3D GBA games

We all know the GBA as a sort of “snes plus” in a way, but it was much more 3D capable than given credit for, largely due to the incredible efforts of a few teams out there. I'm gonna share a few of them!

**Stuntman:**
https://youtu.be/kivPZ1S2sA0

How can you go wrong with that amazing facial capture!!! The proper game is pretty slow, and uses a kind of otherworldly-feeling texture style with sprites for cars. But it works!

**Asterix and Obelix XXL**
https://youtu.be/giIJyBSwvK4?t=189

A 3D platformer on the GBA! The character sprites have so much squash and stretch to them that you almost forget they're 2D. Looks nicer on an actual screen, but there's loads of texture warp of course.

**Need for Speed Underground**
https://youtu.be/36U2xN-196c?t=146

Not only is it full 3D, it has official licensed music! You can see all the visual glitches and hear the audio pops but it's still quite a feat. I never would've cared to play this at the time, just feels like a mediocre port of a game I wasn't that interested in. But as a GBA curiosity it's quite something.

**Star-X**
https://youtu.be/TP97CULZQrw?t=173

Star Fox-like! I never played it, but it looks smooth, and sounds familiar.

**V Rally 3**
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1OuB-Qe6nk
Notable because, as I saw in a video another guy was doing about this, the cockpit mode covers up the texture warp, which is CLEVER. Also interesting that most of these are racing games, I guess it was easiest if you could lock the perspective there.

**Smashing Drive**
https://youtu.be/qL5k8k1JfYc?t=64

the famed(?) spanish arcade game comes to the GBA for some reason! pretty cool. Runs real slow, but as a friend says looks like car-based Bulk Slash almost.

Any more favorites out there? The GBA really struggles with this stuff, and none of these games are amazing, but to look at them in 2020 with a bit more knowledge, it all feels quite impressive.

Driver 3 (known to geniuses as Driv3r) went for something similar to similarly weird outcomes

https://youtu.be/1NwVI2QDbfQ

whoa, that draw distance!! so short! but at the same time they managed to get some GTA 3-like action going with that, and the textures look good, so… fair tradeoff I guess!

@exodus#1926 2001 level action with 1996 level visuals on a 2004 release, its a mystical thing

I dunno, you can jump while swimming, that seems like 2050-level action to me!

Sonic Battle immediately comes to mind when thinking about 3D games on the GBA. It was pretty impressive looking at the time, and I played it for exactly one week before putting it down and never looking at it again. Kinda makes me think about what it would‘ve been like having a Virtual On Advanced or Custom Robo Advanced that wasn’t GX using this same style. It almost scratched that 2D sprites with 3D environments itch I get every now and then.

https://youtu.be/o41quAt1Zfk?t=324

ah yes!! I keep forgetting this one exists. by turns boring and impossible to play, but it sure does look neat!

There‘s a port of Need For Speed: Porsche Unleashed for the GBA. which I have played and can report that it’s a racing game

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgJnmTV64ic

Unrelated but there‘s also a GB port of Race Drivin, It actually plays fairly well. I spotted a cartridge of it once in the wild but didn’t buy it, regretfully

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-y7fk8mvH4

ah man, I've see that race drivin port! What a curiosity. also, that game sure is about 10x more 3D than it is fun.

Super Monkey Ball Jr. was definitely one of the more playable 3D games on GBA—the big compromise was the lack of analogue control rather than anything related to the engine.

Crazy Taxi GBA is sort of admirable in that they did basically achieve their goal of replicating the arcade game, enjoyability be damned.

If you like the flat-shaded stuff, there were a few games of that ilk towards the end; Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam, Lego Drome Racers, Hot Wheels Stunt Track Challenge, etc.

The peak of FPS tech on GBA was probably 007 Nightfire but it's another game that tried to do more than it ought've, not just technologically but in terms of trying to map a million actions to a handful of buttons. (There might be more non-IP FPS games on GBA than DS, which is peculiar... I guess the novelty of handheld FPS wore off pretty quickly.)

Max Payne GBA's another game with 3D models on 2D maps a la THPS, JSR, etc and sort of interesting for how closely it mirrors the original game despite the change of perspective, controls, etc.

Most of those amazing GBA 3D games were made by the same two-man team! Some of their Game Boy Color / DS work is just as impressive.

_edit: Good (if a little YouTube-y) video about them:_
https://youtu.be/rfOR3XqrJc4

ahhh a bit hard to watch!! referring to game development as game design, and calling the super nintendo the super “ness.” and not a word from the actual guys. but still cool to see it all laid out!? wish I could‘ve read this as an articleeeeee insteadddddddddddddd but I guess that’s the world.

@exodus#1944 Warned you!

You did!!!

But I am surprised how many of these they did, they really did a lot of them. I didn‘t think to check the credits for similar names. They didn’t do smashing drive though! Guess that was Raylight studios, who wound up doing the Wing Commander game for GBA, which also has 3D in it! That hasn't come up in a lot of these lists.

https://youtu.be/YhEx-pFMJv0?t=127

@gsk#1936 Tony Hawk Downhill Jam looks so good. I knew about the earlier isometric Tony Hawk GBA games, but had no idea this one existed.

https://youtu.be/pBXVA6Jtu94

Alone in the Dark Pro Skater!!

As a little piece of bonus information, on whatever game in this series I played first, the font made me think that all those pole grinds said "so so grind" not "50 50 grind" and I was like F U tony hawk I don't know how to do it any better!!!!!!!!!

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@exodus#1944 and not a word from the actual guys.

Sadly, the "V" in the two-man team, Fernando Velez, passed away while they were prototyping their first Switch game. They have not given many interviews (especially in English) but they got a video feature from Nintendo during the development of Ironfall on 3DS. They are from the Amiga scene originally, like so many skilled veteran Euro developers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xxmpk75M7Bs

Man Ironfall and their DS game C.O.P. The Recruit are pretty bananas tech showcases give the systems they are on. You listen to the music in this video and it is very obvious they have Amiga roots though

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSzcagyBw34

Looking at that Tony Hawk footage I am REALLY curious if they could have pulled of ports of Model 1 games on the GBA. I feel like flat shaded 3D is an aesthetic that never gets enough love.

From memory, Ubisoft/V&D's Driver game for 3DS is essentially a C.O.P. reskin—like, same map/world design, but with Joun Driver & co. dropped in.

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@robinhoodie#2071 Looking at that Tony Hawk footage I am REALLY curious if they could have pulled of ports of Model 1 games on the GBA. I feel like flat shaded 3D is an aesthetic that never gets enough love.

There's a Virtua Racing proof-of-concept out there, I know that much.

I've also seen a RE2 proof-of-concept that seemed impressive at the time, but I wonder how impressive it'd seem now.