Difference Between 2D & 3D Games

By Marinho Silva

Updated September 22, 2017

3D games are better at simulating real-world environments.
i James Woodson/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Modern video games come in many varieties. Major differences include 2D and 3D games. Many contemporary games focus on advanced 3D graphics, hoping to portray more realistic settings. However, game designers continue to produce 2D games. The choice to produce a 3D or 2D game also depends on the type of game, with many platforming games sticking with a 2D style and first-person shooters choosing 3D.


The act of making a game varies depending on whether a game is 3D or 2D. 3D games rely on models, 3D shapes designed on the computer, whereas 2D games rely on sprites, 2D drawings on a flat surface. As an example, 3D models can be compared to sculptures whereas 2D sprites are similar to flat drawings. Since it requires more art assets, 3D game production takes significantly more time than 2D game production.

Visual Realism

One of the most apparent differences between 2D and 3D games is their visual quality. Although 2D games oftentimes demonstrate excellent artistic design, 3D games are better at simulating reality. As a result, many games that strive for realistic visuals choose a 3D game engine.


Movement in games depends on whether they are 3D or 2D. 3D games allow players to move in a 3D world, meaning that players can move closer and deeper into the screen. On the other hand, 2D games restrict player movement to a flat plane, usually left and right, but may include various other directions as well. For example, Super Mario Bros. asks players to navigate a 2D world, moving from left to right until the goal is reached.


Since a game's dimensions determine the players range of movement, 2D and 3D games use different ways to control their characters. 3D games use joysticks to control their avatars. Joysticks allow players to move around in a 3D space and are tilt sensitive to control a character's speed. On the other hand, 2D games use digital pads that allow players to press up, down, left and right.