Opinion: The Problem With Game Remakes

The recent trend of game remakes has proven to be both good and bad for the industry, here's why

An aspect about gaming that I think a lot of people often fail to realize is that gaming is still a relatively new medium. A medium still in its teenage years, slowly evolving and maturing into something more profound than itself. A new breakthrough is reached nearly every year in the industry, whether it be in tech, realism, storytelling or gameplay. Games are evolving and evolving fast, increasing massively in budget and scale compared to what we used to have before.

The question that remains then, is one that some are often left wondering, “Will the game I make today be as fondly remembered 10 years later as it is today?”. The answer to that question leads to the crux of this entire conversation, and that answer is, supposedly, remakes. 

The purpose of remakes is a simple one, the idea is to take an antiquated piece of media and use it as a base to recreate it in a form that caters to modern sensibilities while preserving the soul of the original classic. The idea of remakes is something that has been widespread in media for decades, whether it be in songs, movies or more related to the topic at hand, video games.

CAPCOM’s seminal remake of the beloved PS1 classic “Resident Evil 2”. Despite its few flaws Resident Evil 2 Remake was still a phenomenal and intense horror experience that lived up to the original’s legacy.

It is, in many ways, a great way to present old classics to an entirely new audience of gamers who are going to be experiencing said classic for the first time and see it in the form that still wholly aligns with the intent of the original creators. 

This might lead you, the reader, to be confused. For you clicked on this article wondering what’s the issue with these remakes, only for some yokel to explain to you what their merit is. Well, just like every good thing in life, it comes with a catch. And I think the problem with remakes is two-fold, a lack of preservation of the classics and a lack of originality. Before getting to the meat of the argument however, we should ask ourselves an interesting question.

What maketh a good remake?

Yakuza Kiwami by RGG Studios

Before delving into the problems I have with many remakes. I think its fair to mention what qualifies as a good remake and what separates a good remake from a great one, at least according to me personally. I think, a good remake is something like the Shadow of The Colossus remake, faithful recreations of an old classic that people have fond memories of. A PS2 masterpiece now in glorious PS4 visuals with much better performance.

A remake like Shadow of The Colossus takes an old game and essentially gives it a major facelift with improved controls and necessary quality of life improvements and calls it a day, which might be exactly what some people are looking for when they hear about a remake of a game they love. Then there is something like the previously mentioned Resident Evil 2 Remake or Yakuza Kiwami, remakes that go a step further in an attempt to enhance the original game. The prime example of that being stuff like the ticking time bomb that is Mr.X in the Resident Evil 2 Remake or the added flashbacks in Yakuza Kiwami.

Mr.X from Resident Evil 2 Remake.

Mr.X is a more substantial addition in this example, an entity that entirely changes how you approach the game. He forces you to use entrances and routes across the RPD that you wouldn’t normally use, foregoing easy shortcuts for longer, roundabout routes instead. While I was initially iffy about him, I’ve come to enjoy the tension he adds to the game without hurting the game’s pacing, turning what was previously a set-piece encounter, into a constant looming mass of stress which goes perfect with the game’s brand of survival horror. 

Yakuza Kiwami on the other hand also makes a lot of additions to the original game, one of which is an entirely redone script that aligns with the game’s original Japanese script that was never translated for the west back in the PS2 release. I highly suggest checking out any cutscene of the original game and then comparing it to the retranslated Kiwami one, there’s a reason why the English dub of Yakuza 1 is so infamous. Yakuza Kiwami also adds a ton of new minigames into the experience, most if not of all of them from 2017’s Yakuza 0.

The combat system is also borrowed from 0 but now you also have Kiryu’s original Dragon Style along in the mix too, something that was locked behind a grind in Y0 and even when unlocked, was left deliberately unfinished due to story reasons that I won’t get into. Two of the most substantial additions in Yakuza Kiwami however, are the Nishkiyama flashback cutscenes and the Majima Everywhere system. 

The Nishkiyama flashbacks were something that was honestly very much needed for the original Yakuza 1, as Nishkiyama in Y1 felt like a generic “sworn brother turned evil” character. While Yakuza 0 humanizes him to a great extent on its own, its the flashbacks in Kiwami that really twist the knife. Watching the homie turn into a stone cold evil ******* is legitimately one of the most depressing things I’ve seen in a game and its one of the best additions the remake could have added. 

The Majima Everywhere system was something that I assume was most likely meant to make the transition from Yakuza 0 to Yakuza Kiwami more easy for the people who started with 0. In many ways I think its a great addition, it further humanizes an already great character and the unique moments that we get to see with him are honestly fantastic, particularly the “Goromi” segments. The final “Majima Everywhere” encounter is also fantastic, ranking up as one of the best fights in the entire game.

One of the many events added to Yakuza Kiwami via the Majima Everywhere system is a scene of Majima himself pole-dancing in a strip club. I’m going to take a page from Yakuza’s own book and refuse to elaborate on this.

Both of these are solid examples of great remakes, but there is a secret higher tier of remake that takes everything that one step higher. While the additions made in both Yakuza and RE 2 are good, the remakes still have their flaws. Resident Evil 2 Remake has an inconsistent story that completely falls apart in the “second run” which was one of the highlights of the original title.

