Best video game fan remakes

We take a look at 13 fan-made video game tribute projects that deconstruct (and reconstruct) classic titles

When fans take video games into their own hands, the results are often unpredictable. Artwork, music, and other types of tributes can range from the gut-wrenchingly awful to the eternally awesome, but only the best projects are worth waiting for. That's why fan-made video game remakes can be one of those things that's worth some patience.

So, when a fan-base creates a video game that's good enough to stand up to the original product, it's always worth a look (at least before the "Cease and Desist" letters start flying). Just in case you missed them, these are the thirteen best video game fan projects that the Internet's seen so far. Whether still in the works, canceled, or on the way to completion, these games are so good, they could definitely be selling on retail shelves.

13. Link's Awakening 3D

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Status: Still in Production

An often-overlooked Game Boy title from yesteryear, Link's Awakening still lacks a current generation remake. But with fans like MithosKuu, who's literally rebuilding the entire game screen by painstaking screen, Nintendo's yet again having their work done for them. Still, you've got to admire MithosKuu for his dedication. Piecing together Koholint Island like this is essentially the same as rebuilding the Great Wall of China with matchbox sticks and glue. Even he's not sure when he'll be done, although 2010 seems about as good a year as any.

Of course, this gamer's love of the franchise extends to more than just this one unique title. "I've been a Zelda fan since the days of the SNES," Mithos noted in a short chat with us. "When looking for a 2D game to model in my free time, I decided to go with Link's Awakening because it was one of my favorites. Since Nintendo wasn't currently selling it, there would be less legal trouble then if I had went for something like Link to the Past."

Legend of Mithos

Mithos is still working on the game was we speak, having finished the Overworld of Koholint Island just this March. Now, he's working on the dungeons that make up the majority of Link's Awakening. And there's a LOT of rooms and treasure chests that he'll be working on.

12. GoldenEye Source

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Status: Three Betas Completed, Still in Production

Given the departure of so many original Rare team members, it's no surprise that there hasn't been a GoldenEye 007 remake yet. Could you imagine a revamped GoldenEye game with modern graphics and technology? Well, the crew behind GoldenEye Source, yet another dedicated group of Half-Life modders, is taking that physics engine and slapping it all over the Pierce Brosnan movie tie-in like a fine Armani suit.

Plenty of Beta releases have made their way onto the Internet, too, as the GoldenEye Source team has pushed lots of multiplayer power into their product. Aiming to revive what they call "the first best multi-player first-person shooter ever made" sounds like one Hell of a task, but these guys seems to be doing just fine. Since HL modders are traditionally free and clear from the dreaded Cease-and-Desist treatment that plague other remake groups, let's hope that the team slaps together the full single-player sometime in the future.

Looking Good, Mr. Bond

GoldenEye Source still lives at a plodding pace, but you can play several Beta versions of it right now. In the meantime, there's still plently of fun to be had watching the actual GoldenEye movie. Explosions and pouty Russian women: what else could you want?

11. Black Mesa

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Status: Still in Production, 2009 Release Planned

At long last, Black Mesa's on the verge of doing what VALVe didn't for Half-Life: Source. And this time, a lot more than the water particles have been changed. Working steadily since 2004, Black Mesa is a collective of modders, artists and coders whose current mission in life is to re-create the original Half-Life with the Source Engine, which powers the technology behind titles like Portal and [[xref:http://www.gamepro.com/games/pc/104033/team-fortress-2/|Team Fortress 2|Team Fortress 2]. Even though VALVe technically did the same thing with their re-release of the first Half-Life, gamers weren't too happy with the lack of new content and questionable visual upgrades. Luckily, Black Mesa's taking things into their own hands.

After 5 Years, Still Alive

Of all the projects on this list, Black Mesa is definitely the longest running continual fan project around. Though the team has adopted an attitude of "it's done when it's done," Black Mesa's been keeping themselves busy with tech demos and tests, as well as keeping fans of the mod up to speed on their official Twitter account.

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10. Nobody Shooter

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Status: Completed, 2008

When re-doing a modern age video game, it's not always common to try an older system, and it's definitely uncommon to try using a Game Boy engine, a truly classic-but-archaic handheld system. Well, that's exactly what the creator behind Nobody Shooter did, and despite only being a level long, the game's incredibly faithful to the style of Everyday Shooter. Right now, it's available via download for PC owners, although the game seems to have a few nasty bugs.

Game Boy Shooter

Orel also entered this demake into the "Bootleg Demakes Competition" over at The Independent Gamer Forums, alongside tons of other impressive entries. Let's hope he does more than just the single completed level, or at least polishes up his current project. We'd love to see a flash version someday.

