Remakes and remasters don’t always go the way they should, and there’s no shortage of examples that prove that (some of which are quite recent). At the same time though, things do work out the way you’d want, and in 2021, we got several excellent remakes and remasters of games that gave us the chance to revisit some beloved titles, both old and new. Here, we’re going to talk about some that stood out to us, before picking one of them as the best of the bunch.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
ALAN WAKE REMASTERED
It’s become clear over the last couple of years that Remedy Entertainment has big plans for Alan Wake, first with his appearance in Control’s AWE expansion, and then with reports heavily suggesting that an Alan Wake 2 is in the works. Before we get to that though, this year, Remedy took a trip down memory lane and brought the original 2010 cult classic to modern consoles. Alan Wake Remastered showcases the original’s strengths brilliantly, and on top of delivering the same creepy and atmospheric experience that fans fell in love with over a decade ago, also makes some significant visual and technical improvements.
CONTROL: ULTIMATE EDITION
Speaking of Control– easily one of the best games of 2019, Remedy’s bizarre third person shooter touched new heights with Control: Ultimate Edition in early 2021. While playing the original game on a base PS4 or base Xbox One was an uneven experience due to various technical issues, on more powerful hardware, this game looks fantastic, and runs like a dream. The remaster also brings the full game and its two expansions into a single package, while on the PS5, we also get solid implementation of the DualSense’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Without a doubt, this is the best way to play Control.
NIER REPLICANT VER.1.22474487139…
NieR Automata’s success ensured that Square Enix would start looking at the series as a whole through a different lens, anda byproduct of that was an excellent remake of the original NieR with NieR Replicant. From its varied and addictive gameplay to a brilliantly told and captivating narrative, NieR Replicant allows the best aspects of the original to shine bright. On top of that, with various gamepay and visual improvements both big and small and some sizeable content additions, this makes for an excellent package for anyone who considers themselves a fan of the series.
THE NIOH COLLECTION
Team Ninja says it’s wrapped up its work on Soulslike series Nioh for the time being- how long of a hiatus this will be remains to be seen, but at least fans can be glad that it’s temporarily signing off on a high note. The Nioh Collection could have easily been an unambitious collection bringing bothgames together with minimal improvements, but it instead does significant remastering work on both games (especially Nioh 1) by leveraging the PS5’s hardware to truly let both games be the best versions of themselves.
MASS EFFECT: LEGENDARY EDITION
Mass Effect fans haven’t had a lot to celebrate over the last few years, and there’s no way to know if the next game in the series – which is clearly years away – will live up to expectations. We can always go back to the excellent original trilogy though, and thanks to 2021’s Legendary Edition, we now have the best possible way of doing that. Mass Effect 1 in particularly really benefited from this excellent remaster, with the game receiving significant visuals and gameplay improvements, while 2 and 3 were also touched up in some meaningful ways. Collectively, playing the three games in a single continuous experience in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is easily one of the best experiences we’ve had in 2021.
Oddworld Inhabitants began the undertaking of reimagining the Oddworld series game-by-game with 2014’s New ‘n Tasty, and in 2021, the next step in that journey arrived in the form of Oddworld: Soulstorm, an ambitious reimagining of the 1998 classic Abe’s Exoddus. Soulstorm is definitely a little rough around the edges, primarily with some technical issues, but by and large, this is a solid remake of a beloved game. By building upon the series’ best mechanics and adding in its own new ideas, Soulstorm ensures that Oddworld fans will find plenty to love here.
FATAL FRAME: MAIDEN OF BLACK WATER
It’s been some time since Fatal Frame was part of the zeitgeist, and while fans of the series are still starved for a new mainline entry, we did get something to sink our teeth into this year- and it was pretty good, to say the least. Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is a bit unambitious as a remaster, even though some of its new features and additions work out quite well, but what makes the game really tick is- well, the game itself. This was a solid horror game when it first launched, and it still is. More than anything else, it’s a reminder that this is a great series that deserves to have its time in the sun again.
SONIC COLORS: ULTIMATE
Sonic’s windy road has seen its fair share of ups and downs where 3D renditions of the iconic character are concerned, but if there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, it’s that 2010’s Sonic Colors is easily one of its best offerings in years. And in 2021, with Sonic Colors: Ultimate, we got an even better version of it. None of its technical improvements and gameplay improvements might seem awfully significant on paper, but they all come together to make for significantly improved experience. And of course, it helps that the core game itself remains as enjoyable as ever.
DEATH STRANDING DIRECTOR’S CUT
Death Stranding was one of the weirdest games of 2019, but events in the real world over the last couple of years have seen people coming back to the game with a deeper appreciation for it and the experience it offers. This year, Sony and Kojima Productions decided to give players the perfect opportunity to return to its desolate world with Death Stranding Director’s Cut, and though it wasn’t nearly as much of a radical expansion as its name might imply, it was still a damn fine re-release. It looks better, runs better, has new content, and makes solid use of some of the PS5’s best hardware features- all said, this is easily the best way to play this game.
GHOST OF TSUSHIMA DIRECTOR’S CUT
Of course, Death Stranding wasn’t the only game that Sony remastered and brought forward to its new console. 2020’s excellent Sucker Punch-developed samurai epic Ghost of Tsushima got similar treatment, and though it certainly caught some flak for its pricing, the actual experience itself was absolutely brilliant. The PS5’s more powerful hardware allows an already gorgeous game to look and run even better than it did on the PS4, which is really saying something, while with the Iki Island expansion, we also got a meaty new chunk of excellently designed content that delivers more of what made the base game one of 2020’s best offerings.
POKEMON BRILLIANT DIAMOND AND SHINING PEARL
Pokemon fans have been begging for the series to become more ambitious for a long, long time at this point, but funnily enough, being completely unambitious is exactly what makes Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl so good. The original Diamond and Pearl were excellent RPGs – perhaps among the best games this series has ever delivered – so staying faithful to the original releases was the best possible thing the remakes could have done. Of course, the two new releases do also make some improvements to the base experience by expanding upon ancillary ideas and mechanics, and while we can’t confidently say that the remakes are better than, or even as good as, the original games (that would be a mighty tall order), we can safely say that on their own, they’re great games.
DIABLO 2 RESURRECTED
After Warcraft 3: Reforged, there was a massive contingent of people that completely lost faith in Blizzard’s ability to do justice to its iconic classics with remakes or remasters, but thankfully, Diablo 2: Resurrected – which was technically developed by Vicarious Visions – defies those expectations. It strikes a perfect balance between modernizing an ageing classic and remaining true to the spirit of the original game, and delivers the same dangerously addictive experience of Diablo 2, only this time with a fresh (and beautiful) new coat of paint.
GHOST OF TSUSHIMA DIRECTOR’S CUT
Around this time a year ago, we were all singing praises of Ghost of Tsushima, but given how damn fine the game is, it’s not really too surprising that we’re still doing pretty much the exact same thing a year later. Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut would have been in the running for an accolade such as this one even if it had been a conservative remaster, but it’s so much more than that. Yes, it looks fantastic and runs fantastic, but its new Iki Island expansion is what really elevates the experience. It’s a sizeable chunk of new content delivering around a dozen hours of new, excellently designed content. From the new setting to the story it tells, from the engaging new missions and side quests to the predictable addictive new side content, for all of these reasons and more, Iki Island feels like a crucial addition to the base experience. Collectively, Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut does the impossible and makes significant improvements on what is already one of the best game’s we’ve played on a PlayStation platform in recent memory.
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