As gaming has become increasingly corporate-focused, with massively increasing budgets and higher stakes for every endeavor, the reaction of publishers has been mixed. Some, like Devolver Digital, have responded with diversification to fend off any loses, but the number of such developers is dwindling. The more common response is frustratingly cynical: hide from new IPs, market to the largest crowds possible, and input the least amount of effort for the most gain.
This isn’t to say that all of gaming has fallen to this mentality, but the proof is in the numbers; every year, it seems a new set of tactics for serving content in pieces, or segregating them altogether, comes out of the woodwork, hungry for consumer dollars. The oppressive feeling of boardrooms, rather than developers, maintaining creative control over the final product has led to major concerns about the direction “AAA” games—and gaming in general—is taking.
If you need an example of how this can all go wrong, we’ve got you covered; perhaps the laziest, and most destructive method of gaming corporate cowardice comes in the form of shoddy, quickly-developed cash-ins on established titles, and we’ve got 15 that somehow managed to be worse than their originals. “Remake” here refers to anything done with the intent of reinvigorating a title, without being a coinciding port or sequel, so strict remakes, reboots, and “remasters” all apply.
If you prefer games old school, it might interest you to know about some original Xbox games coming to Xbox One.
15 Prince Of Persia
You have to give credit where it’s due: Prince of Persia (2008) got things right in a lot of ways. The aesthetic was commonly compared positively to Okami and considering that the series had multiple inclusions that just couldn’t reach the quality Sands of Time had reached, it’s easy to sympathize. At the very least, it’s not the abomination that was the Sands of Time movie a few years later.
But for all the reasons you might like Prince of Persia, there’s an undeniable tone struck that makes it distinct from the other games in the series—a sort of opposite reaction to the grim-dark Warrior Within—and that tone is...flawed. The direction the game takes, relegating time-reversal mechanics to your companion Elika, who then uses them to transport the player right back where they were if they were about to die, lowers the stakes both mechanically and in regard to the narrative. Oh, and that ending was laughably overwrought.
14 Splinter Cell Series
The Splinter Cell series is beloved because, well, it’s Splinter Cell. The game that innovated the stealth-action genre morphed into a series that, at least in its early years, continued to produce perpetually more mechanically in-depth iterations. Like Metal Gear, Splinter Cell managed to turn the seeming banalities of gameplay into the most tense and exhilarating moments.
Unfortunately, executives charged with milking the series are all too keen on its reputation and have taken to making a mountain of horrible remakes. Bad ports? There’s Conviction. Fumbled definitive editions? The original trilogy has it. Locked content behind each system? Check out the “HD” version of the original. Whoever is in charge of these releases really believes in the goodwill of the Splinter Cell fan base and, maybe rightfully so, but that will only get you so far with these egregious cases.
The Deadpool game was dead on arrival. Despite the attempt at trying to emulate the comic series’ tone—which, if you’re merely marking off a list might hit the mark (Breaking fourth wall? Check. Irreverent jokes? Check. Wacky plot? All there!)—Deadpool is painfully out of touch with the seminal character. That’s a death sentence for media so dependent on its protagonist for the bulk of its worth. But for all that, the game’s mechanics served as its mortal wound; the lackadaisical narrative was, at least, redeemed in the utter rubbish gameplay that got the “slapped-together” motif on the money.
So why re-release such a sub-par game at all? Money, of course! The 2016 Deadpool film needed a tie-in and so Activision was more than happy to give fans the same crap on new consoles! Even those that thought the Deadpool game sufficed in tone must admit that the movie just got everything better. So to purposefully juxtapose a game few people liked with a movie that is superior in every way...well, it’s just not a good look.
12 Heavy Rain
I’m a massive defender of Heavy Rain. Yeah, the game has its faults, it’s certainly meme-worthy, and the voice acting is—how do I put this delicately?—touch and go. However, for all those Quantic Dream detractors, you have to admit, all of David Cage’s games are ultimately very unique. Sometimes “unique” mean gaining psychic powers midway through the game and awkwardly playing Simon Says to woo an in-game love interest, but that’s beside the point. Heavy Rain is also, in many ways, Quantic Dream’s best game, making the horrific remaster all the worse.
