Remasters are all the rage these days, aren’t they? In concept, the idea of updating an older game to be enjoyed by current generations is fairly popular among gamers, and it certainly has a better track record than doing the same to, say, movies(as a thousand “Han Shot First” T-Shirts can attest). But in the last few years, the gaming market has become increasingly oversaturated with remasters, and the games that developers choose to update don’t always make sense. I don’t think The Last of Us for instance, released in the distant year of 2013, on a console that’s still being sold in stores, was desperately in need of a facelift. More and more, I see people becoming increasingly frustrated with the idea of remasters, which is a shame, because there’s plenty of games that could genuinely use some love. I have gathered some of them here. They aren’t necessarily unplayable in their current state, but they are games with serious potential, held back by outdated mechanics, ugly graphics, technical issues, and lack of compatibility with modern systems. The list has been split in two categories, the classics, which are beloved and well known titles, and the not so classics, which are far less popular, and perhaps less beloved, but nevertheless just as deserving.
10.Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Most of the games are on this list because they have aged poorly in some ways. Prince of Persia on the other hand, is here precisely because it hasn’t. Oh sure, the graphics aren’t exactly pretty, the camera is about as awkward as you would expect from a 2003 platformer, and the story is nothing to write home about. But most of these are easily fixable. More importantly though, the game’s design philosophy and core gameplay loop are much more in line with modern sensibilities than any of its sequels(aside from Warrior Within, which is mostly more of the same), or the first few Assassins Creed games. While those games prioritize a more casual and streamlined experience, with minimal difficulty, as few inputs as they can get away with, and a very restrictive approach to where you can go and what you can do, Sands of Time is all about freedom of movement, challenging but rewarding platforming and surprisingly tricky combat. Ubisoft have toyed before with the idea of a full remake, before dashing everyone’s hopes as they are known to d0. But I’d say that’s unnecessary. Just fix the camera, add some eye candy here and there, implement a modern control scheme, and let the zoomers loose on it.
9.Far Cry 2
I don’t think Far Cry 2 is a very good game. It might have helped launch one of the biggest gaming franchises, sold millions of copies, and received rave reviews, but it’s not exactly fun to play. It is fundamentally broken, with endlessly and constantly respawning enemies, a difficulty curve that is all over the place, and a myriad of frustrating and confusing mechanics. But none of that matters. Far Cry 2 is a game that promised people a completely unique experience, and delivered just enough of it to get everyone hooked. The vast open world, the completely open ended approach to just about any aspect, and the immersion of the almost fully diegetic interface and hardcore survival elements created a first person shooter unlike any other at the time. And its influence can be see in hundreds of modern games. With just a few tweaks and improvements, Far Cry 2 can be something truly special. At the very least, it would be a welcome break from the increasingly formulaic theme park that the franchise has become.
Unreal might have the dubious honor of being the only game whose name is far more popular than the game itself. Since it’s lent the name to both Unreal Tournament, arguably the biggest arcade shooter franchise of all time, and the Unreal Engine, which is, well, the Unreal Engine. You would expect a game with this kind of pedigree to be a pretty big deal, and for a very short time, it was. Upon its release, it received a ton of praise for its atmosphere, art direction, level design and especially those dang fancy graphics. It’s actually crazy to think that a game this good looking was released only a few months after Quake II. Unfortunately for Unreal, it was also released only a few months before Half-Life, which more or less spelled the end of every other shooter out there. Which is a shame because Unreal really is close to the pinnacle of 90s shooters. While Doom has been ported to every electronic device known to man and the original Quake exists in perpetuity at this point, Unreal never quite managed to gather that critical mass of nostalgic fans required to achieve that level of video game immortality. But it is by no means forgotten, and with a bit of spit and polish, might enjoy a resurgence.
