Remakes and remasters have always been fixtures of the video game landscape, going all the way back to when Nintendo and Sega were releasing versions of their 8-bit classics on their 16-bit systems. But as time has gone on, these re-releases in all their forms have gotten more and more sophisticated and impressive. While there are some every year that are still relatively straightforward ports, others represent thorough, from the ground up remakes that entirely reimagine their source material – and then we have everything in between.
Here, we look at the best remakes and remasters that were released in 2020.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition
With the Xenoblade series finally having found mainstream success on the Nintendo Switch with 2017’s Xenoblade 2, Nintendo and Monolith Soft decided to give everyone a taste of the epic that started it all back in 2010. The original Xenoblade was built for the Wii, but it has never shone and sung like it did on the Switch. Now finally free of the shackles that the Wii and 3DS imposed on the game, Monolith’s gorgeous, breathtaking spectacle of a world came to life like never before, in the process also sanding off some of the rough edges the original release had. Xenoblade was lauded as one of the all time genre greats when it originally launched – and 10 years later, it still stands toe to toe with genre giants.
Similar to Xenoblade, Demon’s Souls was a chance provided by Sony for newer fans of From Soft’s Souls series to see how it all started. Demon’s Souls was remade lovingly by masters of the craft Bluepoint. Made to showcase the PS5’s incredible prowess, Demon’s Souls is gorgeous, looking literally multiple generations beyond the original release – and indeed, looking far beyond any other Souls game to date. The graphical touch up helps showcase just how far ahead of its time the original, pioneering game really was, as little else has been touched, and Demon’s Souls manages to far exceed most modern games on the market anyway.
Kingdoms of Amalur: The Rereckoning
Big Huge Games and 37 Studios’ Kingdoms of Amalur was a tale of missed potential. The game, while holding a lot of promise, was flawed, flaws which could easily have been addressed in a sequel. Unfortunately that sequel was not to be. Until THQ Nordic acquired the IP. Maybe they plan to produce a sequel to the game – who knows? But whatever their reasons may have been, they did decide to lead with a remaster of the original game. Hilariously titled Rereckoning, this was a fairly conservative remaster, touching up the graphics and little else. In spite of that, however, the promise of that original game is still here – and we hope we get to see a follow up that finally delivers on the tantalizing glimpses of greatness this remaster brought to modern audiences this year.
Mafia: Definitive Edition
You can make the case – convincingly, I might add – that the original Mafia game is the only good one. So it’s fitting that its rerelease got so much more effort, love, and care lavished on it than the other rereleases and updates in the series that were released this year. Mafia’s fantastic crime drama story holds up and still exceeds its own follow ups. The core design of the game is surprisingly strong too. Mafia’s decision to keep its campaign purely linear, keeping the sandbox separated from the story driven proceedings, helped this game age far better than many other similar ones. While parts of the package, such as the awkward and stiff shooting, definitely mar the experience with the Definitive Edition a bit, on the whole, it’s a laudable update that definitely stands as one of the more ambitious ones we’ve seen.
Super Mario 3D All Stars
For Mario’s 35th anniversary, Nintendo decided to bring three classic 3D Mario games to the Switch. Super Mario 64, Sunshine, and especially Galaxy are among the best, most influential games of all time, so the ability to play them on modern systems is definitely much appreciated, especially given how well they hold up. And yet, this rerelease is fraught with poor decisions and baffling cut corners – the updates are minimal (Mario 64 wasn’t even updated to be widescreen!), there are little to no extras included (which is perplexing for an anniversary celebration), and the decision to only have this be available for a time limited window (including digitally!) rankles as one of Nintendo’s worst in recent memory. The only reason this collection manages to rise above this blend of poor decisions is because of how incredibly strong the games included are – Galaxy, in particular, can still rightly claim to be better than most games released on the market today, including most of Nintendo’s own.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake
The long awaited, almost mythical remake of Square’s seminal 1997 RPG Final Fantasy 7 released this year after an incredibly long gestation period at last. And what a release it was. The graphics were modernized, standing toe to toe with the best lookers of the generation. The new ATB battle system straddles the line between real time and turn based so incredibly well, it’s hard to see future Final Fantasy game use anything else. And the story – well, that’s one thing that’s bound to be controversial, in true modern Square fashion. No matter where you land on that, however, it’s indisputable how ambitious and breathtakingly bold and daring this remake really was.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe
Nintendo’s Pikmin series has always been a victim of bad timing (so far, it’s seen releases on GameCube and Wii U, two of their worst selling consoles ever), so it made sense that Nintendo would want to give it another shot on the Switch. As far as their Wii U rereleases on Switch go, Pikmin 3 Deluxe definitely ranks as one of the better ones. The real time strategy game was included with all the content in the base game, the DLC, and some extra content included to boot. While the graphics are surprisingly poor for a rerelease on a much more powerful system than the original one it released on, on the whole, this is Pikmin 3 in its best incarnation yet – and it being portable is just the cherry on top.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 HD
In one of the weirdest twists of the last few years, Activision has somehow managed to consistently deliver some of the best, most through, and most value for money rerelease of classic games. Much like Crash N.Sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited, Tony Hawk 1+2 is a thorough overhaul of the original two games in the skateboarding series, receiving such a from the ground up polish that you’d be forgiven for not recognizing their roots. Add to that the incredible low price, and this definitely stands as one of the best purchases you can make right now – even if you’re not as big a fan of skateboarding games to begin with.
