Over the past few years we’ve seen tons of film franchise reboots and remakes — Jay & Silent Bob, Ghostbusters, Terminator, Transformers, Evil Dead and now The Matrix. Some of those have been good and some not so good. We’re seeing the same thing happen in games but in a different way.
In film, these reboots bring back certain aspects of a familiar story, world or characters. We may see a character’s origin story. We may get a sequel set many years in the future. Other times we get to see the same exact story but created today with new actors.
In the gaming industry we’ve seen many games return to new platforms. However, there are three main ways that they return — Remakes, Remasters and Re-releases.
What’s the Difference?
Let’s begin with the differences in these three types of “video game reboots.” The information below is what I understand to be the definition of each of these terms when it comes to games.
The Remake – Final Fantasy VII Remake
The remake is a re-creation of the original game from scratch. This is sort of like adapting a book to a movie, but word for word — maybe more like a comic to a movie.
When creating a remake the developer creates brand new assets, code and everything all over to build a brand new version of the original title, but updated with today’s technology. The game will usually look and feel like a present day version of the original. Remakes can feel totally different while also feeling very familiar.
The Remaster – The Last of Us Remastered
The remaster is a slightly updated version of the original title. Any time a tenant moves out of a rental property (and wants their deposit back) they touch up the paint and get rid of any holes or marks on the walls. This is how remasters are made.
A remaster is basically touching up the original title with some HD textures and features. Developers work to make the game look a little better so it doesn’t look old. The controls may still feel a bit outdated, since not too much is done to update the gameplay and mechanics.
The Re-release – Super Mario 3D Collection
A re-release is most often an untouched port of the original title to a new platform. This is like when people used to record their favorite TV shows onto a VHS tape using a VCR. Sure, you’re going to get all of the commercials, but now you can watch it whenever you’d like, however you’d like.
The re-release is when an older title is released on a newer platform, with no extra work being done. Maybe on the same platform. The game is basically ported to the newer console, some DLC or new content may be added.
Why so many Remakes, Remasters & Re-releases?
So, who are all of these games for? Are these games being brought back for nostalgic gamers or are they trying to build a new fan base? It’s a bit of both.
Just as DVDs and Blu-Rays are always getting collector’s editions every few years. Anniversary editions could be for those gamers that first played the game at its initial release. Now they’re able to experience it on their latest platform, possibly updated.
There’s also games being brought back to build a larger fan base. This is usually done when a new entry to the franchise is on the way. The Last of Us Remastered was created to get PS4 users hyped for a game they might have missed. It also was good to remind PS3 owners how great The Last of Us was. Although The Last of Us Part II came out many years later, it could have also been used to build early hype for the sequel.
I played the original The Last of Us remastered edition on my PlayStation 4. I replayed it before the release of Part II, and I even pre-ordered a collector’s edition of The Last of Us Part II.
When Uncharted 4 was on it’s way Naughty Dog created The Nathan Drake Collection, featuring the first three games. Being an Xbox 360 owner before buying a PS4 I had missed out on the entire Uncharted franchise thus far. This collection allowed me to get up to speed on the epic Nathan Drake saga before jumping into Uncharted 4.
It’s fun to be able to go back and play old games you may have missed. It’s especially fun when you get to play the updated version years later. Sometimes it’s fun to wait for a Game of the Year edition for games that may add multiple DLC and new content updates after release.
I do believe that we have maybe seen too many remakes, remasters and re-releases. Even just re-releasing an older game takes a lot of time and work. Perhaps if these were a rarer occurrence they’d be more exciting.
Final Fantasy VII Remake was definitely one of the most exciting remakes. People had been waiting for it for years and years. The game was so old that it played completely different than the new version. I have three or more friends that were still calling the original Final Fantasy VII their favorite game of all time, over 20 years later.
I know both the film industry and video game industry are going to continue rebooting and re-creating their old IP. I just hope that they know that brand new stories are also great, probably even better. Sure, I’m excited to get new Star Wars and Marvel content every few months, but I’m happy because it is “new” stories that continue to build upon this great big world.
The latest new trend, with the jump to the next generation (PlayStation 5 & Xbox Series X|S), is the Director’s Cut. Although we’ve only seen it on PlayStation 5 so far (Death Stranding and Ghost of Tsushima), these are relatively new games. Updating late generation games to the next gen is important, especially with the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers on the new PlayStation 5 DualSense controller.
We’ve also seen tons of visual updates to last gen games and that’s important too. There are way too many games to play and if you can it’s always better to play even these older games on your new platform. No one wants to keep all of their old consoles plugged in just in case they need to go back and play an old game.