The gaming industry loves remastering games, and it’s easy to see why – it’s a great way to get people to buy the same game twice, and it costs a lot less than building something from scratch.
That’s not to say they’re just a cash grab though. The best remasters offer the definitive version of a game, with all the add-on content, optimised graphics, and sometimes even tweaked gameplay and controls. Not to mention they let you play old favourites on modern hardware – or even give you the chance to play a great game you might have just missed first time around.
There are hundreds and hundreds of remastered games out there, and the dawn of 4K console gaming means that there are inevitably more on the way – Shadow of the Colossus and Final Fantasy 7 have already been confirmed, while Spyro is rumoured too. Still, we’ve done our best to pick out the best – these are our favourites.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
The Halo games have so far been spread across three consoles: Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One, so the Master Chief Collection feels like something of an inevitability, collecting together the main games up to and including Halo 4.
It includes all four campaigns, along with multiplayer maps from every game, and has the neat feature that while playing the HD remasters of Halo and Halo 2 you can flick back and forth between the original and remastered versions to see just how much has changed.
Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy
This unexpectedly huge hit collects the original three Crash Bandicoot games into one collection and is arguably a bit of a gold standard for how to handle remasters of old games.
Not only does it give players three games for the price of one, but it also features a massive graphical overhaul for all three, improves the controls, and unifies the menus and UI across the games to make a coherent package.
The only downside? Everyone who’s played it has suddenly rediscovered just how difficult ’90s games were. We’ve gotten soft.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
One of those remasters that sought to refine rather than just re-release, The Wind Waker HD doesn’t just upgrade the original’s graphics – it also improves the gameplay.
Tweaks to the structure and systems are designed to speed up the notoriously slow second half of the game by eliminating some irritating busywork and speeding up the sailing mechanic.
Naturally, the graphics get an HD upgrade too, though as it’s for the Wii U, they still cap out at 720p. And, you know, you have to own a Wii U, which all too few people do. Fingers crossed for a Switch release.
Resident Evil Origins Collection
Here’s an odd one: a remaster of a remake, along with a remaster of a prequel to a remake.
The Resident Evil Origins Collection contains HD remasters of two Gamecube Resident Evil games: the Gamecube remake of the original Resident Evil, and the prequel to that remake, Resident Evil 0.
For the most part these are just the same games with updated graphics and audio, though the Resident Evil 0 remaster does add in a ‘Wesker mode’ which lets you play as the titular villain, with his own unique powers.
Metroid: Samus Returns
More remake than remaster, Samus Returns doesn’t even share an exact name with the original (Metroid II: Return of Samus) and if you put screenshots side-by-side, you’d never guess they were the same game.
What it does do is take the basic structure of the original (hunting down alien Metroids across a sprawling map) and update it for the modern palate, with revamped graphics, controls, and audio, while making the most of the dual screens on the 3DS.
We think it’s pretty great – but you can read more in our full Metroid: Samus Returns review.
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection
This is a pretty simple, but welcome, collection, presenting all three games from the original Uncharted trilogy in one box for the PS4.
The main benefit is for players who didn’t own a PS3, who can now experience one of Sony’s flagship franchises on the PS4 – which just so happens to have the next two games in the series, Uncharted 4 and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, just waiting for you whenever you finish with these.
Grand Theft Auto V
How do you top one of the most popular games in the world? If you’re Rockstar, the answer is simple: release it all over again with HD graphics so that everyone just decides to buy it all over again.
This is just more GTA V really, but between the massive single-player world and the popular online mode, that should be more than enough for most people.
And, like it or loathe it, Los Santos is one of the most vivid virtual worlds in years, and definitely deserves to be seen in HD.