1. The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
Is it possible for a remade game to achieve perfection? The 2009 special edition of 1990’s The Secret of Monkey Island makes a persuasive argument.
Of course, Monkey Island is an ideal candidate; a heavily scripted point and click adventure with a series of static screens and rudimentary character animation. But let’s not take anything away from the achievement.
Already regarded as a classic, the 2009 version does more than simply polish here and resize there. It’s a recreation of the original that retains everything that worked and sumptuously updates everything that has stopped working.
All the bits that “wake the dreamer”, like the original’s 256 colour palette and 8 bit audio, have been replaced. Hand drawn illustrations, a remastered soundtrack and freshly recorded voicework take their stead.
The Secret of Monkey Island frequently features in reviewers lists of all-time favourite games for its zany humour, balanced gameplay and compelling storyline. The Special Edition, which is available on almost every platform there is, ensures that it will stay there.
2. Doom 3
To be pedantic, 2004’s Doom 3 was a reboot rather than a remake. One that many critics thought failed to live up to the hype. How could it? The original, 20 year old Doom was a revolution for First Person Shooters. To match the innovation of its source material, Doom 3 would have needed to laser project Cacodemons directly onto the retinae of its players.
But, here’s the rub. Doom 3 is now nearly 10 years old and it retains all the claustrophobia, creepiness and chaos you remember from Doom while, quite frankly, looking awesome - especially in the recently released BFG edition for PC, which tweaks lighting, sound and textures for modern systems.
Some critics moaned about the corridor battles and jump scares; the moments of panic where a once unoccupied room would crackle into darkness and spit hostile NPCs at you. Well, duh - so did the original. It’s Doom. That’s the fricking point.
3. Legend of Grimrock
Spawned in a golden age, Dungeon Master was the Atari ST classic that combined brain taunting puzzles with brawn testing battles as you explored the bowels of a Mediaeval castle.
The ‘80s RPG and its similarly loved sequel Chaos Strikes Back boasted 3D environments, rendered in 2D. Though your four-strong party’s movements were restricted to 90 degree turns on a step by step grid, you never felt less than completely immersed in a world where animated skeletons, poisonous fungi and murderous mummies could be hiding around any corner.
2012’s Legend of Grimrock for Mac and PC owes everything to Dungeon Master. Though the level design is different, the gameplay is re-crafted from the bottom of its boots to the top of its helmet. There’s one key difference; though the grid is retained, Grimrock’s environments and monsters are 3D.
Torturously hard, even on medium - but rewarding you with nostalgic warmth in every level - Grimrock is how remakes should be. A little bit of homage and a lot of innovation. And if you really want to play Dungeon Master again, you can do that with an add-on mod.
4. Tomb Raider Anniversary
Tomb Raider was ambitious back in 1996, with its cavernous arenas, nascent use of polygonal 3D and Lara Croft’s pointy assets. There’s more emphasis on puzzle solving and exploration than you might remember, probably because you were hypnotised by the aforementioned pointiness. As for shooting stuff, though Lara has since euthanised species across seven continents, there wasn’t as much of that in the original game. It was better for it.
A grand total of nine other entries have been made since, but only two are genuinely worth revisiting - 2013’s recent full reboot Tomb Raider and 2007’s Tomb Raider: Anniversary.
A near complete remake, with a new engine and enhanced mechanics (developed for the seventh game in the series, Tomb Raider Legend), it somehow clones the memory you have of playing the original.
Every location is present, but there’s more to explore, with environments you can shimmy around and ropes and poles to climb. And, of course, Lara is a little more rounded as a character - both physically and intellectually.
5. Elite: Dangerous
I make no apology for including a game that’s still in development. Though experience tells us that high levels of expectation are often mashed into a stinky paste of disappointment, this is Elite we’re talking about. This is the unsurpassed, open world space exploration game that made it compulsory to own a home computer in the 1980s.
It did 3D space flight simulation, trading, combat and near-infinite world exploration - all in 49 KB . It was GTA III a full 17 years before GTA III. In space.
After many years of muttering, grumbling and licensing spats between the game’s original authors, Elite is coming back on the PC. Crowd Funded on Kickstarter, Elite: Dangerous is set for release on March 2014.
Marketed as a sequel, initial video peeks depict a 21st century version of Elite. The attention to detail and real world physics that made the original such a compulsive playing experience are now enhanced by a graphical realism undreamt of in 1984. If you really can’t wait, you can join the alpha program and start playing now. It’ll only cost you £200 (RM1072).
6. GoldenEye 007: Reloaded
1997’s Nintendo 64 shooter GoldenEye 007 was lauded for just about every element, from gameplay to graphics. Not bad for a movie tie-in to a then tired franchise.
When craggy Daniel Craig stepped in to reboot Bond, GoldenEye 007 got a makeover too - first for the Wii, then a 2011 release on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Using Craig’s likeness and voice, the new GoldenEye was a streamlined remake with tweaked dynamics and simplified gameplay. But you can’t make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse and the underlying design was a solid foundation to build on.
7. Black Mesa
What do true fans do when they get fed up of waiting for Half-Life 3? Remake the original Half-Life, that’s what.
