There is a fine line between video game remakes and remasters. Remakes are totally rebuilds of a game from the ground up, often looking entirely different from the original. Remasters, on the other hand, will aim to be the best-looking or enhanced version of an existing title, usually being ported to more modern platforms. Sometimes they get more content and improved mechanics too. We’ve compiled a list of the best video game remasters right here, listed in alphabetical order. If you’re looking to play any of these games for the first time, consider just about all of these picks to be the definitive versions.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered
The original Modern Warfare was a watershed moment for Call of Duty in 2007 — you can divide the series by what came before and after it. The 2016 remaster was packed in with Infinite Warfare, giving everyone the chance to revisit the legendary game a decade later. Three years after that, a different game bearing the same name arrived, begging the question of whether the current run of Modern Warfare titles is comprised of reboots or remakes.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim — Special Edition
One thing’s for sure: no game on this list has been re-released as many times as Skyrim. Five years after launch, the Special Edition arrived. This souped-up version looked better and included a bunch of new quests and items. It also brought the mods to PlayStation and Xbox, ensuring infinite content for Skyrim players on every platform.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Final Fantasy XII is an underappreciated game in the series: it was the first one with a proper open world and seamless battles, which were carried out with the deceptively deep Gambit system. That battle system could actually be programmed to let your party automatically grind while you left the game running, and the remaster’s option to speed up game time only enhanced that further. The Zodiac Age also made the game look much better than its original PS2 form.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
This isn’t the only collection on this list, but it definitely has more games packed in than any other remaster we included. The Master Chief Collection is the definitive way to play the Halo series these days, as it packed in every game through 2012’s Halo 4. Each one has improved graphics and performance, but Halo 2 got special treatment by becoming Halo 2: Anniversary, which overhauled its cutscenes. Since then, Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach were added into the mix.
The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection
This is a two-in-one remaster, featuring both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, the latter being one of the best video game remakes as well. Before that, it was simply remastered on PlayStation 3. Along with Ico, it got graphical upgrades that really showed the difference between the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3. The collection also included exclusive behind-the-scenes videos about the making of both games.
The Last of Us Remastered
Like Shadow of the Colossus, The Last of Us has seen both a remaster and a full-on remake, dubbed The Last of Us Part 1. The remaster came first of course, and it improved the game’s graphics and moment-to-moment gameplay. It also packed in some multiplayer map packs and the beloved Left Behind standalone story chapter. For some time, it was the best way to play the original game.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Like we said earlier, remasters are a chance to not just make a game look better, but improve parts that might not have been too fun the first time around. The Wind Waker HD does exactly that, greatly improving the Triforce quest that once bogged down the later parts of the game. Those changes make it not just a great remaster, but also one of the best pirate games out there.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition
The Legendary Edition is a whole trilogy of games, retelling the original, much-adored Mass Effect story. The first game also saw some big gameplay tweaks to make it feel more modern like Mass Effect 2 and 3, and all the games’ DLC was included too — with one notable exception. Modders later restored that missing expansion in the PC version of the remaster, making this a lovely joint effort between Mass Effect fans and developers.
Nier Replicant Ver.1.22474487139…
Sometimes a remaster is simply a chance for an audience to play a game that it likely missed the first time around. When Nier Automata became a success in the west, the time had come for Nier Replicant to get a remaster. Ver.1.22474487139… gave the game a modern look and feel, and it was the first time the Replicant name became known outside of Japan.
Persona 4 Golden
Persona 4 Golden has been around for a while now, bringing the PlayStation 2 cult classic to the Vita and PC (where people actually play it). Golden made the original game look a lot better, and it added lots of new content like an additional character, more Personas and social links, and lots of lovely cutscenes. The Steam release was especially important for developer Atlus, which used that success to bring more Persona to more people. Now multiple Persona games are coming to PC and Game Pass.