The current generation of consoles has so far being a disappointment, at least in my opinion. We’ve had a selection of great games; titles like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Bayonetta 2 and Doom are incredible gaming experiences worthy of anyone’s time and money. But in general I’ve found the current generation lacking compared to the past purely because it doesn’t feel like we’re getting enough new, compelling software. We’re over three years into the life spans of both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, by this point in a generation the consoles should be at the peak of their power and success, delivering the kind of games developers promised us all right at the very beginning. At this point last generation we had already received titles like BioShock, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Gears of War, Super Mario Galaxy, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Fallout 3, Mass Effect, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Halo 3 and countless others – games that all went on to either define their console or define the entire generation as a whole. But so far this generation it feels like we’ll never reach that point. This generation isn’t becoming know for it’s amazing games and new franchises, it’s becoming infamous for the amount of remasters that are hitting store shelves.
We had a lot of “classic” PlayStation 2 games given the HD treatment and re-released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 last generation, a process which I’ve never personally being a fan of in all honesty, but these HD remasters were given to us alongside tons of compelling new software. But this trend for remastering games only seems to be becoming a greater problem. It feels like every AAA publisher is content to just remaster games we all played five years ago and re-package them for the new systems. Over the last three years we’ve seen he likes of Batman: Return to Arkham, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition, Darksiders: Warmastered Edition, Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition, BioShock Collection, Metro: Redux, Final Fantasy X/X2 HD Remaster, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, DmC: Definitive Edition, God of War III Remastered, The Last of Us Remastered, Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection and the list goes on and on. I work in video game retail and I’ve lost count of just how many last-gen remasters the PS4 and Xbox One have received. And it’s a trend that is only going to continue. If the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition is anything to go by I fully expect even more old games held to ransom in ridiculously priced packages with new releases.
It’s getting out of control, and the worst part about seeing all these remasters is that they are all blatantly quick cash grabs. Publishers know they can get away with it as they know people will buy them. I’m not quite sure what’s worse, the fact that publishers willingly try and resell us games we all bought five years ago, the fact that they have to because they clearly have no compelling software in production or the fact that people keep buying them.
With that being said, I’m not entirely against remastering old games; I just think the honour should be reserved for games past a certain age, or games that truly deserve it because they were overlooked back in the day despite their obvious qualities. So what follows is me talking a little about 20 games I feel deserve to be remastered. I don’t honestly expect any of these will come true, even if a few of the entries make perfect sense, but they deserve it none the less.
ActRaiser remains to this day, twenty-five years after its original release, one of the most unique games ever made. It was so unique, in fact, that even its direct sequel bore very little similarities. ActRaiser is a hybrid of two genres so foreign to one another you’d think it’d be impossible to bring them together, let alone so effortlessly. Developed by Quintet, a company which also makes an other appearance later in this list, ActRaiser is one part side-scrolling action, another part city building simulation. Neither element is as deep as games dedicated to those specific game play styles; its action stages are no Castlevania, and the simulation sections fall short of rivaling SimCity, for instance. But the mixture of these two contrasting styles works incredibly well. It also has a touch of Populous to it as well, as you actually play as a God, whose job it is to bring life back to the land you rule over and also create order for its many inhabitants. It’s not a particularly long game, I finished it on my first play through in only nine hours, but ActRaiser is one of those games that once you start playing you’ll not want to stop. It’s also a game you’ll find yourself wanting to go back and play multiple times. It’s a short but sweet experience. It’s also one of my all-time favourite Super Nintendo games, and considering there’s still nothing else quite like it today that makes the game all the more fascinating.
It’s incredible what developers managed to get out of the PlayStation 2 late in its commercial life span. A lot of early PS2 games were so ugly I remember thinking the Dreamcast games I was playing at the time were far prettier, despite the clear technological advantage of the PS2 compared to Sega’s little white box. But by 2005 or 2006 devs were hitting the pinnacle of what the PlayStation 2 could achieve, visuals of a quality the Dreamcast could only imagine. Black was released during this period, and it shows. Visually few, if any, PS2 games look quite as impressive as Black. But great visuals aren’t important without solid game play to back them up. Thankfully Black delivered. Created by Criterion, who at the time was riding high off the success of its Burnout games, it was the studios first attempt at a first-person shooter. This does show at times, as the game only has a handful of levels and the design isn’t always up to par with what PC gamers expected from the genre back in 2006, but when it was at its best Black was just as enjoyable as any other game of the kind. While it didn’t have many levels the ones it had were huge with plenty of objectives, both essential to the progression of the game and optional, to keep you entertained for hours. The game also had destructible environments, meaning you had to remain on your toes because you couldn’t hide behind the same grave stone, or the same wooden wall forever. And killing enemies felt so satisfying thanks to the great selection of weapons at your disposal. Sadly Black lacked a multiplayer mode it so desperately craved, but that’s something that can easily be rectified in a remaster. As far as first-person shooters on PS2 are concerned Black is one of the best, if not the best.
