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The Top 7… Greatest gaming rebirths

5. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

What it was: The original Prince of Persia games were the 2D progenitors of series like Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed, focused on climbing, acrobatic exploration and (increasingly more often, as the series went on) fighting. The first game was relatively simple; the nameless Prince had to escape from a trap-filled dungeon in 60 minutes, or his Princess was going to be forced to marry some creepy old vizier. Its sequel was considerably more epic, sending the Prince on a long journey to acquire supernatural powers and rescue the Princess once again, but it held true the same basic formula of 2D running, jumping, climbing and fighting.

Above: It also looked a little different on every platform. This here's the SNES version

Then the series went 3D in 1999, and where the Prince had once inspired Lara Croft, it now seemed the reverse was true. Rigid 2D climbing was replaced with rigid 3D climbing, and control and camera problems marred the whole experience. A Dreamcast port fixed most of its problems, but it was too late; Prince of Persia had fallen out of favor, and the series as we knew it passed into obscurity.

What it became: Four years after Prince of Persia 3D, PoP creator Jordan Mechner teamed with Ubisoft Montreal to reboot the series as something completely new. Now intensely character-driven and centered around a time-travel theme, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time introduced acrobatic parkour and group combat to the series, creating something that felt much more flexible and organic than its predecessors. It also added what quickly became the series’ most indispensable signature move: the ability to rewind time, neatly erasing any stupid platforming mistakes you’d made – provided, of course, that you had enough magic sand.

In spite of being squeezed out during the legendarily overcrowded 2003 holiday season, The Sands of Time rapidly found an audience, becoming one of the most beloved games of its time. It was soon followed by two somewhat disappointing sequels, Warrior Within and The Two Thrones, which introduced M-rated brooding and a whip-wielding alter ego, respectively. It didn’t matter what anyone said, though; in fans’ minds, this was now the Prince of Persia, and the originals were quickly forgotten. Not even another attempted reboot in 2008 could shake the faith, judging by the way the series went back to the well two years later with respectable Sands of Time interquel The Forgotten Sands (which nobody played, but still).

4. Resident Evil 4

What it was: Resident Evil was a pioneer of the “survival horror” genre, and it probably had a lot more to do with establishing the mainstream popularity of zombies than anyone’s willing to admit. Focusing on a zombie outbreak in and around the fictional, remote-but-improbably-large Raccoon City the first few games were masterfully directed (if unapologetically cheesy) works of suspense that forced players into confrontations with zombies and other monsters in dark hallways and cramped spaces seen from paranoid angles. In addition to creating a general atmosphere of dread punctuated by sudden scares, the first few Resident Evils successfully blended the exploration and inventory management of old-school adventure games with zombie-shooting action and then-amazing production values, making them huge hits.

By the time Code: Veronica was released in 2000, though, the luster had started to wear off. The tank-like controls felt increasingly awkward and outdated with every new game, and the scares – summed up by Penny Arcade as “Monsters will come through windows” – were getting predictable and silly. The 2002 GameCube remake and its subsequent prequel the same year brought a new level of moody realism to the franchise, but underneath were the same clunky old mechanics. Clearly, a far more dramatic change was needed.

What it became: If “old” Resident Evil was about plodding exploration and cheap scares, then “new” Resident Evil was about fast action, horrific deaths and a constant, almost claustrophobic feeling of being uncomfortably close to danger. In Resident Evil 4, the dynamic camera angles were switched out in favor of a comparatively narrow, over-the-shoulder view; the zombies were traded in for more nimble, eerie foes called Ganados; and where cutscenes were once a respite from the action, they could now turn deadly at a moments’ notice.

In RE4, Resident Evil was reborn as a genuinely tense, nerve-wracking experience, and it was the scariest – and the best – the franchise had been in years. Its formula quickly became standard for third-person shooters, and continued in RE5, which (in spite of being a pretty great action game) kind of forgot to be scary. (Hopefully, the upcoming Revelations will get the series back on track.)

