The gaming industry is one of many that use the deep-rooted nostalgia of consumers to resell them something tied to their own fond memories of times past, or at the very least sell to people who missed out on something special the first time around. The various forms of these releases and how closely they resemble the original title that inspired them has been a constant source of confusion and frustration among gamers for a few decades now.
We’ve discussed this topic once before in an article, but as OP recruit numerous aspiring writers and journalists, opinions don’t always line up. This is one of those cases; I have a lot of respect for all the talent working at OP, but I have to admit I don’t quite agree with Rhyfel on the definition of what we’re now calling “The 4 R’s”.
Making use of the official blurbs and descriptions of games provided by developers and publishers themselves over the years, allow us to define each of the 4 R’s (along with a few extras). So that next time you’re considering the purchase of a re-released classic, you’ll hopefully have a better idea of what it is you’re getting for your money.
These are the most basic form of reselling a game from the past. These usually involve repackaging games with DLC and/or making a few minor tweaks to visuals, controls or gameplay. Games released again to provide official support for modern hardware or to include new gaming features such as free mouse-look, achievements, higher resolutions etc can also be considered simple re-releases.
System Shock: Enhanced Edition
A beloved cyberspace FPS released in the early 90s, System Shock was re-released to support higher resolutions, mouselook, refined controls and bug fixes. The name makes this one pretty clear, it's an enhanced edition of the original, re-released for new and old audiences alike. This game went on to receive a direct sequel, a spiritual successor in BioShock and an upcoming reboot by new developers and IP holders Night Dive Studios.
Halo Wars: Definitive Edition
Originally an Xbox 360 exclusive, Halo Wars is a real-time strategy based on the popular Halo FPS franchise released in 2009. This was re-released for PC and Xbox One seven years later with enhanced graphics, new achievements and all previous DLC included. The game is still fundamentally the same but with quality-of-life enhancements and support for keyboard and mouse.
Old School Runescape
Not your typical re-release, especially when you consider how much it has developed since. The latest version of Jagex's popular online MMO, Runescape has been in continual development since 2003, but following the introduction of drastic changes from around 2010 onwards, the game no longer felt the same for many fans. So in 2013, Jagex re-released a 2007 build of the game on an entirely new server allowing players to play the game as it once was. Since then, it has become a separate Runescape game in its own right and gets as many new and unique content releases as the main game. A few years later Blizzard expressed their interest in giving their own MMO 'World of Warcraft' the same treatment.
Usually involving major enhancements to the visuals, audio and interfaces to bring them to modern standards, remasters often run in the same or emulated engine of the original title, with complete graphical overhauls being a common feature. The aim of remasters is to keep as much of the feel, style and atmosphere of the original game intact while evolving the assets used to present it.
Quirky adventure RPG 'Fable' was originally released on Windows and Xbox back in 2004. Marking the first time the entire Fable Trilogy could be played on Xbox 360, the Anniversary edition released in 2013, featuring overhauled graphics and audio, a new save system, achievements, widescreen support and a larger draw distance as well as the Lost Chapters expansion and smaller DLC exclusive to the Anniversary release.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
The Ultimate Edition of Gears of War was a more straightforward offering, but not a simple development by a long shot. Releasing in 2016 (ten years after the original) and taking 18 months to produce, the team redesigned over 3,000 in-game assets and completely remade the in-game cutscenes, including the motion capture. Along with bringing the once PC-exclusive act to Xbox, the game featured all the previously released DLC and general quality-of-life changes.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
Halo’s Anniversary release was a pretty special remaster, bordering on a remake. Releasing ten years after the original in 2011 and running two engines at once, it allowed you to switch between the original and remastered graphics and audio on the fly, which is a first for such a large game. Additional support for online multiplayer and co-op, achievements, in-game collectables, and Kinect support made this release set the bar for video game remasters. Halo 2 would go on to receive the same treatment a few years later.
While there is some ambiguity between re-releases and remasters due to the quality or quantity of changes made to the source material, remakes are very much their own thing. Often using little to no assets of the original game and occasionally changing how some aspects of the game are delivered entirely, remakes are usually theorised as what particular games would look and play like if they were released in the modern-day. Stripping them of ugly visuals, rigid vocal performances and clunky controls to help them reach a broader and let’s face it, more spoilt audience.