Command and Conquer Remastered Collection
Another shocking development is EA taking the beloved Command and Conquer games, and re-releasing them while… according them all the respect they deserve? Huh. A far cry from the mobile game abomination they attempted to push on series fans just a few years back, the Command and Conquer Remastered collection is a loving homage to, and update of, the seminal classic real time strategy games that literally blazed the trail for an entire genre, while, yes, being shockingly low priced. Hopefully, this means there’s a new, big budget real time strategy entry in this series that can rightly claim to be a titan of the medium and its development in the cards some time in the future.
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered
Hopefully Criterion can resuscitate EA’s once proud Need for Speed racing series after the beatings it’s taken three last few years; however, in the meanwhile, there’s this rerelease of one of the last great games in the series. Criterion’s own 2010 reimagining of the series classic Hot Pursuit conceit holds up surprisingly well, and actually acts as a remarkable look at what the automobile scene was like a full decade ago. The trademark speed and risk/reward gameplay that’s so central to the Hot Pursuit concept is every bit as thrilling now as it was then, and Hot Pursuit Remastered ends up being remarkably equipped to take on all of its contemporaries to boot. If you’re looking for an arcade racer, you could actually do far worse than Hot Pursuit Remastered.
The original Half-Life is one of the most important game releases of all time, so it makes sense that it’s inspired so many fan tributes and works, including some great remakes. But the king of all those is Black Mesa, a fan remake of the original game that’s literally been years in the coming – and that’s been so high profile that it ended up catching Valve’s attention and becoming officially sanctioned along the way. Black Mesa is an incredible work, and you can convincingly make the case that it’s in fact the best version of Half-Life. In fact, the developers of Half-Life Alyx actually played it before they set out to make their game. And that, ultimately, is the most ringing endorsement it can get – Valve themselves used it as a study for what makes a good Half-Life game.
Spider-Man Remastered is a fairly conservative update of the 2018 release, and with good reason – the 2018 game was already fantastic, and Insomniac wisely decided against tinkering with a winning formula. The biggest additions and changes in Remastered are all graphical, whether it be ray tracing or the bemusingly controversial update to Peter Parker’s model. One of those graphical changes, however – the ability to play the game in 60FPS – is a total game changer, adding a fluidity and sense of motion to a game that already felt kinetic and fluid to begin with. If you play Spider-Man so that you can feel like Spider-Man, no version of this game will do a better job of that than this remaster. If you haven’t played Spider-Man already, this remaster is the way to go.
Destroy All Humans
The cult classic and fan favorite Destroy All Humans from the PS2 era was brought back in 2020, and it was… fine. An exceedingly faithful remake of the original action adventure title, Destroy All Humans suffered from aspects of dated design that would have been better off had THQ Nordic modernized then and brought them to contemporary standards. Those flaws, however, didn’t take away from the kind of mindlessly engaging fun the original game was so great at providing, and this remake is too. And in the end, sometimes that’s all you want – and in that regard, Destroy All Humans 2020 delivers in spades.
Saints Row The Third Remastered
Ask any fan of the Saints Row series which game was the best, and you’ll get a universal consensus (or as close to one as is possible) – Saint Row The Third, where the series really found its voice as the over the top and wacky counterpart to the then increasingly grounded GTA franchise, but before it descended into the insanity that it would with the fourth game in the series and beyond. So it makes sense that this is the one fans would want on modern systems. And THQ Nordic delivered, giving us Saints Row The Third Remastered, an enhanced rerelease of the original title that shows us just how surprisingly well it holds up all these years later. This was aided, in no small part, by how convincing a visual overhaul the game received, to the extent it could have passed for an early gen PS4 game. That kind of staggering effort made this fan favorite title shine bright once more, and made Saints Row The Third Remastered one of the best rereleases in a year full of great rereleases.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake
There has never before been a remake as ambitious and as audacious as Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Square could have easily gotten away with just putting out a simple modernization of the old game – in fact, you can argue that’s really all that fans wanted – but instead, they chose to give us an alternate interpretation of the original story, literally remaking it and where it goes along the way. The changes to the story are of course the big eye catching bullet point here, but every part of the package saw incredible updates, from the story to the gameplay to the surprisingly great voice acting to, of course, the gorgeous graphics. Final Fantasy 7 Remake is a product that stumbles often, but when you’re this ambitious and aim this big, that’s bound to happen. And in spite of those stumbles, FF7R gives us a truly unforgettable experience – one way or the other.