3. Metroid Prime

What it was: The original Metroid games were quasi-open-world side-scrollers that tasked players with exploring huge, mostly subterranean alien worlds filled with monsters and areas that were only accessible once you’d found a specific gadget or weapon. By Nintendo standards, they were incredibly dark and moody, and that – in addition to their clever design, wealth of hidden items and nagging urge to “hundred-percent” them - helped make them some of the best-loved games in the company’s stable, with 1994’s Super Metroid in particular still regarded as one of the best games of all time.

Sadly, Metroid didn’t really enjoy the same popularity in Japan that it did in the US. After its creator, Gunpei Yokoi, left Nintendo in 1996 and died the following year, it looked as though Metroid might be over. And for eight years after the release of Super Metroid, it basically was.

What it became: Outside of maybe The Wind Waker’s cartoon Link, it’s difficult to think of a Nintendo announcement that drew more knee-jerk rage from fans than the one that told us that Metroid – sacred, thoughtful Metroid – was going to come back as a first-person shooter, made by an untested studio in Texas. It seems silly to doubt it now, but back then Retro’s plan to make a Metroid FPS seemed like a slap in the face to fans. How would Samus’ gadget-driven exploration even work in first-person? How could a shooter possibly recapture any of what had made Super Metroid great, eight years previous?

As it turned out, the answer was “beautifully.” Metroid Prime didn’t just get Metroid’s formula right – it added layers of complexity and depth that weren’t possible on 8- and 16-bit machines. It offered players a huge open world to explore, and filled that world with interesting things to do and background information that could be scanned from just about everything. It was everything a modern Metroid should be, but at the same time it was something entirely new, and it resonated strongly enough to spawn three sequels and a pinball game. (And if it still wasn’t enough for the most stubborn old-school fans, well, it's worth noting that Metroid Fusion, the “true” sequel to Super Metroid, shipped at the same time.)

Topics

Top 7

60 comments

  • shayanomer - January 31, 2012 8:16 a.m.

    Why is Doom 3 not on this list?
  • RyoonZ - January 6, 2012 8:23 p.m.

    Nothing is revived until Suikoden VI , Breath of Fire VI , Wild ARMS VI !
  • jmcgrotty - January 6, 2012 5:06 a.m.

    "The original Donkey Kong stands as one of the greatest arcade games of the early ‘80s (its sequels, less so)" Considering that Donkey Kong, Jr. was the best of the series, that statement makes absolutely no sense. And I can't argue with the significance of your #1, except I tend to look at it differently. Metal Gear Solid: Great stuff, without a doubt. Metal Gear original? Borderline perfect in it's own right. Yes, the MSX changes were at times a bit too significant, it definitely didn't make the game bad or unplayable. Ultimately, though, if you don't want to think of "Metal Gear" MSX/NES and "Metal Gear Solid" as different franchises, the original games were better, and it isn't even close.
  • FriendlyFire - January 5, 2012 6:10 p.m.

    I'm surprised the most recent rebirth isn't on this list: Deus Ex. It just so happens that the rebirth has made it to the top of many "best of 2011" lists. Funnily enough, like with many other games on this list, it is considered better by those who've never played the original at the time, whereas people who did tend to prefer the first game. Sure, it may not be the iconic game that, say, Donkey Kong is, but it's still easily one of the most important games of all time.
  • jackthemenace - January 5, 2012 12:03 p.m.

    Well, MGS is a fairly good choice for number 1, come to think of it: Not only did Metal Gear go on to have Metal Gear Solid, but there was Also Metal Gear: Acid on the PSP, and now Metal Gear Rising. Which I cannot WAIT for. It'd better get released this year.
  • raxafrax - January 4, 2012 9:59 p.m.

    Street Fighter 4?
  • WTeen8 - January 4, 2012 2:20 p.m.

    Good list, and it raises great points. But DKC's sequels didn't get worse. (And while I realize he said less impressive, which is different from worse the point is still there.)In fact DKC2 improved on everything from the original, and had a better soundtrack. I can see where you'r coming from with dkc3 which was in no means a bad game. And as for dk64...read the other comments. But Metroid and Megal Gear were great rebirths. captcha: typical eeipic....eeipic job guys. Typical from GR.
  • rob619 - January 4, 2012 10:36 a.m.

