A scene from God of War showing Kratos offering a head to a serpent

Video Game Reboots and Remakes: A Comparison

Breaking down the differences between video game remakes and reboots and looking at some of the best examples.

Video game reboots and remakes aren’t going anywhere.  Some people love them, some people hate them.  Some gamers love seeing fresh life breathed into existing and dormant franchises, while others would prefer that developers put their time and resources into developing new games and experiences.

Regardless of which camp you sit in, few could argue that video game reboots and remakes are an important part of the video game industry ecosystem.  They are an opportunity for developers to attract new players to existing series, while (usually) retaining and building upon everything that made the original games so special for existing fans.

There are fundamental differences between video game remakes and reboots, and the decision to reboot a franchise with a new game or remake a previous entry largely depends upon the current state of the series.

What is a Video Game Remake?

Video game remakes are when developers, well, remake an existing game in a franchise.

Remakes are typically made for games that are considered classics or at the very least have a large following. Often, they are made for game series that have been around for some time and are still popular.

Remakes aim to provide players with updated versions of classic games, while still retaining the magic of the original.  They usually feature updated graphics, sound, and gameplay mechanics, all while staying true to the story and characters from the original.

Resident Evil 2 is A Remake You Must Play

One of the most popular video game remakes of all time is the 2019’s Resident Evil 2. Yes, Resident Evil 3 and 4 have also been remade and are excellent titles, but Resident Evil 2 was the first to bring the classic horror franchise up to modern standards.

The original Resident Evil 2 was released in 1998 and while it is widely regarded as one of the best survival horror games ever made, its graphics and gameplay mechanics haven’t aged well.

A screenshot from Resident Evil 2 remake showing Leon Kennedy pointing a torch into a bloody room.

The Resident Evil 2 remake was a complete overhaul of the original.  The dated graphics were replaced with stunning visuals that only amplified the atmosphere that the original boasted in spades.  New gameplay mechanics were added, and the control scheme revamped to bring it up to date and make it more accessible to new players.  Despite essentially rebuilding Resident Evil 2 from the ground up, the remake is a faithful recreation of the original, keeping the story, characters, and overall experience intact.

What is a Video Game Reboot?

Video game reboots are when a developer creates an entirely new game in an existing or dormant video game franchise in an effort to give it a fresh start.  Video game franchises often receive the reboot treatment when it is felt that the series is growing stale or requires a complete overhaul to survive as the video game industry continues to evolve.

Video game reboots are a way for developers to recreate the franchise as a whole.  Reboots usually receive the same modernisation treatment as remakes, but rather than recreating what has come before, those efforts are put into new experiences.  At times, they can be unrecognisable from the games that have come before.

Reboots sometimes retain the settings and characters from previous installments, but developers have the freedom to start from scratch and introduce new characters and worlds should they wish to.  In most cases, the franchise’s story is either used as a starting point or at least referenced, but the developers will create an entirely new narrative to follow.

The Best Video Game Reboots

Franchises that have been successfully rebooted include Tomb Raider, Doom and God of War.

The original Tomb Raider game was released in 1996 and quickly became a classic. However, by the early 2010s, the franchise was starting to show its age, and fans began to gravitate to other more modern series such as Uncharted.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider reboot, showing Lara Croft at the foot of an ancient Chinese building.

Tomb Raider was rebooted with a new game that featured a younger Lara Croft and told her origin story.  Coupled with modern graphics, updated gameplay mechanics and, yes, tombs for raiding, it was the reboot that the Tomb Raider franchise desperately needed.  It was a huge success and spawned two sequels to form the Tomb Raider trilogy.

Doom received the reboot treatment in 2016.  The original Doom was released in 1993 and is widely considered to be one of the most influential games of all time. However, a decade later, the iconic franchise had become stagnant and risked being bound to the history books.  Doom (2016) was a return to form, taking players to the pits of hell with exceptional visuals, intense first-person shooter gameplay, and an emphasis on fast-paced action.  And gore.  Lots of gore.

A screenshot from Doom 2016 reboot, showing Doomguy fighting demons from hell

God of War (2018) is not only one of the best video game reboots of time all, but one of the best video games, period.

God of War had been an important first-party franchise for Sony since the original released in 2005, thanks to its combination of hack-and-slash button-mashing fun and an emphasis on brutality.  However, as the years rolled by, sequels began to feel similar, and the franchise was crying out for fresh ideas.

God of War (2018) completely revitalised the series.  It put a focus on storytelling, beautiful environments and a slower, more strategic style of gameplay.  It set the bar not only for future games in the series, but also for the industry as a whole.  We even argue that God of War 2018 should be considered art.  It’s that good.

A screenshot from God of War showing Kratos speaking with Artreus.

Video Game Reboots vs. Remakes

Reboots and remakes can be a great way to welcome new players to existing games and franchises.  Ultimately, the success of a reboot or a remake will depend on whether it is able to combine the essence of the original games, so to resonate with existing fans, with the mechanics, visuals and general gameplay experience that players expect from modern games.

When done poorly, video game reboots and remakes run the risk of pushing a series into obscurity.  When done well, they can not only reinvigorate interest in a franchise, but they can set a new standard for their genre, or even for video games in general.

Besides, who doesn’t love a healthy dose of nostalgia now and then?

What Are Your Favourite Video Game Reboots and Remakes?

Let us know your favourite video game reboots and remakes over on Twitter and Facebook.

Written by John

I'm a 36-year-old gamer, clinging onto the gamepad despite real life responsibilities trying to pull me kicking and screaming away. You can follow me on Twitter: @johnlevelsup.

Current setup: Gaming PC with a 1080 Ti, Xbox Series X, Steam Deck, and retro consoles, on a Gigabyte M32Q monitor, sitting on a Flexispot E7 standing desk.