British developer Rare made many classic Nintendo 64 games, but sadly one which most people forget about is Blast Corps. It usually gets forgotten thanks to the popularity of Rare’s other N64 hits. Blast Corps gives the player one simple objective to fulfill; you have to escort a nuclear missile carrier to its destination and get it there safely, and you do this by driving your vehicles in to any building that stands in its way, destroying them to clear a path. It’s honestly that simple. Yet the game is ridiculously additive. With other Rare N64 games like Banjo-Kazooie and Perfect Dark getting remasters for the Xbox Live Arcade I think it’s only fair to see Blast Corps receive a full HD remaster.
When Yuji Naka, Naoto Ohshima and Hirokazu Yasuhara came together to create Sonic the Hedgehog, the classic Sonic Team was formed and the rest, as they say, is history. Sonic became Sega’s mascot and the biggest attraction for its successful 16-bit machine. But when the Saturn rolled around Yuji Naka and the rest of Sonic Team had little interest in making another game about a blue hedgehog. With new hardware came new challenges, and Naka wanted to create something entirely new for the Saturn. Sonic Team’s abandonment of the game that gave it its name meant the Saturn never got a true Sonic title, despite one notable effort called Sonic X-Treme that was ultimately cancelled, but the two games Yuji Naka made instead remain two of Sega’s coolest games. The first of these was NiGHTS into Dreams, an awesome arcade-inspired title that remains as difficult to categorise in to any single genre today as it did back in 1996. The next, Burning Rangers, was one of the very last games released for the Saturn outside Japan. In Burning Rangers you play as a titular “burning ranger”, a futuristic fire fighter whose job it is to enter buildings, put out fires, rescue people and fight the occasional boss that causes you some bother. The premise was simple, but thanks to some cool game play and some of the finest 3D graphics ever seen on the Saturn it quickly became a fan favourite. Unfortunately its late western release resulted in it having an extremely limited run, and it was never reprinted. Today Saturn copies have become quite collectible, and although it’s not the most expensive game for the system it can demand a decent sum. Because of this I think it’d be great to see a remaster for modern systems. It gets a ton of love from Saturn aficionados, but relatively little from anyone else. It’s such a good game that its quality alone should demand more people play it.
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs arguably deserves to be remastered more than any other game in this list. Based on the animated series of the same name (which itself was based on a comic), Cadillacs was a beat ’em up developed by Capcom which ran on an updated version of the Final Fight engine. It was released in the arcades in 1993 to acclaim, but unlike most Capcom beat ’em ups at the time it never made it to consoles, despite many expecting a SNES port. And it’s a shame, because Cadillacs and Dinosaurs is one of the finest games the genre has ever seen in my opinion. If you haven’t played it just imagine Final Fight, but with Dinosaurs and some weird, hideous dino-human hybrids. Oh yeah, and one stage sees you mowing down enemies in a Cadillac. I hope we one day eventually see an updated HD remaster on consoles, because it’s long overdue.
Psygnosis had a vision with Colony Wars; to create a space combat simulator for consoles which rivaled what we saw on computers at the time. As far as I’m concerned they most certainly delivered on that vision. Colony Wars was an amazing game, one of my personal favourite PlayStation games of all time. In my opinion it more than rivaled games like Star Wars: X-Wing (which you could argue also deserves a remaster), even if the game play isn’t quite as deep. It’s challenging, but above all else it’s incredibly fun. It still looks fantastic for a game its age too, and I still boot it up every now and then to give it a blast. Get this remastered now!