Normally, when people talk about remasters being worse, they’re referring to the art style, where things have been changed for the subjective worse. Heavy Rain’s remaster quite literally renders crowds poorer than the original, making the seminal “Jason running through a crowd” scene hilarious; any normal human could just push through the now-smaller crowd! It has all the normal staples of a sloppy remaster too: washed out colors, increased darkness to hide said washed out colors, and even some new screen tearing the cutscenes.
11 Final Fantasy X/X-2
I’ll cut to the chase about Final Fantasy X/X-2: no game, much less two, deserves to be “remastered” three times over two console generations. It just shouldn’t happen. A single remaster is rarely useful, but at least to the series’ credit, PS2 games are much more deserving of a remaster in the modern era than their PS3-era counterparts; unsurprisingly, the remasters actually look pretty decent, if presenting a classic case of diminishing returns.
But considering that X/X-2 came out in 2001 and 2003 respectively for the PS2, only to be re-released on the PS3, PS4, and finally Windows, there’s just no excuse for bleeding a stone this consistently, especially in light of the fact that this is the Final Fantasy series. On one hand, it shouldn’t be too surprising that it is this series engaging in this kind of behavior, but that doesn’t make it any less gross.
10 Sonic The Hedgehog (2006)
Sonic is a series that keeps reinventing itself. While not quite as adept as the Mario or Zelda franchises at remaining relevant, Sonic has still managed to pump out quite a few excellent titles and being daring enough to go very left-field with others (I’m looking at you Shadow The Hedgehog). Sonic The Hedgehog, commonly referred to as Sonic 2006, was supposed to be a reboot of the franchise, but it went disastrously wrong.
For a title ostensibly supposed to put Sonic back on the map, the developers did nothing to help themselves; not only are there a litany of bugs—occasionally indistinguishable from sheer terrible artistic design—but even the meat of the game is really, really painful. Sonic 2006 even birthed one of the series’ most hateable characters, Silver the Hedgehog, a character from the future with telekinetic powers. If that sounds terrible, it’s much, much worse, just like the game.
9 Space Invaders: Invasion Day
In perhaps the most unnecessary remake of any series ever, Space Invaders: Invasion Day turns the age-old concept of Space Invaders and makes it a 3D shooter. Let me say it again, because I had a hard time believing this the first time I heard it too: you remember the game Space Invaders, you know, the kind of retro arcade game Adam Sandler would include in a terrible film to pretend as though he likes video games while simultaneously cashing in on brand recognition stupidity?
Well this game had that exact same kind of intention, but was less successful than Adam Sandler. That’s the kind of crap we’re dealing with here. Possibly the only credit you can give it is that it’s not another gritty first-person shooter with light sci-fi elements—it’s a third person shooter! But even then, it did come out before that trope hit peak popularity, so it’s hard to give it even that little amount of credit.
8 Night Trap
Many people, myself included, have covered why Night Trap is such an odd game. Maybe it’s the fact that it riled up consistently unlikable senator Joe Lieberman, or the kitsch live-action sequences, or just the fact that it’s a highly notable game with about 30 minutes of gameplay, but Night Trap has, for better or worse, remained in the public consciousness.
One thing is certain, though: it has not aged well. The novelty of video games, and more specifically live-action video games, has long since faded, leaving it merely as a quirk in video game history. On the surface, there’s nothing really bad about remastering a 25-year-old game, but, predictably, the remaster is of exceptionally poor quality. But even if it had been good, what exactly was the thinking behind it? The dated video is part of Night Trap’s very limited appeal, so what real purpose does “HD” graphics, something that means less every day, serve? Ultimately, it’s just a strange decision for a strange game, and like its originator, not very good.
7 Tomb Raider: Anniversary
When a series is re-imagined, there’s always going to be those who can’t stand the new entry’s changes. Most good remakes correct this by paying particular attention to the quality and quantity of the new content, and its place in the lineage of the series. Tomb Raider: Anniversary is a testament in how not to do this.
Rather than the compact, well-defined areas the series is known for, Anniversary instead went for very large, open environments. That might not be so bad, if there were anything in them. Combine this with a heavy lack of action and you’ve got a massive change from the original. The difficulty is also severely lessened, partially due to the aforementioned factors, making for an experience that might be “streamlined” but also frustratingly antithetical to the isolation inherent in the original. While this might appeal to some and the quality itself is not terrible, it betrays a clear lack of consideration for the series’ die-hard fans.
