The idea of a game remake is nothing new. The industry was experiencing game remakes as early as the GameCube remake of Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. However, the idea of a full-on remake of a classic and revered title has officially become en vogue.
Some would argue different theories about where this revolution occurred, but ever since the release of Capcom’s remake of its seminal classic Resident Evil 2, similar efforts have seemingly been popping up everywhere. To be clear, remasters are not the same thing. Remasters typically update visuals and framerate to be a little more in line with modern standards, whereas remakes completely reinvent the game from the ground-up to be almost new.
Capcom’s remake of Resident Evil 2 was a landmark moment for the gaming industry as it showed that if done well and with the proper care and appreciation for the original release, gamers would appear in droves for it. Since then, we have gotten a full-on remake of Demon’s Souls for the PS5 along with the promise of remakes for The Last of Us, Dead Space, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp, System Shock, and now Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. The remake bug has bitten the games industry and while I am excited for many of these games, there is a worrying nag in the back of my brain that this remake revolution is going to end up churning out some rather mediocre products at some point. Either we will start seeing an oversaturation of remakes with a decline in quality or we will start getting remakes of games that weren’t even acclaimed or cult classics. It’s a trend that I could see de-railing rather quickly much like it did in the film industry during the 2010s, and in fact, continues to do to this day.
Again, it’s difficult to be pessimistic about a lot of these remakes as I am quite excited to see how many of these development teams take existing classics and add to them to make them fresh and exciting experiences for modern audiences. However, it is troubling to see the games being picked for remakes. Many of them are games not even really in need of remakes when a simple remaster would do for them just fine. Take The Last of Us: Naughty Dog’s incredible work of art was released in 2013 with a solid remaster in 2014 for PS4 to bring it up to modern standards. Now, only 8 years after its original release, the game is being entirely remade? Seems like an odd decision, but if Sony and Naughty Dog really think this is worth pouring money and resources into then more power to them.
Remakes have the ability to breathe new life in to a game or franchise. Resident Evil 2 not only was an amazing remake of an already amazing game, but it, along with Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, have single-handedly breathed new life into the franchise. Not only is Resident Evil back at the top of its game, but its back in the gaming zeitgeist, no longer being memed, and is producing some of its best work. Ever.
Ultimately, now more than ever before, I see the tightrope walk this industry is undertaking with remakes. As has been noted over the years, there is a cycle to success. There is the initial explosion of success, the rise of copycats, the oversaturation, the disinterest, and finally the downfall. I foresee us being inundated with remake after remake during the next decade, and my only hope is that at the end of it all, we got more quality than quantity.