For years Nintendo neglected EarthBound fans outside of Japan. Called Mother in Japan, the series was Nintendo’s most successful RPG franchise before the introduction of the juggernaut that is Pokemon, selling hundreds of thousands of copies in Japan and cementing its reputation as one of the best RPG series around. Its popularity was also helped by the fact that Shigesato Itoi, a famous Japanese essayist, writer and TV personality was involved in the production of the series, serving as the primary writer. His story telling and witty sense of humour won over legions of Japanese fans. Mother 2, the most famous of the three Mother games, was released as EarthBound in North America in 1995, but despite a massive advertising campaign by Nintendo it languished at retail and few copies left store shelves. There are multiple reasons why, from how terrible Nintendo’s marketing actually was (seriously, check out some of the ads) to the fact that it was released in a video game landscape before Final Fantasy VII came along and thrust JRPGs in to the mainstream. The game did build a small but dedicated fan community, which advocated for the series to be recognized by Nintendo outside of its home land. In 2013 fans finally received their wish, as EarthBound was ported to the Wii U Virtual Console, followed by its predecessor in 2015. But I still hold out hope that we’ll one day see a complete remaster of the SNES classic.
Occasionally you will run across a game of which its importance has been greatly overstated. Herzog Zwei isn’t one of those games. Developed by the incredible Technosoft, more famous for its Thunder Force series of shoot ’em ups, Herzog Zwei was released for the Mega Drive in 1989 but flew under the radar for most. It received substantial praise from European gaming publications, but it was the recipient of some harsh criticism from American publications (most of which were baffled by it and simply didn’t quite understand what they were in fact playing). Truthfully though, Herzog Zwei is one of the most influential video games of all time. It was the game that created the real-time strategy genre, an honour that is generally given to Westwood Studio’s brilliant Amiga title Dune II: Battle for Arrakis. But Dune II was released in 1992, nearly three whole years after Herzog Zwei. Many of the designers of Dune II acknowledged Herzog Zwei as their biggest influence. It’s certainly primitive by modern standards, but all the most important game play features of the genre were introduced here. It was also name checked by the designers of Company of Heroes as a huge influence, as well as the designers at Blizzard who created Warcraft and Starcraft. Subsequently Herzog Zwei’s game play innovations were the precursor to modern MOBA games. It’s a shame that very few today know about the game, and that alone is enough to justify a remaster.
Panzer Dragoon Saga
Panzer Dragoon Saga was one of the original infamous expensive video games. It wasn’t uncommon to see Saga demanding prices of £150 sixteen years ago; today it seems to sell for between £250 and £350. Normally when a game commands such a steep asking price it isn’t justified. Resellers have driven the price of retro games sky high over the last several years, and some games, for certain systems, that aren’t even rare in the slightest are now commanding hefty prices. A game like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the SNES, as an example, can now fetch £90 for a complete copy, way more than it should. It was one of the best selling games on the console, there’s no reason it should be more than £30. But Panzer Dragoon Saga has always been expensive because it has always being in limited supply. Even back in 1998, when it was brand new and Sega brought it to the west, they only shipped 20,000 copies outside Japan. That’s 20,000 copies for Europe, mainland Asia, North and South America. If you break those numbers down about 12,000 copies made it to North America, 6,000 to Europe and the last 2,000 were shared out everywhere else. Panzer Dragoon Saga wasn’t the only late-life Saturn game to have a limited western release, as Sega was winding down Saturn production in preparation for the launch of the Dreamcast. I’ve already discussed Burning Rangers, but the last Saturn game released in North America, Magic Knight Rayearth, suffered the same fate (it was also never released in Europe). But Panzer Dragoon Saga is still to this day one of the most unique RPG experiences of the era. It’s nothing short of incredible how Team Andromeda managed to take the core Panzer Dragoon on-rails shooter game play and blend it together with role-playing elements so effortlessly. Panzer Dragoon Saga is such a monumental effort it’s a crying shame so few have had the chance to play it. A remaster would do wonders for its reputation and would bring the magic to a whole new generation of RPG fanatics, but the fact that Sega no longer has the original source code means it’ll probably never happen.
Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
Sega’s Phantasy Star series was one of the finest JRPG series of the 16-bit era. Phantasy Star bucked the trend of most JRPGs of its day by swapping out the old, medieval fantasy settings in favour of futuristic science fiction. The series sees the player traveling through the Algol Star System, visiting the numerous planets with the goal to stop the evil Dark Force. Phantasy Star IV is the best in the series, taking what was great about the previous titles but streamlining the experience. For instance, the game moves at a far quicker pace, meaning battles are short but sweet experiences full of visual flair and neat new tricks. Arguably the most important new feature which streamlined combat was the Macro system, in which you could save pre-scripted combat commands and have your squad use them in battle to cut down on the time it usually took to input commands to every character. It doesn’t sound like much, but it went a long way to improving a series which was always of high quality. You could also pull off combination attacks in battle, which were triggered if you met the required prerequisite (usually using certain attacks with different characters in the same battle phase). The reason why I’d love to see Phantasy Star IV remastered so much is because the original Phantasy Star, as well as Phantasy Star II, have already received remasters for the PlayStation 2 in Japan. Phantasy Star IV was planned, but ultimately cancelled. I’d love to see Sega go back and give it the treatment it deserves.