6 Silent Hill HD Collection
The second and third entries in the Silent Hill franchise are largely considered to be the best in the series. Silent Hill 2 particularly holds an important place in video game history and, being of a certain age, was therefore a natural candidate for the remaster crazy that has swept gaming over the last decade. Very quickly, however, it became clear that Konami, as usual, had no idea what they were doing.
First off, Konami lost the games’ source codes, forcing the new dev team to work from scratch on much of the product. And yet, weirdly, despite retail copies of the game being fully playable for reference, the team decided to take some pretty massive artistic liberties with the models, characters, and atmosphere in general. Even the voice acting was largely re-done, which itself would be bad enough, only to then be met with lip syncing issues that destroy immersion. But the worst offense? Comic sans.
5 Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
The Metal Gear series has a notoriously contentious fan base. Hardcore fans will argue to death over which camera angle worked best for Metal Gear Solid 3, whether Metal Gear Solid 2 or 3 is definitively the best, and, of course, if Kiefer Sutherland gave a well-needed change or is simply a hack. What many fans agree on, however, is that Twin Snakes is a severe disservice to the original Metal Gear Solid.
First off, the fact that Ryuhei Kitamura directed much of the game’s sequences put off a lot of people and rightfully so; while contemporary reviews praised the new tone, unsurprisingly reminiscent of action movies like The Matrix given the director’s filmography, it missed much of the point of the original game. Seeing Snake perform “special moves,” having all-new, out-of-place cutscenes, and introducing mechanics from the Sons of Liberty, the game’s sequel, effectively transformed Metal Gear Solid into a new, and much worse, inclusion.
4 Spider-Man: Web Of Shadows
When we talk about Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, we’re actually talking about three different games. Confusingly, the games are not all that similar, ranging from the regular action-oriented Spider-Man games console players were used to by that time to a Metroidvania-style DS edition. Even more confusing, only one of the games is in full 3D, leading to the question: why?
None of the games were all that good, though the DS version was clearly a cut above. Camera control issues, repetitive gameplay, and technical issues marred most versions of the game, leading to a very confusing means of referencing each of them, and an even more confusing thought process that must have went into development. If they were going for a shotgun approach, perhaps they succeeded, but if it really takes three games to get a single decent title, maybe there’s something wrong with your business model.
3 Bomberman: Act Zero
What do you do when your franchise has lost its relevance? Do you hunker down and highlight what makes your game great? Maybe trim the fat from previous titles, cutting out the unnecessary or critically panned? If you’re Bomberman: Act Zero developer Hudson Soft, these answers are clearly misguided and simplistic. Instead, you have to completely alter your setting, tone, and some portions of the gameplay everyone loved to bring about your beautiful dystopian vision!
Needless to say, making Bomberman a “gritty™” title was the wrong way to go about things. The lack of distinction in gameplay, with the only real addition being a supremely underwhelming first-person mode, did nothing to save the exceptionally overwrought Bomberman: Act Zero, whose only real purpose is to be a case study in how not to reboot your franchise.
2 Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition
If there’s one thing that action game remasters must absolutely attain, it is a stable 30 frames per second. Even that is not asking a lot; many games, both AAA and indie, have achieved much better on their first go-around. If a game is years old, as hopefully a game should be to get remastered, then there’s really no reason not to see a pretty sizable improvement.
Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition shows what happens when greedy companies fail at all of these prerequisites. Not only does it max out on consoles at 30 FPS, and is unable to even maintain that, but the vast majority of “improvements” are little more than engine hogs. Oooh, there’s more fog! How exciting! $60, please, for this game you bought two years ago. Yeah, no thanks.
1 Dungeon Keeper
Of all the bastardizations out there suffered by great games, the 2014 edition of Dungeon Keeper is quite possibly the worst. It turns the complex, engrossing mechanics of the Dungeon Keeper series, beloved by many gamers the world over, whittles it down to its base components, and then sets up a paywall. In a harrowing indictment of the “freemium” game market, Dungeon Keeper represents all that is terrible about remakes.
Dungeon Keeper’s lack of innovation and penchant for stripping the series of its best parts, re-shaping the title into something hardly recognizable, only to then have the audacity to think it’s clever in getting you to pay up to see any progress in the game is absolutely disgusting. In this way, it is both an embodiment of everything wrong with the current gaming market and a glimpse into the horrible future that might be.