Resident Evil 2
Capcom are well known for releasing new versions of their old games, and the Resident Evil franchise has received this treatment more than most. However, this is the first time they opted for a complete remake. Described as a reimagining of the 1998 original, the 2019 remake of RE2 sports an over-the-shoulder camera, remixed campaign and expanded map, all drenched in a modern engine with stunning visuals and sound while keeping the same dread-inspiring horror of the classic sequel.
Destroy All Humans
On the 15th anniversary of the 2005 cult classic, Destroy All Humans returns with a complete, from-the-ground-up remake of the original game. Using only the original voice acting (although improving the quality), the rest of the game has been redesigned as if it were to come out today. New abilities, refined controls and new missions cut from the original game, alongside the luscious new visuals and audio help show off what the original game was likely trying to achieve behind its lacking hardware of the time.
If you consider the original Destroy All Humans a cult hit (and we do), then the original 1997 Postal was more of an underground sensation. Nearly 20 years later and after Postal 2’s new lease of life on Steam and GoG, Running With Scissors revisited the original game and remade it with a new engine, graphics and audio, swapped tank track movement in favour of twin-stick controls, new maps including once Japanese exclusives and a four-player online co-op mode.
When a game franchise is getting stale, or a new developer takes on responsibility for developing new entries in a series, you can occasionally have the sequel to your favourite title pull a 180 and return to its roots, or take on a completely different style and setting altogether. Reboots are primarily used in an attempt to return a franchise to its glory days and breathe new life into the property.
The sequel to the original DOOM in 1994 was more like a glorified expansion and the official sequel, DOOM 3, was practically a reboot in its own right. However, 2016’s DOOM took everything that gamers loved about the franchise and turned it up to 11. Fast-paced action, blood, gore, a crushingly heavy metal soundtrack and demonic themes that, along with state-of-the-art visuals, helped DOOM infuse 90s break-neck-fast gunplay with modern level design and aesthetics, it might be one of the most successful video game reboots to date! Its own success directly paved way for a follow-up in 2020’s DOOM Eternal.
The Thief series is a well-crafted and well-loved trilogy of moody stealth titles released between 1998 and 2004. Square Enix’s tenth-anniversary reboot of Thief released to mixed reception; between those who appreciated the modern take on the series and those who thought it didn’t hold enough of the original's essence to shine, unfortunately, meant 2014’s Thief didn’t hold on to much of a fanbase.
By the time Tomb Raider was rebooted in 2013, there had already been 13 separate titles released for numerous platforms featuring Lara Croft. What started as a ground-breaking and unique action-adventure game was quickly becoming stale. The reboot gave Lara and her story a more gritty and believable setting and looked stunning in the process. Sequels have continued to follow which walk the same trusted path and have seen continued appreciation from fans of the now long-standing franchise.
In a way, we wish “Spiritual” was spelt “Riritual”, so we could include it as the fifth ‘R’. Spiritual Successors are games that are heavily influenced by or are made to resemble a classic game of the past. These can be made by members of the original development team, or simply by talented fans who have no association with the original at all.
War for the Overworld
One of the best examples of a spiritual successor, War for the Overworld was the title given to Dungeon Keeper 3 while in development that sadly never saw a release. So when British developers took on the task of releasing a modern dungeon management game, the War for the Overworld name naturally stood out. Keeping enough of what made Dungeon Keeper so enduring and introducing enough new content and features to make the game feel fresh. WftO is a pure example of how love and appreciation for source material can lead to a beautiful homage with its own heart.
Building off the simple foundations of Road Rash, Road Redemption keeps its essence of fast, frantic and violent action, building on it with new features, game modes and missions to accomplish. It feels like the Road Rash trilogy was made, released and forgotten about faster than deserved, so Road Redemption was a welcome addition to those missing that particular blend of law-breaking speed and senseless brawling that graced our Sega’s and 3DO’s of yesteryear.
Postal might have been an underground hit with not much fanfare on release, but it made a lasting impression on a lot of people, particularly those in Eastern Europe. Almost mirroring the rap sheet of Postal's own release, Hatred sparked a tsunami of crazed media itself, spurred on by those concerned by its senseless and insensitive violence towards innocent bystanders. Hatred adopts Postal’s isometric view, area-specific levels in the campaign and methods in which to kill civilians and law enforcement, albeit with none of the dark humour that lightens the Postal games’ more grim tones.
