Gamers will often feel the nostalgic call to revisit a game they remember fondly only to find there is not easy way to play it on modern systems. Thankfully, many skilled fans have put their hand to keeping some of these games alive. Here, I’m going to look at five of the best fan projects that resurrect older games.
Lemmings is without a doubt one of the greatest games ever made. Directing the hapless little critters to safety while helping them avoid their own idiocy, as well as a good amount of traps and pitfalls, is one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences one can have. And the most frustrating. Despite Lemmings’ pedigree there hasn’t been a significant Lemmings release since 2006’s Lemmings remake (I’m ignoring Lemmings Touch and the recent mobile game here as I would not call them ‘significant’).
As with many franchises, the original games are considered the best of the Lemmings canon, however, getting games from 1991 to run on modern machines can be quite as task.
Created by Lemmings superfan Namida, NeoLemmix sets out to make Lemmings — in particular those games released between 1991 and 1994 — playable once again on modern machines.
While NeoLemmix can read the level files from the games’ original releases, the true brilliance of it comes in the included Lemmings Redux level pack. Redux contains complete re-makes of the best levels across all the releases of Lemmings. Not only are re-makes of levels from the original release included, but also levels from ports to other systems. The result is something of a playable Lemmings museum, and it’s absolutely fantastic.
If that isn’t enough, NeoLemmix also comes with a level editor. So, if you fancy trying your hand at creating your own Lemmings levels to test your friends’ skills, you can! Even if making your own levels isn’t your thing but you want a new challenge, there is a vibrant community of custom made levels built up around NeoLemmix with hundreds of new challenges to try.
NeoLemmix is an incredibly impressive project, and the love that Namida has for the series is obvious. If you enjoy puzzle games with lots of challenge and replay value, then you need to check out NeoLemmix.
Rayman is a game that does not get the recognition it deserves. Originally released in 1995 on the Atari Jaguar, it was then ported to every system imaginable. As adept and well made as the links of Sonic or Mario, Rayman is a brightly coloured platformer that gives the impression of being a fun, cute game.
However, the game is incredibly hard. Think Dark Souls, but for platformers. While the first world, Dream Forest, is easy enough, the difficulty spikes hugely in the second world and just keeps going up from there. It’s probably fair to say that most gamers never made it past this level, let alone finished the game. It’s a shame too, because Rayman is full of beautiful animation, wonderful music and some of the most inventive environments seen in a game.
This is where Rayman Redemption comes in. Released in mid-2020, the game is a complete remake of the original Rayman by one man, Ryemanni. Redemption adds a lot of new content to the game, including new worlds, new music, new mini-games and a bunch of new items to collect. However, perhaps the biggest change, and the one many gamers will most welcome, is the new difficulty options.
Redemption offers three difficulty settings; Casual gives you unlimited lives, Classic has a regular lives structure (so you can get a game over) but extra lives are scattered generously throughout the game, and Demise, which is more akin to the original game’s difficulty. Along with this, Rayman can now earn extra permanent hit points, meaning he can take more damage before losing a life.
Together these changes make the game infinitely more accessible. With the original Rayman — which I have never finished — I barley made it past the second world. In Redemption playing on Classic I made it through without too much trouble and completing the game is actually conceivable.
As well as this other changes have been made, such as Rayman having all his abilities from the get got rather than having them slowly drip-fed to you. Some Rayman fans may not like this change, but I found it made the game a lot more interesting to be able to use the abilities right off. Not being able to even punch in the first level is kind of lame in my opinion.
All this results in a Rayman that is much more accessible and less anger inducing than the original. The game’s quality is on par with that of the 1995 original and none of the character has been lost. If you’ve never played the original Rayman or found it much to difficult, then Rayman Redemption is well worth checking out!
