This article was originally written on PauseYourGame.com by me and has been updated for modern games.
It’s 2019, and what started as something that game companies used to do occasionally, has blossomed into something expected and encouraged. That, of course, is bringing old games back to life on new and modern hardware through all the various methods and names such as remakes, remasters, reimaginings, HD versions, definitive editions, and everything in between. Trying to figure out exactly how each is different and what they imply can be confusing, especially when there are no truly defined terms on how each type of port changes the base game.
In an effort to help define those words and their differences, here is a guide on the differences that each generally is associated with.
Technically speaking, all the different types of enhanced ports are remakes on various different levels. However, how the term is used when it comes to games tends to carry a very specific set of changes made that exemplify this specific type of enhanced port, mainly:
- Story and environment remain largely unchanged
- Core game mechanics may receive new options or slight update
- Graphics completely overhauled and updated
Remakes maintain their core gameplay mechanics but update everything else in an effort to appeal to the new modern audience. The best examples of this are from Activision and their recent remakes of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro. In both Crash Bandicoot N’sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited Trilogy, the graphics have been completely overhauled giving a fresh feeling to these old but vibrant worlds. The grass is greener, the player character has a brand new model, and everything just generally looks remade from the ground up, but everything outside of that remains largely unchanged. The gameplay mechanics are the same: in Crash Bandicoot you are still jumping and dodging enemies the same way you always have, in Spyro you are gliding and charging just like before. The feel of the game is the same, but with new models and a few minor modernizations to make the whole experience more enjoyable for today’s market.
HD & Remaster
HD and Remastered versions of games are nearly identically in terms of what they change from the base game, usually including improvements such as:
- Improved graphics (or, at the very least improved resolution) but not redesigned
- Removes or improves on rough edges, be it graphically or mechanically speaking
- Adds the quality of life changes that don’t change core mechanics (ex: Swift Sail in Wind Waker HD )
Both HD versions and remasters share these improvements, however, HD versions have one slight difference compared to remakes, and that’s time. Generally speaking, the time span between original and remaster is much smaller (ie: The Last of Us ) whereas the difference between the original and an HD version is much larger or at least across generations (for consoles). It’s important to note that not all of these conditions need to be met consistently, rather they provide a general idea of what makes up an HD version or a remastered version of a game.
In these ways, the developers take the game and improve upon what already exists by smoothing out rough edges and streamlining existing content. If you play both the normal game and the HD or remastered version, the story, mechanics, and gameplay should all be the same, only with a new “coat of paint” on the HD or remastered version. Think of these in terms of a car: a remastered version of a game is like a new coat of paint and a tune-up; it makes the car looks nicer and run just a little bit smoother but the car is mostly the same—in the case of an HD version it is simply an older car.
The newest type of remake on the block is the definitive edition, and even then, it’s not always a type of remake—sometimes its just a repackaging. These odd creatures, depending on when they are released, can include some of the benefits of a remaster or none, but always include all of the current release content. Generally, Definitive editions look something like this:
- Includes all or most downloadable content that released post original release
- Sometimes include Graphical Improvements (especially over generational leaps)
- Sometimes includes Performance Improvements (especially over generational leaps)
- Sometimes slight changes in story or dialogue
- Usually exclusive to consoles
Definitive editions have come about from the jump from generation 7 consoles (PS3 & Xbox 360) to generation 8 consoles (PS4 & Xbox One), taking games released toward the end of previous generations life cycle and enhancing them for the current generation. For titles that fall into this group, graphical and other improvements are more common. For those games that are released during the same generation or a short time span between their original version, these will usually only contain a compilation of content and little else.
One thing unique to the definitive edition is that aspects such as the story or character models might be changed slightly. Take, for example, DmC: Definitive Edition, were certain lines were cut or changed in the story’s dialogue when compared to the original. For a bit more of a graphical representation, here is Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition :
Outside of the obvious graphical difference, you will also notice a change in the character’s look and expression during the same scene. In the original version (PC), Laura Croft’s look gives off a feeling of dread over what is concerning her, while in the definitive edition that same emotion in the character’s facial animation is lost.
In the ever growing medium of games, there has come the need for a new term that further segments remake into a finer group that provides a better sense of what was actually done in comparison to the base game. While a remake includes major graphical updates and rebuilding a game from the ground up, a reimagining goes a step further and changes even more:
- The story may contain the same essence but is told differently and has changes
- Core game mechanics are reworked and behave differently than the original
- Graphics completely overhauled and updated
The big difference here is that titles that are reimagined contain the same essence as the original, but much is changed in both mechanics, story, and graphics. Take for example Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, way back in the PlayStation 1 era there was a game called Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee where, rather than the screen panning to follow your character, it worked like a storyboard—once you reached the end of the screen the game would move to the next tile. Many of the game’s puzzles and mechanics were based off of this type of screen panning and designed with it in mind. The remake of the game, New N’ Tasty, removed this old style of progression in an effort to modernize the game, which meant that puzzles and settings needed to be changed to adapt to the new mechanic.
You can see how such a change would affect how the game functions and require the developers to begin working from the ground up again to align the game features such as puzzles and settings with this new progression mechanic.
And there you have it, the updated terms when discussing the various form of remakes! As mentioned before, not all of these are set in stone and there are always exceptions, but for the vast majority of games, these terms apply. So go forth into the world and use your now newly updated gaming lexicon!