7.Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2
It is hard to believe just how many legendary RTS games came within a relatively short period of the late 90s and early 2000s. In just 4 years, between 1998 and 2002, we were blessed with such classics as Starcraft, Age of Empires 2, Age of Mythology, Empire Earth, Warcraft 3, Stronghold, and yes, Red Alert 2. It’s easy to see how a game could fall through the cracks from such a stacked lineup. But it is a shame that it had to be this one. With it’s wonderfully cheesy storyline, fun and unique unit designs, and genuinely compelling gameplay, its still a blast to play, provided you can manage to jump through all the hoops EA requires of you. And there are a lot of those. To add insult to injury, this is the only classic Command and Conquer they haven’t remastered. It’s almost like they don’t want you to play it. Red Alert 2 is in that amazing sweet spot of RTS games, not as rudimentary and outdated as the earlier titles in the franchise, but not as awkward and contrived as some of the later 3D titles. With actual multiplayer servers, some minor polish on the graphics and interface, and ,if we’re lucky, some upscaling on the FVMs, I could easily see it rival Age of Empires 2, just as it once did 20 years ago.
6.The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
This is perhaps the most controversial pick on this list, and one I thought about a great deal before I decided to include. The truth is, Morrowind is still very playable in 2022. With mods. In fact, it is better than it has ever been, provided you have a dozen hours to spare to customize virtually every aspect. And while modding will always be an integral part of the PC gaming experience for many, they still present a barrier to entry. There are some that just won’t bother with mods, either because they lack the small level of technical knowledge required, or because they would rather have an experience that doesn’t stray from the original vision of the original creators. Luckily, those original creators are still around, and I hear they’re quite big fans of rereleasing older games. Give it to us Todd, you coward!
This is the only game on this list I haven’t really played. Well, according to Steam I have played 10 hours, most of which I’ve spent frantically searching for solutions to an ever increasing list of problems, or pulling out my hair when those solutions didn’t turn out to be particularly useful. This is a broken game, far more so than any other on this list, and the passage of time has only made things worse. However, during those 10 hours, I did get a glimpse of the brilliance that others have told me about, the engrossing setting and fascinating characters. I only wish that I(along many others) can get to experience it without random crashes and game breaking bugs.
4.Medieval II: Total War
Strategy games generally have pretty long shelf lives. The graphics are never the primary focus, the gameplay is pretty timeless, and they usually have virtually infinite replay value. Total War games in particular even more so, due to their virtually endless replayability in single player, as well as their incredibly devoted mod scenes. You would expect then, that Medieval II, one of the most popular entries in the franchise, and a relatively modern game, would be perfectly playable in 2022. You would be wrong. With no widescreen support(and no way to mod it in properly), poor compatibility with modern hardware and operating systems, and a general lack of care from the developers, it’s actually quite a bit of a pain in the ass. This isn’t really a game that requires an extensive overhaul either, which makes it even more baffling that it’s still in this current state.
This might be sacrilege to admit on the internet, but I don’t really love Deus Ex. I had a good time with it, don’t get me wrong, but I could never quite see what the fuss was all about. It’s ugly as sin, even by 2000 standards, the voice acting is terrible, it’s often confusing and unintuitive, and feels fairly clunky to play. Of course, I never played it in its time(on account of being a toddler), and if I had, I suspect my opinion would have been drastically different. The thing is though, I can almost see why everyone holds it in high regard. Beyond the jank and outdated elements, there’s still a very solid game buried in there somewhere. Someone just needs to dig it up.
When Bethesda released Fallout 3, there was a great deal of outrage in the Fallout community. People cried that they dumbed it down, and that it lost the essence of what made the series special. They were outraged that Bethesda didn’t have faith in the turn based, isometric formula, and that they turned it into “Elder Scrolls with guns”. Aside from the hardcore fanbase, most people understood their choice. Isometric RPGs had had their day, and no one would expect such an outdated genre to have any success in the AAA market. They were probably right at the time, but things have changed since then. Classic tactical RPGs have made a huge comeback, and there’s a great deal of successful modern games inspired by the first two Fallout titles. That doesn’t mean the games have aged that well though. The interface is a nightmare, balance is nonexistent, the rules are opaque at best, and the first game in particular suffers from some absolutely infuriating design choices. The classic Fallout formula still has its place, but the games themselves do need a bit of help.
