Ever wondered how your classic two-dimensional games would look like in 3D but didn’t really want them converted to full 3D? Well, wonder no more. A new kind of emulator is apparently in development that does the seemingly magical but also most likely grueling work of directly taking old 2D games and adding some 3D depth to them, making games like Super Mario, Mega Man, and Contra pop out, almost literally. While it doesn’t change the gameplay, it definitely adds a new dimension to the games.
Wonderful puns aside, on a third-party, non-sponsored programming level, it is quite an achievement. It’s nothing as spectacular as transforming an existing 2D game into full 3D, something that’s still unavailable today. What the emulator supposedly does is take a look at the game’s code and turn 2D sprites into 3D objects, taking into account their position on game’s layers, their shape, and their shading.
Truth be told, this isn’t something unheard of. Sega once re-released their old 2D games into 3D remakes in the same fashion, aptly calling them the Sega 3D Classics. A few game developers also undertook the same process to make their games similarly pop out on the Nintendo 3DS and its glasses-free stereoscopic 3D functionality.
What sets this 3DNes emulator apart is that it all happens immediately. No porting or code modification required, no development necessary. Simply load a (legally acquired) NES ROM and watch the magic happen. In case you’re not content to simply watch the demo video below, you can even try running 3DNes from your browser. Only Firefox is supported at the moment and you’ll need to upload your ROM somewhere to point it to. The emulator uses Unity, so you’ll need to have that plugin installed and enabled as well.
As shown in the demo, the emulator still needs some work. And in some cases, the 3D can actually break the illusion of the game, with turtles suddenly walking out of otherwise solid looking blocks. Still, it’s an interesting experiment and emulator that could give some classic games a new flavor and a new reason to revisit.