It's become a running gag that there are no new ideas in Hollywood: comic book adaptions, franchise sequels, live action remakes of animated classics, a seemingly endless line of horror movie reboots. As I played the Shadow of the Colossus remake for the first time, it occurred to me how much better received gaming remakes have been – that, and just how many we've seen lately.
To appreciate this "Age of the Remake", I think it's important to understand the era we're just coming out of: The Age of the Remaster.
By holiday 2007, Sony had moved all PS3 production to a new $400 model designed to shed the stigma of its high-priced launch SKUs. The biggest casualty of this price reduction was, of course, PS2 backward compatibility. Skipping ahead to 2009, Santa Monica Studio was in the home stretch of developing God of War III. With most PS3 owners having no way to play the first 2 PS2 titles, Sony hired Bluepoint Games to do an upgraded re-release – I'd argue that this is where the Age of the Remaster began.
The God of War Collection wasn't the first upgraded re-release ever made (how many people owned a copy of Super Mario All-Stars?) but it started a trend that the rest of the industry would follow. By 2011, Ubisoft (Prince of Persia, Beyond Good & Evil, Splinter Cell), Eidos (Tomb Raider), Capcom (Resident Evil), Konami (Metal Gear), and Namco Bandai (Tekken) had all released "HD Remasters" of their own.
The benefits of these re-releases were obvious: not only did they help build (or gauge) interest for future sequels, but they cost relatively little to make, allowing porting to be farmed out to smaller studios. The visual upgrades and (usually) budget pricing also helped soften the blow of double dipping for most consumers.
With the PS4 and XB1 also lacking backward compatibility (at least at launch, in the latter's case), publishers rushed to release a new wave remasters that took advantage this new hardware. By 2018, however, these types of remasters had pretty much stopped in the industry (outside of Nintendo's WiiU-to-Switch ports). With the next generation being fully (?) backward compatible and free upgrade programs like Smart Delivery in place, it's unlikely we'll see a resurgence in them, either.
Instead, we've seen a growing number a full-on remakes built with brand new assets. This isn't an entirely new concept, as both Resident Evil and MGS1 got this treatment in the early '00s. There we also a few 2D remakes around that time (see: Pokemon FR/LG and Metroid Zero Mission) with a brief resurgence early in the XBLA years. These titles failed to develop into a longer trend, however, as remasters at that time were far cheaper to make and thus more appealing to publishers.
Until Halo Anniversary. To celebrate 10 years of the original Halo, Microsoft hired Saber Interactive to develop a remake. Rather than simply repackaging Halo 1 at a higher resolution, Saber and 343 decided to layer an entirely new set of visual and audio assets on top of the original engine. The end result was a remake that still played identically to the original, but looked and sounded like a modern AAA game. Since then, we've seen a growing number of publishers take on similar projects, either in the form of near-identical remakes or as adaptions/reboots that are largely faithful to the source material:
And honestly? I really like this. Sure, not every attempt has been flawless, but I love the idea of getting to reexperience classic games using modern hardware and evolutions in design. Two of the biggest releases this year have been remakes, with a third (Doom Eternal) being the sequel to a similarly styled reboot.
So, what do you think? Are you open to more remakes like this? Do you prefer them to remasters? Are there are other games you'd like to see get this treatment?