Simpler Video Game Menus Are Better

Simpler Video Game Menus Are Better

The release of the former Wii U exclusive Yoshi’s Woolly World to the Nintendo 3DS demonstrates once again that gaming menus are best when they’re lists. Nothing fancier is needed. We don’t need to be able to wander every which way through them.

Both versions of Woolly World are side-scrollers. They pretty much have the same levels. But the Wii U game presents its menus on a walkable 2D plane. The 3DS game presents them as straight lines. Guess which one is more convenient to use?

Here’s the main menu of the Wii U version of the game. In it, you must walk Yoshi around a circular area, going from a hut for swapping Yoshis to another hut for doing Amiibo stuff and so on.

Here is the new 3DS version of that, all laid out in one nice straight line…

Another example: This is how you pick which of the game’s levels you want to play. Yoshi’s got to walk to each one wandering around a little field:

And here’s how they do it in the 3DS version…

There no doubt that the Wii U game is prettier. Its menu areas look way nicer than the 3DS game’s. But menus aren’t about looking pretty. They’re about showing you your options and letting you get to stuff quickly.

Sometimes 2D is better than 3D. In this case, give me a 1D menu over a 2D one any day.


  • Agreed. I’ll actually avoid a game if the menus and systems are complicated or convoluted. One of the (many) reasons I avoid Ubisoft games open world games. Tomb raider also had shit menus. Doom was on the brink of being too messy.
    RE6 (aside from being an unplayable Piece of shit) has some of the worst menus and systems I’ve ever encountered.

  • This is like the difference between the menus for super Mario galaxy 1 and 2. 2 was a lot lee streamlined

    • I actually disliked MG2’s hub and world selection very much. Yes, much quicker and more convenient, but it felt awfully pedestrian and phoned in after the detailed, fully explorable hubs full of little secrets present in M64, Sunshine and Galaxy 1. Thankfully they went back to big world hubs in SM3DW. Also, I loathed that stupid purple fat star with every inch of my being.

  • Both menu systems are pretty terrible to be honest. I get that Nintendo wants to make it fun and feel like part of the world for immersion but I’ll take a list of options that doesn’t have a 2 second animation between each selection any day over both of those representations. Either that or at least have my most common selections grouped together in a way I can quickly select the one I want.

    In terms of the map world, the Wii U one is a lot better than the 3DS version. Stephen says it himself, menus are best when they show you your options and let you select what you want quickly. I don’t really see a linear path that only shows one option at a time and requires traversing through each option being better than an open field showing you every option at once and allowing you to walk directly to the one you want.

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