Sonic The Hedgehog 3: Angel Island Revisited
If you’re reading this article you’ll probably be aware that Sonic’s last two outings on the Sega Mega Drive, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, were originally conceived as one huge game. Due to the limitations of cartridges at the time, the game had to be split in two, resulting in the epitome of 90’s DLC, lock-on technology.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3: Angel Island Revisited, or Sonic 3 A.I.R for short, takes both halves of the game and combines them into one amazing 16-bit platforming experience. But it does a whole lot more besides!
Created by Eukaryot3K, Sonic 3 A.I.R. not only provides the full Sonic 3 & Knuckles experience, but also runs natively in widescreen, has overhauled Special Stages that run perfectly smooth, the ability to manually have Tails fly Sonic to out-of-reach areas, an enhanced soundtrack, and much more!
In a rather nice move, in order to run Sonic 3 A.I.R. you need to own and have installed the Sonic 3 & Knuckles ROM from Steam. The game uses it as the basis for all its data which means that anyone who wants to play Sonic 3 A.I.R. has to legally own a copy of Sonic 3 & Knuckles. It’s a neat way of avoiding the somewhat grey area of fangame legality.
For my money, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles is the best of the Classic Sonic era, and Sonic 3 A.I.R. is the perfect way to experience it.
The Starry Expanse Project
Okay, so this one is a little different to the others on this list. Firstly, it’s not actually out yet. Second, rather than being an action or platforming game, Starry Expanse aims to recrate the beautiful dreamlike world of Cyan World’s Riven.
The sequel to Myst, one of the most successful video games of all time, Riven is a point-and-click adventure game with brilliantly conceived puzzles that sees you exploring beautifully realised environments in an attempt to save the people of a dying world.
Released in 1997, the game’s graphics consisted of highly detailed still images with animation inserted into them to create the illusion of movement. The reason for this is that the technology at the time simply could not create the detail Cyan wanted in real-time 3D. However, in 2000 Cyan released realMyst, a real-time 3D remake of the first game in the series that has itself been updated since.
Since the release of realMyst fans have been clamouring for a realRiven. However, Riven was double the size of Myst and Cyan has said that re-creating the game in full 3D would simply be too time consuming and expensive.
As you can probably guess, this is where a group of dedicated fans stepped in. The Starry Expanse Project is realRiven in all but name. Carefully examining all of the static images in the original game, the Starry Expanse team have painstakingly recreated them in full 3D and the results look amazing!
In an interesting twist, Cyan Worlds decided to officially invite the Starry Expanse team to work with them, making the game official. Now that they are working with the creators of the original Riven the outlook for the game is even more promising.
Streets of Rage Remake
Anyone who grew up gaming in the 90’s has probably at least heard of Streets of Rage. It was a tough, bare knuckled (which is actually it’s name in Japan) slugfest and is immensely satisfying even to this day. It’s sequel is considered one of the best games on the 16-bit era and the recent fourth game in the series acted not only as a love letter to the original series, but also as a reminder of just how much fun the simple premise of pummelling digital foes can be.
Before Streets of Rage 4, however, there was Streets of Rage Remake. It was 26 years between Streets 3 and 4, and as you could imagine that is a long time for fans to wait. So, a bunch of clever clogs came together to make what is basically a “best of” Streets of Rage game. Remake takes everything from the original three games and puts it together into one huge experience. More than that, however, it adds 100 new stages, tones of new graphics, new music, has over 64 enemies and 19 playable characters with which to smack them around. There are new attacks, new weapons, new everything. It is really impressive just how much the creators have been able to cram in to it.
But…officially you’re not supposed to be able to play it. In a very rare instance of SEGA ordering cease-an-desist notices, the game was ordered to be taken down. This came as a shock to everyone — especially the team behind Remake — as SEGA never seemed to have an issue with the slew of Sonic the Hedgehog fan games that have released over the years.
However, as we all know, once something is on the internet it never truly goes away. I won’t include links here as to do so may upset Medium, SEGA, and a number of others, but with some basic internet sleuthing it isn’t too hard to find the files for Streets of Rage Remake. If playing a fan game that the original IP holders don’t want you to play doesn’t bother you, it’s well worth tracking down.