For better or worse, the video game industry is one that thrives on nostalgia and reverence for what came before. Nintendo fans need only look at Super Smash Bros., a series that’s become a living curation of all things games as much as it has the definitive platform fighter.
For every all-new game there are a handful of returning ones — albethey enhanced and more accessible than ever. It can almost feel like you’re on a hedonic treadmill of all your favorites, and yet we keep on running. For anyone who might’ve missed these the first time around, the sale becomes that much harder. There might not have been time for these games years ago, why should you make time for them now?
That’s where we’re hoping to come in. At the tail end of 2023, we’re looking back at the standout remakes, remasters, and return appearances that filled the entire year.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe
I couldn’t start anywhere else but here. Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe brought back the Kirby game that effectively kicked off the modern era of the series. Already a delightful adventure for up to four players, the addition of an all-new epilogue and a whole host of sub-games from past titles is the exact sort of thing we love to see from remakes.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp
The return of Advance Wars was a long time coming, and Nintendo decided to bank on fans’ fondness for where it all began in the West. This pair of games represents grid-based greatness, now repackaged as a singular campaign. The biggest get here though is the visual overhaul and modern conveniences implemented by developer WayForward.
Star Ocean: The Second Story R
Square Enix and their partners have pushed HD-2D further and further with every game. Octopath Traveler II and Live Alive (one of our favorite remakes of last year) were both stunning, and Star Ocean: The Second Story R has continued to push that standard forward. It helps that like Live Alive, Star Ocean is an often overlooked RPG, with Second Story standing out as a high point for the series. Technically speaking, this is Second Story’s third time around, but I’d be hard pressed to ever look back after this re-evolution.
Resident Evil 4
First thing’s first – no, this one isn’t playable on the Switch.
However, RE4 likely wouldn’t exist without the GameCube, so I feel inclined to talk about this remake of the most successful member of the Capcom Five. That Capcom could set a new standard for third person action twice with the same game is remarkable. Before it launched I struggled to see the point in remaking Resident Evil 4, especially seeing as its backlog of ports would give Doom a run for its money. After playing it I’m glad they did, continuing to show the power of the RE Engine and not requiring I dust off a Zeebo. Now that’s a Bingo.
Persona 3 Portable & Persona 4 Golden
Talking ports, the Switch received a pair of stellar RPGs right at the top of 2023. While Persona 5 has eclipsed them in the public eye since the PlayStation 2 days, having both Persona 3 and Persona 4 on a Nintendo console is something I’d never have imagined. These may be mere ports, but funnily enough P3 will be getting a full remake in just a couple months. Here’s hoping that Atlus will bring the new Dark Hour to Switch some day in the future as they did with P5R.
Available retailers for Persona 3 Portable:
That’s right, I found an excuse to talk about GrimGrimoire OnceMore! Vanillaware are beloved for their visuals, exceptionally exemplified in fellow titles 13 Sentinels and the upcoming Unicorn Overlord. GrimGrimoire was one of their earlier titles, bringing stunning sprite work to the RTS genre and wrapping it in a magical academy temporal loop plot. As one does. It might not carry the same kind of clout as other remasters, but consider this your hidden gem homework.
Metroid Prime Remastered
We’re still waiting on the fourth entry in Metroid’s first-person sub series. Yet Nintendo saw fit to bring back the one that started it all, offering fans and first-timers a chance to explore the cavern, flows, and drifts of Talon IV. There’s not much to say about Prime that hasn’t been said before — it revitalized the franchise, was one of the defining games of the GameCube’s lifetime, and stands shoulder to orb-like shoulder with Super Metroid as the best of the series.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
So I already mentioned hidden gems, but Ghost Trick’s lack of prominence is just plain criminal. Shu Takumi’s post-mortem mystery themed around possession is an all-timer for the Nintendo DS. That Capcom was willing to give it another chance on modern consoles this last year was a welcome surprise. It may not have embedded itself in the collective unconsciousness of gamers the way Ace Attorney did, but I’d take Sissel and Missile’s Big Adventure over them anytime.
Super Mario RPG
Of course we were going to talk about this one! Released last month, Super Mario RPG stands out as the last hurrah for remakes in 2023. Expensive on the secondhand market and unavailable on digital storefronts, SMRPG was ripe for remaking. The core experience has been polished and the visuals are gorgeous to behold, not to mention a full remake of its soundtrack from original composer Yoko Shimomura. What it lacks in show-stopping flair it more than makes up in unyielding charm and refreshing simplicity — a Super Nintendo classic reborn.
Now do EarthBound.
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