Policenauts deserves a remaster because it is the forgotten Kojima baby. Despite being hugely successful in Japan Policenauts has never had an official English release, making it the only Hideo Kojima game that has never been officially released in English. This hasn’t stopped a fan-translated English version leaking on to the internet, and only recently was the definitive Sega Saturn version translated in to English too. But I want to see Konami give the game the respect it deserves. This is never going to happen considering modern Konami’s hatred for video games and the people who play them, but I can still hope. The only thing going against Policenauts and my hope of seeing a remaster is possible legal issues. The main characters in the game, Jonathan Ingram and Ed Brown, are carbon copies of Riggs and Murtagh from Lethal Weapon, which isn’t really surprising considering Hideo Kojima always make references to his favourite films in his games, but none are as blatantly obvious as this. Still, fingers crossed.
When I was discussing writing this list with my friend he suggested including Road Rash and I honestly couldn’t think of any reason not to. Road Rash was a classic vehicular combat racing series by EA which was one of the biggest success stories on the Mega Drive, especially here in the UK. You rode a motorbike down roads in illegal races, all the while attacking the other racers with your fists or weapons while avoiding the police. In between races you could spend your earnings on upgrading your vehicle to make winning races easier. It was simple, but effective. It’s a style of racing game you don’t really see anymore. I’d love to see EA give the 3DO version specifically a remaster.
Samurai Shodown II
Samurai Shodown II is the finest game ever made by SNK and one of the greatest games ever made, of any kind, on any platform. It is honestly that good. SNK didn’t put a foot wrong with this one, a masterpiece of 2D fighting that in my opinion stands toe to toe with Street Fighter II, and even betters it in some regards. It lacks the depth of later games in the series, but for sheer accessibility and versatility nothing else comes close. It still looks incredible 22 years after it first launched as well, a testament to the hardware that it originally ran on, and remains one of the most finely balanced fighting games in history. SNK’s Neo Geo platform received some incredible games, many of which were 2D fighters (the Neo Geo AES console is a fighting game beast), but none of them quite compare to Samurai Shodown II. I can’t even begin to describe how much I’d love to see this remastered.
You can’t think or talk about the Dreamcast without Shenmue coming to mind. It’s impossible. If any one game was ever so synonymous with a console, Sega’s revenge epic is that game. Not that it was a big seller. Shenmue sold so few copies that Sega lost tens of millions of dollars on the project. But everyone knows that Shenmue was a Dreamcast game, and everyone knows it was touted as the system’s “killer app”. Sonic Adventure may be the best selling Dreamcast game, but it is Shenmue that most people have the fondest memories of. I’m not going to get in to how groundbreaking and influential Shenmue was, otherwise I’d be typing this all day. And it has been talked about to death by now, so I’d only be repeating what someone else has already said before. With the announcement of Shenmue III in 2015, and the reaction it generated from both the industry and gamers alike, it’d be extremely wise for Sega to capitalize on this and remaster both Dreamcast games for the PS4 and PC. This is one of the entries I talked about at the beginning that actually makes sense to remaster. In fact, I’d be more surprised if Sega didn’t do something with them.
Star Control II
Would you believe me if I told you that Toys for Bob, the developer of Skylanders, used to make epic games about traveling across the galaxy, saving its many inhabitants from an evil, intergalactic group of aliens? Well that’s precisely what it made with Star Control II, a title widely regarded to be one of the best PC games ever made. In Star Control II you play as a human who has to defend mankind from extermination by the evil Ur-Quan. To do so you have to travel the galaxy, mining resources to upgrade your space ship so that you can travel to distant planets to forge alliances with alien races, all the while trying to fend off constant attacks from the Ur-Quan and its empire of space races. If this sounds like Mass Effect, that’s probably because Star Control II was a massive influence on BioWare’s RPG trilogy. Technically a remaster of Star Control II already exists, a fan made remaster called The Ur-Quan Masters, which uses the open source code of the 3DO version of the game. But I’d love to see Activision allow Toys for Bob to give it a true make over.
