It used to be the case that, if you missed out on a particular game, your only way to catch up was to buy the original console and the original game. Then, thanks to services like the Virtual Console, you could emulate those old games without having to own any old consoles, for much more affordable prices than the ones you might find in second-hand sales.
Then came the era of remasters, with updated graphics, controls, and sometimes even new content, and it was pretty exciting to be able to play old games on new hardware. But the riskiest re-release of all is the remake, which requires taking a beloved game, giving it a total makeover, and hoping that the end product is not an insult to the players’ treasured memories. Very few game developers have taken this risk… but when it pays off, it pays off big.
A lot of the very best remakes and remasters can be found on the Nintendo Switch, and though we don’t have the incredible Final Fantasy VII remake or the sexy PS5 remake of Demon’s Souls, we’re certainly not short of fantastic, polished-up games.
In fact, we’ve made a list of some of our favourites, and though our criteria got a bit murky (does a port count as a remaster? Does “HD” in the title actually mean anything?), we think we’ve come up with a pretty solid list of the ones we like most.
Link’s Awakening on Switch is a supreme overhaul, not just in terms of the stunning new graphics and art-style, but in the reworked score that accompanies them, with the old plinky-plonk Game Boy instruments – which were quite something for their time – replaced by the majesty of an almost fully orchestrated re-recording of familiar old tunes. It’s often surprisingly emotional stuff, revisiting these magical places you’d long forgotten, rediscovering some hidden passage or other; latent memories suddenly reawaken in your mind as this music, so familiar but also now so new and grandiose, takes flight in the background.
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Publisher: Double Fine / Developer: Double Fine
The fact you’ve been able to play Grim Fandango Remastered on your TV and in handheld form elsewhere for years doesn’t matter one bit, because this gem of a game is still as enchanting and evocative as it was the first time you popped open that oversized cardboard box back in PC in 1998. Here and now on Nintendo Switch, this port looks and runs noticeably smoother than its fellow portable versions thanks to Double Fine’s deft adjustments, so if whether you’ve already joined Manny on his afterlife odyssey or this is your first time among the dead, Switch is 100 percent better for its inclusion.
The Dragon’s Trap is recalled with such fondness today that its popularity arguably eclipses the two subsequent 16-bit sequels, Wonder Boy in Monster World and Monster World IV. It has now been reimagined by French studio Lizardcube, a team made up of developers who unashamedly label themselves as hardcore fans of the original. The core game is identical but the visuals and audio have been comprehensively upgraded and a smattering of creature comforts have been included to bring things up to modern standards. This is a remake handled with the care and attention of true fans, and it shows.
Famicom Detective Club comes in two parts: The Missing Heir, which first came out in 1988 in Japan, making it almost as old as Mario; and The Girl Who Stands Behind, a sequel which followed in 1989. The two games have never been released in English, other than unofficial fan translations, until now — and the remake, with new art, localisation and voice-acting (only available in Japanese) was a surprise that nobody expected.
The visual upgrades made to these games are above and beyond what you would expect from an under-the-radar remake of two 30+-year-old Japanese titles. The animation technology used to make characters move and speak is reminiscent of how TV show Archer does it — a lot is achieved with a little, and characters will tilt their heads, smile, and toss their hair with convincing personality. As a neat little bonus, you can even change the soundtrack to the original Famicom bleeps and bloops — although the modern orchestral version is much nicer.
Publisher: Bandai Namco / Developer: Bandai Namco
In a cynical era where nostalgia is pumped for all its worth with endless soulless remasters, Katamari Damacy Reroll serves up an engaging and rewarding game that hasn’t let any of its original charm or personality be lost in the transition from one platform to another. With support for gyro controls and multiplayer – not to mention a degree of performance that sees it run smoothly in both handheld and docked mode – this Switch edition is easily the best way to play it outside of blowing the dust off your old PS2.
Publisher: Marvelous (XSEED) / Developer: Marvelous (XSEED)
Although the revamped artwork of the original GBA Friends of Mineral Town may be slightly divisive, it’s still a gorgeous, loving remake of the game on Switch that’s a lot more accessible and satisfying than digging out an old Game Boy. Resolution in both docked and handheld looks nice and crisp, while the framerate holds to an absolute rock-solid 60 FPS throughout. Accompanying this is an upbeat soundtrack chock full of accordions, synthesizers, and steel drums, offering up a nice companion to the visuals.
Though its roots as a handheld game occasionally resurface and there’s not a ton of new content added for this remake, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town more than stands enough on its own as a quality game that deserves a spot in your Switch library.
The Ace Attorney series has been ported plenty of times already, so it was only a matter of time before Mr Wright made his way to Switch. Thankfully, these new versions have fared far better than the ones that popped up on Wii, with enough optimisation – including resizing and cleaning up every frame to make them look better than ever both in docked mode and in handheld/TV modes. HD Rumble helps give those shaky moments of exclamation – including Wright’s classic lines, naturally – that extra bit of vibrating heft.
Publisher: Activision / Developer: Toys for Bob
Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a wonderful love letter to a classic series, keeping everything that made the original games what they were, but slapping on a fresh coat of paint for the HD era. There are a few creaking bones showing their age here and there, but only due to the developers’ desire to keep things as accurate as possible. The Switch version looks absolutely stunning and runs surprisingly well, so if you’re looking for a classic 3D platforming experience, you should definitely give this a look-in.
Publisher: Activision / Developer: Toys for Bob
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is a ruthlessly faithful recreation of some of the earliest successes in 3D platforming. Levels are slick, gorgeous to look at, and recreate the feel of the originals superbly. Newcomers to the series may be put off by the steep difficulty spikes and little to no explanation of some of the finer mechanics, but it still manages to be a really enjoyable retread of some old classics, warts and all. This is definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of 3D platformers.
Publisher: Activision / Developer: Vicarious Visions
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 on Nintendo Switch is a rock solid port of a pair of genuinely fantastic remakes. These really are two of the very best arcade sports titles of all time, revamped, reworked and re-imagined for modern audiences with all the graphical bells and whistles, collectibles and game modes we’ve come to expect in this day and age. With flawless performance in both docked and handheld modes and visuals that still look the part after a few necessary concessions here and there, this is one collection we highly recommend you kickflip right into as soon as possible.