While the original wasn’t perfect in this regard either, the flaws are way more apparent in the remake with you not only fighting the same bosses all over again in the exact same arenas except their final bosses, there are important story cutscenes that outright contradict each other. Its silly and really not in the good way. Yakuza Kiwami also messes up in a few places, particularly how Kiryu’s iconic style from the original game is locked behind a 30 hour grind of the Majima Everywhere system. Majima Everywhere also messes with the game’s story and pacing, putting the story on halt a few times for what essentially feels like filler content. 

There is one remake that at least in my personal opinion, gets nearly everything right. Its a masterpiece that respects its source material but makes crucial adjustments where it needs to, to the point where a lot of the new additions in that remake feel like they were always part of the original to begin with. I am of course talking about CAPCOM’s other remake, this time of Resident Evil 1.

Resident Evil 1 Remake still remains a gold standard for remakes and survival horror games alike.

I think everyone who personally knows me or has even read my past article about survival horror games saw this one coming. I love this game and I am certainly not going to miss an opportunity to shill for it while I can. Resident Evil 1 Remake is a meticulously designed title made by a team of people that knew and deeply understood the original PS1 classic.

It knew exactly what to add to the original game where it feels familiar but also wholly different at the same time. Its a remake that gets everything right, feeling like a justified extension of the ideas not fully realized in Resident Evil 1. It is certainly by all means, a perfect remake. Thus concludes my overtly long rant about my bar for remakes. Which conveniently also leads into my first argument:

Preying on Nostalgia:

This is only one of the problems that I feel stems from the recent culture of remakes. Many publishers have noted the success of CAPCOM with the Resident Evil 2 Remake and have rapidly flocked to the opportunity to do it while its hot. There’s EA with Dead Space, and CAPCOM’s very own remake of Resident Evil 4. Games that have aged near perfectly are being remade for…nostalgia? 

As someone who’s currently doing his own playthrough of Dead Space, the game feels just as good to play as it ever did barring some very minor jankiness thanks to its age and a shaky PC port.

Dead Space is the weirdest example here, its a 2009 game that has aged mostly gracefully over the years and is the last game anyone should ever think to remake. The original game is still a marvel when it comes to horror, blending the arcade-like combat of Resident Evil 4 with a dark and genuinely unsettling atmosphere. It feels great to play and it can look absolutely phenomenal at times thanks to some particularly well done lighting effects that gave the environments and the overall aesthetic, a big boost.

This is with no offense to the extremely talented developers working at EA Motive, but I don’t think it’s unsafe to be skeptical of how a remake of an already fantastic game would be like especially coming from a publisher which was responsible for the death of the series in the first place. 

Preservation: 

I think that not enough steps are taken to make sure that you can still play the original product as it is. The only way that you can go back and play said old classic is either emulate it on PC, or buy the original console with the game in question. This makes remakes feel more like a replacement more so than an additional option that you can consider instead of the original game. Its like being forced to watch the Hollywood remake of Oldboy and the only way to watch the Korean original would have you jumping through a pit of acid. 

Demon’s Souls Remake is a brilliant technical showcase for the PS5, but what have we lost in the transition?

However, this is a decision that, from a Publisher’s perspective, makes a lot of sense. Games today are hard to make. Unlike before they are a culminative effort of 100s of people over the span of multiple years, people who often sacrifice their health to crunch through harsh deadlines. This is without mentioning the massive budget a single AAA game requires today, games are expensive to make and it shows. It is an understandable concern that either side believes that their game should be at the forefront instead of being hidden in the shadow of another game. 

In that respect, the Demons Souls remake is an incredible achievement. It is a showcase for the PS5’s quality and power. The game is an incredible result of tons of people who worked through blood and sweat to bring us the best game they possibly could. Yet, looking at it in a vacuum, I believe aside from a few minor tweaks the original Demons Souls is a very fine game on its own.

In the name of fidelity Demons Souls Remake takes a lot of liberties with the original game’s art style, for better or worse. The game has redesigned enemies and environments to give the game a different look and the art style of the original game might as well be lost to time. There should be a way for players to experience the original game in its base form that is not limited to either emulation or buying a decade old console. 

The aesthetic of Demon’s Souls Remake has been notably criticized by many fans of the original for looking too much like something out of a generic fantasy world, which to some might come off as unreasonable, the team did put years of hard work on this project after all and considering the odds stacked against them, they did what was  the best they could.  But I doubt many would have complained if there was an easier way to play the original Demon’s Souls than emulation or buying a PS3 that can barely handle the game. 

Conclusion:

I think in the excitement of remakes, what some people fail to realize is that eventually these remakes will be overshadowing the original games, pushing them into obscurity until they themselves adopt the persona of the original product and these old classics might only be seen as abandonware by then, and, as someone that values game preservation, I think that is a very reasonable concern to have. 

Muhammad Nameer Zia


Fond of writing at a young age and having spent his free time writing his own stories and poems, he's channeling his experiences today into working as the news team at eXputer.