While film and television remakes still enjoy a mixed reputation (at best), many video game remakes have historically succeeded in the one area other remakes have failed: making a great original even better.
Granted, some great video game remakes are actually great games with improved graphics. Indeed, part of the reason more video game remakes tend to fare better than remakes in other mediums is the fact that games often just need a technological tough-up. However, the very best video game remakes go beyond that. They incorporate new ideas, new mechanics, and new goals in ways that make you feel like you’re playing a game you’ve loved forever for the very first time.
Those are the games we’re celebrating today. Here are the 15 best video game remakes ever.
15. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
The original Metal Gear Solid popularized the stealth genre and solidified Hideo Kojima’s fame. However, while that game’s narrative and characters are among the franchise’s best, its graphics and elements of its gameplay quickly became dated. So Silicon Knights developed a remake, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes for the Nintendo Gamecube, that looked to give the PS1 classic a surprising facelift.
Not only does this second stab vastly improve the in-game character models, but it also includes numerous quality-of-life improvements that make the game harder and more flexible (including better enemy AI, first-person aiming, and the ability to hang off ledges). While some players can’t stand Twin Snakes‘ over-the-top new content and the ways those scenes make Solid Snake look superhuman, it’s hard to deny this remake respect for being so bold and different. Besides, without this remake, Snake may have never made it into Super Smash Bros.
14. Super Mario 64 DS
The original Super Mario 64 was a revolutionary launch title designed to showcase the incredible potential of the N64. What better way to demonstrate the power of Nintendo’s first 3D handheld console, the Nintendo DS, than by not only bringing Super Mario 64 to that platform but improving on it?
While Super Mario 64 DS mostly ports the original over to the Nintendo DS, it also adds new features to make N64 veterans feel like they are playing something new. The portable rendition crams in 30 more collectible stars, and most impressive of all, three new playable characters. The only issue with the remake is that players need to hold down a button to run, but that’s more of a gripe than a serious issue.
13. Yakuza Kiwami
While the Yakuza games are generally held in high regard, the series arguably started to suffer from diminishing returns until Yakuza 0. That prequel really revitalized the franchise, which was all developers needed to finally produce the remake they had been batting around.
Yakuza Kiwami (literally Yakuza Extreme) is essentially the mechanical skeleton of Yakuza 0 wearing the original Yakuza’s narrative as a suit. Combat is taken directly from 0, improvements and all, and Kiwami also introduces the “Majima Everywhere“ mechanic, which lets the fan-favorite character Goro Majima pop up anywhere (not unlike Yakuza 0’s Mr. Shakedown). With the success of Kiwami came Yakuza Kiwami 2, a remake of Yakuza 2 with similar improvements. Still, the original gets the nod here.
12. Kingdom Hearts RE: Chain of Memories
The narrative of Kingdom Hearts is something of a punch line among gamers thanks to its complexity and Square Enix’s decision to disguise crucial entries as handheld spinoffs. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is one such title since it introduced gamers to Organization XIII via card combat on the Game Boy Advance.
Eventually, Square wised up and remade Chain of Memories on the PlayStation 2 with Kingdom Hearts RE: Chain of Memories. Not only does this version elevate Chain of Memories’ presentation with 3D graphics, voice acting, and the Triangle commands from Kingdom Hearts 2, but it also introduced many gamers to a crucial piece of Kingdom Hearts lore they likely passed over the first time around.
11. Demon’s Souls
While 2009’s Demon’s Souls properly kicked off the Soulsborne genre, it’d be a stretch to call that PS3 title anything close to a blockbuster. The eventual success of the Dark Souls series (and other Soulsborne titles) threatened to turn Demon’s Souls into a curiosity. Thankfully, the talented team at Bluepoint Games brought Demon’s Souls back into the modern age and showed everyone what they were missing.
Even though 2020’s Dark Souls was built from the ground up, the developers tried to keep the game as close to the original as possible. The significant exception to that rule is the remake’s stunning graphics. The studio transformed the PlayStation 3 game into a graphical powerhouse that shows off the sheer strength of the PlayStation 5. Honestly, this remake is arguably still the best example of the power and potential of next-gen gaming.
10. Crash N-Sane Trilogy
As the star of the franchise that helped put Naughty Dog on the map, Crash Bandicoot has been a PlayStation icon since 1996. Still, even Crash’s iconic original adventures were starting to show their age. Those games were just begging to be brought into a new generation, especially after Crash’s memorable cameo in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
Vicarious Visions took up the call to remake Crash Bandicoot, but they didn’t stop with the first Crash Bandicoot game; the company remade the first three entries and bundled them in one insane package. This remake gives the original games’ graphics and music a glow-up while also introducing some welcome improvements to the original games’ physics and controls. As if that wasn’t enough, Vicarious Visions went one step further and gave longtime Crash Bandicoot fans something new to chew on courtesy of an infamously difficult cut level, as well as their own, never-before-seen, challenges. This is just an ideal example of a modern remake.
9. Shadow of the Colossus
Few titles so obviously demonstrate gaming’s artistic value quite as well as 2005’s Shadow of the Colossus. That game was a masterpiece of minimalist worldbuilding and narrative, but it wasn’t without flaws. Thankfully, that game’s few wrinkles were ironed out in this exceptional remake that put developer Bluepoint Games on a lot of radars.
This 2018 remake maintains the isolating atmosphere of Shadow of the Colossus while somehow making the game’s world feel less empty. More importantly, the remake significantly boosts this title’s overall performance and graphical fidelity. Controls are also more intuitive, and the framerate is less prone to slowdown. This is quite simply the best way to play a game that everyone should play.
8. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2
The original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games are the stuff of legend. While the franchise doesn’t quite have the clout it used to, Tony Hawks’ Pro Skater 1 + 2 is a welcome return to form that bundles the first two games in one incredible package.
The graphics have, of course, been updated for modern hardware, but this isn’t a case of a simple new paint job. Many classic levels also benefit from minor tweaks that retain their personality while making them feel fresh. More importantly, this remake alters the original games’ controls to incorporate mechanics and tricks from subsequent entries. Add in a revamped level creator that lets you make whatever reality-defying skateboard arena you want, and you’ve got a masterpiece.
7. Metroid: Samus Returns
While the first two Metroid games were crucial to the franchise and the evolution of gaming. Even with all their refinements and modern ideas, though, those games can be challenging to revisit in their original formats. So, Nintendo eventually decided to remake both games and upgrade them in intelligent ways.
Metroid Zero Mission and Metroid: Samus Returns use the original games’ premises as jumping-off points and add numerous new sections, bosses, and even fresh mechanics (such as stealth and melee counters). Even better, these remakes include all of the quality of life improvements gamers have taken for granted since Super Metroid (most notably save stations). Samus Returns is technically more impressive than Zero Mission, which is enough to earn it the slight nod here. These are both exceptional remakes, though.
6. Black Mesa
Usually, when you hear a story about a fan-made remake, it involves the original publishers or developers sending a cease and desist letter. However, Black Mesa is one of the few cases where the original team not only endorses the unofficial project but prefers it to their own work.
Black Mesa is a labor of love that reimagines the original Half-Life experience. The remake, which follows the original’s plot, recreates much of the game in an updated engine. While Black Mesa tries to be as faithful as possible, it does improve on the original with an all-new soundtrack and some updated levels. Honestly, this remake’s modified take on Half-Life‘s infamous Xen levels is reason enough to play it over the original The quality on display in Black Mesa is so noteworthy that it earned the official Valve seal of approval.
5. Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver
Once upon a time, Pokémon Gold and Silver were considered the best Pokémon games out there, but Diamond and Pearl‘s many innovations arguably helped that generation steal the crown. Then Game Freak got the bright idea to remake Gold and Silver with all of the improvements introduced to the series thus far. As such, HeartGold and SoulSilver soon became the new gold standard.
The original Gold and Silver were already huge games since they let players explore two different regions, but the remakes somehow improved on perfection. HeartGold and SoulSilver benefited from better graphics and audio, new story beats and elements, separated physical and special attacks, and, most important of all, the ability to let any Pokémon follow around their trainer outside their Poké Ball. Never underestimate the desire to take an Arcanine for a walk.
4. Resident Evil
The original Resident Evil solidified many of the crucial design elements of the survival horror genre, such as tank controls and limited inventory. As is the case with so many classics on this list, though, the game aged fairly quickly. So when Capcom entered into a deal to produce a series of exclusive games for the Nintendo Gamecube, Shinji Mikami, the original Resident Evil’s director, decided it was time to remake the game.
The Gamecube version of Resident Evil retained pretty much everything that made the original game special but improved absolutely everything else about the experience. The graphics and voice acting were the most obvious beneficiaries of that approach, but it was Mikami’s decision to add new monsters such as Crimson Heads and Lisa Trevor that helped make this the definitive version of one of the most impactful games ever made. The Resident Evil remake is as much a celebration of the original as it is an evolution.
3. Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
When The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening launched on the Nintendo Game Boy, it proved that handheld consoles could provide the kind of epic adventures most thought were reserved for consoles. Over time, though, it simply became difficult to play Link’s Awakening in its originally intended format. Thankfully, this proved to be one case where Nintendo stepped up and rescued a classic from the past.
While the Link’s Awakening remake retains the same world design and story as the original, it fixes some of that game’s design shortcomings and lets players keep Link’s sword and shield permanently equipped. The biggest improvement, though, lies in the presentation. The Link’s Awakening remake sports a toyetic design that warms the heart and extends to its new dungeon creator mode. Not only does this remake bring one of Link’s better adventures to a new generation; it’s the closest we’ve ever gotten to a “Legend of Zelda Maker.”
2. Final Fantasy VII Remake
Since Final Fantasy VII is easily one of the most popular entries in the franchise, Square Enix hasn’t exactly been shy when it comes to revisiting that game however and whenever possible. Fans have wanted a Final Fantasy 7 remake ever since it showed off a proof of concept tech demo for the PlayStation 3, but nothing could have prepared gamers for what that remake would deliver.
Instead of a turn-based RPG that retreads the original story, Square produced a stellar action-based title that delves into the concept of fate and uses gamers’ knowledge of the original title against them. While the Final Fantasy VII Remake only covers the Midgar section of the original game, that is actually to the remake’s advantage since the game has more time to focus on the characters there. This remake may have upset quite a few people, but it is a nearly perfect execution of a clear and original vision.
1. Resident Evil 2
After Capcom remade Resident Evil for the Nintendo Gamecube, gamers assumed a similar remake of Resident Evil 2 would soon follow. Instead, audiences had to wait almost 20 years for that dream to become reality. Of course, Resident Evil 2 proved to be a different kind of Resident Evil remake entirely.
This 2019 remake finds a remarkable balance between revivals of timeless concepts and new ideas. The remake remixes the original levels with a fresh coat of HD paint and makes them explorable from an over-the-shoulder perspective. Yet the experience loses none of its scares or charm and is, in fact, far more terrifying thanks to new lighting effects and revamped Mr. X: the rare enemy capable of pursuing gamers almost everywhere.
While there is absolutely something to the style of retro Resident Evil games that hopefully won’t be lost to time, Resident Evil 2 shows how the new and old can work together in almost perfect harmony.