If you’re a longtime reader of SA Gamer, odds are you know what the difference is between a remake and a remaster. As a new writer, I was quickly helped to understand the difference too. In fact, thanks to our longtime editor Dawid, there’s actually a very logical and passionate opinion piece he wrote back in 2017 that defines the two categories very clearly. In his own words: “A remaster is a game that’s seen several texture improvements and upscaling without having to tweak too much to the original game. It uses the exact same engine as before… A remake is a whole different story altogether. Developers have taken that older game and have rebuilt it from the ground up with a new engine, and have perhaps added mechanics that were once not there.”
So we all get it, right? Makes a lot of sense. I agree with Dawid wholeheartedly, in fact. The only problem is, despite how correct Dawid is, developers and media in general just don’t stick to these definitions any more. Be it because of lazy marketing, a general confusion out there between the two terms or even because for some games it is really tough to decide exactly whether a game is just a fancy remaster or a simple remake (or somewhere in the nebulous middle) these days games are tagged with ‘remaster’ and ‘remake’ almost completely arbitrarily.
A look through some recent examples and you’ll quickly note how interchangeable these words have become. On PlayStation.com the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (a complete remake from the ground up) is described as “fully remastered”. The Wikipedia page for Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled (another clear remake) calls it “a remaster of Crash Team Racing“. Resident Evil 2, according to the definition above is an obvious remake, but is defined in Business Insider as a “remastered game”. And while these are only a few examples – it does show how many tend to use remaster for both remakes and remasters.
The second complication comes with new more in-depth remakes like RE2 and even to some degree the new Crash games (mentioned above). In this case, not only are the visuals updated along with the game’s engine – some brand new levels may be added (like Future Tense in the N. Sane Trilogy). Or even whole new game mechanics employed (like RE2 substituting tank controls for an over-the-shoulder 3rd-person perspective). While these remakes may still fall within the definition above, many feel these actually go beyond remakes. They are often termed ‘re-imaginings’ or something equally vague and futuristic. The upcoming Final Fantasy VII game would seemingly also fall in this now new ‘beyond-remake’ category.
For fans of language (like us writers tend to be and which so many of you reading this no doubt are) this confusion can be rather frustrating. However, in this case, we’re not talking about anything too serious in the long run. We’re talking about arbitrary names we have created to talk about new games based on old games. Yes, these words are used incorrectly but will no doubt continue to be so. So much in fact, that the incorrect way may one day become the new correct way. It happens in languages all the time.
So despite the fact that we don’t like it, it seems a much better option is to simply enjoy the new remaster, remake or re-whatever and just re-lax and enjoy the mad ride into the world of Re-everything.