Over the holiday season we’ll be republishing a series of Nintendo Life articles, interviews and other features from the previous twelve months that we consider to be our Best of 2020. Hopefully, this will give you a chance to catch up on pieces you missed, or simply enjoy looking back on a year which did have some highlights — honest!
This feature was originally published in July 2020.
Ever since the rumour that several 3D Super Mario remasters may be coming to Switch, we’ve been champing at the bit to experience those classics again on Switch. Say what you like about Switch ports but if they’re treated with the care and respect they deserve, we’re all for bringing everything–past and present– to Switch. We’ll take the lot.
However, there’s an argument to be made that recycling the same classic games time and time again is a bit of a waste, especially when we’ve played them to death already. How about spending that development time sprucing up games that fell short of greatness, or games we haven’t had easy access to since they originally released? Rather than gilding the lily over and over, why not put that effort into remaking games that didn’t live up to their potential the first time around?
Remakes provide a solid blueprint for developers to work from and come with an existing fanbase, so it’s no wonder they’re attractive to big companies. Still, it would be nice to see more risks taken in this area. Master System classic Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap was given a fresh lick of paint and polished up beautifully for modern consoles, and although the source material for the recently-announced Alex Kidd in Miracle World remake isn’t as revered, the developers will be hoping to pull off a similar trick.
Of course, Nintendo puts out remakes on a semi-regular basis, and we recently enjoyed Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. However, that’s not the sort of HD upgrade and spit-polish we have in mind for the games below. We’re talking fundamental overhauls along the lines of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening or, better yet, the mighty Metroid: Zero Mission for GBA, the latter of which took the ageing shell of the original Metroid and gave it a startling refurbishment. In fact, the Metroid series got another excellent remake in the form of Metroid: Samus Returns on 3DS.
So, let’s take a look at a handful of games from various developers that we believe had a promising, tasty kernel within but could have benefited from more time in the oven…
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Controversial! Well, not really. The fact is that while we adore the spirit, quirkiness and legacy of the Game Boy’s Super Mario Land, the actual gameplay doesn’t live up to the potential of the system or the series and, as such, it’s one of the lesser games in the Mario canon. Sure, at the time it felt like a minor miracle–and the game isn’t without its own brand of magic–but the stellar Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins trumped it in every department and proved what could be achieved on Nintendo’s most modest of consoles.
An expanded, reimagined remake of Super Mario Land, though? That could be a spicy little meatball.
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios / Developer: Junction Point
Rumours that a remaster of this 3D platformer might be in the works have popped up recently, and Epic Mickey is certainly a brilliant concept which arguably didn’t quite live up to its potential. It’s gorgeous game which gave Mickey Mouse a little of his bite back and ushered in Disney’s more modern, less reverant (and infinitely more fun) approach to its mascot these days.
We’ve spoken to veteran designer Warren Spector in the past and he’s quite rightly proud of the game, but it would be fascinating to see how a remake could buff out the imperfections a decade later on modern systems.
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: SEGA Technical Institute
We’ve got a special place in our heart for Sonic Spinball, and we won’t hear a word said against its soundtrack, bonus stages or overall premise. Still, even for we young Sonic fans back in the day. the stuttering gameplay and odd physics didn’t feel quite right back in the day, especially after coming from the silky smooth Sonic 2. And the less said about the hedgehog’s sprite here, the better.
Oh, but imagine a remake using the Sonic Mania engine and sprites which would marry the winning concept with the ‘proper’ movement and inertia of his 16-bit platformers! It could turn a flawed game into an instant classic.
Capcom are no strangers to remaking (sorry, REmaking) the Resident Evil franchise and the success of the recent RE2 and RE3 releases (sorry, REleases) means Capcom will be recycling (sorry, REcyc–okay we’ll stop now) the lot of them, no doubt. It started back on the GameCube, and although the original PlayStation game is a kitsch gem, REmake transformed it into a modern classic in keeping with the tone established by later instalments. We’re still sore that Capcom hasn’t brought the remake of the second game to Switch.
While the upcoming RE4 remake has fans divided, there are few gamers who would argue that Resident Evil Gaiden on Game Boy Color couldn’t be improved with a reimagined version for modern systems. It wasn’t well received and it came last in our reader poll of the best Resident Evil games ever, but it features the dream team of Leon S. Kennedy and Barry Burton. Tell us that there’s not gold to be mined from that pairing!
Nuts to RE4 – that’s already a classic. Why not take another crack at REG, Capcom? And please, please, keep that abreviation; it’d be tagline gold.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Project Sora
One of Nintendo’s dormant franchises, the plain fact is that the awkward control scheme of this 3DS entry split player opinion (and a few ulnar nerves, too). It has its defenders–we very much enjoyed the game–but a remaster with a completely reworked control scheme might give more people the chance to appreciate Kid Icarus: Uprising. Perhaps once Masahiro Sakurai is finished with Smash Bros.? Then again, perhaps it would be simpler to create a new entry from scratch. We’d take that, too.
Also, Sakurai will never be finished with Smash, ever. Nintendo won’t allow it. Poor chap.
Possibly the most highly regarded entry here in its original form, the game known as Metal Gear: Ghost Babel in Japan was actually an excellent entry for the series on Game Boy Color. However, much like Link’s Awakening, reimagining this classic would bring it to the attention of a wider audience over two decades on from release, and a remake could alleviate some of the control design choices necessary to get the game working on GBC.
Plus, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to play a Solid Snake adventure on Switch? We’ll take the rest of his back catalogue while you’re at it, Konami. Much obliged.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Some NES games hold up very well indeed, while others haven’t aged so gracefully. In the case of ‘black box’ vertical platformer Ice Climber, it hardly set the world alight back in the day, and Popo and Nana would probably be consigned to the annals of Nintendo history (on the same pile as Stanley the Bugman) were it not for the aforementioned Masahiro Sakurai sending them an invitation to join the Super Smash Bros. Melee.
Being a distinctly average game, there’s ample scope to improve upon the original’s awkward controls and give this game a 21st century makeover. A task for a talented Nindie dev, perhaps? Popo and Nana deserve better.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
With so many games to its name, the Zelda franchise is bound to elicit a variety of opinions as to the best or worst game in the series. We find that one good way to gauge someone’s Zelda fandom is whether or not they’ve played through Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. The first sequel in the long-running series, it’s very different from the original and has enjoyed a critical reappraisal over the past decade, fuelled largely by the success of Dark Souls and similar games which refuse to hold your hand.
Viewed in the context of the entries that followed, Zelda II is the most obtuse Zelda, with mistranslations adding to its general inscutability. 8-bit games of all genres are routinely more challenging than modern equivalents, but you should feel zero compunction using save states and a walkthrough to complete Zelda II if you’re determined to tick it off your list.
However, its way of doing things came back into vogue and a sensitive remake could bring back one of the oft-ignored and most unusual Zelda games for a new audience. Cadence of Hyrule proved that indie developers have the potential to breathe new life into the old formula (and Zelda II didn’t follow the template soon cemented in A Link to the Past anyway). The developers of the Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap remake expressed a desire to tackle Zelda II a couple of years ago, and we’d still be fascinated to see what they could make of it.
So what are your thoughts on our picks above? Let us know below by voting for the two games you’d most like to see given some special remake attention.
Obviously, there are dozens of decent games that fell short of classic status despite having potential, so feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below.