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What if the popularity of video game remakes (not counting retellings in a sequel or some sort) was because of Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen?
Nah... Remakes existed as far back as Pong, Space Invaders and them sort of old games, confusingly they got remakes and sequels. Even if in a Nintendo point of view, they can be tracked as early as Super Mario All-Stars (there were earlier ones but can't recall ATM, I know that they were two Wild Gunman games however I don't think they were connected) and that collection did really well, a big seller for the SNES.
A lot of the remakes existed on the ground that we have better hardware, let's remake this game on the next console/home computer/arcade hardware. Atari, Taito, Enix and a few others were known for this. There was even a case where Sega remade Monaco GP on the Sega Saturn in a collection in Japan and the only modern way of playing it, a game that has yet to be properly preserved in its original form. It's not emulation as the game uses different pre-1975 arcade hardware, as in not using ROM chips.
Breakout was one of the earlier cases as it was remade as Super Breakout, the latter can be played today however the original Breakout has yet to be preserved (on about the arcade version, not the Atari 2600 version).
They were far from the first big name ones. It has been a well publishers have gone back to all the way back in the early 1990s when 16 bit platforms could make substantial gains on the previous generation.
The Wonderswan lived and died because of the exclusive Final Fantasy remakes that it had (and the exclusive Final Fantasy III remake that was ultimately cancelled) for example.