We live in an era of remakes. Where it was once quite impressive if a game got a remake, nowadays any old title could suddenly resurface again. I often express my displeasure at this trend, but even I have games that I’d love to see remade. Stian must’ve noticed this and challenged me to put together a list of them.
To be clear, these are games where I feel that a remake is the only option. Games that were decent but could’ve been more ambitious probably just need a sequel to further flesh out their good ideas. To me, a game that needs a remake had a good concept at heart, but utterly failed in its execution. There is nothing to build a sequel on top off because the foundation was rotten beyond use.
Naturally, this won’t include games that already have remakes or are still relevant enough that a sudden revival could be reasonably anticipated. let’s go!
Starting off this list we have a fairly obvious inclusion. Spore by Maxis, published by EA, was to be Will Wright’s ultimate masterpiece. A life simulator that would eclipse the already-staggering popularity of The Sims. The hype for the game was downright Molyneuxian; fueled by impossible promises and excess trust in a once-respected developer.
Then Spore released and turned out to be little more than 5 mini-games in a trenchcoat, pretending to be a life sim. You were meant to create your own species of creatures and guide them through evolution. You start as simple, cell-based organisms that transform into land-based mammals, you form a civilization, then eventually take to the stars. This meant Spore was cut up into 5 stages, each of which plays like a streamlined prototype for an entirely different game.
The editor for creating your species is admittedly amazing, but Spore never manages to sell the illusion. You’re not a God guiding a species through its evolution; you’re just grinding out the same, repetitive tasks on the same, static rivals. Until you’ve done enough and the game lets you move to the next phase. You can beat all stages in one afternoon and then grind out the space age until you get bored of it.
Spore doesn’t feel like a simulation of anything, really. Every run through the game feels identical regardless of what you make. The same starting planets, the same gameplay routines, the same enemies that stand around in their camps doing nothing. It’s so rushed that I can’t even imagine the amount of tweaks necessary to make something engaging out of it.
People still to this day love making creatures in Spore. Do right by those people and make an actual video game around it.
Warhammer – Age of Reckoning
Many would-be MMOs attempted to take on World of Warcraft back in its heyday. Most of these simply withered away, as players proved unwilling to balance their time between two MMOs or migrate permanently. Among the casualties of this era was Warhammer: Age of Reckoning.
As some have been keen to point out, I can not keep my gob shut about Warhammer. I love the universe, I love the characters, I love the OG tabletop, and I love many of the video games. Age of Reckoning had amazing potential to take on Warcraft; owing to its popular license and the lessons learned after seeing so many other MMO projects fails. This did not happen. Age of Reckoning‘s player base crashed, the game went down, and a year later Mythic Entertainment was no more.
World of Warcraft was at its peak in 2008-2010. There was no worse time to take on the giant on equal footing, so Age of Reckoning needed to capitalize on some unique appeal—like City of Heroes did. Instead it featured the same style of gameplay, the same quest-based system, the same progression through level ups and gear management. The difference being that Blizzard had been refining these mechanics for years, while Mythic’s attempts at them felt even clunkier than in WoW‘s original release.
At the same time, Age of Reckoning didn’t quite capture the mood of the Warhammer franchise. It lacked the violence and scale that makes the series so indulgently epic. You couldn’t even explore that much, visit iconic places, or meet heroes from the lore. The best you could do to mimic the feel of Warhammer was engaging with non-stop PvP in the few, dedicated zones where you could fight your rival faction.
A true, grimdark MMO set in the Warhammer universe would be amazing to experience. With World of Warcraft being a pitiful shell of its former self and with the continued popularity of Warhammer: Total War, now would a great time to make it happen.
Pong: The Next Level
Heavy stuff so far. Let’s wind down with some classic Pong.
Pong: The Next Level was a game for the original Playstation that brought the reliable Pong gameplay to 3D. Each level had its own unique gimmicks, often in the form of various stage hazards. It was a cute premise that always reminded me of Crash Bash.
The problem is that none of it worked. Bad physics in a Pong game are a death sentence, but The Next Level doubled down on this by also having a disorienting camera. At the same time, the AI was so perfect that what points you did score felt like programmed fuck-ups, rather than a result of your superior playing.
