Double-dipping in style
We sure seem to be getting a lot of remasters lately, huh? You can't go a week without some old game getting a brand new day in the spotlight on modern hardware. But there are reasons why they're so commonplace. People still want to revisit the classics, and that SNES cartridge just won't fit in a Wii U. And publishers, realizing that blockbuster games are time-consuming and costly endeavors, are reaching into their back catalogs to fill the gaps with inexpensive ports.
It's nice to get a chance to revisit those vintage games we haven't played in years, but many publishers are keen to simply dress up an old game's graphics, toss it on some new hardware, and call it a day. Sometimes, though, a remaster goes above and beyond to become something truly special. Maybe it's been slightly redesigned to adhere to modern game design sensibilities, or it includes additional features to entice returning players, or the overhaul itself is vastly more impressive than a simple reskin job. Whatever the case, these are the remasters that turned out to be more fun than the original game they're based on.
Metroid Prime Trilogy refines its control scheme
The Metroid Prime series did the impossible - it not only took the two-dimensional exploration the series is known for and expertly applied it to a three-dimensional space, it also made first-person jumping not suck. But if you wanted to play the whole series back-to-back, you had to have a GameCube and a Wii, GameCube controllers and memory cards, Wii Remotes, Nunchucks… It was a mess. Thankfully, Nintendo re-released all three in one Metroid Prime Trilogy package for the Wii (and on Wii U Virtual Console).
These games were instant classics, so Retro Studios could have gotten away with quick port jobs. Instead, it converted every game into full widescreen, and tied all three games together with the achievement/reward unlock system introduced in Metroid Prime 3. But best of all, the first two games in the series can be controlled using the Wii Remote and Nunchuck controllers. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but the Remote's point-and-shoot aiming gives you far more precision than your typical console FPS. Couple that with Metroid Prime's snappy lock-on targeting, and you'll be dancing circles around your enemies in no time.
Metro 2033 Redux feels like the original, plays like the sequel
When the desolate nuke-soaked landscape of Metro 2033 first arrived on PCs and consoles in 2010, it was rough around the edges. Sure, it looked nice (on PC anyway), but it was a bit too unforgiving to new players. Stealth was all but broken, if you didn't properly prepare at the beginning of the game you were boned by the end, and to top it all off, it was just generally kind of buggy. And the console versions were even jankier than the PC version.
Luckily, this uniquely atmospheric game got a new lease on life when 4A Games released the Metro Redux collection, and completely rebuilt Metro 2033 to bring it up to par with the far more playable Metro: Last Light. Not only are the graphics completely rehauled, but several new modes make it easier (like the Spartan mode which turns it into a more conventional first-person shooter) or harder (like Ranger mode, which is the closest anyone will hopefully ever get to life in a frigid Russian wasteland filled with irradiated mutants). Thanks to the update, Metro 2033 gets to be the beautifully desolate survival experience it was always meant to be.
The REmake introduces way better graphics and a ton of new surprises
Capcom is certainly no stranger to the world of ports and remakes (see: Street Fighter 2, Mega Man, Darkstalkers…). But when Capcom makes the effort to actually recreate a beloved classic for modern audiences, it doesn't just phone it in. The Resident Evil remake (or REmake, as fans have called it) on GameCube (and subsequent rerelease on new-gen consoles (I told you Capcom does this a lot)) does a lot more to the Spencer Mansion than some simple redecorating.
Sure, you get the higher-resolution backgrounds and nicer looking character models. Capcom also added a few new locations which were cut from the original game, as well as revamped puzzles to keep old players on their toes. Enhanced controls (180-degree turns!), and defensive maneuvers were also added to help give players a slight edge. Why would they need that, exactly? Because zombies can now come back to life as Crimson Heads, even faster and more deadly than before. It was enough to make my friend (who knew the original like the back of his hand) scream "HOLY SHIT THAT'S NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN" when he got attacked by a Crimson Head for the first time. This is how you remake a classic.
Bionic Commando Rearmed is like the NES game, but so much better
The Bionic Commando reboot may not have gotten the love it deserved (unless you're one of the true fans (opens in new tab)). I guess that's what happens when you put your dead wife inside a bionic arm (it's a long, dumb story). Surprisingly, the downloadable Bionic Commando Rearmed took off instead, and its popularity is well deserved.
Rearmed is essentially a gussied-up retelling of the original NES classic, but it's so much more than that. The swinging physics were retooled to be more fluid and natural, bosses were changed to make use of all of your available skills, additional challenge levels and the entire last level are completely new to the game, and you can play through it all with a bud. And no, you still can't jump. That's what the grapple arm is for!
