These days, reboots are pretty much common practice in the land of Hollywood. If a franchise isn’t working, why not clear the decks and start again?
This practice isn’t just restricted to movies though – videogames have been getting in on the reboot fun for years.
However, in the case of games on this list, starting again is usually more about using the opportunity to refresh tired gameplay, and breathe new life into beloved franchises.
Mortal Kombat (2011)
After establishing itself as the edgy fighter that you wouldn’t take home to meet your mum, Mortal Kombat kind of struggled for an identity in the late 00’s. Technology had evolved to the point where plenty of games could deliver the same controversial and gory thrills, and the gameplay itself was starting to lag.
One canon retconning reboot later, and 2011’s Mortal Kombat offered a welcome return to form that didn’t attempt to over-complicate matters, and left us with what we all come to the franchise for in the first place: Tight gameplay, and extreme violence.
Ridiculously over the top fatalities had never looked better thanks to the power of the PlayStaion 3 and Xbox 360. With this masterful 2011 reboot, Mortal Kombat managed to do the unexpected, by shocking and disgusting us all over again.
I’m gonna level with you: I fucking adore the original Rayman. It was a joyous 2D platformer with charming surreal visuals and bags of originality. Rayman 2 was awesome, but the move to 3D (followed by those fucking Rabbids games) left me wanting some classic Rayman.
Enter Rayman Legends, which is easily one of the most jubilant, enjoyable, challenging and constantly surprising platformers in years. If Nintendo could do something like this instead of churning out tepid and uninspired New Super Mario Bros games, I’d die a happy man.
Everything from the gorgeous stylised visuals through to the impeccable level design gives you the feeling that you’re playing something that has been made with so much love and care. The really heartbreaking thing is that the game just didn’t sell nearly as well it deserved to.
Seriously, you need Rayman Legends in your life. There aren’t many games I think everyone should play, but this is 100 percent one of them.
Tomb Raider (2013)
The task of rebooting gaming’s First Lady can’t have been an easy one, but developer Crystal Dynamics and publisher Square Enix hit the nail on the head with their 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider – the term ‘gritty reboot’ has been overused to the point of cliche at this point, but in the case of Lara Croft, this sombre retelling of her origins makes perfect sense.
There was some controversy in making her character more relate-able, but I never saw the problem in being given a character we could really connect with, as opposed to the walking pair of guns that she was before.
The revised gameplay was a breath of fresh air from the incredibly dated control scheme veteran Tomb Raiders were used to, with Lara zipping across an open world in a seamless mix of combat, platforming, and exploration. Here’s hoping this incarnation of Croft sticks around for a while.
Bethesda and id Software’s DOOM is an incredible effort that takes everything that made the original games great, throws it in a blender, then shoots it out of a cannon in a glorious mess of incredible graphics, massive guns, and a fuckload of gore.
Sprinting through hellish levels blasting and tearing apart everything in sight to an unrelenting heavy metal soundtrack is one of the best and most entertaining videogame experiences I’ve had in recent memory.
The ridiculously over-the top arcade style action calls back to a simpler time in gaming – while there is a story there to find and analyse (if you want), the real meat and potatoes is in picking up the biggest gun you can find and causing some havoc.
Honestly, I don’t really see how they could go bigger or badder if they were to ever reboot DOOM again. Maybe it’s best to just build on what we have here.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
Another brilliant Bethesda published reboot of a classic FPS series, new order took the classic Wolfenstein formula and added a ton of depth and new features – the result was a highly polished effort, and one of the best single player shooters in recent years.
On top of improved and varied combat that constantly kept battles fresh and intense, New Order incorporated stealth elements that actually worked surprisingly well – but it’s the narrative that deserves the majority of praise in this case.
While it could sometimes be a little too obvious, the game’s plot was mostly very intelligent, and brilliantly written and performed. This is doubly impressive when you consider the original game was about little more than running around a castle shooting Nazis.
The retro dream level was also an awesome little Easter egg, but I can’t put New Order higher on the list for the sole reason that nobody had the balls to include an updated Hitler boss fight.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is basically a good old fashioned alien invasion tale, with slick graphics and smooth, streamlined gameplay. It’s pretty awesome.
You might not know (but probably do because you’re smart and pretty) that Enemy Unknown is a reboot of the XCOM franchise – it manages to take everything that made those first games great, while adding to the formula without losing the spirit of its predecessors.
It’s infinitely repayable, with choices that have actual consequences and challenges that will push your RTS skills to the limit. The huge range of locations are host to randomly generated maps, so you’ll never quite know what you’re facing next, or what your foes will decide to do in combat.
A sequel to Enemy Unknown came out not all that long ago, and proved that this rebooted franchise has some serious legs.
Metroid Prime takes place within the established Metroid canon, so it isn’t a reboot in the continuity sense. However, it’s so radically different from the games that came before it, and spawned a successful number of sequels and spinoffs under its own Prime banner, that I think it qualifies as a reboot of sorts.
Prime took the 2D side scrolling exploration of Super Metroid and placed us firmly behind bounty hunter Samus Aran’s visor for a game that was part FPS, part platformer, and part puzzle game.
The result was one of the Gamecube’s best games. Metroid Prime was a title dripping with atmosphere – action, secrets, enemies, and challenges lurked around every corner of the game’s gorgeously realised planet, and a deep (but entirely optional) lore was there for you discover, daring you to venture deeper into the caves and ruins.
Metroid Prime 2 and 3 were both awesome too (as was the pinball spinoff, funnily enough) but it’s the first game in the series that remains the greatest – you need to check it out if you haven’t already.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Another game that I can’t recommend enough to anyone who hasn’t played it. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time takes the impressive (if basic) platforming fun of the 2D 1989 original, but drags the formula into 3D in impressive style, complete with challenging combat and a slew of new mechanics.
Running across walls, using your time travel abilities to rewind whenever you fucked up, and tearing into a variety of fearsome zombie monsters mixed with an involving, high stakes yet light-hearted narrative to produce a genuinely impressive and original cinematic adventure – perhaps even the precursor to Uncharted.
The Prince was rebooted again in 2008 after a number of steadily declining sequels, but none of those efforts can hold a candle to this time bending classic.
Ratchet & Clank
While the recent Ratchet & Clank movie didn’t go as well as anyone might have hoped (it was a bit naff) Insomiac managed to put together an accompanying videogame to reintroduce the franchise to the world, and the result was astounding.
2016’s Ratchet & Clank may have taken enough from the PlayStation 2 original to appear nothing more than a remake, but there’s so much more to it than that. The gameplay was polished and improved in every conceivable area, while graphically it stands out as one of the most vibrant and best looking games on the PlayStation 4.
The story was tweaked to fit the narrative of the movie which, in the context of the game, is actually very entertaining and far, far funnier than it should be to anyone over the age of 20.
In short, Ratchet & Clank managed to refine everything that made the series so great on PS2 while introducing it to an entirely new audience in style. Spot on.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.