The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly of Ports, Remakes, & Remasters

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I don’t know about you, dear readers, but my wallet is a-hurtin’ this year. Besides all the gotta-have original games (like God of War, Detroit: Become Human, Monster Hunter: World, etc.), there is a smorgasbord of remakes, remasters, and ports just begging us to take them home. Devil May Cry HD, Shadow of the Colossus, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Megaman Legacy, Dark Souls, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Edition, Bayonetta, and many more are all battling amongst themselves for our precious gaming dollars.

Considering that games that’ve been remade, remastered, or ported are, by definition, old games that many of us have already purchased and played, I started to wonder: how does the gaming community at large feel about this? Do we like paying for games twice? Or do we consider the price a worthwhile trade for bringing our favorite games with us into the current gen?

Naturally, you know what that means…

As you can see by the poll results, almost 60% of respondents think ports, remakes, and remasters are a good idea, with only 12% of voters staying 100% loyal to Team OG. This means it’s time to dig through those comments to get a better picture of the voices behind the votes.


It Depends

“Depends on the port and the game!” @EastKyRetro

“Depends how they make it lol”@TyphoonGomez

Okay, it depends.


Depends On What?

“Voted no, but it quite depend. 1- Is the remaster done good? Because some notorious remaster was really bad sh*t on PS3; 2- Is it an ancient games never remastered before? Like 2 or 3 gen back; 3- Is it a relevant game?; 4- Does it refine something of the original beside gfx?” @x8Finity

“It really depends for me. If it’s upscaled graphics with nothing else improved then I’ll pass most of the time unless it’s something I absolutely need. If it’s reworked from the ground up and makes effort to fix problems that were present the first time around then buy the way.”@BigBossGun

“Bit dependent on the game being redone. N Sane and Spyro trilogy are bringing back classic games from dormant franchises which is great. But the amount of last gen remastering is not good. Dead Island, Borderlands, Bioshock. Some of these games arent very old! Its just lazy!”@SteadySphere

As with everything else, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do something. We like ports, remakes, and remasters of games that are old enough for us to start to miss them. We like them for games that had potential, but just missed the mark for whatever reason. We like them for games that were too ambitious for the hardware of their era, but now could be experienced as they were truly intended.

Not every game needs a remake or remaster (which seems to be the trend), but if a company is going to make one, there had better be more to it than just a few quick & dirty extras and full AAA price tag.

We’re not talking about iPhones here. Games don’t need new versions every year. Which brings us to…


Cash Grabs

“Depends on the remaster honestly, some are a great move, and some are a miserable cash grab haha” – @xBrunnoFGx

“Had to go with option 3 here. Sometimes a game deserves to be remastered and released again, other times it seems like a cheap cash grab. Games that didn’t reach a wide audience or were limited by tech their first go round are perfect candidates for a remake.”@SCScanlan

“I voted yes, but it isn’t really as simple as that. I appreciate ports and remakes of games, even remasters. But, they need to be inline with the series, keep what was good about the originals and improve upon it and not just try to cash in on nostalgia.” – @RetroGamingDev

You know how Hollywood has sequelitis? That feeling when you pay for a ticket at the theater only to find out that the movie was just completely phoned-in? Yeah, that happens with video games, too.

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On the one hand, if you take something from the original Playstation (i.e. Crash Bandicoot) and bring it to the PS4, the visual and performance upgrades are obvious for all to see. But if you take a game that was already spectacular (i.e. The Last of Us) from PS3 and bring it to the PS4, discerning eyes might start to question what they’re really paying for.

crash bandicoot-nintendo-switch-05

Make It Shiny…

“I vote yes not because I’m actively looking for developers to make them. But reliving nostalgia with a new coat of paint is fun. Sure they may not get it right but I still have the old one to go back to.”@BossVsNoob

“Some generations of games have great gameplay, stories etc, but such poorly-aged graphics that that’s all they need to be modern and playable.”@longie_long

“Remaster my entire childhood please” – @HappyTangent

Who wouldn’t want to be a kid again? Well, if we’re being honest, I wouldn’t. But that’s why nostalgia is so powerful: it sears the good times into our brains while blotting out the bad. So for this reason, remakes/remasters/ports give us all the best parts of our childhoods, but without the scoldings and bedtimes.

If you’re like me, you no longer have any of the games that you owned as a child. They were either sold, thrown away, donated, or simply lost. But rather than trying to recreate the game library you had as a kid the hard way (by combing garage sales, thrift stores, and pawn shops–which is definitely its own source of fun), ports/remakes/remasters offer an alternative way to replay those beloved titles of yesteryear.


…But Don’t Change Too Much

“For me it really comes down to the game. Over the last couple years the number of remakes, remasters, etc have left a sour taste in my mouth. Not every game needs brought up to current gen. Truly great games don’t need it and should be left alone on the original tech.”@RaccooniusBryce

“OG versions of games are great in a compilation with extras like the Megaman collections. Remasters like Windwaker or Final Fantasy X HD are examples of port/remaster done right. Remakes like Mario Allstars are awesome! If a remake alter too much of the original then I dislike.”@GamerKraytos

“Yes! So long as it does the original justice with any changes they may include.” – @Hybrid210Gaming

It’s hard enough to capture lightning in a bottle the first time, let alone try to repackage it and sell it as an improvement on something that was already successful. Part of the charm of retro games is their clunky graphics, their stiff controls, their glitches and bugs and faulty game design. There’s a limit to this charm, of course (looking at you, Milan’s Secret Castle), but by and large, we love old games because they were still super fun despite not being perfect.

