The evolution of 3D games: The 80s

Many games become a masterpiece of game design and offer a realistic and captivating environment. But the path to such beauty was not short and easy.

It began in the 1980s, where even flat faces, flawless talking lips and blurred textures revolutionized game development. But let’s take it from the beginning.

Battlezone (1980)

The first game which worked with 3D space was Battlezone from 1980. It used only vector graphics to draw the third dimension. Although it was a simple game by today’s standards, it was revolutionary and incredibly complex. In a simple vector world, you could go (almost) anywhere, hide from attacks and fight enemies that appeared in your field of vision. In a special version of Battlezone, even US Army tank operators trained their aim. 

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3D Monster Maze (1981)

The title of the first 3D game, however, belongs to the 3D Monster Maze from 1981, in which the player is being chased through a maze by Tyrannousaurus rex. Needless to say, the game quickly became a hit and terrified all owners of the then Sinclair ZX81 platform.

The first 3D games were just experiments – the developers did not have the necessary tools to create a full-fledged third dimension. And so they played with 2D space. To create the necessary illusion, it was enough to reduce or enlarge the sprites and move them up and down. That was enough for a great gaming experience.

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Pole Position (1982)

Since the early 1980s, developers have also used 3D illusions for racing games. The most popular game was Pole Position (1982) – it gave direction to other racing games and inspired many other developers. Pole Position was also a pioneer in product placement. There were billboards of Pepsi, Canon and others around the track.

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I, Robot (1983)

In 1983, two game gems were released, both from Atari. The first was Game I, Robot, which is known as the first commercial 3D video game also with the ability to control the camera. However, the game did not receive good references and high sales, and with the count of 750–1000 pieces, it became more of a collector’s rarity.

Star Wars (1983)

On the other hand, the other game, with 12 695 units sold, became the best-selling game and ranked among the most popular games of all time. We talk about Star Wars – an FPS game that simulated an attack on the Death Star from a 1977 film. In addition to colorful vector graphics, it became popular thanks to the digitized voices of the film’s favorite actors.

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Double Dragon (1987)

Another popular piece, which was transferred to almost all platforms of that time, has a sequel and later a remake, was Double Dragon. The game offered unprecedented possibilities at the time, such as the cooperation of two players and the ability to take over the opponent’s weapon. With a display of 384 colors, it was also a graphically unprecedented piece that revealed where the 3D world will begin to evolve.

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