Remakes are big business in the video game industry. And while we seem to be in the golden age of remakes (if you want to make that a thing), they've actually been around for a while.
Of course, there are various reasons behind remaking a video game. Perhaps the most obvious reason is technological advances and generational gaps. We hate to say it, but many classic video games of previous generations are now borderline unplayable. Games like Pac-Man are timeless because they are stripped of technology and complexity. They seem to exist outside of time, much like physical sports. However, other games hinge on the time in which they were created, and they now feel dated. For example, Vice City was a technological marvel for its time but now seems archaic. Remaking these classic games are a great way to bring them into the current technological sphere and introduce them to a new generation of gamers.
The following list consist of fifteen of the best remakes (according to Metacritic), and ten of the worst. To be clear, this list will only consist of remakes, not remasters. The difference lies in the construction. A remaster means putting a fresh coat of paint (i.e better graphics) on an existing piece of technology. A remake is when developers completely... uh... remake the source game from the ground up. Yes, the graphics will be prettier, but the game will also have new areas, updated gameplay mechanics, and maybe even an entirely new physics engine.
Without further ado, here are fifteen of the best and ten of the worst.
25 Worst: Dr. Mario 64 (71)
Dr. Mario 64 was an enhanced remake of Dr. Mario, a falling block puzzle game released for the NES back in 1990. The remake added various multiplayer modes, including Team Battle, Flash Mode, and Score Attack, all of which could be played with up to four players. While the game wasn't fiercely criticized, it did receive its fair share of poor reviews. Its critics mainly condemned the shallow gameplay and high price tag, as similar games could easily be found on the internet for free. This was 2001 after all...
24 Best: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (82)
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary was unveiled alongside Halo 4 at E3 2011, and it gave us a reassuring glimpse into 343 Industries' development prowess. It was released on Halo's tenth anniversary - November 15, 2011. It featured brand spanking new graphics, new sound effects, co-op, and various new achievements. But the coolest function was the ability to switch back and forth between the new version and the classic with a literal push of a button. It was a fantastic feature that proved how far gaming had come in just ten years.
23 Worst: Blaster Master Zero (3DS Version) (70)
Blaster Master was a localized version of a Japanese game called Metafight. It was developed by Sunsoft and released in North America and Europe in November 1988. It has since been recognized as one of the NES's greatest titles, and it was remade as Blaster Master Zero in 2017. While the Switch version received positive reviews, the 3DS version holds a slightly lower Metacritic score. Critics praised its faithfulness and the intriguing upgrades, but they criticized the complete lack of difficulty. This was an NES game! It's supposed to be impossible!
22 Best: Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (85)
Say what you will about the GameCube, but it hosted some fantastic remakes. One of them was Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, a remake of the original Metal Gear Solid. The remake was a near-complete overhaul - updated graphics (duh), new gameplay mechanics, re-recorded voice acting, and brand new cutscenes. Some critics didn't care for the updates - added gameplay mechanics made the game too easy and new cutscenes were both over-produced and cliché - but many saw it as a fresh reinvention of one of the most influential video games of all time.
21 Worst: Earthworm Jim HD (70)
Earthworm Jim HD was released for the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network in 2010, sixteen years after Earthworm Jim. Unfortunately, those sixteen years were too big a gap for many critics. The game carried its complex level design and frustrating gameplay mechanics from 1994 into 2010, and it wasn't a particularly smooth transition. The gameplay was just too archaic and difficult for modern critics, many of whom complained about the lack of modern concessions. Kids these days and their easy video games...
20 Best: Ratchet & Clank (85)
Ratchet & Clank was developed by Insomniac Games and was meant to tie into that abysmal movie that absolutely no one remembers. However, everyone remembers this game as one of the best video game remakes of all time (not that there are that many...). It respectfully honored the original while adding a ton of fresh and exciting gameplay additions, and it proved that platformers could still be relevant in the 2010s. All it takes is a little polish and an incredible imagination, both of which Ratchet & Clank had in spades.
19 Worst: 1942: Joint Strike (68)
1942: Joint Strike was an arcade game released back in 2008 for the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. It was a remake of the 1984 arcade game 1942, although it's really an amalgamation of the entire 19XX series. It received middling reviews upon release, with many critics highlighting the game's short length as a major detriment. Luckily, the game only cost $10, and it WAS a decent remake of an old game, but the gameplay was relatively shallow and lasted less than an hour. Fun for an afternoon, but that's about it.
