It?s no secret that games have gone the way of Hollywood, for better or worse, cranking out bigger budgets, better graphics, and more and more studio-financed sequel after sequel of the same safe and formulaic genre material, while leaving more experimental endeavors for school departments of digital media and independent flash game designers. Sequels are a way of life now in video games?best to embrace them and pressure the hell out of studios to remake our childhood favorites.
While most classic titles have been given requisite facelifts, there are still dozens of games desperate for true remakes that have never had the next-gen silicon implants they deserve. Here are thirteen from our 8 and 16-bit halcyon days of yore which remind us that games back then were really better, albeit a little shittier looking, and should promptly be remade for millions of dollars as a fan service and penance for raping us repeatedly with interminable Final Fantasy moogle porn.
13) Star Tropics
The jungle-themed Star Tropics, much like its time-traveling sequel Zoda?s Revenge, is a charming little adventure game that stars gee-whiz, wholesome heroes playing an journey straight out of a Jules Verne adventure. The story, a tropical island mystery with enough twists and turns for your average J.J. Abrams-produced TV show, unfolds over revelatory chapters, with gameplay mimicking the events out of the book and with fights against giant octopi or discoveries of sunken submarines at the end of every section. The plot not only anticipated shows like Lost, it undoubtedly inspired summer blockbusters with its inclusion of zombie pirates. This was true gaming art.
12) Little Nemo the Dream Master
It?d be pretty hard to remake those great NES Capcom games made from TV Disney series (well, it?d be easy, but they?d only sell to guys over 25 who long for Darkwing Duck). But the criminally-neglected is ripe for a 3-D platforming makeover. The game has you in charge of a little boy in pajamas who has to commandeer giant animals by feeding them candy and mutating with their bodies to perform their animal behaviors. Sound twisted? Well, it is and it?s awesome. The entire game is set in a nightmare, meaning bizarre stages set to pitch black skies, freakish enemies like flying turtles that vomit eggs, and incredibly catchy music. They just don?t make game soundtracks like this anymore, and they likely never will again.
11) River City Ransom
Shenmue was a unique, reflective, and overall classic game, but it had a problem: nothing happened. How cool would it have been if, instead of operating forklifts and buying gashapon, you became a manga hoodlum and ran around beating up the townspeople with whatever random objects you could find. That?s River City Ransom in a nutshell, and with a high-quality, GTA-like model of a Japanese town where you hurl pachinko balls at delinquent schoolkids or wayward salarymen, this game would step right into the 21st century without missing a beat.
Most of the great Atari games were given awful new ports with poor level design, but Megamania has thus far escaped the purge. Megamania, according to the singing lunatic wearing shades in its TV commercial, is a video nightmare that will drive you insane. The player is trapped in a hallucinatory world and assigned to shoot random, fast-moving crap like hamburgers and bow-ties, although they really resembled more closely the abstract orbs and lines of a Duchamp short film. SuperMegamania has serious promise for a shooter in a nightmare world of downloadable icons and Internet celebrities.
9) The Guardian Legend
One of the first fusion games ever made, the original Guardian Legend had you play a shape-shifting android that could morph from a fighter jet into a cannon-armed soldier. The game combined a side-scrolling shooter with an action-adventure dungeon crawler, and benefited from an art style more reminiscent of Macross than Transformers. Its influence can be felt in a host of multi-format games, from the somewhat superior NES Xexyz, to the ultimate fusion series Sakura Wars. Considering memory limitations were one problem with Guardian Legend?s repetitive dungeon design, an adventure/shooter hybrid could work beautifully with the right FPS or 3-D platformer elements mixed with some old-school, ultra-difficult Ikaruga shooter mechanics.
Let?s face it?most role-playing games could use a graphical overhaul considering their Golden Age was during the 8 and 16-bit console wars. Even the most expensive titles at the time used the same top-down interface where characters couldn?t move diagonally and were shaped like dwarves, making it near impossible to distinguish real game dwarves from regular people or elves like Link.
If Earthbound didn?t just get a pretty nice-looking Japanese sequel, it would top this list, so the nod here goes to Crystalis. Back in ?90, Crystalis was radically different?it was set in the future! The world was dictated by technology and magic! There were floating towers and magical valleys straight out of some Hayao Miyazaki movie! Okay, so maybe it?s a little dated, but what was grooviest of all was that the developers? were aware enough to make it an adventure-RPG hybrid and eliminate random battles by seeing your enemies in advance on the map. In any case, few games not named Final Fantasy VII have successfully portrayed a convincing RPG dystopia, so Crystalis, for all its datedness, would still be pretty damn novel if remade today.
7) Tecmo Super Bowl
You might say we have no need for another football game what with Madden and those more polished titles, but you?d be missing out on some clever game design through bypassing Tecmo Super Bowl. Sure, Tecmo Super Bowl had its flaws, particularly the fact that you could pick Young or Montana and just do 50-yard hail marys all day until you get a touchdown (even when you?re only 2 yards from the endzone, all you have to do is run back 48 yards). But football gaming needs a happy medium between the ultra-realistic sims of Madden and the arcade mayhem of Blitz. Tecmo was that medium before there were the extremes; it had semi-intricate playbooks, full rosters of players, and animated touchdown celebrations that were pretty flashy for the time.
