Folks, it is undeniable truth that our technology progresses much faster than the entertainment we enjoy. Stories we tell have timeless staples that strike at something very basic, and timeless classics exist that we can’t help but retell over and over again.
And yet, with the technology we use to solidify these stories progressing so rapidly, it is only natural that from time to time some of those classics will need revisiting. I always see this as an opportunity to improve upon near-perfection. So that’s what we’ll be discussing today, the various remakes and remasters of classic video-games we enjoyed years ago. This practice is quite common in the industry, especially in Japan where console gaming is much more popular than here, and so games have to be routinely updated to the next generation for those that missed them.
Some of those remakes are little more than a new coat of paint, while others are staggeringly competent and we’re here today to talk about the very best of them.
List of best video game remasters
|Game||Game Cover||Release||Platform||Check prices at G2A.COM|
|Dark Souls: Remastered||
25 May, 2018
|PC (Windows), Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch||Buy now!|
|FF X/X-2 HD Remaster||26 Dec, 2013||PC (Windows), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Switch||Buy now!|
|Spyro: Reignited Trilogy||18 Nov, 2018||PlayStation 4, Xbox One||Buy now!|
|Halo: The Master Chief Collection
||11 Nov, 2014||PC (Windows in 2019), Xbox One||Buy now!|
|Resident Evil HD Remaster
||17 Jan, 2015||PC (Windows), PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One||Buy now!|
||13 May, 2016||PC (Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch||Buy now!|
|Resident Evil 2 Remake||25 Jan, 2019||PC (Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One||Buy now!|
Dark Souls: Remastered
I picked the highly anticipated Dark Souls: Remastered as the least of what this varied group of games can represent because some criticism has been heavily levied against it.
The criticism I don’t personally agree with, but nonetheless, have to acknowledge. Dark Souls: Remastered is definitely competent, with high definition textures and upgraded shadows and lighting effects that make the game decidedly less contrasted and as a result vastly more atmospheric. The PC version is likewise very competent with key bindings, something that made the original game borderline unplayable on PC.
It even has small mechanical improvements taken from Dark Souls 3, like the ability to quickly cycle between the first and last items in your quick access slots, which is absolutely a God-send. The criticism around this edition centered around it “not doing enough” to make the game more balanced and not adding new, unique content (like new items or modes) which I just have to chalk up to having expectations primed highly by even better remasters.
As far as I’m concerned, this is a straight upgrade when compared to the original game, especially on PC. Sometimes there’s just not much more you can improve when it comes to a game as near to perfect as Dark Souls.
FINAL FANTASY X/X-2 HD Remaster
Final Fantasy is a series with a hugely important legacy, but unfortunately, a lot of the titles in the series never saw a release in the west, much less a PC release.
At some point, Square Enix started to change this and began releasing games worldwide, but a lot of classic titles have been left behind. So, much like Capcom, they started to look into the backlog and bring back these older games into the modern generation. This one is a dual release of two games set in the same world – Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X 2.
The graphics have been vastly improved and the release was praised for including new story content missing from the initial release of the game outside of Japan. Additionally, the remake included an audio drama expanding on the story and laying the ground for a possible second sequel.
Spyro: Reignited Trilogy
|Developer||Toys for Bob|
Spyro is a classic from the pre-2000s, a colorful, dynamic platformer in the vein of Super Mario Brothers, but with a twist.
Since the titular Spyro is a dragon, you have the ability to glide or even fly freely on some stages, which was pretty impressive for an early PS1 game. All of these games were universally were received as some of the best examples of the genre. The Reignited Trilogy bundles all three Spyro titles and updates them to modern standards with better textures and sounds.
The same people working on the original games, including the voice actors and composer Stewart Copeland, returned to work on the remake and created new content for the games. The fun-bundle here was extremely well received and turned out to be a big commercial success. Platformers are hardly a dead genre today (a lot of which has to do with the Indie scene of gaming), but these classics still have a lot of offer today. Besides, Spyro is one of few IPs where you can play as a dragon and the games take full advantage of that fact.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
|Developer||Vicarious Visions, Toys for Bob, Iron Galaxy|
A very similar case to Spyro, in fact almost identical because it was something of a proof of concept that spurred the development of the Reignited Trilogy.
