Video game history is in danger of disappearing forever. Unlike books, television, and film, which can all easily be converted as we develop new technologies, games are proprietary pieces of software built for specific machines. If those machines are gone, so too goes the ability to play its games.
Emulation has existed for quite some time, and it’s been doing its part to keep game history alive. As a way of playing games, emulation uses software to replicate old hardware, allowing a game’s original data file to run. Emulators are usually found on computers, though companies like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo use software emulation to allow access to some of their old games on their current hardware. The problem is emulation, by definition, will never be as good as the original hardware. There will always be at least a small amount of lag. Clone systems like the Analogue Nt mini get around that by using special chips that essentially recreate an original Nintendo on a hardware level, but those systems tend to be more for the hardcore collector, not the casual fan.
To keep their history alive (and make a few more dollars in the process), many companies have taken to creating remakes of their classic games. At a minimum, this usually involves upping the resolution to 1080p, though some games are getting bumped to 4K nowadays. But some games go all out, recreating the experience from the ground up for modern consoles.
While I think it’s necessary for us to work harder to preserve game history as it existed, I’m all for a well-made remake. Here’s a look at some of the best remakes in recent history.
Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy (PlayStation 4)
Back in the 90s, game companies were all about their mascots. Nintendo had Mario, Sega had Sonic, and Sony had… Well, that was the problem. Enter Crash, a bandicoot with a zany personality. Launching for the Sony PlayStation back in 1996, Crash Bandicoot was a linear 3D platforming adventure, and it earned itself many new fans over the course of two more sequels.
Now, you can enjoy all three of Crash’s main adventures in Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy for the PlayStation 4. The graphics have been completely rebuilt from the ground up, which means you get largely the same experience playing the games, but you should find it much easier on the eyes. Let’s face it, PlayStation 1-era graphics haven’t held up as well as we’d have wanted. There’s even a rumor that we’ll be seeing the N. Sane Trilogy on Nintendo Switch in the not-too-distant future. Even though he’s no longer Sony’s mascot, Crash is still a ton of fun.
Shadow of the Colossus (PlayStation 4)
Hitting near the end of the PlayStation 2’s lifespan, Shadow of the Colossus was a powerhouse of a game. Boasting sixteen of the biggest, most incredible boss battles in the history of gaming, not to mention some of the most impressive graphics seen in a game yet, Shadow set a high bar for future games. The sense of wonder experienced upon encountering a new, towering monster, and realizing you’ve got to climb on top of it in order to bring it down, has never been fully replicated.
Well, that is, until the PlayStation 4 remake. Shadow of the Colossus has been rebuilt from the ground up for PS4, and it’s taken a game that was already renowned for its beauty and made it even more so. Gone is the slowdown that frequently indicated just how strongly the game was pushing the aging PS2 hardware. In its place is smoothness and graphical fidelity that puts it among the prettiest games ever released. Its somewhat-wonky controls (one of the few minor quibbles about the original game) have been modified a bit, and every change seems to have been for the better. It’s a masterpiece of game design and aesthetics, and it should be in every gamer’s library.
Metroid: Samus Returns (Nintendo 3DS)
Technically, this is a reimagining, but given how ancient and primitive (though still quite good) the original Gameboy game it’s based on — Metroid 2: Return of Samus — I’m willing to count it here. The original game was the follow up to Nintendo’s smash hit Metroid, and it followed heroine Samus Aran as she explored the depths of Planet SR388 to seek and destroy the remaining Metroids. The game was a bit more linear than its predecessor, and the small screen size of the Gameboy meant that its encounters were a lot more… close-quartered. Still, it was a remarkable achievement on a system like Gameboy.
With so many of its barriers removed, Metroid: Samus Returns tells the same story, but with a bit of an expanded scope. You now have more moves to make your way through SR388, including a melee counter that, while maybe used too frequently, makes the combat a lot more frenetic. The depth effect offered by the 3DS makes the caves of the Metroid homeworld seem enormous. It’s great that one of Samus’s most overlooked adventures is finally getting the attention it deserves.
There are even more great remakes out there, and new ones being planned all the time. It may not be the purest way to experience the past, but it definitely makes old content feel fresh.