Does Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Even Need a Remake?

Brothers remake
Brothers remake

On December 7, 2023, a trailer for the remake of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was shown at The Game Awards, set to release on February 28, 2024. Both the announcement and the trailer had people asking the same question: Does this game even need a remake?

A remaster, maybe, but given how it’s only been a decade since the first game was released, the original doesn’t look all that dated. If anything, if this game were released now, the graphics would still be praised given that it’s an indie title. In our site’s review for the 2019 Switch release, Huw Saunders wrote that “[the game’s] age hasn’t slowed it down at all.”

Of course, given its stylized nature, it’s hard to imagine this game ever truly looking dated, or that affecting the experience enough to warrant a remake. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons follows two brothers, one a teenager and the other a younger kid, as they embark on a quest through a fantasy world filled with giants and monsters to find a tree that’ll save their father’s life. Controlling both brothers, the player must find ways to get the two to work together to get through levels and make it to the tree.

brothers A tale of Two Sons
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers received unanimous praise during its release, boasting an 86 on Metacritic and being hailed by many as one of the best games of 2013. It also won the award for Best Xbox Game at the 2013 VGX Award Show, the Best Game Innovation Award at 2014’s British Academy Games Awards (BAFTA), and was awarded Downloadable Game of the Year by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences during the 2014 D.I.C.E. Awards.

It isn’t hard to understand why the game was so beloved. Brothers told a heart-wrenching narrative that tied together impressively well with its unique controls, and its world was beautifully realized. This truly was a tale of two sons as the game felt like a grown-up fairy tale, one that was both mesmerizing and haunting as it didn’t coat itself in dazzle and wrap everything up in a neat bow like Disney fairytales tend to.

Seeing the trailers for the remake made me appreciate the art style of the original, because if anything, the remake looks too detailed. The colors look duller and the world looks a lot less vibrant. The original’s simplified visuals, as if from an illustrated children’s book, juxtaposed well with the game’s melancholy undertones and gave it a visual identity.

The remake does have one other trick up its sleeve, though: local co-op. This was something the original’s Switch version already had, but the remake will have local co-op for all of its platform releases. On paper, this feels like a logical addition as many were already playing the game co-op by sharing the controller, but game director Josef Fares knew about this method and greatly discouraged it. “That’s like almost putting a different soundtrack on a movie I’ve made,” he said.

Co-op robs players of the game’s intended experience: being the medium of which the two brothers form a connection through. Playing as both characters, you feel the trust both boys have for each other, which only grows more important the more the story goes on. Fares even said that he didn’t consider co-op at all when making the game, even when multiple voices were telling him how much better the game would sell if he did so.

“I would rather cut my hands than do that,” he said. “The whole foundation of the idea is that you connect with your left hand to the bigger brother and right hand to the little brother.”

Fares would go on to direct two actual co-op games called A Way Out and It Takes Two, both achieving critical praise and commercial success. The obvious common thread with all his games is that they involve two characters who must learn to work together to achieve a goal. Clearly, the success of Brothers greatly influenced his later works, and It Takes Two even won Game of the Year during The Game Awards.

Video games are a relatively new medium compared to other mediums like books and film, but Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons proves that some stories can only be told through the uniqueness of video games. We’ve yet to see if the remake is any good, but either way, the original game is still a masterpiece of interactive storytelling, one that’s rightfully remembered by many as such.

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