6) Smash TV
The eerily prescient Smash TV was a game of a TV show of game. For our younger readers, some cultural background: Smash TV took advantage of the newly minted American Gladiators pop cultural phenomenon and cribbed its story from the 1987 Ahnold gem The Running Man. You played two buff contestants on a TV game show where the object is to kill as many other ant-like contestants as humanly possible before they dogpile on you. Midway?s Total Carnage was a pseudo-sequel, but not the total remake the game deserves today and which could easily benefit from the plethora of reality-show material and annoying game show contestants who should be blown into bloody stumps.
5) Ice Climber
Really, not a whole lot needs to be said about Ice Climber except to demand why a remake was never made. Maybe too much time passed and the young kids never heard of Popo and Nana. Maybe some thought there wasn?t much to improve upon the already repetitive gameplay. But now that Smash Bros. has reintroduced the pair, there?s no excuse. I mean, sweet Jesus, you already have the upgraded character models from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and the tiered-level stages are also a pretty decent design head start. Just think up some new cool stages?40-foot igloo skyscraper lorded by evil Inuit tycoon, breaking through the Himilayas in a snowstorm to witness a beautiful sunrise above the clouds?and you already have a million-selling winner.
4) Sunset Riders
Videogames have not been kind to the western, whose old Hollywood glory has been difficult to translate to the smaller screen. You?d think iconic heroes like John Wayne, James Stewart, or Randolph Scott would make great manly videogame heroes, and the expansive vistas of Monument Valley or Leone?s spaghetti west would have produced at the very least some interesting MMORPG opportunities. But for whatever reason, most western-themed games seem stilted and unexciting, from Mad Dog McCree to Red Dead Revolver. There are two exceptions: Playstation?s Wild Arms, and Konami?s arcade shooter Sunset Riders, which also appeared on the Sega Genesis. It had varied level design, used every western clich? in the book (from shoot-outs in saloons and chasing trains on horseback to gunning down renegade Indians who say ?Me ready for pow wow?), and is still a pretty well-animated coin-op. There?s no reason why a next-gen cell-shaded or 2.5-D version wouldn?t be more of the same greatness.
3) Kid Icarus
Some people would say Kid Icarus is overrated, repetitive, and too hard, but that?s only mostly true. Kid Icarus has a great premise?you fly around shooting demon spawn with a quiver full of power-charged arrows. You could shoot, jump, fly, and collect, and none were unpolished aspects of the gameplay. It was challenging and offered a sparse but present narrative through changing level design: you start off with wings and can?t use them until later in the story?the anticipation is simply built for a Zelda-style dramatic arc here! This game needs to be remade with the NIGHTS flying engine and an arsenal of upgrades from Greek mythology (hint to developers: if we can?t ride Apollo?s chariot of flaming horses, this game will be weaker than five of Zeus?s ravished virgins).
ActRaiser, like Guardian Legend, was a fusion game through and through, but the adventure elements were fully fleshed out and non-repetitive, while the shooter portion was replaced by you playing GOD. In ActRaiser, you control the Master, a sort of Norse deity who deigns to live with the mortals, construct their towns, watch them grow, make some miracles so they worship you, and then enter their towns to fight the devil. Oh, sure, the English translation of the game calls the devil Tanzra, but he?s as sure as Satan as your Master is God. Valkyrie Profile was homage to this game, but the city-building elements never returned, even with the polished ActRaiser 2. Here?s hoping Square Enix stops shitting out Final Fantasies for two minutes so they can solidly remake this Sim City and hack n? slash gem.
1) Final Fantasy VI
Okay, so one more Final Fantasy is allowable. When it comes to product ?upgrades,? Square Enix is like a destitute man?s Nintendo, but instead of making seven versions of slightly tweaked Game Boys, they only make three editions of the exact same game for different systems. Note to Square: stop fucking us around and make some true remakes. There are really a lot of candidates for the Square remake contest: Vagrant Story, Bahamut Lagoon, Threads of Fate, Romancing Saga 3, Tobal No.2. We surely don?t really need any more Final Fantasy spin-offs since Hironobu Sakaguchi packed his bags for Mistwalker, and some of you, and by some of you I mean me, would rather have a remake of Final Fantasy VII because we like it more.
But FFVI was released on the Super Nintendo, making it look FAR more dated than the graphically respectable block limbs and pre-rendered backgrounds of FFVII. It has the best music (a sweeping, epic soundtrack) as well as just about the best story of any FF, and possibly of any RPG, ever made ? the story is so huge, it?s split into two halves which are EACH bigger than most entire RPGs made today. And the characters! Any one could be the star of another game, and even a minor character like the gambleholic aeronaut Setzer is given the touching backstory and life-affirming personality of ten Zidanes and 100 Tiduses. More than anything, it has those big moments, a LOT of them, and while they were terrific then, a brilliant gaming moment like the opera scene, to name one, can only benefit from the technologies of enhanced sound and an interactive waltz scene. The game deserves a PS3 level upgrade with real-time 3-D maps, new town designs, and the elimination of the random battle system which has made us hate the old FFs just a little more than they deserve.
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.