Nostalgia sells. People are constantly looking to some sort of link to a past they remember — think, for instance, of how ESPN just put on a 10-part documentary series about a basketball team from the 1990s that more or less served as an opportunity for sports fans of all ilks to go “Oh, yeah, that team was extremely good.”
This applies to the world of video games, too. Even beyond those who have Triforce tattoos or own shirts that prominently display the Nintendo 64 logo — the hardcore, tried-and-true individuals who tie their identity to their love of video games — more casual gamers will willingly open up their wallets to play something they’ve probably already played before. Think, for instance, of those who forked over enough cash to give Final Fantasy VII Remake the distinction of being the fastest-selling PlayStation 4 exclusive in history.
Money talks, but as is the case with almost everything it can all be in vain if a re-release is not able to meet the lofty expectations that come with having a revered name. For instance, if Final Fantasy VII Remake was anything other than one of the best games of 2020, there would have been an air of disappointment around the release. Fortunately for the folks over at Square Enix, though, the game was released to acclaim, both among those who played the original and have long loved the Final Fantasy series, and those like myself, who had an Xbox growing up and joyously experienced Cloud Strife, Midgar, and Avalanche for the first time with this release.
Final Fantasy VII is not the only game to get the re-make treatment, of course. Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have all seen the value in mixing in nostalgia with new releases over the years, particularly if it’s part of a wildly popular, console-specific series like Halo, Kingdom Hearts, or Pokemon. Even if remade games are available for a collection of consoles, nostalgia has worked for, say, Resident Evil 3. And later this year, those who have asked for a new skateboarding game of any sort will get a dose of nostalgia when the first two releases in the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series hit modern consoles.
When nostalgia goes poorly, it comes off like a shameless cash grab that disrespects the legacy of something that scores of people hold near and dear to their hearts. When it works, though, nostalgia can breathe new life into something beloved, taking games that everyone remembers and making the process of playing them a joy due to updated controls, graphics, and little touches that just were not feasible due to the limits of technology available at the time of their initial release.
With the console wars set to enter their latest chapter — at least when it comes to Microsoft and Sony — the opportunity to take classic games and give them a modern twist is as tantalizing as ever. Even games that have previously been revamped could get another chance due to the sheer possibilities capable on the PlayStation 5, Switch, or Xbox Series X.
At the time of its release on the Nintendo 64, GoldenEye 007, the first-person shooter based on the James Bond film of the same name, was considered groundbreaking and is high on the list of the greatest video games of all time. In the 23 years since its release, FPS games have taken a gigantic step forward, and even though GoldenEye 007 received updated releases for the Wii and, in the case of GoldenEye 007: Reloaded, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the sheer magnitude of what is possible for these sorts of games is vast enough that a remake has the potential to be groundbreaking once again. It feels like high time to try it again.
Sticking with legendary N64 games, Star Fox 64, the rebooted version of 1993’s Star Fox, was groundbreaking in its own right. From its multiplayer mode to its choose-your-own-path story mode, the game was a marvel and continues to be a fun, engaging title even today. Personally, there was perhaps no game I poured more time into as a child than Star Fox 64, and the concept of an updated version was a major influence on deciding to write this post.
While a remake for this came out on Nintendo 3DS in 2011, advances in technology could make a more modern Star Fox 64 release even better. For example, this game in particular seems tailor-made for online play. The possibility of building out an entire world and not having a single linear story also seems like it could work perfectly here while paying proper homage to the original.
Nintendo 64 isn’t the only platform that lends itself to fun remakes — although I, for one, would love to see remakes of Donkey Kong 64 and Super Mario 64 on modern platforms. Imagine, for instance, if PlayStation followed a similar script to when it packaged the first three Uncharted games for PlayStation 4 in Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, only it went a half-step further and remade the first three games in the Metal Gear Solid series. Released in 1998 (Metal Gear Solid), 2001 (Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty), and 2004 (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater), the trio of games have been packaged as part of collections in the past.
The catch here is that the collection that featured the original game dropped in 2004 for GameCube, while the one that included the second and third games received less-than-stellar reviews for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in 2011. For a series as popular and influential as Metal Gear, especially considering that it boasts a number of overarching themes that were relevant at the time of its release and are still relevant today a la Final Fantasy VII, a well-done remake that builds on what the series does well while simultaneously using the advancements in tech that have made stealth games some of the most complex in all of gaming would be a joy. And besides, we have not had a Metal Gear Solid release since 2015.
With how vast the world of video games is, the possibilities of doing something with beloved old games is endless. Imagine a remade Perfect Dark, or an updated version of Red Dead Redemption that comes on the heels of 2017’s massive prequel, or any of the games in a series, whether it’s one where we’ve seen other remakes (Zelda, Pokemon, Mario, etc.) or one where that territory hasn’t been covered all that much in the modern era. Any number of titles you loved on an old console fits here, especially if it’s largely been left behind in the modern gaming era.
There is ground that can be covered once again, and as long as it is covered in a way that respects what made the original so great while simultaneously taking advantage of years of technology and progress in the world of gaming, those who fell in love with those games will open up their wallets and sink hours upon hours in the name of nostalgia.