, including the Nintendo Switch, and fans are more enthusiastic than ever. The success of its Kickstarter proved that people still have an appetite for 3D platformers, which have been underrepresented in the last decade.
2017 will see the release of at least three major 3D platformers: Yooka-Laylee, the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, and Super Mario Odyssey. Nintendo's mascot has remained a shining example of the genre done right, and his latest adventure looks bigger and bolder than ever... so long as you can get past the creepy juxtaposition of Mario with realistically-proportioned humans in New Donk City. (Heh... donk.)
Sometimes it's nice to get away from the heavy themes of many modern games and just collect some coins. With heavy-hitters set to release on every console, it would seem that this is the year 3D platformers return to their former glory.