More so than any other game on this list, Alpha Centauri seems like a no-brainer for a remaster. It’s one of the most popular 4x games ever made, it’s a close cousin of the Civilization series, which continues to this day, and its reputation hasn’t diminished one bit over the years. Yet, 23 years later, your only choice is still the original, ancient, unmodified game. It received a GOG release, thankfully, but there has been no sequel, remake, remaster, or even a spiritual sequel. Alpha Centaury stands alone, the only one of its kind. It is still playable of course, but the graphics look like modern art on high resolution(which of course, is not officially supported, but there’s plenty of third party resources out there), and the interface is about as cumbersome and confusing as you would expect from a 1999 strategy game, but other than that, I can’t really say it shows its age. Alpha Centauri should have been the first game ever remastered. And if there was only one game that could ever be remastered, it should have been Alpha Centauri.
The Not So Classics
Everyone has that childhood game that they are afraid to revisit as an adult. Children are easily impressed, and far more likely to overlook flaws, if they can spot them at all. Sometimes, it’s best to leave these games in the past, and treasure the fond memories you have of them, rather than replace them with disappointment. For me, one of those games was Trickstyle, an arcade hoverboard racer. Or at least I thought so. I saw it on sale on GOG, and bought it on a whim, expecting to have a few hours of fun with it and relieve some childhood memories. Instead, what I found was a remarkably solid racer, with a gimmick that, to my knowledge, hasn’t successfully been replicated since. The controls are smooth, the level design is outstanding, and the art direction still holds up to some extent. With a few bonuses, a facelift and multiplayer support, I can genuinely see this being a solid game, even after all these years.
Advent Rising is the Babylon 5 to Mass Effect’s Star Trek. It’s uglier, less polished, mostly forgotten by everyone but hardcore fans, and actually playing it in 2022 is kind of a pain in the ass. But it is also not afraid to get weirder, step outside of conventions and experiment, and as a result, it’s in many ways ahead of the curve for the time, even if its ambition sometimes exceeds its grasp. Also, much like Babylon 5, it has seemingly had a huge degree of influence for something so seemingly unpopular. In what is a running theme on this list, this is a game that launched buggy and unstable, and has only gotten worse over time, to the extent that I’m not even sure you can get it to run on some PCs. The gunplay is hit or miss, but the story, world, art design and music will keep you invested regardless. It’s just too bad that no developer or publisher seems to care for this title’s potential.
8.Neverwinter Nights 2
Before there was Dragon Age: Origins, there was Neverwinter Nights 2. For years, this was the closest thing to a true successor to Baldur’s Gate crown, and depending on who you ask, still is. So why did Dragon Age get all the fame and glory while, NWN2 rotted away in semi-obscurity? You see, this game was made by Obsidian. Anyone familiar with their output will instantly know what that means. Neverwinter Nights 2 is brilliant, but utterly broken. Apart from the bugs and technical issues(and there are a lot of them, trust me), the game is a mess of intricate systems upon systems, which don’t work like they’re supposed to, work like they’re supposed to but don’t really make sense, and everything in between. Then there’s the camera. I don’t even understand how you can mess it up this badly, but there’s 3 camera modes, and they each come with their very own flavor of awfulness. I’m not painting a very pretty picture here, but you have to believe me, this is an amazing game. The writing is in a class of its own(particularly the Mask of the Betrayer campaign) the companions are charming and interesting, and it contains my favorite adaptation of the DnD ruleset in any video game. The good far outweighs the bad, and the bad is mostly fixable. But someone has to fix it.
