Are These Video Game Remasters Really Worth Buying Again?

·11 min read

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Nostalgia is a real money maker. It seems as though there might be more remakes, reboots and remastered versions of TV shows, movies, and video games than fresh new content — and in some cases, it’s hard not to wonder who asked for this? At worst, this trend is a half-hearted cheap shot at raking in “nostalgia bucks” from people who are stuck on their interests from a simpler time. In some cases, the source material was too ahead of its time and it deserves another shot at success. 
When it comes to video games, many of the most popular (or infamous) remasters fall on one of these extremes. Some titles were wasted on the graphics capabilities of archaic consoles, just lying in wait for the day that we had the technology to do them justice. Others were bad enough to mar the legacy of their popular namesakes, some even bordering on completely unplayable. 
Check out some of the best and worst video game remasters of all time.

The Best Video Game Remasters

Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition (2020, PC)

Age of Empires II_ Definitive Edition
Credit: Microsoft

Based on: Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings (1999, PC)
Deal Frequency: At full price, this game costs $19.99. Despite its relatively recent release, Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition has already gone on sale four times. The best deal was during Steam’s Winter Sale, where it cost $14.99.

Why it works: To celebrate the 20th anniversary of real-time strategy classic Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, Forgotten Empires released a 4K remastered version of the original game, along with its three DLC expansions and four completely new campaigns. On top of improved UI and crisp graphics, longtime fans were overjoyed to finally receive a working multiplayer mode — and it sounds like a co-op mode is in the works right now.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (2019, Nintendo Switch)

The Legend of Zelda_ Link's Awakening
Credit: Nintendo

Based on: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (1993, Game Boy)

Deal Frequency: Like most major Nintendo Switch titles, this Legend of Zelda remake costs $59.99 at full price. Link’s Awakening hit its historic lowest price of $30 during last year’s Black Friday sale at Walmart. Deals had been few and far between until that point, but it’s been pretty easy to find a discount to the tune of $10 off since the beginning of 2021.

Why it works: As improbable as it sounds, the Switch reboot of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening managed to capture the spirit and cleverness of the 1993 Game Boy version while harnessing the full potential of the vastly more powerful Switch console. 
Link and his environment may have been reimagined in vibrant 3D, but the remake retains the retro angled-down perspective and side-scrolling sequences of the original. Most of the game is true to its predecessor, aside from the creative addition of your own personal “dungeon builder.”

Resident Evil 2 (2019, Cross-Platform)

Resident Evil 2
Credit: Capcom

Based on: Resident Evil 2 (1998, Cross-Platform)

Deal Frequency: Multi-platform gamers may have a better chance of finding a good deal, as this game is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC (and costs $39.99 on each platform). Steam users can expect a new 50% to 60% discount every couple of months, while Xbox One and PlayStation 4 players get slightly better deals a couple of times a year. The record low price for each platform falls around $14.99.

Why it works: There hasn’t been much quality control when it comes to Capcom’s series of Resident Evil remakes, but the company was right on the money when they devised Resident Evil 2. Rather than attempting to remaster the endearingly low-poly original, Resident Evil 2 has been rebuilt from the ground up in haunting 4K detail. Building off of popular changes made in Resident Evil 4, Capcom made some quality-of-life adjustments such as “over the shoulder” aiming and improved loading times.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition (2016, Cross-Platform)

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The Elder Scrolls
Credit: Bethesda Game Studios

Based on: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011, Cross-Platform)

Deal Frequency: Sale patterns are rather erratic with this popular Skyrim remake, but you shouldn’t need to wait long to find a decent to incredible deal. The record lowest price is likely this mysterious $5 YMMV deal spotted by Slickdealer Switchblades at a local Walmart. That is probably not going to happen very often, but you can pick up Skyrim: Special Edition for $10 to $15 during major shopping holidays.

Why it works: As any beleaguered collector would tell you, Skyrim has been ported to everywhere but the kitchen sink. What makes this specific remastered version better? First, the game was briefly free for anyone who already owned the original — a sign of goodwill and “We promise we aren’t just trying to shake you down” on Bethesda’s part. Beyond that, the Special Edition has significantly improved visuals, with breathtaking light and shadow mechanics and textures. PC players especially lucked out, as this is the only 64-bit iteration of Skyrim available.

The Last of Us Remastered (2014, PlayStation 4)

The Last of Us Remastered (2014, PlayStation 4)
Credit: Sony

Based on: The Last of Us (2013, PlayStation 3)

Deal Frequency: Since it was released in 2019, the remastered version of The Last of Us has gone on sale for around $10 every six months — 50% off the list price of $19.99. Smaller deals may pop up in the interim, but you are most likely to find this discount in the early summer and right before Christmas.

Why it works: Compared to the above “total overhaul” remakes listed above, The Last of Us Remastered was not trying to reinvent the wheel. In fact, the remastered edition only came out one year after the original! The major jump in resolution and framerate between the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 is what sets the Remastered version apart from its inspiration — Naughty Dog sought to improve upon its new and popular game while the iron was still hot.

Shadow of the Colossus (2018, PlayStation 4)

Credit: Sony

Based on: Shadow of the Colossus (2005, PlayStation 2)

Deal Frequency: It has become increasingly difficult to find this popular but slightly older remake in retail stores, but it goes on sale fairly often at the PlayStation Store. Shadow of the Colossus normally costs $19.99, but it has gone on sale for $10 to $13 every couple of months since late 2020.

