Top Five Videogame Remakes
In these current times videogame remakes are feeling more prevalent than ever. Not only are two of 2020s biggest releases remakes of the PlayStation classics Resident Evil 3 and Final Fantasy VII, but we’re also receiving remakes for more niche titles such as Panzer Dragoon and Trials of Mana all within a close proximity of each other. With so many classic titles being dug up and recreated through a modern lens recently, it feels like an opportune time to reflect on some of the industry’s greatest remakes, and examine what makes them so successful. To help diversify the picks, I’ve elected to keep the remakes at one-per-franchise, meaning that you won’t be seeing multiple remakes from the same series. Also, I’ll only be including remakes built from the ground up, and not HD remasters and ports.
5. Shadow of the Colossus (2018)
After releasing the HD remasters of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus for the PlayStation 3 back in 2011, Bluepoint Games yet again returned to Shadow of the Colossus with a much more ambitious full-blown remake. This meant that Bluepoint rebuilt all of the game’s assets from scratch, and in doing so created the most visually stunning recreation of the PlayStation 2 masterpiece.
Not only did the 2018 remake improve on the game’s visual fidelity while (mostly) keeping the haunting, lonely atmosphere of the original intact, it also made some beneficial changes to the somewhat clumsy controls of the original. Wander’s movement now feels slightly tighter, and there is a new modernised button layout option for first-time players, making the game feel that little bit less cumbersome and frustrating to play on a moment-to-moment basis.
The improved remake also makes the gameplay feel noticeably smoother overall. While the game sits at a stable 30 FPS on the base PlayStation 4 (much like the PlayStation 3 HD remaster), the PlayStation 4 Pro version can push it even further to a staggering 60 FPS – albeit at the cost of a slightly higher resolution. Toppling Shadow of the Colossus’ towering behemoths has frankly never looked – or felt – as good as it does in this remake.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (2019)
Being a 1993 release for the original Game Boy, Link’s Awakening unsurprisingly had to make a few concessions in pursuit of recreating the feeling of a true Zelda adventure for the early portable device. The most criticised of these concessions came with the need to constantly dive in and out of the equipment menu to change Link’s items, with the Game Boy only having two buttons to equip items to (yes, this included Link’s sword and shield as well).
Thankfully being a 2019 Nintendo Switch game, that issue was amended, with extra buttons allowing for more equipment to be, well, equipped at once – Link’s sword and shield also stay on at all times now; progress! More notable quality-of-life improvements came in the form of the more detailed map, which makes navigating the winding paths of Koholint Island less frustrating than before, along with the more seamless transitions between parts of the overworld thanks to a smaller reliance of transition screens. A new dungeon maker mode was also added to this remake, and while it’s not the most in-depth level creator featured in a game, it’s an enjoyable new addition to spend some time with, and gives returning players an extra bit of content without impacting the overall flow of the game.
These gameplay improvements came packaged with the more divisive art style, but I think there’s a lot of merit to the more hand-crafted look of the remake. This inspired new art style transforms the look of the game to something more akin to a modelled playset, and while it can seem maybe a bit childish, it complements the smaller scale of Link’s Awakening’s world when compared to other entries in the series.
3. Metroid: Zero Mission
The original Metroid is undoubtedly an important part of gaming’s history, laying a lot of the groundwork for the now extremely popular “Metroidvania” subgenre that’s so prevalent in today’s gaming landscape. But it’s also extremely hard to return to nowadays, lacking even the most basic features of its successors such as a map to navigate the interconnected world of Planet Zebes. Thankfully we have Zero Mission, the 2004 Game Boy Advance remake that allows us to revisit the world of the NES classic, while incorporating a lot of the genre’s modernised design implementations making it a much smoother ride (yes, Zero Mission includes a map this time).
Not only does Zero Mission feature tighter controls, more appealing visuals and many other smaller improvements that one would expect from a remake, it also includes a breadth of new content that makes Zero Mission a more comprehensive experience. These range from an array of new power-ups, additional mini-bosses, whole new areas added to the world and some additional story titbits that give fans extra glimpses of Samus’ upbringing.
While the original game’s less inspired level design, along with the questionable late game stealth section, keep it from quite reaching the same level of quality as the franchise’s strongest entries, Zero Mission is still an exceptional and much more palatable revisit of an essential piece of gaming history.
2. Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver
To a lot of Pokémon fans, the original Gold and Silver were considered perfect follow-ups to Red and Blue: the games featured two new types, further balancing the gameplay and adding additional variety; added 100 new creatures to collect including a host of new legendaries; allowed players to explore a whole new region while also continuing the narrative of the previous game; and added a tonne more ancillary systems, including a day and night cycle, breeding, a radio, and much more. The final cherry on top was allowing players to explore the previous game’s Kanto region upon completing the main story and challenge all of the original gyms. So how do you make a remake to a game already brimming with content feel worthwhile? Simple: you add more.
Not only did all of the previous features return, but a host of new additions from the 10 years of franchise development between the original releases and the remakes were also included, such as the ability to transfer all of the additional Pokémon that were available at that point, and the inclusion of the much-beloved Battle Frontier, first seen in Pokémon Emerald. Another addition came in the form of the Pokéwalker, a physical accessory that allowed players to transfer and raise their Pokémon away from the game simply by walking (an idea that Pokémon GO would later adopt over half a decade later). Admittedly it felt slightly gimmicky, both in concept and execution, but it was further proof of the developer’s dedication to making this remake as comprehensive of a game as it could possibly be.
Director Shigeki Morimoto had no shame in flaunting this remakes depth either, proudly stating in an Iwata Asks interview; “we were incredibly greedy with the features this time around!” With many fans still touting HeartGold and SoulSilver as the pinnacle of the series, it seems like the remakes spoke for themselves in that regard.
1. Resident Evil (2002)
It was tempting to give 2019's reinvention of Resident Evil 2 top honour’s, but while that game feels more like a modernisation of the classic with the creative liberties it takes, the 2002 GameCube remake of the original acts as a laser sharp refinement of the original game’s vision; “the ultimate lifeform”, if you will.
This is in no small part due to the fact that series creator Shinji Mikami also directed this remake, making this one of the few instances where the original creator of a work has headed the remake. With Mikami’s return, we got to see an extension of his previous vision, mutating an already seminal release into a perfected masterpiece. The remake keeps the major locations, story beats, encounters and general design of the original game, making it largely recognisable for returning players. However, it also adds a slew of new ideas into the mix, further fleshing out the groundwork that was laid by the original release.
The gameplay saw a couple of minor alterations which largely changed how players would approach the game. These included the new defensive weapons – a limited type sub weapon that would allow players to avoid damage upon being grabbed by a zombie – and the infamous Crimson Heads, a new and much more lethal zombie mutation that would appear if the player killed a zombie, but failed to destroy its head with a critical hit or burn the body. These two changes alone meant that running past zombies was much more viable than trying to kill zombies, but that of course led to its own new kind of tension, with backtracking through previous areas being a huge part of the game’s DNA.
Combine those gameplay alterations with expanded and reworked locations from the original, newly explorable parts of the mansion’s grounds, and the extremely memorable inclusion of the Lisa Trevor subplot, and you have a remake that – for all intents and purposes – sits clearly above the original with alterations that not only compliment, but enhance the original vision. It’s worth noting that this remake also looks absolutely stunning visually. This is further proven by the 2015 HD remaster, which manages to look just as good as most modern titles despite being nothing more than a resolution bump for a near-20-year-old game. Truly every facet of this remake was handled with meticulous care, creating not only gaming’s shining example of what a remake should be, but one of the most attentively constructed and cohesive experiences in the medium.