7.The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II
Let’s add another game to the pile of RTS classics that slipped through the cracks. This one is fairly unique though, for being one of the last big budget ones before the genre mostly died off. In some ways, it is still among the most modern RTS games you can play(and yes, I’m counting Age of Empires 4), or should I say, you could play. Battle for Middle Earth II is not available anywhere for sale, and even if you could track down a copy, it probably won’t run on your PC without some serious tinkering. Thanks to pesky copyright issues, it is utterly abandoned, and will probably remain so for the time being. It’s just a colossal waste that such a good game is literally unplayable(legally, anyway), but perhaps someone will come along and rescue it.
Rama is a very convoluted game to understand. You’re probably guessing that it’s based on the famous Arthur C. Clarke novel Rendezvous with Rama, and you are partially correct, as it is based on its sequel, Rama II. There is also a game based on the first book, but the two are unrelated, and the events of the first book never happened in this game’s chronology. Confused yet? Don’t worry, none of this is particularly important. What is important is that Rama is an excellent Myst-style adventure game, with killer art direction, great music, an interesting plot, and FMV sequences that aren’t half bad by 90s standards. It also features Arthur C. Clarke himself scolding you every time you die. It also comes with all the amenities that you would expect from a 26 year old adventure game, which is to say that it is an absolute pain to play through. That can easily be changed however.
Arx Fatalis is a game that, at first, seems pretty simple. But the more I try to describe it, the harder it seems. Imagine if Morrowind was set entirely underground, and you cast magic by performing various gestures with your mouse. But you’ve also got a fairly involved crafting system, and an emphasis on stealth and survival mechanics. Oh, and despite being a fairly story-driven game with multiple branching paths, there’s no dialogue system. Trust me, it makes way more sense once you play it. Unfortunately, the game hasn’t exactly aged all that well. Besides the obvious issues with such an old game, there’s also the added problem that modern mouse hardware really messes with the spellcasting system, so much that it’s borderline unplayable without an unofficial patch. But these are all issues that could be easily fixed, and Arx Fatalis is a far more polished and stable experience than most other titles on this list.
Obsidian, you beautiful bastards, we meet again. Alpha Protocol is somehow, even more broken than Neverwinter Nights 2. It is in fact probably the least playable game Obsidian have ever released, and that’s really saying something. And despite being the newest game on this list, it’s the one that you will have the most trouble running on a modern PC. But leaving aside the mess, this is a truly special experience. You play as a secret agent, somewhere in the middle on the James Bond-Jason Bourne scale, uncovering an international conspiracy. The most direct point of comparison is Mass Effect, this being a third person shooter/RPG hybrid with a heavy emphasis on dialogue, but there’s really nothing else out there quite like it.
If Advent Rising is Babylon 5, I guess this would make Anachronox the Farscape of space opera games. This game is weird, weird, weird. It almost feels like it came from an alternate dimension, one where Deus Ex developers Ion Storm made JRPGS, and where controlling your mouse cursor in three dimensions to interact with the game world was a normal control scheme. Did I mention that the cursor also actually exists as a character within the game’s world, and is actually your dead girlfriend? Yeah, this game is weird. Apart from the clunky controls, Anachronox’s biggest problems are the dated interface and the awful minigames. This isn’t a particularly though game to fix, and it would be so worth it.
2.Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy
Remember when video games had physics? Half-Life 2 famously used it’s physics engine for all kinds of innovative ways, and most other games famously used theirs to break the games in various ways. But there was no game that had quite as much fun with physics as as Psi-Ops, a third person shooter in which you play as a psychic secret agent. You can ragdoll your enemies around, throw various pieces of the environment at them, or just pick up a box, jump on it and fly around. There’s also guns, but those are basically there just to show you how cool psychic powers are in comparison. Not until the relatively recent Control has a game nailed telekinesis in such a way, so it’s a shame that this one’s largely forgotten. At one point, publishers Midway released it as a free download with ads, which surprisingly didn’t exactly take off. These days I guess it would count as abandonware, which is pretty sad for a game I would consider one of the best in its genre.