It is borderline unplayable and a definite 1/10 experience for me. However, I do really like the idea of a casual Pong game with lots of gimmicks and a colorful presentation. If it was remade with a fixed camera, revised physics, and better AI, then Pong: The Next Level could be a great experience. It wouldn’t set the world on fire, but I’d snoop it up on Steam in an instant—Sale or not.
Call of Cthulhu – Dark Corners of the Earth
Even before Amnesia, many games had tried to tap into the unique blend of horror pioneered by H.P. Lovecraft. Of these, Call of Cthulhu – Dark Corners of the Earth has long been an example of great ambitions that failed to stick the landing.
The game’s development was notoriously turbulent. Call of Cthulhu got pulled in multiple directions at once by competing interests. Some wanting it to be a pure horror title, others wanting it to focus on action or even multiplayer. The end result is a game that only barely works at the best of times, but which is also deeply fascinating.
There are “fixed” versions of the game available, but these only fix the most egregious game-breaking errors and crashes. It can’t mend the unworkable AI and it can’t do much for botched features. The game is dense in atmosphere and is still talked about to this very day. If it was remade with a coherent vision by a more focused team, it could be a hit horror title for sure.
Dante’s Inferno should have been incredibly cool. An action game about conquering the circles of hell, filled with historical characters, lore, and hideous demons to do battle with. All that in a hack & slash format, which few other triple-A titles were still doing.
That the game turned out so thoroughly mediocre is the actual sin here. The issue at the heart of the game is the insistence on having a morality system. Every choice you make feeds into this system, which affects the game where it really shouldn’t. While also making no difference at all where it really should.
Color-coded experience points for good or bad actions leave you with a lopsided combat system. If you’re a paragon you spam the ranged attack and if you’re a bastard you button-mash to victory. This conditions you to make choices based on your build. rather than by thinking through the moral dilemmas you are presented with.
But why should you think about anything when it literally doesn’t matter? Dante’s Inferno is a game about venturing into hell to attain redemption, yet it doesn’t have different story paths. Your choices don’t affect the story at all! You can be the biggest jerk in the underworld, damn countless souls, yet walk away with the same ending as a saint.
I wouldn’t want to do away with the morality system completely, but a remake that better ties this into the story could make the plot infinitely more engaging. If it then also does away with the color-coded experience, players would be free to utilize the full potential of the game’s varied moveset.
Legend of Valkyrie
The term “NES hard” gets thrown around a lot to describe retro-style games with a spicy level of difficulty to them. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your preferences and tolerance for sadistic game design. However, while some may have a fondness for games that are NES hard, few would still willingly submit themselves to games that are “Famicon hard”.
Enter Legend of Valkyrie. An ambitious action-RPG far ahead of its time, held back by a death spiral of grinding. Its mercilessly tough combat encounters become like torture, as each death respawns you with money, exp, and items deducted. You grow weaker with each death, forcing you to grind more to get it back. Except you then die while grinding, gradually whittling you down more and more.
To say that you need to be cautious whilst playing is an understatement. You need to be obsessively careful and overcompensate for any and all risks. Combined with the constant setbacks, this makes the game exhausting to actually play.
Legend of Valkyrie had so much potential that so few people got to explore; both because it was Japan exclusive and because so few people will be able to get through it. A modern remake would be amazing and a great opportunity for the neglected Namco heroine to finally get her spotlight.
I will never stop holding a grudge over this. The Miskatonic was originally pitched as a comedy-Lovecraftian game, starring the badass security guard of an institute for eldritch research. The game was to have puzzle and action elements, with a deep story full of mystery.
What we got was a barebones visual novel. In spite of meeting its funding goal, ideas fell through and the game was heavily downscaled. All action and puzzle elements were thrown out and the lead character was rewritten for a more… passive story. There is literally no gameplay. You just walk from story beat to story beat, with optional dialogue spread between. Even if you can accept that for the sake of its interesting setting, The Miskatonic ends abruptly before the 2-hour mark. The story is blatantly left unfinished and promised DLC additions just never materialized.
A concept this creative deserves to be more than just a half-assed visual novel. There is so much to tap into, if only someone would give the original project another try.