Black Mesa is a do-over of the seminal, narrative soaked shooter using Valve’s Source engine. Made as a total conversion of Half-Life 2 for PC, it’s entirely free, made with love and kisses by a team of volunteers who are still overhauling every pixel of the original. You can download the first release now and a more polished, second release on Steam is due soon.
8. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
One of Microsoft’s earlier forays into gaming, Halo: Combat Evolved sounds like a sequel but was actually the first in the ever-popular series. A critical darling, praised for its multiplayer mode on the Xbox, it sold 5 million copies.
The anniversary edition is a slick upgrade rather than a remake, preserving the original’s gameplay in digital aspic, while a new graphics engine supports enhanced player models and turns graphical slickness up to 11. If you play one version of Halo on Xbox 360, this should be it.
More after the break...
9. Prince of Persia Classic
Like Tomb Raider, Prince of Persia begat a franchise of titles, but although the 3D “Sands of Time” trilogy had its moments, the original 2D platformer remains the most charming entry in the series.
2008, 19 years after the original’s release, saw a rebuilt 2D PoP with a 3D engine for PlayStation and Xbox, then later for iOS and Android. Prince of Persia Classic slavishly follows the level design of the original and is just as much fun as the original.
10. Another World 20th Anniversary
There are two kinds of gamer. Those who love Another World and those who are wrong. This adventure platformer has a scientists-in-peril-aliens-from-alternate-dimensions plot oddly similar to Half-Life, though it debuted several years before.
Enhanced versions were published in 2006, then again in 2013. Unlike many of the games in this list, the Anniversary editions were updates rather than remakes, with the same base code, original polygon graphics scaled up for HD, new sound and redrawn backgrounds. It looks as gorgeous now as any indie side scroller you might care to mention and the gameplay hasn’t aged a day.
11. Mushroom Kingdom Fusion
Why have one game remake when you can have a kabillion? That’s what Mushroom Kingdom Fusion is; a fan made PC game that mashes up levels and characters from a slew of favourite console franchises.
Though the core mechanic is yoinked from Super Mario World, you’ll find levels inspired by Super Bomberman, Metal Gear Solid, Mega Man, Wolfenstein, Prince of Persia and many more. You can play as Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Link and a bunch of others. It’s mental and fantastic. Oh, and though it’s a bit of nightmare to install, it’s also free.
12. Bionic Commando Rearmed
Another 2D platformer revamped, this time the SNES side scroller Bionic Commando. A total remake for the PC, most of the original gameplay is preserved, carefully matched with screenshots from the original. Though powered by contemporary code, it retains 80s styling and the quirky physics of the original.
The real irony here is that developers Grin remade the game as marketing for a total 3D reboot, released just a few months later - but while critics and fans praised Rearmed, the Bionic Commando reboot was given a sound kicking. Result? BC Rearmed got a sequel, the super-sexy reboot didn’t.
13. Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001)
Castle Wolfenstein has, arguably, been rebooted more times than any other game in the history of rebooted games. The original was a 2D, overhead stealthy action adventure where your character has to escape from the titular castle, full of naughty Nazis.
The first reboot was Wolfenstein 3D - ID’s pre-Doom FPS. The game mechanic changed with the switch to 3D and stealth gave way to blasting your way through corridors.
There have been two subsequent “sequels” - 2001’s Return to Castle Wolfenstein and 2009’s Wolfenstein, both rebooting Wolfenstein 3D with more sophisticated execution. We pick 2001’s Return over the rather pedestrian 2009 entry. Even though it’s as long in the tooth as some of the originals in our round-up, the gameplay’s superior in every way.
14. Sonic the Hedgehog 2013
We probably could have filled a similar sized list with console classics that have been ported to mobile platforms. And, one day, maybe we will. Maybe we will... But, for now, let’s acknowledge that few hit the bullseye like Sonic the Hedgehog 2013.
It’s not the first attempt to transfer Sonic to iOS and Android, but it’s the best. Never departing far from the original, the graphics are deliberately retro, optimised for mobile platforms. The music is remastered rather than recreated. The load screens use assets pilfered from Sonic 2. And yet, all this is rebuilt from scratch, running directly and smoothly on new hardware. It’s an authentic Sonic experience, on your iPad.
15. Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded
Lots of people really enjoyed 1987’s Leisure Suit Larry. By “people” I mean 14 year old boys and by “enjoyed” I mean “masturbated to”. Larry was an illustrated text adventure where you’re a 40 year old software salesman trying to get shagged by a series of objectified, pneumatic tarts in seedy locales. I could be overselling it here.
In 2013, Leisure Suit Larry was given the Monkey Island treatment, with a complete remake that swapped text navigation for a point and click UI and revamped graphics. Sticking doggedly to the original’s soiled script, the superior execution simply serves to expose all of Larry’s baked-in flaws. Still, as a bona fide slice of gaming history - and inexplicably popular - it has to be played through at least once.
16. Oddworld: New n’ Tasty
We can’t wait for the final entry in our countdown - because there are few games more likely to have you chuckling one minute then screaming into a waste paper bin the next. Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee was the PlayStation’s premiere platformer. Fun, beautifully animated and brimming with personality it’s difficult to imagine it being topped. But a 3D powered remake has been in the works now for 5 years... Screenshots and video suggest it’s a faithful update with scrummy HD looks. Expect it on pretty much every console and OS sometime next year.