The 3DO launched on this day 30 years ago. Today, the console is widely remembered as one of the video game industry's most notable follies; the brainchild of EA founder Trip Hawkins, the system was intended to become gaming's VHS player. While its core specs would be designed by The 3DO Company, the system itself would be manufactured by electronics companies under licence – and firms like Panasonic, Sanyo and Goldstar (LG) would flock to the cause, keen to grab themselves a piece of the world's most exciting entertainment sector.
The reality was slightly less appealing. Some would argue that, in 1993, Sega and Nintendo fans weren't quite ready to let go of their 16-bit systems and spend the required $699.99 to own a shiny new 3DO. Because the hardware makers had to pay licensing fees to 3DO and weren't seeing the profits from software sales that companies like Nintendo and Sega would traditionally get, they had to price their machines high in order to turn a profit.
Then, there was the question of software; while Hawkins' former company EA was happy to throw its weight behind the platform, there simply wasn't enough quality to entice enough customers to make the jump. By the time 1994 ended, 3DO was no longer the most powerful console on the market, as Sony and Sega had launched their PlayStation and Saturn systems, which were backed by titles such as Ridge Racer, Daytona USA, Virtua Fighter and Tekken.
Around two million 3DO systems were sold globally, making the format something of a footnote in video game history. However, upon closer inspection, the console had a much more significant impact than you might assume. It marked the true beginning of the 'multimedia revolution', which had spluttered somewhat after the Sega CD and Amiga CD32, pulling together FMV, CD-quality music, massive amounts of storage space and convincing, real-time 3D graphics.
Many of 3DO's most notable games – including The Need For Speed, Road Rash and Total Eclipse – would make their way onto rival systems, while the likes of John Madden Football and FIFA on 3DO laid down the foundations for their respective franchises on PlayStation and Saturn.
3DO may been little more than a failed experiment for Trip Hawkins and company, but it's still home to some amazing games – and we've listed some of them below, in no particular order.
Considered by many 3DO fans to be have been a legitimate system seller back in 1994, Super Street Fighter II Turbo was comfortably the best console port of the game for quite some time.
Boasting arcade-quality visuals and remixed music from the FM Towns version of Super Street Fighter II, the game is very nearly perfect – we say 'very nearly' because the parallax scrolling is sadly absent, and there are some missing animation frames.
Outside of this, however, it's as close as you could possibly get to having the coin-op in your living room back in 1994 – although an upgrade to a six-button controller (both Hori and Capcom made one for the 3DO) is just as essential now as it was back in the day.
A fine example of a 3DO title which mixes old-school mechanics with 3D visuals, Return Fire tasks you with capturing the enemy flag and returning it to your base, using a selection of vehicles which each have their own strengths and weaknesses. The action is viewed from a top-down perspective, but everything is rendered in 3D, giving the world a believable depth.
A sequel would appear in 1998, and the original game was ported to the Sony PlayStation in 1996.
Arguably the most notable of the 3DO's early launch titles, Crystal Dynamics' Crash 'n Burn is a vehicular combat racing title designed by Mark Cerny, a former Atari and Sega staffer who, in later life, would become the lead system architect on Sony consoles like the PS4, PS Vita and PS5.
While it was never the 'killer app' the console needed to convince people to make a purchase, it's still a lot of fun to play and boasts an impressive sense of speed, even by modern standards. It's a shame that multiplayer wasn't included, mind.
An early release for Toys for Bob – the studio which would later create the Skylanders series of games – The Horde is a delightful throwback to a time when developers were happy to mix genres together to create something innovative.
Placed in the role of a hapless servant boy who finds himself in possession of a small tract of land, The Horde showcases action, town-building and strategy elements. The aim is to build your settlement and then defend it from the titular flood of monsters.
Interspersed with surprisingly solid FMV sequences, this is a real highlight of the 3DO library – and a game that would be ported to the Sega Saturn in 1996.
EA backed the 3DO with several key releases, of which Road Rash was perhaps the most notable. A next-gen reimagining of the 16-bit series of motorcycle combat racing games, it makes full use of the console's multimedia capabilities, offering almost half an hour of FMV and a soundtrack which comprises of notable bands from the '90s, such as Soundgarden, Monster Magnet and Therapy.
By the time the game was ported to consoles like the PlayStation and Saturn in 1996, the 3D visuals were arguably less impressive than they were just a couple of years earlier in 1994, but Road Rash is nonetheless a fine example of how the 3DO's power was harnessed to create an entirely new standard of video game.
Alongside Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Samurai Shodown is considered by many 3DO fans to be a key reason to own the system. Ported from SNK's Neo Geo original by Crystal Dynamics, this is a strikingly faithful conversion, and effortlessly puts the Mega Drive and SNES ports in the shade. Not only does it retain the signature camera zoom effect, it also has all of the characters, stages and moves.
On the downside, the standard 3DO pad is terrible for 2D fighting games, so you'll want to invest in a more suitable replacement. Also, the load times can occasionally be a little egregious – but hey, having this game in your home was a big deal back in 1994, so it was easy to overlook.
When it came to porting it to the 3DO, it was clear that a straight conversion of the PC original simply wasn't going to cut it, so improvements were made to bring it up to speed. Enemy sprites were overhauled to give them more detail, and all of the censorship present in the SNES version was removed. There's also a great CD-quality soundtrack, too.
While it's not quite as revolutionary as its stablemate Doom, Wolfenstein 3D is still a fantastic game – in fact, on 3DO, this is arguably superior to Doom, as the 3DO port of that title is considered by many to be the worst of all the console conversions.
The origin point of EA's million-selling racing franchise, The Need For Speed may not seem like much by modern standards, but at the time of release, it was a breath of fresh air as far as console racing games were concerned.
Leveraging its collaborative deal with automotive publication Road & Track, EA Canada was able to produce a title which was as realistic as possible on 3DO, and even went as far as to include fetching FMV sequences showing off the fine lines of each of the eight licensed sports cars.
While the subsequent PlayStation and Saturn ports would double the number of tracks from three to six, they didn't have the same impact when released in 1996 as the 3DO original did upon its debut in 1994. This was very close to being a system seller for the console.
Originally released to widespread critical acclaim on PC in 1992, the 3DO port of Star Control II makes use of the CD-ROM format to improve the game's presentation dramatically, making for one of the most thrilling games on the console.
While the ship-to-ship combat that made the original so entertaining remains in place, the focus outside of those segments is very much on exploring the vast galaxy and conversing with a range of extraterrestrial lifeforms in the hope of recruiting them to your cause: the liberation of the planet Earth from the evil Ur-Quan.
The release of the 3DO source code in 2002 has enabled the game to be ported to PC as The Ur-Quan Masters.
While 3DO was positioned as a more mature games console, it still needed its own anthropomorphic mascot – and Gex was what it got.
Developed by Crystal Dynamics, Gex boasts some amazing 2D visuals and excellent presentation. Its titular character – a smart-ass gecko voiced by comedian Dana Gould – might not be quite as cool as Sonic, but the game's quality more than makes up for that.