Sailing in games is so zen. Whether it’s the comfortable oceans of Earth or the uncharted reaches of space, I love to just float around, explore, and peddle goods wherever I go. However, games about trading and exploration tend to be very involved and time consuming. Windward appealed to me, because it seemed like a more casual take on this simple premise.
Small, randomly generated worlds and constant multiplayer activity made journeys more manageable and eventful. However, these shorter gameplay loops also cause boredom to set in quickly. You fall into a routine and the game has little in its arsenal spice up that gameplay. It’s the same short quests and the same pirates time and time and time again. Maybe you’ll keep playing a while to see how the game changes it up once you’ve progressed a bit… except nothing ever changes.
With multiplayer dying off almost instantly, the game never stood a chance. Players have no reason to progress, no real goals to earn. They could just sit in their starting zone and peddle the same goods back and forth forever. I admire the attempt to make trade sims more manageable, but maybe up the scope at least a little bit.
A second attempt at the game with a more connected world and more NPC activity could go a long way. Rework the trade and quest systems to accommodate it, add in more ships with different traits, and keep the multiplayer around just in case. I’d certainly give it a try.
Rareware’s fall from grace was a shock. Not just because the developer had been respected for its high-quality games for years, but also for how instantly its downturn began. One moment they were making Banjo-Tooie, next it was Grabbed By The Ghoulies. Kameo for the Xbox 360 was to be their return to fame. Instead, it proved to gamers that Rare’s golden age had definitively ended.
Obviously inspired by Zelda, Kameo was a third-person action game about solving puzzles, navigating through ancient temples, and defeating evil. However, it starred a badass princess as its protagonist, who could use her magic powers to transform into different, elemental creatures. These were necessary for puzzle-solving, but could also be used in battles.
Kameo tries to do a lot at once, causing it to feel undercooked across the board. Its puzzles and dungeons feel nowhere near as refined as those of Zelda, making the inclusion of an intrusive advisor-character quite baffling. You may find yourself figuring out a puzzle the moment you walk into a room, only to then still have it spoiled for you. An emphasis on action is equally strange, because fighting feels more like a filler activity than a main focus. It’s as easy as the puzzles, but quickly grows tiring as you wade through hundreds of trolls while journeying from place to place.
Kameo’s development cycle had been arduous, as evidenced by traces of abandoned concepts that still linger in the finished game. Like Dark Corners of the Earth, a lack of focus robbed Kameo of a chance to truly shine. Now that old school 3D adventure games are coming back in fashion, I am curious what a modern day company (like Playtonic) could do for Kameo.
Back when Alpha Protocol was first announced, I was obsessed with James Bond. The premise of an open-ended RPG where you play as a secret agent sounded incredible to me. I could not anticipate just how astoundingly bad the game would turn out.
As a spy, you have to use stealth, gadgets, CQC, and guns to make it through your missions. Alpha Protocol draws inspiration from plenty of other games, but fails to ever capture what makes them fun to play. I can’t even comprehensively sum up the game’s problems for this one segment, because everything is so gimped, so riddled with terrible decisions, and all the problems tie together. It’s a horrible amalgamation of bad gameplay design.
Like, why have this entire system where players get to specialize their spy, when the game then has unavoidable boss fights that require skill in using guns? Why have all these stealth mechanics when players can literally turn invisible to escape any bad situation? Why have the AI be this braindead?
I still want to play that open-ended spy RPG. Something like the original Deus Ex, with a more contemporary story and setting. Now that Obsidian has had more time to experiment with action gameplay (Fallout: New Vegas, The Outer Worlds), I wonder if they could give Alpha Protocol another try.
This took me forever to write, sorry about that. I was very specific about my criteria and kept rewriting entries, removing games that didn’t quite fit, and then having to find replacement entries.
I first wanted to turn this concept around and challenge Stian to writing a list of unnecessary remakes. Honestly though, that’d be a piece of cake giving gaming’s recent track record. Instead, I’d like to see him (that’s you, Stian) put together a list of cheap strategies in gaming too good not to use. That one move in a fighting game that’ll piss off your mates or that one play that the AI of your favorite strategy game just can’t deal with. Anything that renders the challenge in a game moot. Good luck!