18 Best: Bionic Commando Rearmed (87)
Bionic Commando Rearmed is a remake of the Capcom game Bionic Commando (or, as it's hilariously known in Japan, Hitler's Resurrection: Top Secret). It was unanimously praised as one of the best downloadable arcade titles of its time, with many critics singling out its beautiful graphics, refreshing old-school challenge, and the added multiplayer support. Simon Viklund's remixed soundtrack was also highly praised for its integration of new ideas. Now this is how you update a classic arcade title for a new generation.
17 Worst: Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain Of Memories (68)
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories served as a bridge between the two Kingdom Hearts titles, released for the Game Boy Advance (yeah, remember that?) back in 2004. Four years later, it was remade for the PS2 with voice acting, an improved soundtrack, and polygonal 3D graphics. However, these additions couldn't mask what was very clearly a Game Boy Advance title. While critics certainly didn't hate it, they found it little more than tired retread of a four-year-old game. That said, it currently holds an 8.1 user score, so general audiences clearly loved it.
16 Best: Doom (87)
We suppose Doom is more of a reboot than a remake, but whatever. We're counting it. Doom returned to the series' relentlessly fast pace after the scarier, slower-paced Doom 3, and it was all the better for it. Critics lauded many aspects of the gameplay and presentation, including the smooth and zippy gunplay, grotesque enemies, and Mick Gordon's music. At a time when the FPS genre consisted of little-more than multiplayer military shooters, Doom proved that you could still craft a hellishly good and imaginative single-player experience.
15 Worst: Castle Of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (67)
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is an absolute classic that helped establish the stellar reputation of the Sega Genesis. It was released back in 1990, received fantastic reviews, and launched the Illusion series. Turns out that it doesn't work as well in 2013. Critics lambasted the game's frustrating control scheme and Mickey's labored movements, which of course are major detriments for a platforming game. Its short length was also criticized, but at least its lowered price point acknowledged that shortcoming. Sometimes a game just needs to be left alone.
14 Best: Counter-Strike: Source (88)
Counter-Strike: Source was a remake of Counter-Strike using Valve's new Source engine, the same engine employed for the revolutionary Half-Life 2. This game served as the first glimpse into the Source engine, and it received unanimous praise from general players and critics alike. Critics praised the game's presentation and weighty physics, and it helped introduce a new faction of gamers to one of the greatest multiplayer shooters of all time. Counter-Strike: Source is peak Valve - fun, imaginative, and revolutionary.
13 Worst: Dead Rising 2: Off The Record (66)
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record isn't a remake so much as it is a re-imagining of Dead Rising 2. It features everyone's favorite corny protagonist Frank West, but it also added a few components like new weapons, missions, and environments, as well as the first game's photography mechanic. However, these changes weren't enough to convince the critics. They called the game pointless and recycled, as it was essentially just Dead Rising 2 re-released with Frank West and a few shallow upgrades. Yeah, but... Frank West.
12 Best: Metroid: Zero Mission (89)
Metroid: Zero Mission was a remake of the OG Metroid, and it was released on the Game Boy Advance in 2004. The game featured brand new items, mini-bosses, areas (like Chozodia), and a completely re-written story (including a segment featuring Samus without her Power Suit). When we say remake, we mean remake! Naturally, the game was showered with praise, as critics loved the numerous fulfilling additions and the core game in equal measure. Metroid is an all-time classic, and Zero Mission perfected it.
11 Worst: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD (66)
Is there a series that has fallen from grace more pitifully than Tony Hawk's Pro Skater? The original two or three are widely considered masterpieces, and they helped introduce skateboarding to an entire generation. The series is now a pathetic shell of its former self, as Pro Skater 5 was an utter abomination and Pro Skater HD was a weak remake of the first two games. A remake needs to do more than update the graphics, and Pro Skater HD was little more than a fresh coat of paint on a dated series of games.
10 Best: Shadow Of The Colossus (91)
Shadow of the Colossus is one of the most artistic video games of all time, and its elusive story and gorgeous visuals helped establish video games as a serious art form. Bluepoint Games took an all-time classic and updated it with vastly-improved graphics, a new control scheme, and much smoother gameplay. The results were extraordinary. It successfully revitalized the magic of the original while also improving the overall quality-of-life with easier controls and smoother frame rates. This is what every remake should aspire to be.
