Should classic racing games be remastered or remade?

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One of the saddest parts of gaming is the day you finally have to say goodbye to your favourite game. Whether it’s because you’ve outgrown it or because technology has progressed too far, it’s always heart-breaking when you put the disc back in its box for the final time or hit uninstall on your game platform service of choice.

Recently, however, developers and publishers have been bringing old games to the newer generation of consoles. Be it a remaster of the original or a complete ground-up remake, some absolute classics have found a new platform and audience over the last few years. This all sounds great, but should classic racing games be remastered or remade?

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When it’s done right

In recent years, a few racing game franchises have benefitted from an older entry in the series getting the remastered treatment.

Burnout Paradise Remastered stands as one of the best examples of how to remaster a game. Released in 2018, Paradise Remastered upgraded the game with higher resolution graphics and a smoother frame rate. All but one of the DLC packs from the original were also included.

Burnout Paradise screenshot
Burnout Paradise Remastered is a remaster done right.

The original Burnout Paradise was a great game, but the remaster took things to the next level, with Paradise Remastered ranking number one on Tom’s Guide’s 10 best PS4 racing games list.

Another great example is Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, a ground-up remake of Crash Team Racing developed by Beenox. Considering these games were released 20 years apart, you can understand why it was easier to start from scratch. Nitro-Fueled kept everything that was great about CTR, retaining the chaotic karting that we all know and love.

However, Nitro-Fueled also added elements from CTR’s lesser-known follow-ups Crash Nitro Kart and Crash Tag Team Racing, both also fun racing titles. If that wasn’t enough, Spyro the Dragon also joined the playable character roster.

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These games are perfect examples of remastering done right, allowing new generations of gamers to experience classic racing titles for the first time. But is this something more developers should be doing? Or is this yet another example of originality in the games industry slowly dying?

Creative blocks

For every racing relic remastered, you can argue those resources could have been used to develop a new title instead.

Burnout Paradise Remastered was well received, but amongst its criticisms was the question: why not just develop a new Burnout game instead? Sure, you can bring over elements from Paradise that fans would love to see, but it would make more sense to continue the series rather than rehashing the last game in the series.

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Refueled screenshot
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Refueled combined content from CTR, Crash Nitro Kart, and Crash Tag Team Racing.

The same can be said for Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. The original game is almost unrecognisable in the remake - so why not just market the game as a new entry?

After remaking the first three Crash Bandicoot games with Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy, Toys For Bob used this experience to develop Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.

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This continued the series while retconning Wrath of Cortex, the poorly received original fourth game in the series. In a world where originality is slowly dying, developers and publishers pumping out the same content over and over again with little to no new additional content seems exploitative.

Back to the start

There is a market for older games to get a spit and polish. But at the same time, there’s a real feeling of nostalgia blowing the dust off of your old PS2 and plugging it in for another race around Tiger Temple. Ultimately, there needs to be a cut-off somewhere.

These days, games that are barely over ten years old are getting the remaster or remake treatment (we’re looking at you, The Last of Us Part 1). This isn’t enough time to argue that they are introducing games to a younger generation - especially when many of these games can still be played on backwards compatibility.

Burnout Paradise Remastered screenshot
Is a remaster of Burnout Paradise justified when we haven't had a new Burnout game in over ten years?

The development time on these remasters should be spent elsewhere, working on new concepts for racing games or bringing a new entry to our favourite racing franchises. Codemasters has shown in the last couple of years there are new directions racing games can take, with both F1 2021 and GRID Legends introducing story modes that have been well received for the most part.

There are even games such as art of rally that can successfully bring a retro style to a new game. You can look back to move forwards, but if you continue to look back you will eventually crash into the barriers.

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So, should classic racing games be remastered? An arcade racer like OutRun would benefit from a current-gen remake, but it’s difficult to justify remastering an older game over developing a new title from scratch.

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Refueled
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled should have been a new game in the franchise instead of a remake.

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled feels like a new game with all the additional content, but scratch away the surface and you can see the original game under the bonnet. A new entry in the series would perhaps have been a better direction to take.

Likewise, Burnout Paradise Remastered was welcomed with open arms, but with no new original Burnout game in over 10 years now, the time could have been better spent developing something new – especially since many regard Burnout 3 Takedown, which came out three years before Paradise, as a better game.