This may sound pretty obvious to game devs here but I'm wondering if a game can be called 3D if it has 3D assets but static isometric like camera view and not rotating at all.

I tried searching the different types of video game graphics but I only find the inverse which is called 2.5D because it tries to fake 3D and that it uses 2D isometric assets.

My question is

1) What really makes a game a 3D game?

2) If a game have 3D assets with a static non rotating isometric camera view is not called a 3D game, then what?

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm pretty sure there is no standarized meaning attached to "3D game". But, what difference does it make if a game is called "a 3D game" or not? What do you need to know this for? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 21, 2014 at 14:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ To people in game developement, I think it'd be any engine using rasterization or raytracing etc. Something that allows you to transform 3d dimensional coordinates into pixels on the screen. However, to an ordinary gamer, I'd think it's something more along the lines of actually using that 3rd dimension for game play. No one would call something like Sonic Rush 3d even though it uses 3d models and programming. I think it'd be something more like Super Mario 64 where you can actually travel in all dimensions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben
    Apr 21, 2014 at 14:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's for a title when I was in my first year in College, and a professor told me that my game isn't 3D because the camera is not rotating around the scene but my assets are in 3D. It just bugs me and also I might need it some time. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 21, 2014 at 14:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkVizcarra I'd say he was wrong. If the exercise was to learn to program a 3D scene or game, regardless of the camera / character movements, most of what makes a 3d game different to program than a 2d game would be there. You still had to calculate normals, load models, use 3d coordinates, texture map and use matrix transformations. If it was an exercise in 3d game design, that would be a different story. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben
    Apr 21, 2014 at 14:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarkVizcarra: Then your real question is "what is the definition of 3D game according to your professor?". I'd recommend you ask your professor directly for a definitive answer. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 21, 2014 at 14:13

3 Answers 3


There are two ways to look at the dimensionality of a game: either the technical dimensionality or the experienced dimensionality.

Technical dimensionality refers to how the game is implemented at the level of its code and tools. A game that is technically 3D expresses its rendering, physics, collision, and simulation of the world in terms of code that operates on three dimensional primitives and uses all three dimensions of those primitives, at least sometimes.

This is different than a game that is experienced in 3D. Experienced dimensionality refers to the style of agency a player has within the game world. If the player has relatively free roam of a 3D world, that game experience is 3D. If the player is confined, however, to a 2D plane within an otherwise 3D world, that would be a 2D game experience.

When we say a game is "3D" we usually mean it is 3D in one of the two senses above. Often the surrounding context of the conversation will provide the clues needed for you to infer which type of 3D is being specified. Sometimes, however, when the context isn't there we clarify and say a game is "3D but with 2D gameplay," or something.


Well everything is 3d. The way you look at the scene is what changes. So to make something look 3d you have to do what your eye does, that is use a perspective projection.

However if you look at the scene with ortho projection it will 2d (lack of depth).

Now for game types, it is subjective, but if you can perceive depth the game is usualy 3d or 2,5d (if strict isometric).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Calling everything 3D is misleading. While it might be true that the graphics card decides to render everything in the game as an oriented textured quad (in fact, I believe this is universally true for drawing sprites with XNA), nobody would call a series of flat images a 3D game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brian S
    Apr 21, 2014 at 19:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ neither would I, i was just exposing what 3d look is (a way of looking at the scene) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 22, 2014 at 9:03

Depends on the context, really. You have several kinds of 3D, and a "3D game" can mean any of them. It could mean the game has:

  • a 3D perspective
  • polygonal 3D
  • hardware-accelerated 3D
  • a 3D gameplay
  • stereoscopic 3D

And any combination of those.


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