9 Worst: Diddy Kong Racing DS (63)
At a time when Mario Kart dominated the kart-racing genre, Diddy Kong Racing proved to be a formidable competitor. In fact, some people consider it superior to Mario Kart 64. Rare remade the game in 2007, complete with new graphics, a racetrack creator, an online multiplayer component, and touchscreen functionality. Unfortunately, many critics didn't take too kindly to the update, as they found the game dated and frustratingly difficult, complete with a horrible control scheme and touchscreen integration. Mario Kart DS this was not.
8 Best: Resident Evil (91)
Resident Evil is the current benchmark to which all remakes are judged. It was released for the GameCube in 2002, only six years after the original. However, those six years felt like twenty. Shinji Mikami made this version to be closer to his original vision, complete with a brand-new subplot, more complex puzzles, and completely new areas. It was praised for its graphics and relentlessly bleak atmosphere, and many critics found it to be far superior to the original Resident Evil. It's arguably the best remake of all time, and maybe one of the best games, period.
7 Worst: Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop (61)
Clearly Capcom doesn't have the greatest track record when it comes to Dead Rising remakes. Maybe it's best they just leave the series alone. Chop Till You Drop was a remake of the original released for the Wii, and it made a few key changes - most of them for the worse. The photography mechanic and Overtime Mode were scrapped. Frank couldn't jump. The mall was significantly smaller. There were fewer "weapons" to pick up and use. All of these changes resulted in a very mixed critical reception, with many critics calling it vastly inferior to the original Dead Rising.
6 Best: Resident Evil 2 (93)
Capcom's remakes of Dead Rising are middling affairs, but their Resident Evil remakes are arguably the greatest of all time. Talk about a discrepancy! Resident Evil 2 may have recently dethroned Resident Evil as the greatest remake ever, if Metacritic is anything to go by. The game took a classic video game and completely updated it for 2019. But despite the major revisions (revisions that made the game even better), it still retained the signature scope, feel, and overall atmosphere of Resident Evil 2. Gamers have been clamoring for this for years, and it was more than worth the wait.
5 Worst: Blaster Master: Overdrive (58)
Yes, Blaster Master: Overdrive is ANOTHER re-imagining of Blaster Master. And yes, it's even worse than Blaster Master Zero. This one was released for the Wii's Virtual Console back in 2010, and it featured improved graphics and a combination of old and new Blaster Master gameplay mechanics. Unfortunately, the developers did little else to distinguish it from its 1988 counterpart. Critics complained about its high degree of difficulty (mainly thanks to a lack of save points) and frustrating control scheme. This was a 1988 game in 2010, and that's not a good thing.
4 Worst: Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown (57)
Back in 1986, Cinemaware released a game called Defender of the Crown. It was released for the Commodore Amiga and received immense praise for its graphical and technical qualities. The remake, released for the PC, PS2, and Xbox, was utter tripe. It was nothing but a graphical upgrade of the original game, as the gameplay was stuck in 1986. It wasn't nearly hard or complex enough for 2003 audiences, and many critics chastised its lack of advancements. It made for a good museum piece, but it was a terrible modern video game.
3 Worst: Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone (56)
We think two years is probably the shortest time between an OG and remake. It's just hard to believe. The original Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was released for the Game Boy and PlayStation but was remade just two years later (released in 2003) for the GameCube, PS2, and Xbox. However, it was ruthlessly criticized. While critics commended the game's technicality and voice acting, they maligned the choppy frame rate, frustrating controls, and nonsensical puzzles. It was seen as a vastly inferior version of The Chamber of Secrets, and it quickly fell out of favor. Give this one to the Dementors.
2 Worst: Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded (56)
For those who aren't aware, the original game was very controversial in its time, as players controlled Larry Laffer as he tried to lose his virginity in a seedy town. The development of this remake was entirely crowdfunded through Kickstarter, and it was released in 2013 after raising $650,000. Unfortunately, the game was fiercely criticized, with many noting that it never deserved to be remade in the first place. It has also lost most of its gaudy influence, as what was controversial in the 1980s seems incredibly tame today. There was no reason for this to exist.
1 Worst: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time Re-Shelled (55)
Turtles in Time serves as a brilliant warning against the dangers of remaking the classics. The original game was one of the best arcade games of all time, and it defined many a childhood. Unfortunately, Ubisoft went and released Re-Shelled, and it completely tarnished the game's reputation and our memories of it. While critics commended the game's graphics and overall technicality, they mentioned the dated arcade gameplay and simplistic controls as major detriments. Sometimes the classics are best left in the past.