    MGS the greatest video game ever. I will never forget my finest gaming moment, the end of MGS where it told you a message, real world one, about nucleur weapons. Solid Snake/Big Boss = Legends
  • Imgema - January 4, 2012 8:49 a.m.

    Ah... Metroid Prime... What an amazing game that was. A true Metroid game in 3D. Bravo Retro. Too bad OtherM ruined it for all Metroid fans. Now Retro has to revive the series once again because after OtherM i can't say the it has a bright future anymore. Also, im not sure if Resident Evil 4 changed the series in a good way. I still prefer RE Remake on GC. Yes, maybe the older games were slow and clunky but at least they were scary. And i'm not talking about the jump scares, im talking about the tension as you slowly explore an abandoned mansion while a nice eerie music plays and you hope for no zombies to appear because you don't have enough ammo. Resident Evil 4 threw all that away and became a pure action on-rails game. It still has some good atmosphere but no worries, RE5 came out and threw that away too.
  • shawksta - January 4, 2012 10:06 a.m.

    There's nothing Wrong with Other M besides the voice acting, but thats controversal to opinion.there were some shake ups but everything else makes perfect sense if you know your sh*t, and the gameplay is the same as Super Mario 3D Land, where it sits between the 2D and 3D games.
  • Imgema - January 4, 2012 2:25 p.m.

    There are too many things wrong with OtherM (if you want to call it a Metroid game that is). Voice acting is only a minor thing.
  • DecoyOctorok - January 4, 2012 3:57 a.m.

    Good list, Mikel. I'm still holding out hope for a sequel to the 2008 Prince of Persia though. GTA III would have been another good one. It was a mildly popular PC series until they pulled an Ocarina of Time and put you into a fully 3D world from a street-level perspective.
  • higgins78 - January 4, 2012 3:29 a.m.

    A few great examples here Gamesrader, a few however not so good but overall an excellent attempt. Like a few people here have already mentioned, DK64 was not only a huge rebirth but a phenomenal game to boot. Resident Evil 4 and Sands of Time (again) both excellent examples. I don't see however why MGS made the list where Mario 64 did not, MGS (PS1) being after all doing nothing more (or less) than Ocarina. Mario 64 did more, much more than simply shifting the perspective, Nintendo arguably building/engineering an entire console/joypad for this particular game...this with Metroid Prime, Resi4 and Sands of Time are 4 shining examples of developers truly on top of their game.
  • shawksta - January 4, 2012 10:13 a.m.

    This isnt best revolutions, its series that died but then Rebirthed, you guys need to read, Zelda and Mario were both revolutionary, but they never died and rebirthed.
  • shawksta - January 3, 2012 9:56 p.m.

    Rare went Apesh*t(hah) with DK64, you needed an EXPANSION pak to put on the fron the N64, and while it IS different, that game was F*cking awesome back when i was a Kid, i swear that game never gets the praise it deserves.
  • Person5 - January 4, 2012 12:37 a.m.

    the expansion pak wasn't even a big deal because it was included with the game, DK64 is one of my favorites on the N64 but I always seem to be in the minority, I'm glad I'm not the only one with fond memories of that game
  • shawksta - January 4, 2012 10:01 a.m.

    Yeah, but I guess thats the point, it was exclusive for that game. It was cool, and im sad Chunky never returned, atleast Lanky did, and Tiny somehow......went.... Through puberty......or something.
  • wingsdjy - January 4, 2012 1:32 p.m.

    The expansion pak wasn't exclusive to DK64. Majora's Mask also required it, and Perfect Dark was pretty much a coaster without it.
  • Daruniah - January 3, 2012 5:47 p.m.

    One of the better Top 7s I've read in awhile. I really like these reference Top 7s that sort of become the authority on whatever topic they're discussing,
  • brizzie - January 3, 2012 5:32 p.m.

    The original isometric Fallout's were far better than the FPSRPG franchise it has become. ReCaptcha: vacent Reference

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