Why it works: Compared to countless PlayStation 2 games from the same genre and era, the visuals from Shadow of the Colossus have aged better than most. Why not expand upon that and make these beasts look as achingly beautiful yet formidable as possible using today’s technology? Bluepoint Games chose to retain the same story and designs as the original and focused its energy on rebuilding the graphics and control system from the ground up.

The Worst Video Game Remasters

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2003, Cross-Platform)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Credit: Electronic Arts

Based on: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001, Cross-Platform)

Deal Frequency: If you want to spend your hard-earned money on this game, that’s your business… but don’t expect to pay less than MSRP. This game is long out of print, so you’ll need to try your luck on the resale market if you want to get a good deal. Used, in-box prices have steadily risen over the last year, but you can get a loose disc for around $30.

Why it doesn’t work: The original version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is remembered fondly in spite of its clunky graphics and bizarre voice acting, but the same can’t be said about this inexplicable remake for the next generation of consoles. The game was not improved upon in any way, and was objectively made worse — the puzzles were nearly impossible to beat, the controls were inscrutable and multiple maps were yanked straight out of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which came out just one year prior.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D (2015, Nintendo 3DS)

The Legend of Zelda_ Majora's Mask 3D
Credit: Nintendo

Based on: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000, Nintendo 64)

Deal Frequency: This title may have been a dud compared to the inimitable original version of Majora’s Mask, but it has not been spared by the surging price of 3DS games. You can get a $19.99 digital download from the Nintendo eShop whenever you’d like, but used physical copies start right around the same price and new ones have been spotted for as much as $33.

Why it doesn’t work: Amidst a sea of “fine” to “extraordinary” Legend of Zelda remakes lies the sole failure — the 3DS remake of Majora’s Mask, one of the most widely acclaimed Nintendo 64 titles of all time. Bosses were substantially nerfed, many hard-won Easter eggs such as Shiro’s Stone Mask were changed or removed and what was once refreshingly challenging got downgraded to tedious and difficult or mindless and simple.

Silent Hill HD Collection (2012, Cross-Platform)

Silent Hill HD Collection (2012, Cross-Platform)
Credit: Konami

Based on: Silent Hill 2 (2001, PlayStation 2) and Silent Hill 3 (2003, PlayStation 2)

Deal Frequency: Thanks to the unfortunate reputation surrounding Silent Hill HD Collection, you shouldn’t have any problems finding a discounted copy. You can find used and third-party copies for approximately $25, a solid $15 less than the $39.99 MSRP. The game went on sale for $7.49 on the Xbox Marketplace about a year ago, but there haven’t been many substantial deals before or since.

Why it doesn’t work: The Silent Hill fanbase has had a rough ten years. A couple of years before the devastating cancellation of Silent Hills, another tragedy occurred — the buggy eyesore known as the “HD Collection.” The disorienting fog that defined the original games’ atmosphere was all but gone and the “new” and “improved” resolution was a poorly rendered mass upscaling of the original graphics.

SimCity (2013, PC)

SimCity (2013, PC)
Credit: Electronic Arts

Based on: SimCity (1989, Cross-Platform)

Deal Frequency: This unfortunate installment of the SimCity franchise was widely panned upon its release, so you shouldn’t pay more than $10 for it. You can frequently find a used copy for as little as $5.

Why it doesn’t work: To put it bluntly: Less than two weeks after the 2013 revival of SimCity was released, EA compensated those who bought the game with a free game on the house. The original game predated widespread home internet connections, yet the 2013 version required a constant internet connection to work. On top of that, it didn’t work — server errors were constant and some advertised features were missing or severely overstated. Even if something cool made it into the SimCity remaster, EA recommended that you turn it off so the game will run.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars (2020, Nintendo Switch)

Super Mario 3D All-Stars (2020, Nintendo Switch)
Credit: Nintendo

Based on: Super Mario 64 (1996, Nintendo 64), Super Mario Sunshine (2002, GameCube) and Super Mario Galaxy (2007, Wii)

Deal Frequency: Super Mario 3D All-Stars was priced at $59.99 during its brief lifespan in the Nintendo eShop, but Walmart was selling physical copies for $10 less in the past but those deals are done now. Because Nintendo took the game out of print, future deals are pretty unlikely.

Why it doesn’t work: Fans were concerned about Nintendo’s corporate decision-making and alleged hatred for its base of loyal fans when the company took Super Mario 3D All-Stars out of the eShop six months after it was released. The issues with the game itself aren’t what Nintendo did to it, but rather what it could have and chose not to. Even though this compilation was advertised as a snazzy mastered version of three beloved Mario platformers, it was little more than an expensive emulator of the original games.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD (2012, Cross-Platform)

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD (2012, Cross-Platform)
Credit: Activision

Based on: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (1999, Cross-Platform), Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (2000, Cross-Platform), Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (2001, Cross-Platform)

Deal Frequency: You could spring for one of many heavily marked-down copies of this lackluster Tony Hawk compilation, but your time and money would be better spent finding a good deal on the vastly superior Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 remake.

Why it doesn’t work: This game’s damage to the good name of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise has been remedied by an actually good remake, but we shouldn’t forget about what we endured to get here. Broken gravity, slow movement and sudden clipping through the floor does not evoke the feeling of freedom and style one should experience while playing a skateboarding game. Because there is no move list available, Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD is little more than a button-masher.

It’s not difficult to avoid paying full price if you know how to spot a good deal. In fact, you don’t even have to do that — just set a Deal Alert instead. We’ll let you know when the title you’re interested in goes on sale again.

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