2023 was already a pretty solid year for games. However, if you stop and look at Metacritic to see what some of the highest-rated games released this year actually are, you’ll notice a trend: many of them are remakes or remasters of older games. It’s a trend that probably has a few different reasons, but which may also signal that some gamers are tired of all the crap that often comes with modern games.
We are now in the third month of 2023. In most years, especially before the pandemic, you would expect at least three or even four big, popular, well-received games to have been released by now. And 2023 is no different. But looking at Metacritic’s highest rated games of 2023, you’ll notice that so far all of the top rated games (not counting duplicates) are remakes, remasters, or upgraded ports. You have to scroll down to number nine to find the one, completely new and fresh game: the Xbox rhythm action game, Hi-Fi Rush. So what’s going on?
The easiest answer, which sales data they seem to archiveis that people are tired of modern games full of loot boxes, microtransactions, always online requirements, terrible crafting mechanics and more. This sentiment has been growing in recent years, and publishers seem to have noticed, hence the influx in remasters and remakes as companies pour resources into forging stuff in their back catalogs that people online won’t shut up about on Twitter and Reddit. And it makes economic sense. These are the games players seem to want. And games are very expensive to produceand getting bigger and more expensive. So if you’re going to keep making big plays, you want more safe bets. Like Hollywood and its love of remakes and reboots, the video game industry has become increasingly dependent on previous hits and well-known IPs to help offset sluggish sales and expensive development costs.
But I don’t think that fully explains why so many remakes are killing it on Metacritic. Another aspect of this could be the people who professionally review the games. Many of them are older critics (older in this context is anyone over 25) and they, like me, are perhaps a little nostalgic for the great, single-player games of yesteryear. I mean, look at the same Metacritic list, but sorted by user score and you will see completely different games, many of them new and many of them with online multiplayer.
So while it’s easy to assume that the old games are good and the new games are bad and that’s why remakes are doing so well right now, I think who’s playing these games, who’s writing about them, and the cost that goes into making of big games are also key parts of this trend.
The real question, which I assume is already being discussed in the comments, is: Is this a bad trend? And although I know some here at my city have assumed that it definitely not that good, I’m more mixed on that. I definitely agree that remastered games are less exciting than some brand new games. But I also think that a good game can, more than a movie, benefit from advanced technology and improved engines.
Also, games are now bigger than ever and there are many people who have never played a game released before 2015 who may find a lot of enjoyment in a Dead space remake. And with the terrible state of game preservation in 2023, remakes and remasters may unfortunately be one of the few legitimate ways to enjoy some games. I don’t have much hope that this whole situation will improve any time soon.
Who knows, maybe this trend is not so pronounced as it looks now. It’s possible that these numbers are just the result of a number of big, high-profile remakes being released at the same time earlier in the year. On the other hand, things may stay this way for a while. More remakes and remasters appear regularly is announced, and looking online you’ll see people asking publishers for remakes or remasters of classic games from the PS2 era like Simpson: Hit and Run and a bully. We may see newly polished games of the past continue to dominate for the foreseeable future.