Streets of Rage II
It’s difficult for me to talk about Streets of Rage II without sounding like a complete fanboy. Streets of Rage II is, hands down, the greatest beat ’em up game I’ve ever played. I’m a huge fan of the genre, and I’ve played pretty much every classic beat ’em up you could think of. But Streets of Rage II is head and shoulders above everything else. I’d like to see Sega give Streets of Rage II the same treatment Capcom gave Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, just redraw the sprites and backgrounds faithfully to the original, stick it in 1080p at 60fps and I’ll be one happy chap. Streets of Rage II is one of the few games that I can honestly say, by the standards of its genre, is essentially perfect, so just giving it a new coat of paint is all that would be necessary.
Until January 2015, when Konami ported the first two Suikoden games to the PS3 and Vita, it seemed as if the company had forgotten about its many Suikoden fans in the west. The series was never a huge seller outside Japan, but it sold decently enough in the west to justify Konami not to forget about the fans. Thankfully Suikoden II is now widely available for anyone to play without forking out a small fortune for an original PlayStation copy, but I would love Konami to go one step further and give it the HD remaster it honestly deserves. Suikoden II is regarded as a classic JRPG, one of the very best, so that in itself is more than enough reason to give it some love. There isn’t many other games outside of the series that offers an experience quite like Suikoden II.
Terranigma was a rare breed of SNES RPG. Not that it is unique in any way, because it isn’t. Terranigma is an action RPG in the mould of Secret of Mana, or its immediate predecessor Illusion of Gaia (which was renamed Illusion of Time in PAL territories). Terranigma was a rare breed of SNES RPG for no other reason than it was released in Europe and it wasn’t released in North America. Anyone with any knowledge of SNES RPGs will know that it was always the other way around, with titles like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger making it to North America but skipping Europe entirely. So from an historical perspective Terranigma was an interesting release. It’s also one of the finest action RPGs ever made, and that helps as well. Terranigma is a game of incredibly high quality. Developed by Quintet, the lead designer, Tomoyoshi Miyazaki, was already an established and respected creator of action RPGs. He previously developed Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia for the SNES, and earlier in his career worked for Nihon Falcom, being involved in the development of several Dragon Slayer games as well as been a co-creator of its Ys series. His pedigree in the genre is unquestionable, but Terranigma may very well remain his finest achievement. It’s such a shame we’ll probably never see it again. Even a port to the Virtual Console seems an impossibility. Still, that doesn’t diminish its stature, and it still very much would be deserving of a modern remaster.
The Witcher was only released a few years back, in 2007, so normally it wouldn’t qualify for this list because it is still relatively new. But I think CD Projeck RED could get away with a remaster of this for two reasons. Firstly, The Witcher was never the most polished game, either visually or mechanically, so remastering it on the REDengine 3 would be acceptable. And secondly, the Polish studio could also get away with it because The Witcher, unlike its two sequels, has never left the PC. A port of the Enhanced Edition was planned to come to the Xbox 360 under the title The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf, and CD Projekt RED even hired a studio to develop the port, but it ultimately never happened thanks to a payment dispute. So yes, I’d love to see this happen, and with the overwhelming popularity of The Witcher 3 now is the perfect time.
I feel a little sorry for Wild Arms. Initially released in 1996 it was one of the earliest RPGs for the original PlayStation and many, myself included, still rank it as one of the best the system has to offer. But it had a somewhat unfortunately time frame of release in the west. It launched in North America in mid-1997, right in the middle of Sony’s huge marketing blitz for Final Fantasy VII. The hype surrounding Square’s soon to be released masterpiece certainly helped Wild Arms out initially, because PlayStation RPG fans that simply couldn’t wait for Final Fantasy VII for their fix bought Wild Arms just so they had something to sink their teeth in to. But the impending release of Final Fantasy VII hung over Wild Arms like a dark cloud, and after a while its momentum slowed and it was eventually swept away by the storm that surrounded Square’s much-anticipated epic. In Europe it didn’t fare any better, as it was released in the region in 1998, after the successful Final Fantasy VII launch and by that time it never stood a chance. It’s a shame, because Wild Arms is an excellent RPG that more than stands its ground against any competition in terms of quality. It’s widely available on the PSN for anyone who wants to give it a go, and original PlayStation copies are still relatively cheap, but I’d love to see it remastered.
Posted by: James