In Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 the player has to design, run and manage a theme park with a huge range of rides, ‘coasters and attractions to choose from. Design your dream park in sandbox mode or try to meet the challenges set in career mode. Originally released in 2004, Rollercoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition is a remastered version of the game that includes both expansions. Wild introduces animal-themed rides and zoo enclosures while Soaked takes the action to the water.
I grabbed hold of Rollercoaster Tycoon 3: Platinum Edition (a pack with the main game and both DLCs) about eight or nine years ago and played the absolute hell out of it. Having grown up with Theme Park in the 90s and 00s I was all in for the next generation of theme park management sim and Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 did not disappoint. The base game alone features a bewildering array of rides and attractions to choose from as well as a robust ‘coaster-building system that let you design your own crazy rides. Most of my custom rollercoasters had to be scrapped after safety testing when it turned out that the G-forces involved would murder anyone riding on them but that’s all part of the fun.
Soaked and Wild added even more rides and attractions but what was great about them was that it wasn’t just more of the same. They both diverged in different directions, one to water parks and one to zoos and sea life centres. It was heaven for creativity and possibility. That sense of freedom went beyond the rides themselves. The base game and both expansions contain a large number of options for beautifying and designing the spaces and commercial opportunities of your park. You could spend as long designing a garden-filled transition between zones as any rollercoaster. Again, the expansions added into this mix, bringing fireworks displays and laser shows with them; albeit in a perhaps overly-complicated design system that reminded me as much of trying to make music in Ableton Live as much as anything in a game.
There have not been many games, in the sim genre or elsewhere, that offered as much free-wheeling depth and creative possibility as Rollercoaster Tycoon 3. Whether you wanted to go wild in sandbox mode or take on a more focussed challenge with some additional gameplay elements like research and marketing it had you covered. When I heard there was a remastered edition coming, more than fifteen years after initial release I got pretty excited to think about what else they could possibly jam into the game!
Well, as it turns out, not much really. Rollercoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition comes with the base game and both expansions re-packaged and absolutely nothing more. There is no extra content here beyond what was presented at the time. Presentation is where you will see the most difference but, even then, we’re not talking anything earthshaking. The game plays in widescreen now and supports a lot of resolutions, up to 1080p. But does it look any better? I would say marginally. The picture below shows screenshots of the Complete Edition and my original platinum edition side-by-side. I’m going to be honest, I can’t even remember which is which now, and I can’t particularly tell from looking at them. I think that Complete Edition is the top picture as it all looks a bit smoother but you can see we’re not talking about leaps and bounds of improved presentation.
What we’re really talking about here is compatibility and availability. I already had Rollercoaster Tycoon 3: Platinum Edition in my Steam Library and managed to install it and play it fine for this review. I assume that there could be some compatibility issues with modern technology, though, and those should now be resolved by Complete Edition. The game has also been released on Switch, making it available on a completely new platform, which is no small thing.
Knowing whether to recommend Rollercoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition or not is a fairly easy thing, to be honest. If you’ve never played it and you fancy a go at a theme park sim then the game could not come recommended any more highly. It was outstanding at the time and, despite limited graphics and some ageing UI elements, it still is. If you had it at the time and you want to get it again, on PC and Switch, then the same thing applies. It is every bit as good as it was back in the day, and not a bit better. For someone like me, however, who already owns the game I would say to just play what you already have, unless you’re desperate to get it in a more modern resolution. The enterprise feels like a little bit of a missed opportunity; though there is nothing wrong with making a classic game, that still stands up today, available for a potential new market.
Rollercoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition is available from Steam for PC and from Nintendo Store for Switch.