1.Freedom Force+ Freedom Force vs the Third Reich
There have been a lot of decent to great superhero games lately, but there haven’t really been any comic book superhero games. The distinction doesn’t seem relevant at first, but really, while the Batman Arkham games or Spider-Man have more in common with their cinematic cousins, the Freedom Force series fully embraces the comic book design, and the camp and silliness that comes with it. Despite being set in an off-brand Marvel/DC amalgamation, they feel far more in tune with the actual comics than most other “proper” superhero adaptations. Plus, the idea of a tactical RPG featuring superheroes feels like such a natural fit that it’s a crime that no one else even attempted it until Marvel’s Midnight Suns earlier this year. These two are in a slightly better state than many others on this list, since they are available through GOG and mostly work on modern PCs, but they could still do with a bit of an update.
1.Dark Messiah of Might and Magic
Ah, Dark Messiah. Was there ever a more visceral action game? You can kick enemies into spikes, throw everything not bolted down at them, set up elaborate Rube Goldberg-style contraptions and watch them fall apart. This is a game that relies less on how good you are at hitting and parrying with your sword, and more on how well you can use the environment against your foes. The basic combat is simple, and you aren’t that powerful compared to your foes, so you have to get creative There’s also stealth, but who are we kidding. Dark Messiah is by no means a perfect, or even completely functional game. But it’s so damn fun. Actually, I’m not even sure I want this game remastered. The bugs and jankyness are half the fun. Slap a couple of patches on this bad boy and it’s good to go.
2.The Marathon Trilogy
It’s probably safe to say that everyone reading this has heard of Halo. The first Halo game, Combat Evolved, released in 2001 instantly made Bungie Studios a household name, and the franchise has since become one of the most profitable media properties of all time. But Halo wasn’t Bungie’s first game. That honor goes to a little title called Gnop!, which is Pong spelled backwards, and also the most accurate description of what the game is. But that’s obviously not what we’re talking about today. The first Marathon was in many ways the first iteration of what was eventually going to become Halo. It was a sci-fi shooter with a recharging shield mechanics and innovative level design. It had great multiplayer. But what really set it apart was the story. The crazy, batshit, complex story. It would take me literal hours to talk about what exactly said story entails, but suffice it to say, it’s really out there, and piecing it all together is an amazing experience. Unfortunately, it’s an experience that’s wrapped up in a 90s shooter. The Marathon games are by no means bad gameplay wise, but they are very outdated. I’m including them here because, honestly, the scope of what would need to be done is closer to a full remake, as opposed to a remaster.
3.The Elder Scrolls IV:Oblivion
Once again, you could make the same argument for Oblivion as for Morrowind. With mods, it is a gorgeous, modern, perfectly playable game. I’d be inclined to agree here, since it’s a much less archaic game regardless, and it’s much easier to mod if you don’t know what you’re doing(you can still break it, obviously, but you actually need to try). But I’d still love to see Bethesda give it the Special Edition treatment, at least for variety’s sake. Maybe in between the next two Skyrims?
4.Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena & Escape From Butcher’s Bay
Movie tie-in games that are actually decent are pretty rare. The Raimi Spider-Man games were fun, and the old Blade Runner adventure game was decent enough, but most of them are cheap, rushed garbage. Movie tie-in games that are actually better than their source material? Well, it’s basically these two and Goldeneye. The secret here is that everything that makes the Riddick film franchise… not exactly high art works perfectly in a first person shooter. The super badass monosyllabic protagonist? That checks out. The grimdark rule of cool setting that falls apart the more you think about it? Who has time to think? Hours upon hours of mindless violence? That’s the whole point! I’m maybe cheating a bit by including these here, since Butcher’s Bay already technically got remastered once when it got bundled with its sequel, but that was 13 years ago, and the two aren’t even available anywhere for sale. There’s not much case for an extensive remaster here though, as these two could look really good with minimal effort, and the gameplay still holds up very well.
3 thoughts on “20 Great PC Games That Actually Deserve a Remaster”
Legacy of Kain* (Defiance) is the one.
Come on, sir.;)
How about the Starflight series?
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