Remakes become meme fodder when done poorly. Yet they’re amazing when done right. Donkey Kong, Final Fantasy VII, Crash Bandicoot–the best remakes introduce a new generation to the gems of the past, often putting a new spin on a classic franchise.
And for fans of the original, advancements in software and production give beloved titles a new sheen. Ever wanted to face Donkey Kong as Link? Now you can. Crash Bandicoot has gone from low poly to realistically furry.
A handful of arcade games are ripe for that magical touch. The appeal of simple yet challenging games has never truly gone away; just look at the hyper casual games topping the charts of mobile games. Below are our top picks for retro games that are ready for a proper modern overhaul.
Rampage was the first arcade game to feature the player as the creature, not the creature to be defeated. And it was massive, cathartic fun, attracting droves of players who wanted to play Kong this time, not the mustachioed plumber on an epic quest to save the damsel.
Putting the distress in damsel-in-distress
The success of Godzilla’s monsterverse and the Pacific Rim franchise is proof that the public can’t get enough of monster mayhem. Rampage’s movie adaptation itself was a $400 million USD dollar box office hit.
George, who many people now better know as the white gorilla who flipped Dwayne Johnson the bird, knuckled his way back into the video gaming scene in 2018. Although fairly recent, the title was most likely created to promote the film, which was released in the same year. Gameplay has been described as boring, leaving gamers craving for a meatier remake to chomp on.
X-Men: The Arcade Game
Konami’s 1992 hit made shockwaves by tossing six players into the havoc, instead of your usual two. The game’s cabinet was a beast, a real juggernaut that housed two screens instead of one. “I spent a lot of time in the arcades in my younger days, but 1992’s X-Men was an absolute game-changer. There was nothing like getting a squad of six friends–or even total strangers–together to break some Sentinels,” shares former Marvel Comics editor Marc Sumerak.
It’s every (X)-man for himself
There’s a veritable treasure trove of lore to explore, given X-Men’s deep well of characters to draw from. Current superhero movies have shown that there’s enough space in the super universe for even obscure superheroes like Negasonic Teenage Warhead to go mainstream.
And coupled with today’s multiplayer capabilities, a remade X-Men: The Arcade Game can restart the brawl against Magneto and his Sentinels again, only on a global scale. A 2011 mobile port attempted to recreate the original, but on-screen touch controls simply don’t offer the same satisfaction of mashing buttons, especially for beat ‘em ups. The game was delisted from app stores in 2013.
Games like Overcooked and Goat Simulator have taught us two things: people will pay good money to roleplay absolutely anything, and there’s a fairly large number of them who find joy in gamifying a food service.
A remake of Tapper, which is arguably the first restaurant management sim, will definitely attract patrons new and old alike. After all, the game still floats around in the zeitgeist of video gaming culture, appearing prominently in Disney’s Wreck It Ralph. A mini-game inspired by Tapper also appears in Fallout 76.
The game’s most recent reincarnation comes in the form of Tapper World Tour, a mobile game released in 2011. Pocket Gamer called it one of the “most promising" smartphone games to come out of GDC that year. It’s been ten years since then, and countless bar sim games prove that it may be time to turn the taps back on again.
In terms of unique premise, it’s hard to top “elite spy using elevators to get the drop on terrorists”. Even nearly 30 years after the release of the original, Elevator Action keeps nailing the pitch as one of the most fun and quirky retro shooters in the genre.
Elevator Action Deluxe: A remake that could use a little more action
The game’s 1994 sequel, Elevator Action Returns, added new elements like power-ups and edgier, Contra-like graphics. Like its predecessor, Returns enjoyed commercial success. Critics lauded its graphics and improved gameplay.
Unfortunately, the latest 2011 attempt at a remake dropped the grit in favour of 3D–albeit simpler and much more sterilised–graphics. Elevator Action Deluxe was mostly panned upon release, scoring a measly 54 on Metacritic. Clearly, you can only go up from here.
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs
Car chases through the desert in futuristic Cadillacs. Scientists trying to splice people with dinosaurs. Based on a comic book and an animated series, Capcom’s side-scrolling beat ‘em up was as fun as it was bizarre.
Out of the park, into genetic splicing
The game never quite managed to reach the status of legendary Capcom beat ‘em ups like Alien vs Predator or Final Fight. Cadillacs and Dinosaurs continues to be fairly niche, and gamers would be hard-pressed to find them outside of the rare emulator. Go Play magazine called it one of the best games “you're unlikely to ever play on a Capcom compilation”.
Yet the appeal of these prehistoric beasts never truly go extinct, as evidenced by games like Ark. And with the Jurassic Park franchise feeding the fantasy, a well done Cadillacs and Dinosaurs remake will surely find a following.
When it comes to multiplayer play, you typically only have one of two options: play on the same team, or try to beat each other to a pulp. In Ice Climber, you do a little bit of both.
The friendship mitts come off when the veggies start dropping
The platformer was unique in that it didn’t directly pit you and your friend against each other. Players scale the summit together, fighting the same enemies and chiselling through the same layers of ice. You can work together by taking enemies out. Yet ultimately, the victor is decided by points, which you can get from breaking bricks, defeating monsters, and collecting vegetables on your way to the top.
The game’s simple yet challenging gameplay is a recipe for success, the same one used by Fall Guys. If Devolver Digital’s surprise hit taught us anything, it’s that there’s a lot of satisfaction to be found in watching your friends falling off platforms and generally failing.