The new, good old days
Remakes and remasters are a fun facet of modern gaming that allow old games to feel fresh. They give new players a chance to enjoy retro titles in the HD era, while older fans can play the titles of their youth without digging up a CRT television. But what about the opposite? What happens when more recent games get redone as pixelated adventures? Thats how you end up with demakes.
Demakes are clever tributes to the games of today that reimagine them as if they were on the consoles of bygone eras. Whether by the developers themselves or inventive fans, these jokey prequels let you celebrate your love of retro games in a whole new way. And these have to be the most clever demakes out there...
Dark Void Zero
Speaking of Capcom, after Platinums staff left the company, the publisher went in a number of new directions. Not all of Capcoms experiments were successful - for every Dead Rising, there was a Dark Void. The jetpack-based action game wanted to be a serious AAA contender, but its a dreadfully boring game, and it doesnt have half the spirit and sense of fun as its jokey spin-off, Dark Void Zero.
Starting as an April Fools goof by the developers at Other Ocean Interactive, Dark Void Zero fast became a reality. The silly 2D download purported itself to be a Playchoice-10 game, because that was one of the earliest dual screen arcade machines that the DS could replicate. A mix of old Metroid, Castlevania, and Contra, this game started as a promotional tool for Dark Void proper. Now Dark Void Zero, a fictionally forgotten game, is the only thing people remember about the series.
A lot of these demakes stick with the warmer, friendlier worlds of 16 and 8-bit gaming, while Halo 2600 heads back to the truly primitive days of Atari. The aged systems games ruled the United States in the early 80s, and are the gaming equivalent of cave paintings today, which is just the feel Halo 2600 is going for. It molds Master Chief into the hero of second gen classics like Adventure or the catastrophically bad E.T. game, only youre the one killing extraterrestrials this time.
Its a cute way to kill your free time, but its also noteworthy for being more connected to the source material than most fanmade freeware. The game is credited to Ed Fries, who older gamers may recall as one of the earliest Xbox bosses. He worked hard to get developers like Bungie on the console, so that explains his connection to the Halo franchise. Halo 2600 came out a few years after he left Microsoft, proving that even if he doesnt collect an Xbox paycheck, he couldnt give up on the Chief.
The most recent, faux-old entry is a cute bit of fanservice from Platinum Games. The Osaka, Japan team is known for hiding dense Easter eggs in its games, and the same can be said for Platinums website. If you find yourself on the 404 page of Platinums site, youll be treated to a simple game that recasts company star Bayonetta as a 16-bit angel slayer in a pixelated shooter.
The Flash game obviously lacks the depth of a proper Bayonetta battle, but its a cute treat nonetheless. The graphics and chiptune soundtrack feel like a labor of love from fans who dig their own work. Id happily buy a downloadable offering of a much fuller game. It has the unmistakable vibe of a SNES-era Capcom game, which isnt surprising considering more than a few Platinum employees were with the company back then.
Fallout: New Vegas JRPG
This demake may have the weirdest backstory and the strangest shift in gameplay styles of all. Fallout has always been a very Western-centric series, but with Fallout: New Vegas, publisher Bethesda had a clever plan for introducing the title to a new audience. When you headed to New Vegas official Japanese site, a version of Fallout would boot up that looked suspiciously like a 8-bit RPG.
Turning Fallout into Dragon Quest is a cute trick, and perhaps I couldve soaked in more of the cleverness if I could actually read Japanese. As it stands, the pixelated world and turn-based action is an adorable way to introduce fans of JRPGs to the long-lived postnuclear roleplaying series. Hopefully this radical strategy convinced at least a few fans of old school Dragon Quest to take a trip down to New Vegas.
Super Meat Boy Handheld
Now this here is a pretty passive-aggressive demake. The indie dev team behind Super Meat Boy were resistant to porting their game to iOS. Mainly because the two Meat Boy creators felt that phone games lacked any real depth, and that mobile titles were the current day equivalent of those crummy Tiger Electronics ports from decades ago. Then, to prove their point, the developers literally created a Tiger Handheld version of Meat Boy for iOS.
As the devs put it, the crappy on-screen controller is both true to iOS gaming and the terrible LCD screens of the early 90s. The platforming is intentionally terrible, going along with developer Tommy Refenes' belief that iOS controls of the time fucking sucked. But, as intentionally poor as the gameplay and graphics may be, Super Meat Boy Handheld is a humorously ironic lark, and now it feels extra special because the game has since been removed from the App Store, with an actual Meat Boy iOS game coming soon.
Retro City Rampage
Retro City Rampage on the surface feels more like a nostalgia-rific tribute to the games of the 80s and 90s than a true demake. A bit like a mix of Grand Theft Auto, Mario, Metal Gear, Contra, and a stoned afternoon watching Back to the Future, Retro City Rampage is also a Cinderella story for the makers of unlicensed demakes. More than a decade before its final release, RCR began as one fans attempt to make an NES version of GTA3.
In 2002, developer Brian Provinciano had thought itd be fun to build his own dev tools for the NES, eventually crafting a homebrew title called Grand Theftendo. The top-down action and inventive use of graphics became a cult hit in the indie community, and Provinciano decided to go all out in expanding the cute tribute into a full game. By 2012 Retro City Rampage came out, packed with more references to Generation X than anyone can handle in one sitting.
Virtua Fighter 2 Genesis
AM2s Virtua Fighter games broke boundaries for 3D fighters, and the series was also on the forefront of demakes. While so many other entries in here are postmodern throwbacks, the Genesis/Mega Drive version of Virtua Fighter 2 saw release around the same time as the Saturn version. And because Segas 16-bit machine could scarcely handle polygons when porting Virtua Racing, the Genesis version flattened the perspective to make the premiere 3D fighter two dimensional.
Unless you were still a dedicated Genesis owner in 1997, you likely missed this game, but thats no great tragedy. Its a slightly above average 2D brawler that halfheartedly recreates most of the characters and moves of its three dimensional sibling, though the sound is atrocious. The music and SFX are the noise equivalent of pouring an exquisite wine through a dish rag. My heart goes out to any kid who asked for Virtua Fighter 2 as a gift and got this version.
Greek & Wicked
I have strong nostalgia for the Game & Watch handhelds of the early 80s, though advocating for them sounds like Im saying, Ditch that car for a horse and carriage. Sure, its out of date, but the buggy whip is outstanding. Nintendos clock combos have simple action akin to the cheapest of todays iOS games, and you can get a pretty accurate feel for them in Greek & Wicked, a unique tribute to God of War.
Invented by fans for the granddaddy of Flash gaming, Newgrounds, Greek & Wicked takes the Hydra boss battle that opened up the first GoW and makes it as lo-fi as possible. The characters may be flat silhouettes, and the noise beeps n boops, but its still a faithful recreation, right down to the QTE conclusion. And just like in classic Game & Watch releases, you can beat Greek & Wicked in minutes, and are expected to repeat it endlessly until your character dies. Truly, this version of Kratos is worthy of G&Ws legacy.
The past is never dead
Thats a diverse set of tributes, including a number that are more than a little official, but am I missing any? Drop some links in the comments, because Im always ready for another dose of faux nostalgia.
Looking for more remakes? Check out 14 games that need to be remade on PS4 and Xbox One and 7 remakes in need of a remake.