DuckTales Remastered takes the original and turns it into a cartoon show
What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the DuckTales game? That's right - it's the joy of hopping around each zany level with Scrooge McDuck's cane like a child given a gallon of Surge. And when Capcom and WayForward brought DuckTales to a new generation of hardware, they made sure to keep that bounce intact. But that's not all they did for DuckTales fans young and old.
They brought back the entire surviving cast of the classic '90s cartoon show, including nonagenarian badass Alan Young to reprise his role as Scrooge. To make things look even more like the TV show, all of the game's 8-bit art was replaced with actual hand-drawn animation. Even the music blended elements of the classic NES game with newly recorded renditions of the songs from the animated series. In short, it's the perfect love letter to fans of DuckTales in every form.
Final Fantasy 4 goes 3D
Like a few games on this list, Final Fantasy 4 has been rereleased several times over the years, but its 3D incarnation on the DS (and more recently on PC and mobile devices) is its best, most fully version featured yet. Every cave, town, and moon has been lovingly recreated in 3D, and many of the most important scenes have surprisingly good voice work to accompany them.
With new minigames, sidequests, and additional plot points that weren't included in the original version of the game, the 3D version of Final Fantasy 4 is already packed with reasons to dive back in. But wait - there's more! A New Game Plus option lets you carry your equipment over to a second playthrough, where you can take on some hidden bosses for the first time. Sure, you don't get all the extra epilogue content featured in the After Years, but that stuff was mostly crap anyway.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD streamlines the momentum-killing Triforce Quest
Wind Waker has benefitted greatly from the value of hindsight. Originally decried by Zelda fans as 'that dumb kiddie cartoon one', now it's (rightly) heralded as one of the best Zelda games ever made. Except for, you know, that one bit near the end. You know, where you have to find all of those maps, pay for them to be translated, then find all of the Triforce pieces? And it takes foreeeeeeeeeeeeverrrrrrrrrr? God, wouldn't it be great if Nintendo would just fix it so it wasn't such a pain in the ass?
Well, as it happens, they totally did in the HD rerelease for Wii U. In addition to removing several steps of that asinine Triforce treasure hunt, there's also a special sail you can pick up at the auction house that speeds up travel times significantly. While it doesn't entirely fix Wind Waker's issues, it's still the best version of an already spectacular game.
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes gets better graphics and insanely awesome cutscenes
What if Metal Gear was even more like one of your Japanese animes? What if it ditched the grainy, blocky polygons of the PlayStation era and adopted the sleeker, smoother curves of Metal Gear Solid 2? Well, your prayers are answered, because The Twin Snakes makes Metal Gear Solid even more bonkers (if you can believe it) and much prettier to look at.
Not only does The Twin Snakes bring with it a much-appreciated improvement in graphical fidelity, it also features many of the same moves and abilities from Metal Gear Solid 2 - including its first-person aiming mode. The Twin Snakes also features some incredibly over-the-top cutscenes, directed by Japanese action flick director Ryuhei Kitamura. Like, 'backflip-onto-a-missile-and-return-fire-with-a-rocket-of-your-own' kind of over-the-top. While the original Metal Gear Solid still remains a classic, The Twin Snakes just feels so much more entertaining.
Secret of Monkey Island/Monkey Island 2 Special Edition gets fully voiced and a helpful hint mode
The first two Monkey Island games are amazing point-and-click adventures, filled to the brim with hilarious pirate jokes, insult sword fighting, and way too many modern conveniences for a game set during the Golden Age of Piracy. But ever since I played the third entry, The Curse of Monkey Island, I always hoped that LucasArts would go back to the old games and stick some new artwork and voice acting on top of them.
Turns out my wish was granted back in 2009, and again in 2010, when LucasArts released the Special Editions of the first two games in the Monkey Island series. The updated graphics are take-'em-or-leave-'em, but you can switch to the old visuals at the push of a button. More importantly, every single line of dialog has been voiced by a stellar cast (including the one and only Dominic Armato as Guybrush Threepwood). You also get a handy hint system for both games and a neat commentary track for Monkey Island 2. The voice acting alone makes these Special Editions leagues better than the original releases. And yes, I know these are two separate releases, but they both got the same level of TLC, so I'm grouping them together. Because I can.
Brand new all over again
Before you go into full-on rage mode the next time you hear about another imminent re-release, just remember these extra-polished gems. Who knows? Maybe that old game is getting a ton of great stuff to make double-dipping worth it. Do you have a favorite remaster you enjoy more than the original? Or perhaps there's one you'd like to see? Let me know in the comments!
Looking for more? Check out these 7 reasons why we think Nintendo's next hardware will be a smartwatch (opens in new tab), or a list of some of the most valuable amiibo and how to find them (opens in new tab).