Reviving a classic arcade game poses a dangerous road. Sometimes, these attempts fall flat on their faces with unnecessary changes, bad execution of good ones, or misfires in other areas. That said, some revivals of classic arcade games succeed with flying colors by bringing old ideas forward and peppering them with new ones. Here we present some of the best classic arcade game revivals ever to exist.
1. Blaster Master Zero
The classic side-scrolling shooter Blaster Master impressed lots of gamers back in its time. Having two types of shooter gameplay crammed into one game holds up as a neat idea, but Blaster Master avoided coming off as gimmicky by making the vehicular and on-foot modes feel complementary to each other. The Blaster Master series would get a sequel every ten years or so until Blaster Master Zero revived the series and put it back on the map in a big way.
By taking the gameplay back to square one and returning to the classic pixelated look, Blaster Master Zero feels right to older gamers while also hitting the sweet spot for younger gamers with its digestible gameplay style and moderated difficulty. Now, the Blaster Master Zero sub-series of games has three strong entries all on its own, each of which remains worth playing.
2. Contra 4
Like a lot of classic arcade games, Contra lost its way a bit in the late 90s and early 2000s with a few sequels that just didn’t feel right. The Sega Saturn, PS1, and PS2 would see several 3D Contra games that, while not horrible games, deviated too far from the franchise's 2D roots to their detriment.
Well, that’s where Wayforward came in to save the day with Contra 4 for the Nintendo DS. As a true return to form, this Contra game hits all the right notes, rescuing Contra from the depths of mediocrity while also setting the stage for future sequels to garner their own success by sticking to the same winning combination of 2D action and stern-but-fair difficulty.
3. New Super Mario Bros.
Everyone knows about the massive shift into the 3D space Mario games took during the N64 era. While these 3D games have been great overall, they also created a void that wouldn’t be filled for a long time by leaving that classic 2D gameplay behind. It would be many years, but Nintendo would release New Super Mario Bros on the Wii in 2009 which would feel much more like its classic arcade-style predecessors.
While the characters and environments became 3D visually, the game still played with its characters on a 2D plane, so, close enough. Needless to say, this Mario game still earns praise from those who play it, as it’s a great mix of the vivid colors achievable with modern hardware and the classic 2D gameplay that put Mario on top in the first place.
4. Sonic Mania
Sonic games took even longer to get the memo from their long-time fans than Mario games, but nevertheless, the memo, in time, made its way to Sega. Sonic Mania steps away from the spastic 3D games that had delivered mixed results to fans for about 20 years straight and nails every possible aspect. The music, graphics, level variety, and boss battles all shine just as bright as they ever did in Sonic Mania, leading some fans to call it their favorite Sonic game of all time, which also makes it one of the most impressive game revivals ever.
5. Ninja Gaiden
While the classic 2D style of the original Ninja Gaiden games has yet to resurface in a modern sequel, the firm difficulty the originals remain known for return in Ninja Gaiden on the original Xbox. The game impressed all who played it with its notable achievements in graphics and excellent sound design, but the firm challenge would solidify it as a classic revival. Ninja Gaiden’s return worked out so well that it has spawned sequels and remasters that still come up in conversations to this day.
6. Pac-Man Battle Royale
While it’s true that Pac-Man has never gone away, the classic style of the original game has also taken a back seat to a plethora of other, more experimental titles. 2010’s Pac-Man Battle Royale would not only return to the classic format, but build upon it in an interesting way. Adding co-op to the mix turned out great, as four players could now compete to see who can last the longest, eating pellets and avoiding ghosts.
Pac-Man Battle Royale remains an excellent iteration of the classic Pac-Man formula, and while it hasn’t been ported to as many platforms as it could be, it’s still playable in several ways today.
7. Mega Man 9
Mega Man never quite lost its way like some other classic arcade franchises did, but it has gone through some major upheavals. A switch to more detailed 16-bit graphics, then full 3D, have muddled the identity of the blue bomber a bit.
Mega Man 9 sets the record straight though with a 2009 release on seventh-generation consoles. The 8-bit style returns in Mega Man 9, as does the unflinching challenge that awaits players at every turn. For players looking for more classic Mega Man action; look no further than Mega Man 9.
8. Pong: The Next Level
Hasbro Interactive took a few swings at reviving some classics of yesteryear during the PS1’s lifetime. Some of these swings would miss, sure, but Pong: The Next Level plays pretty great as video game revivals go, all things considered. Granted, there’s only so much to do with the simplistic gameplay of Pong, but Supersonic Software maximized whatever potential Pong still had left to great effect.
Power-ups, multiplayer, several difficulties, and a few other bells and whistles make this revival one of the best on this list and prove that a lot can be done with a little if approached with enough creativity. The wiggly 3D graphics might distract at times, but the gameplay remains one of gaming’s most tried and true formulas.
9 Excitebike: World Rally
The isometric racer Excitebike might have slipped through the cracks of most gamers’ memories by now, but that’s not because it failed in any way. The time trial mechanic and overhead viewpoint return in the 2009 revival Excitebike: World Rally over 20 years after the original title laid the groundwork, and it’s just as fun as ever. With tracks based on real locations worldwide and a rather beefy level editor, World Rally feels like a worthy successor to the original. The game remains on the Nintendo Wii for now, but deserves a play anyway.
10. Yars Recharged
Yars’ Revenge holds up well as a classic shooter from the 80s with a few twists that set it apart in the genre, so it should be no surprise that Atari set their sights on reviving it for eighth and ninth-generation consoles. While the inferior 2011 attempt at a remake fumbled the ball, Yars Recharged sticks to 2D graphics and a much more familiar gameplay loop reminiscent of the original game. While the simplicity of it’s moment-to-moment gameplay might be best experienced in short bursts, it still feels like a worthy revival of, and companion to, the original game.
Splatterhouse presented players with grotesque imagery they had never seen before in 1988 arcades and created a devilish power fantasy that few games would ever replicate. A few sequels would follow, but by the end of the 16-bit era the franchise seemed as dead as the many ghouls Rick left in his wake. Fast forward a decade and a half and Splatterhouse wound up exhumed for the PS3 and Xbox 360.
The game didn’t review that well at the time, as its mindless bashing and slashing did little to compete with juggernauts like God of War and Devil May Cry. Still, history has judged this revival more favorably with time, and if players approach it with the right mindset, lots of gory fun can be had here.
12. Robotron 64
The absolute mayhem of Robotron 2084 took arcades by storm back in its heyday, but despite the game still holding up pretty well, Player 1 and Crave Entertainment decided to drop this revival in the middle of the N64’s lifespan. While it does few things to update the gameplay, the polygonal visuals add a bit of modern spice.
The added effects and music also bring the experience into the 21st century, making the game a bit more palatable for more players. The game doesn’t skimp out on content either, with a ton of levels, several bosses, and even the ability to play with two N64 controllers and achieve true twin-stick status.
13. Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise Of The Dragons
While Double Dragon has seen several attempts at a revival, most of them have fallen flat for one reason or another. Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise Of The Dragons bucks that trend though, with an overhauled combat system and rogue-like elements that make every playthrough a little bit different from the last. The art style fits somewhere between the classic pixels of the originals and more modern 2D beat ‘em ups like Streets or Rage 4, giving it a nostalgic vibe while still being easy on the eyes. Add to that a slew of unlockable characters with unique combat styles, and Double Dragon Gaiden shapes up as one of the better games in the series and an excellent revival.