9. VipeUt

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Status: (Almost) Completed, 2008

In the 1980s, vector graphics were considered science gone absolutely nuts. Back then, it was the kind of stuff you could only see in laser shows and Star Wars movies, and each individual vector cost more cash to produce than a full television series. So, taking any video game, past or present, and modeling it after the 8-bit Vectrex home console is already a task for only the most hardcore coders -- but someone was crazy/gifted enough to try.

Behold VipeUt, a demake of games from the Wipeout series, as it would've looked back in 1982-1983. We suddenly miss the 80's so much more than ever before. There's a lot more programming to this demake than meets the eye, as the most recent version showcases some gameplay featuring an autopilot mode, six full laps, and improved controls.

"Why WipeOut?" Astrofra (a.k.a. Francois Gutherz) says, echoing our recent inquiry into why he chose this particular game. "The explanation fits in two words: Science-Fiction. In the late 80's, a game company from Liverpool (SCE Studio Liverpool) used to create unique games, by invoking an extremely well crafted sci-fi heritage. When the Playstation arrived, this British company became a part of Sony, as you probably know. But they pursued their amazing visions, by creating WipeOut, as an open gate to the future. Again, they asked the most creative guys arround to build the visual identity of the game (Designers Republic), and they invoked the most wicked electronic musics. The game itself, of course, was technically advanced, and the gameplay was perfect."

"I think they were able to create what the marketing now describes as an 'experience'," Astrofra added. "Therefore, When TigSource.com started the Demake Contest, it was obvious for me that the most futuristic game ever should be "ported" to the most futuristic console ever: the Vectrex. Finally, this WipeOut demake ought to be a game from a future that never happened."

According to Astrofra, VipeUt uses advanced GeForce technology to mimic the very unique rendering of the Vectrex. Also, in order to recreate the static noise in his project, Astrofra actually sampled noise from a real Vetrex console, as well as composing music using a custom sequencer running on a genuine Game Boy system. We think this guy's a candidate for a medal in video game science.

One More Lap?

We're pretty sure that this alpha build was the only vector graphics-based game in the 2008 TIG Source "Bootleg Demakes Competition", but we already know that 6 laps just isn't enough for us. Bug "astrofra" on his website for more. Maybe we'll see more levels in the future.

8. Hold Me Closer, Giant Dancer

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Status: Completed, 2008

Defying all common sense and the technological barriers of the PlayStation 2, Shadow of the Colossus did for boss battles what a $100 million dollar Hollywood budget did for the Lords of the Rings books. With monstrous Colossi that towered miles above the heroic Wanderer, you'd think that kind of scale couldn't be redone with less processing power. Well, Bigpants Games begs to differ, and they're even giving you the tools to see for yourself.

Reducing Wanderer to a tiny red blip, "Hold Me Closer, Giant Dancer" takes the massive Colossi and artfully recreates them into amorphous, multi-limbed beasts that resemble ficus trees more than ancient beings. As the red blip, you can slowly crawl to each weak point on a Giant Dancer and slowly murder the looming beast in full 8-bit glory. Even better, the game comes with a level editor that lets players mold their own monsters from scratch -- and the creations look both awesome and slightly frightening.

Keep Going, Giant Dancer

So far, version 1.6 of Hold Me Closer, Giant Dancer is ready for download now, but since it's still a beta, we have no clue what a fully polished game will include. Maybe Mister Happy Pants (yes, that's really the creator's name) will recreate Ico next. We can dream, right?

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7. Chrono Resurrection

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Status: Permanently Canceled via "Cease and Desist"

Possibly the greatest fan remake to get crushed under the huge shoe of a big-time developer, the Chrono Resurrection project was a mountain of a task for seven-man crew of intrepid programmers, artists, and animators. These guys literally had enough manpower to make their own original game -- and several of them were already working in the gaming industry to boot. "Seeking a challenge" that mere mortals didn't dream of taking on, the team actually tried to create a full-3D remake of Chrono Trigger from scratch. Apparently, the team's prerequisite for membership was having brass bass the size of boulders.

Of course, the emphasis is that they "tried" to finish the project. Shortly after their first trailer hit the Internet, Square Enix's legal department filed a "Cease-and-Desist" letter to Lazur and Co. before the year was out. Gamers wept bitterly, as this grand remake project went the way of the dinosaurs and the Jheri curl.