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So if a remake/remaster is too slick, too smooth, too ambitious, there’s a really superb chance that fans of the original will see nothing in it that they recognize. And when that happens, what reason do they have left to play it?


Console Convenience

“I love remasters. Even if it’s not a huge facelift. Not all consoles do BC and even on Xbox not all games are supported. It eliminates the hassle of pulling out an old console. What if I sold the console? Bring em on. Don’t want it? Don’t buy it.”@ThatNerdGuy0627

“I love it when games are rereleased for different consoles. I only play on PC, so if it wasn’t for rereleases I would never have played some of my favourites e.g. Hakuoki, Higurashi, Skullgirls, God Eater and Nioh! They have to be done properly though, no one likes a broken port.”@gamergalexe

“The best thing about ports, to me, is the availability they bring. Not everyone has access to older gentleman systems and not everyone trusts emulator devs.”@nulref

You could take everything I said earlier about the remastered edition of The Last of Us, swap in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and still be completely correct. Despite this, I bought DKC: Tropical Freeze on the Switch for one very important reason: I don’t have a Wii U. In the absence of making systems backward compatible (seriously, why?), ports like this are the easiest way to open up new libraries of games without requiring people to shell out hundreds of dollars for a console.

Does it please the purists? Probably not. Does it please the masses? Definitely yes.


Retro Rarities

“If I wanted to buy Panzer Dragoon Saga right now, I’d have to fork over $650. If I wanted M.U.S.H.A., $160. If these games were remade (even without HD), they wouldn’t have these huge price tags.” – @ehhpilis

“It depends. Do all games need them? Absolutely not. Anything that makes great games available to more people is always a plus. Some ports & remasters are more useful than others, especially for games that are difficult to find or play now. A great example are older PC games.” – @retroindiegames

“Excellent points, @retroindiegames! Giving more fans the opportunity to play great games that are rare or were in low print or are too expensive is a +, but all games do not need ports, remakes and/or remasters.” – @Retro_Graders

Let’s open the arms of this conversation a bit wider and welcome emulation into the fold. Emulation is the easiest, cheapest way for the most gamers to play the most games regardless of the price and availability of the original physical media. In fact, I’m playing Mega Man 7 right now thanks to an emulator (I’m told that obtaining an actual SNES cartridge of the game is a “holy grail” for most people).

Some emulations are more successful than others, of course, and you may have to do a bit of homework to get the best ones and avoid issues like lagging. But if you’re looking for the rare, obscure, and odd gaming titles, emulation is hands down your easiest/cheapest/best option.


The Good: Spyro & Crash

“Quality ports? F*** yes. The new Spyro and Crash one’s are recent examples. Skyrim on the new gen consoles. Last gen had a few good ports too like the Jak and Sly collections. Basically stay as true to the original concept as possible while cranking the graphics up to 11.”@ClaymatioNation

“Depends on if care was put into the remake or remaster. Spyro and Crash were fantastic. ‘Remastering a game from the Xbox 360 to Xbox One with hardly any improvements… NO.”@GeekWithThat

“I welcome Remasters especially if the game came from an early era gen console. Sometimes they just didn’t have the technology to reach its full potential. Like..Crash Bandicoot and Spyro. CRASH DESERVED IT. Those games were already meta but needed just a slight update.”@Creamiiart

The internet has been buzzing with two remasters in particular: the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (released June 2017) and the Spyro Reignited Trilogy (due this September). Both are beloved long-running franchises that have been dormant for the better part of a decade, and both will benefit greatly from the enhanced capabilities of the current gen of consoles. They are the definition of what ports/remakes/remasters do best: introduce a new generation to a beloved game while reminding former fans why they loved the original so much.

Some other titles mentioned by commenters as the best of the port/remake/remaster crop were Ducktales, Final Fantasy X/X-2 & XII, and Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2.


The Bad

“Really depends on what it is. Seems like a lot of devs are going down that remake route and coming up really short. Secret of Mana remake comes to mind.”@Kuniotchi

“I find porting irrelevant, unless you’re porting to a console with different capabilities. That demands a new game if it is weaker or stronger, because you either reimagine or improve upon the original. As long as they don’t get the Skyrim treatment, it’s OK.” @fritztalgia

Secret of Mana is one of the most beloved SNES games, so the PS4/Vita remake should’ve been an easy home run. Instead it serves as a cautionary tale of how to turn a great game into an awful one. Among the oft cited mistakes are the terrible soundtrack and the replacement of the character sprites with polygonal models. The same can be said for Skyrim, whose upgrade from PS3 to PS4 suffered from inconsistent graphics and persistent (though improved) glitches.

Some other titles that failed their port/remake/remaster test are Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Re: Coded, Silent Hill 2 & 3, and Sonic the Hedgehog.


The Ugly

“I like them for the sake of having options and getting my favorite games into the hands of more people, but only when they’re done right. Lazy, sloppy ports ruin the experience for everyone. Looking at you, Steam port of Chrono Trigger.” – @justvalkav

Chrono Trigger is arguably the best RPG ever made, perhaps even the best game ever made. So imagine when long time fans flocked to Steam to play a port of the legendary title and realized they were actually playing the mobile version instead of the SNES version. Yeah, it wasn’t pretty (just like the graphics).

Not cool, Square Enix. Not cool.



Did we learn something from all this? Honestly, I’m not sure we did. Unlike past polls I’ve done, most everyone is of the same opinion here: ports/remakes/remasters should be worth our time and money, and if it’s not worth it to the game developer to spend the time to get it right, then it’s not worth it to us to play them. So I guess in that sense, this article isn’t really for gamers at all.

Hey game developers! I’ve got a little something for you to read…