Some games may at first appear to be spiritual successors, or, in some cases even direct sequels to other games. However, what separates games in this category is how they take the core element of another successful game and copy-paste it into their own, hoping for the same levels of success. Sometimes, if they’re lucky, they can be massively more successful than the original title that motivated their work.
The mobile gaming revolution was almost kickstarted solely by Angry Birds, featuring physics-based levels that nonsensically challenged you with flinging rage-fueled birds at arrogantly chirpy green pigs. It was and still is ludicrously addictive. The series has spawned 20+ sequels and spin-offs including a VR game, licenses to intellectual property such as Star Wars, two feature-length movies and even theme parks sporting the Angry Birds name. However, the original concept that started it all was stripped out of a little-known Flash game at the time called Crush the Castle. The sequel of which is playable in the Opium Pulses Arcade, show it some love!
Rock n Roll Racing, developed by Blizzard (known as Silicon & Synapse at the time) in 1993 for Nintendo and Sega consoles was a high-action racing game and one of the very first to feature licensed in-game music from artists such as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Motor Rock started out titled 'Rock n Roll Racing 3D' before changing its name to Motor Rock when the developers decided to release it as a commercial product. The game was removed from digital storefronts just a week after release due to copyright infringement, as, not only did the game copy RnRR’s every detail, but they even used audio assets from the original game.
The Great Giana Sisters
One of the very first commercial rip-offs, at least of such a big franchise like Super Mario Bros. Released for Amiga, Atari and Amstrad computers in May 1987 (just days before the European release of Super Mario Bros), The Great Giana Sisters bore such striking similarity to Super Mario Bros that pressure from Nintendo resulted in the game being pulled from store shelves shortly after release. It was the first taste personal computer gamers got of a platformer with the quality of the Mario series. However, the IP did not die there, as four sequels have since been developed with the latest releasing to PC and consoles in 2015.
There are various reasons games can be re-released in bundles. A lot of the time, single smaller titles aren’t worth remastering and releasing as standalone titles. Still, sometimes classics can be packed together as an added bonus to justify the cost or boost interest. Outside of long-term fans, they can also appeal to those wanting to play through a franchise from the beginning, especially if they've been given a much-needed lick of paint in the meantime.
Halo: Master Chief Collection
Quietly released as Microsoft’s flagship first-person shooter for their new Xbox consoles, Halo proved that console shooters really could contend with PC heavyweights such as Doom, Half-Life and Quake. The collection had a shaky release, to say the least, on Xbox One; but has since ironed out most of its issues. It features all the campaign and multiplayer elements of Halo Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo 3, Halo ODST, Halo Reach and Halo 4, in one seamless package, all playable in 4K resolutions at a smooth 60 FPS.
Command & Conquer: Remastered Collection
Graphically, the original C&C games have not aged particularly gracefully. However, the gameplay felt so ahead of their time when they were initially released that they are still more than playable today. Modern iterations in the C&C franchise were not well treated by current publishers, Electronic Arts, meaning the community resided mostly on the older titles. The Remastered Collection, featuring Command & Conquer and Red Alert, almost feels like a miracle to fans of the strategy giants, in that every detail has been meticulously updated with love and care. EA even brought developers from the original Westwood team to help bring it to life.
Doom 3: BFG Edition
Not the most well-received remaster for a mammoth of a game like Doom 3. You could say, this is a collection, featuring a remaster of a reboot. The BFG Edition features a graphical remaster of Doom 3, touched up versions of Doom 1 and 2, the Resurrection of Evil expansion, previously unreleased ‘The Lost Mission’ and allows for players to both shoot and use their mounted flashlight at the same time.
We only picked three games per category and there's a lot more we'd have loved to talk about. Are there certain releases that fall under these descriptions that you actively avoid or maybe even excite you more than standard releases? Are there remasters that ruined your favourite games or re-releases that introduced you to a franchise you now love? We'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on these types of releases and the games you've played and loved or bought and wished you hadn't!
We'd also love to know if you disagree with any of our definitions or the games we've placed under each type! There's no guidebook to re-released games so share your own views in the comments below!