We reached out to Mathew Valente, the musician behind the enhancement music for Chrono Resurrection, and got his thoughts about his famous foray into the remake scene. "I really have to say that the music itself motivated me to want to work on Chrono Resurrection." Mathew wrote in an e-mail to GamePro. "I was in love with the soundtrack by Mr. Yasunori Mitsuda for years, ever since the game was originally released on the Super Nintendo platform. When we were working on the N64 version of the game back in 1999, my absolute goal was to get a soundtrack that retained the original feeling, while enhancing it for a more advanced platform."

"I look back at Chrono Resurrection and I'm still saddened by what had happened. I know so many people who love Chrono Trigger, and wish for Square Enix to do something with the franchise, other than a remake. Don't get me wrong, the DS remake was remarkable, much better done than the PlayStation version, but many people still wish for something great to happen to the series. I'm still one of them. I still hope for the unlikely day that Square Enix asks us to continue our work for the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console (I believe that would be the best platform for our work to be showcased)."

There's no telling what happened to the rest of the Chrono Trigger Resurrection crew, but Mathew's still mixing music after having moved to Toronto, "I want to try to get into a gaming studio to do sound design for games, but I don't want to limit myself to that medium. I am also looking to get into television, films, and music. Here's to hoping for the best, right?"

Chrono's Second Death

So far, the original archives for Chrono Trigger Resurrection are still kicking around the Internet, with most of the artwork and content still on the old site. Even some old bits of remixed Chrono Resurrection tracks are still intact on Valente's professional website. But, while there has been an official remake, of sorts, in the Nintendo DS library, it's still a far cry from the gutsy goals of CTR. At least for now, Chrono's dead again.

6. Sonic 2 HD

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Status: Still in Production

See, Sega, this is what the fans actually wanted. No werewolf-hedgehog transformations, no cross-species romances with magical princesses, and no "Sonic in King Arthur's Court". No, all the fans really want from their Sonic games is simple: classic, speedy action. That's exactly what the team at the Sonic 2 HD project are after, as they've taken it upon themselves to remake Sega's classic hit, Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

Speed's Their Game

Surprisingly, despite being featured on sites like Joystiq, UK: Resistance, and popular retro gaming site "Racket Boy", Sega hasn't done a thing towards stopping the project since the release of the first tech demo over a year ago. A cynical Sega fan might note that this could be because of the blue blur's shoddy treatment at the hands of the new Team Sonic, but regardless, the HD artwork has looked nothing short of fantastic. Let's hope this project sees the end of the tunnel in the future, as UK:R has cryptically noted that "no one will want to do all of Metropolis Zone in their spare time for free."

Tons more images and downloads can be seen at the Sonic Retro forums, where tons of HD illustration tips are currently dominating much of the conversation. Got drawing skills? These guys might be your new best friends.

5. Star Fox: Shadows of Lylat

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Status: Still in Production

Shadows of Lylat has more team members than most baseball clubs, so it's no surprise that every trailer we've seen looks good enough to be called "Star Fox in HD". See that, Miyamoto? There's still plenty of us old school Nintendo fans out there that like Star Fox! We don't mind Star Fox Adventures much, really. We just pretend it never happened.

For a fan project, Shadows of Lylat is promising a lot of things that the official games never produced, like HD graphics, 3 different Arwings (a possible tip of the hat to the never-released Star Fox 2), and a multiple platform release code. "Huge multiplayer wars" will also be part of the package, and we're hoping for the same variety of spaceships we've seen in games like Star Fox Command. After a whopping six years of work, there's only been a few trailers released, but they look incredibly impressive.

All they need to do is leave Slippy out of the game, and we've got a blockbuster in the making.

Barrel Rolls in HD

Luckily, this project is alive and well, and you can even send the Shadows of Lylat team some feedback on the Game Warden forums. Hopefully, Nintendo doesn't bother sending these guys any legal letters. Heck, they should just hire the whole SoL crew to make a new StarFox game for the Nintendo Wii.

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4. Another Metroid 2 Remake

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Status: Still in Production, Updates Frequently

Metroid II: Return of Samus is the forgotten, less successful child in this franchise family, as it didn't have the groundbreaking classic touch of the first Metroid game, nor the Earth-shattering special effects of the infinitely more popular Super Metroid. Enter DoctorM64, an amateur code writer from Argentina who's apparently made himself a hobby out of showing up Nintendo at their own game with Another Metroid 2 Remake. Since finishing his Metroid: Confrontation tech demo without a hitch, DoctorM64 has been hard at work wrapping up his professional-looking Metroid 2 remake.

We have to admit, the new color graphics look a heck of a lot better than the olive green Game Boy glow that we remember from 1991.

