Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Resident Evil 2, Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection.

Remake vs. Reboot vs. Remaster: What’s the Difference?

Remasters & remakes & reboots, oh my!

Written by:
Avatar photo
Rhett Roxl is a professional writer who has been gaming for as long as he can remember. He merged both passions together to become a writer in the game industry in 2020.

Reviewed by:
Avatar photo
Marshall is a seasoned writer and gaming enthusiast based in Tokyo. He's a prolific wordsmith with hundreds of articles featured on top-tier sites like Business Insider, How-To Geek, PCWorld, and Zapier. His writing has reached a massive audience with over 70 million readers!

Key Takeaway

  • A remake is a game where the assets of the original are recreated from scratch, but the story and characters largely remain the same.
  • A reboot is a recreation of the original game, telling a new story within a new universe.
  • A remaster is a game that retains all assets, but is re-rendered at a higher resolution, better frame rates, and offers smoother controls.

Video games aren’t unfamiliar with reboots, remakes, and remasters. In fact, some of the most successful games in the past decade have been reboots, remakes, and remasters. However, the difference between these terms may cause some confusion for players.

Table Of Contents

    What Is a Remake?

    Resident Evil 2 cover.

    A remake is when a video game is an exact or close copy of an older game but is rebuilt from the ground up. While the core identity and story of the game remain almost the same, certain things such as environmental and character assets are changed and modernized.

    Remakes are done on a newer game engine that’s compatible with modern consoles and capable of more advanced features. This allows an older game to have visual and technical upgrades. Certain remakes also completely change a title’s gameplay to better fit the standards of today.

    The purpose of a remake is to take an older, perhaps outdated game and have it evolve by taking advantage of technological advancements to give it a modern flare. This is done by the original developers or copyright holders of the game. Exceptions are made when a developer hands the rights to another so they can handle the development of the remake.

    Examples of Video Game Remakes

    The following are some of the best and most popular examples of video game remakes:

    • Demon’s Souls (2020)
    • Final Fantasy VII Remake
    • Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D
    • Resident Evil 2 (2019)
    • Shadow of the Colossus (2018)
    • Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2

    What Is a Reboot?

    Call of Duty: Modern Warfare cover.

    A video game reboot is very similar in essence to a video game remake, with one major difference: a reboot disregards storylines and continuity established from the previous title so it can move forward within a new continuity. The original and the reboot can retain certain important characters, but a reboot will not acknowledge, reference, or continue any storylines introduced in previous titles.

    The best way to think about the difference between a remake and a reboot is like this: A remake changes the visual and technical aspects of a game while a reboot changes its story and universal aspects. An original and its remake can have the same story, from start to finish. An original and a reboot may not.

    Reboots are made when a developer or director wants to “reimagine” an already established franchise. Thus, they recreate the game within a new universe, with new sets of rules, and a story that moves forward that isn’t tied to any previous storylines.

    Rebooted Video Games Examples

    For you to get a clearer picture of the difference between a remake and a reboot, it’s best that you know some examples of video game reboots.

    • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)
    • DmC: Devil May Cry
    • Hitman (2016)
    • Saints Row (2022)
    • Star Wars Battlefront (2015)
    • Tomb Raider (2013)

    To take one of these as an example, the 2019 version of Modern Warfare doesn’t have the same story as the Modern Warfare game that was released in 2007. The new version features characters introduced in the old version, but the original is set in 2011 while the new is set in 2019. The original is centered around a Russian civil war, while the new is about a conflict between Russia and a fictional country called Urzikstan.

    What Is a Remaster?

    Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection cover.

    A video game remaster is merely a visual upgrade of an older title. A remaster takes the assets of an older game and re-renders them at a higher resolution. Touch-ups may also be done to give the game’s graphics a cleaner, more modern look.

    Unlike remakes, remasters do not start from scratch. Remakes create new assets completely on a new engine, while remasters do not. Remasters simply “clean up” these assets and do not discard them at all.

    Aside from having better fidelity than the original, remasters can also play at a higher frame rate. Controls can also be adjusted and improved if the ones from the older game are too clunky and outdated for modern tastes.

    Remastered games also often include DLCs if the original game released any. In some instances, developers bundle multiple remastered games into one HD collection.

    Examples of Video Game Remasters

    These are examples of video game remasters that have been released over the years. Some of these are individual games while some are collections that contain remasters of duologies or trilogies.

    • Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection
    • Dark Souls Remastered
    • Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster
    • The Last of Us Remastered
    • Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
    • Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection

    Knowing the Difference Between A Remake, Reboot, and Remaster

    To cap it all off, here’s a summarized definition of all three so you can clearly understand the difference between them.

    • Remake – A game recreated from the ground up with new assets.
    • Reboot – A game recreated and reimagined to tell a new story within a new universe.
    • Remaster – A game that retains all assets, but is re-rendered at a higher resolution, better frame rates, and smoother controls.