Honestly i think the limitations is what made the 2d games so great. Take the mario game for example, you can only run and jump (excluding powerups). So in that case the developers had to stop and think. "how can we make running and jumping more intresting in this level then in the previous level" And so the developers created unique levels that had unique and memorable game play.
They were also more challenging then 95% of todays currently released games.
Now if you look at most of todays games especially the FPS genre its not so much about gameplay as it is about looks and one time experiences.
For example one lets take halo 3.
Halo does a good job at switching up gameplay largely because of its vehicles. In one level you'll be on foot in the jungle, in another you'll be in a warthog in a desert and in another you'll be flying over the ocean or doing all these at once.
However, its variety is both its salvation and its downfall, it has so many different things going on that alot of things dont get any real special time. Things are just there because they can be and not to make any lasting impression.
Now what i mean by that is things like the hornet and banshee and many other things dont have much play time in the game and thus players cant compare different scenarios with thoes vehicles and or other items.
see, they could of had air support gameplay, chases , more dog fights, and etc... , and if they did then players could go MAN that chase was the best banshee moment in halo. instead games like halo try to replicate that now mostly with "boss battles" and other one time experiences and in halos case thoes were pretty... well underwhelming.
I believe there has to be a variety of gameplay with the same "tool" some mediocre (not saying that it has to be bad), some wierd, but all of it very unique to have very memorable moments. For example, halo 3 had a very memorable ending gameplay, and because of that ending i will always remember the warthog.
3d games like halo face a more challenging era because with 3d more is expected and making all of the expected material stick out is what makes a game great and memorable. This is another reason why 2d games are remembered more because 3d is the new standard and you dont see very many 2d games anymore.
Goings a little off topic here but With 2d games like donkey kong and mario The things i remember the most are the underwater levels and the castle trips trying to get to the boss and the extremely challenging super star levels in super mario world and things like that. (correct me if im wrong but i think all the worlds in super star area were the same color right? i remember they had some unique similaraitity.)
anyways 10 years from now i can only think of 2 games i would remember and i think i'll end with that.