The Real Return of Samus

We don't know if it's the fact that this guy lives out in Argentina, but DoctorM64 is still free and clear of legal action from Nintendo. In fact, they've apparently left Metroid II to collect dust in their Game Boy vault for the last 18 years. That's good for us, though, since DoctorM64's running up on a two-year anniversary's worth of work for this remake. It's a good thing, too. At this point, he's probably going to finish the AM2R Project way before a "Cease and Desist" finds its way to Buenos Aires.

3. Mega Man 2.5D

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Status: Concept Completed, 2009, 2 Videos

What's the only thing that could make Mega Man 2 more difficult than the NES days? Simple: Add another dimension to the gameplay. That's exactly the genius idea that Sweden's Peter Sjostrand had, as he created an entire working demo of MM2, Mega Man 2.5D, with an extra layer of three-dimensional beef. Not just stopping at this mad scientist's dream come true, Sjostrand even threw in co-operative play with Proto Man, something that has yet to be done in any 8-bit style Mega Man game yet. Sadly, he's not crafting a complete downloadable game yet, but it looks like he probably has the tools for it.

"It started out with me and a friend going to the mall to pick up an Xbox 360 for his sister," Sjostrand recalled in an e-mail to GamePro. "While I was waiting for my friend I sat down in the kids' corner and started playing with some Legos. I tried to use the pieces of Lego to create various characters from some of my favourite games such as Mega Man and Mario. The results were pretty horrible, but I was suprised how much fun it was. Later, when I got back home, I started up the 3D software Maya where I used a similar approach, using cubes to create the characters. I eventually ended up with the Mega Man sprite. After I had done that, I thought it would be fun to try and create some more objects. One thing lead to another, and eventually I ended up with the fully animated videos that you've seen."

"Mega Man has always been one of my favourite franchises, so that made it all the more fun to try and see how I could build on it. Although the project started out as nothing but an animated concept, since having made the videos I have come in contact with people who would like to help me realize the concept and make it into an actual playable game. So, we're currently working hard to try and get something playable done for all Mega Man fans to enjoy."

Mega Busting in 2.5D

Right now, rumor has it that Sjostrand's working on converting more levels from Mega Man 3 to make into co-op versions for MM 2.5D. Let's hope his impressive skills find their way to a complete Mega Man project. Cross your fingers, fans.

2. Left 4 Dead

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Status: Still in Production

On the original Left 4 Dead, the zombies chase you so fast that your graphics card can start wheezing like an old man reading a Playboy. If that strikes a little bit too much fear into your bones, Eric Ruth Games has a more "retro" solution for your zombie killing needs. Citing his inspiration and respect for Valve, Ruth (a.k.a. PixelForce) is hard at work building a full, free downloadable game for PC gamers, based entirely on the original Left 4 Dead. That means every character, all five types of infected undead, and even the full scope of maps, levels, and campaigns will be present in the final build.

Sadly, four-player gameplay isn't possible. Hey, it's based on NES technology. Supporting two players on that thing was almost all it took to freeze the cartridge.

Left 4 8-Bit

Hopefully, Valve's professed "love of community creations" keeps a "Cease and Desist" letter out of the mail, and PixelForce can finish its first game. And don't think this will be the only NES project from Eric Ruth Games, either. According to a recent interview, Left 4 Dead is the first demake in what could be a long line of modern-era-games-turned-retro projects.

Personally, we're pulling for a Resident Evil, Kingdom Hearts or Borderlands remake.

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1. Final Fantasy VII

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Status: Completed, 2005

ShenZhen Nanjing Technology's NES version of Final Fantasy VII is a lot like the Large Hadron Collider: the science behind it is so complex, that we literally don't have enough Internet to describe it. Here's the nutshell version. In 2005, a team of Chinese programmers and coders decided to test the limits of 8-bit technology by condensing the entire story of FFVII within the confines of the "SUBOR" system, a ugly little Famicom clone that was little more than a keyboard with a game slot.

But that wasn't even the impressive part. What made headlines around the World Wide Web was that the thing actually worked. Even early claims that the whole thing was some elaborate hoax died quickly after concrete proof was published by the original source, blogger Derrick Sobodash. Okay, so maybe the random battles took forever to finish and a lot of artwork was borrowed from other FF titles. But, it was still the video game equivalent of the Human Genome Project, and it's probably the closest thing we'll ever get towards a remake of FFVII.

Foreign Final Fantasy

Luckily, Square Enix either didn't catch on to the project or didn't care, which was likely because the entire thing was written in Chinese and ported to a device that no gamer owns. Can't read Chinese? There's also an English patch floating elusively around the Web, mostly on torrent sites and peer-to-peer networks.