I’m generally pretty wary of remakes. It’s not that I’m against bringing relics of the past into the present - that is, for the most part, an objectively good thing in that it introduces younger audiences to the games their favourite series are influenced by. I reckon what constitutes “needs a remake” can be murky - but undoubtedly, Ico is a game that needs a remake.
If something is extremely dated, difficult to buy, and even harder to actually play, it should be considered a viable candidate for the remake treatment. There are other factors worth acknowledging here, too - Demon’s Souls was a PS3 game, and was actually pretty robust on the original hardware. You can’t ask a 16-year-old to get a PS3 on eBay for one game, though, especially given the ubiquity and importance of its much more renowned successors. Regardless of whether you approve of the final look, tone, or feel of the game, making it readily available for PS5 owners is undeniably valuable. It helps that it’s brilliant.
Obviously everyone with even the most remote interest in games should probably try carving out time to play Metal Gear Solid at least once. The fact the games are pretty old and mostly require owning older hardware puts it on a similar playing field to Demon’s Souls, although I’m not sure it demands a remake more than other games that meet the same criteria. Ico, despite being relatively niche and rarely discussed today, would benefit way more from being reintroduced to new audiences - after all, it’s one of the games that defined games as we know them today.
Directed by Fumito Ueda, Ico was Team Ico’s debut effort prior to Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian. It’s due to turn 20 this September, having originally launched for PS2 way back in 2001. If you’ve still got a PS2 handy, fair play - you’re one of very few people in the world who can run Ico natively. But the fact is that most people - in particular younger players - don’t have access to this hardware, and I’m not sure you’re going to be able to convince a grumpy teenager to part with their pocket money for a machine with fewer pixels than Ratchet’s left arse cheek.
But it’s important for people to play Ico, isn’t it? I mean, look at Breath of the Wild. Look at Journey, Fez, or basically any other ostensibly minimalist game from the last two decades. Ico took a leaf from legendary French game designer Eric Chahi’s book before going on to showcase Ueda’s iconic “design by subtraction” principle, which can be seen in both Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian, too. It proved that games are inherently magical, and that they can work in unique and wonderful ways without needing to resort to hamfisted exposition or constant combat sequences. Design is much more varied than that, and I think anyone who has played Ico will agree with me. It’s one of those rare and precious games that changed how games are made, and to this day, there’s still nothing quite like it - despite how hard every game actively tries to be.
That’s why it’s important to make it available on newer hardware, to update its systems in a way that makes them more conducive to modern progress without overhauling them in a way that damages the original artistic vision. I’m not asking for Ico and Yorda, the game’s main characters, to be redesigned to look like Ubisoft protagonists. I’m saying to smooth out, but not alter, Ico’s dated mechanics. I’m saying to improve the frame rate, and the loading times, and the visual fidelity without hurting the art direction. If there’s one thing Bluepoint does well, it manages to wrench beloved games from the past into the present with perfect dexterity. I mean, just look at the PS4 remake of Shadow of the Colossus - it pays homage to the original vision brilliantly, but the whole experience of playing it is just so much… nicer. It feels the same in terms of tone and atmosphere, but it looks more modern - the entire efficacy of play is improved to an exponential degree.
Personally, I always thought it was a bit weird that Shadow was remade before Ico, given how much the former was inspired by the latter. Yeah, Shadow was always Team Ico’s golden goose, but Ico’s the goose that laid the egg, innit. There are currently youths all over the world playing all kinds of different games, some of whom will inevitably become the next generation of developers - it feels weird to think that they might miss out on Ico purely due to how arcane the original version might seem to someone used to looking at Red Dead Redemption 2 or Outer Wilds. Those two are radically different games, obviously, but that’s my point - they’re so emphatically modern and up to contemporary standards of play that nobody would bat an eye at anyone else playing them. Ico, on the other hand, would probably turn the head of anyone who doesn’t work in game development or games media under the age of 30.
I don’t mean to pick on Metal Gear, by the way. For what it’s worth, I’ve written loads about Death Stranding recently, like how more games need to learn from its use of music and why it’s made me realize I need a PS5. I like Kojima - regardless of how convoluted he can be - and would appreciate the opportunity to play these games in a new, refined form. But I’d be dishonest to myself if I pretended that rumors about Metal Gear remakes are what I want to hear about most when it comes to this kind of development, especially with Bluepoint in particular. After Shadow of the Colossus, I wanted Ico. After Demon’s Souls, I still want Ico. If another project is greenlit, I’ll absolutely want Ico instead. I can’t think of a single game from the last two decades that is more deserving of being brought forward into the current day, and until I get my Ico remake, I’m going to continue shouting about this as if my life depends on it.
Breath of the Wild's rain might be annoying, but it's genius.