In that same vein, N. Sane Trilogy contains first three Crash Bandicoot games, all of which are rather similar in gameplay. And much like Spyro, Crash Bandicoot is a platformer in a very classic sense, though it’s somewhat similar to Super Meat Boy, in a way. Crash moves on tracks and uses jumps and attacks to get through obstacles and collect items, so you have to establish a good rhythm to beat the levels.
Outside of the standard graphical improvements, new mechanics have been added like checkpoints and the ability to save your progress. You can also now choose between Crash and his sister, Coco, to play the game and that’s something I can appreciate, even if it doesn’t change much since the plot of this game is minimal.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
|Developer||343 Industries, Splash Damage, Ruffian Games|
Bungie’s legendary series of sci-fi shooters known as the Halo series occupies a very special place in the industry.
It practically reinvented the FPS formula after the glory days of classics like DOOM or Wolfenstein and led to the emergence of new genres thanks to its great multiplayer. It laid the groundwork for excellent games and is drawn upon for inspiration by the developers to this day. The Master Chief Collection includes all 4 Halo games remastered, improved and sharing some of their respective contents like multiplayer maps between each other.
As a bonus, you can even switch between the original and upgraded graphics in Halo 2, even while playing the game, to see just how much progress has been made. As far as remaster bundles go, this is one of the most complete ones out there, containing pretty much everything Halo has to offer. A fantastic boon for anyone who never got into those game, and those of us who missed the old days on Unreal Tournament.
Resident Evil 1 Remaster (Resident Evil HD Remaster)
The original Resident Evil produced by Capcom is an absolute horror classic, but much like a lot of Capcom games, it was originally available only on consoles, and ones largely unavailable outside of Japan.
The game was remastered for modern systems and the process incurred a whole lot of care and attention. It’s not just a graphical upgrade, the remaster includes additional content in the form of an extra “boss-fight” with a giant water monster and changes to the way how you progress through the game and save (since it’s no longer divided into discrete locations).
You can play both as Jill, the master of unlocking, or Chris, who is not Leon, so he sucks (I kid, he’s an important member of the Resident Evil family) between two meaningfully different campaigns. For what it is, it’s a fantastic remake that shows just how brilliant the original game was and how un-dated it seems.
I don’t know if it technically counts as cheating, since a remake of this quality is practically an entirely new game, so it’s more like a straight reboot.
Nevertheless, it shares the same name as the original DOOM and it’s technically the exact same story, what little of it there is, with very minor changes in terms of framing. It’s an entirely new game really, with 1080p 4k graphics and running at stable 60fps, provided your machine can handle it of course. The game-play is reminiscent of old DOOM, with all the classic weapons and enemy types making a comeback, but the game is even more fast-paced than before, putting even greater emphasis on mobility.
The only real downside here is that the graphical improvements were so vast, including an engine overhaul, that you can’t reasonably expect to run DOOM on a weak machine. Usually, remasters are just better optimized or tweaked (see Halo 2 remaster above), here modernization was so extensive that you should really just treat the game as a new entry in the series, created in 2016.
Resident Evil 2 Remake
It really is a testament to how much care and attention Capcom puts into both the Resident Evil franchise and the remasters of these games, given that this list features two such titles.
After the excellent Resident Evil 1 remaster a lot of pressure was put on Capcom to deliver just as good a product here as they did with the previous game. And oh boy, deliver they did. Not only is the game completely overhauled with new graphics and sounds, the very basics of gameplay mechanics, like the fixed camera, were changed. This necessitated complete rework from the ground-up, using the original game merely as a blueprint.
There is a whole of a lot of new content here, which included the hulking Mr. X, an unkillable monster who will occasionally interrupt your progress to ruin your day. There’re also new campaigns that weren’t featured in the original game. Much like DOOM, it’s practically a new game altogether. And much like DOOM, you’ll need some serious specs to make it good.
Remasters and remakes a curious phenomenon. Games widely considered worthy of a remaster are cases of genius design and are remembered for generations after their release. Expectations for them are therefore really high and sometimes pretty difficult to fulfill. But as I’ve said at the start, they are an opportunity for the publisher and their original developers not only to sell the same product twice but also to increase the power of IP. Provided of course, these expectations are met.
In any case, those are just musings of a person heavily invested in the art of game-making. You don’t have to care about this to the extent that I do, what matters is that the games above are the best the industry has to offer where remasters are concerned. If you missed some of these excellent titles, (which you might, I don’t know how old you are, it’s anywhere between 16 and 40-something) I cordially invite you to try them out.