Video games can break your heart. It is a business built on creativity, scheduling, manpower, collaboration, and customer demand. Not everything works out. A company can have a brilliant concept and all the talent, but due to a few bad decisions or lack of funds, it could come out as a husk of what it was meant to be.
At least those failed games get to hit the shelf, though. Some dreams lead to dead ends. Amazing game designs never see the light of day for one reason or another. Maybe you have an interesting idea for a Mario spinoff that Nintendo shoots down. Maybe you put work into a game based on a popular movie that the higher-ups decide is not economically viable. Maybe your violent fighting game is nixed because the people you work for are bought out by another company who do not agree with your vision.
So many games do not make it to the finish line. Sure, some get leaked here and there. Lord knows you can find Thrill Kill on the internet if you look in the right places. Regardless, a lot of these failed projects can make you feel like you missed out on something great. While there are countless examples, here are fifteen games we wish could have been properly published.
15. Eternal Champions: The Final Chapter
After Street Fighter II created the fighting game explosion in the early 90s, Sega capitalized with Eternal Champions. While perhaps a bit too unique for its own good, it became one of the standout exclusives during the 16-bit war. It was followed by a sequel/upgrade on the Sega CD called Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side in 1995, which expanded on the first game’s base with a host of new characters and some new mechanics, including the ambitious Cinekills where the game’s final boss is summoned via CGI FMV cutscene to kill the loser in a victim-specific way.
The games’ interesting lore, which involved time travel paradoxes and the balance between good and evil, was supposed to come to a head with a Sega Saturn release called Eternal Champions: The Final Chapter. That project was going to feature an excessive amount of possible endings due to the nature of the series narrative and the possible actions of its fighters. Sadly, that ambitious project would not come to be, as Sega of Japan did not think that two fighting game franchises (extremely different as they were) should coexist under the company’s umbrella. Eternal Champions died for good so that Virtua Fighter could remain the only game in town. Well, except for Fighting Vipers, Last Bronx, Sonic the Fighters, and Fighters Megamix, naturally.
14. Aliens (1987, Famicom)
It was a godly trifecta on paper: the action classic Aliens, the NES, and Square. Putting them together seems like a slam dunk. Back in 1987, Square was indeed working on an Aliens sidescroller for the Famicom Disk System, which surely would have led to an NES translation. The project was ultimately canned, but years later, a prototype was discovered and shared on the internet.
What was discovered feels like something that could have been great with more time in the oven. There’s a strong power-up system for both Ripley’s weaponry and ability to jump. The enemies even look great for the hardware, especially for the Queen Xenomorph. At the end of the day, Square seemingly simply felt that the quality was not up to snuff, but with some TLC, there was definitely a better game in there. Years later, Alien 3 went to LJN, who did not have that sense of self-respect.
13. Batman: Gotham by Gaslight
Elseworlds was an imprint of DC Comics that allowed them to tell alternate takes on their various characters, retelling their legends in different settings. It led to a lot of interesting versions of their heroes, like a world where Kal-El’s rocket landed before Thomas and Martha Wayne, leading to a reality where Batman was an unstoppable Kryptonian. Or maybe a world where the Justice League existed in the form of Wild West gunslingers led by Sheriff Diana Prince. One of the most fondly remembered concepts was Batman: Gotham by Gaslight: a 1989 one-shot by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola about Batman existing in Victorian England, bent on tracking down Jack the Ripper.
Day 1 Studios (the team behind MechAssault and the console versions of F.E.A.R.) intended to make a game out of this storyline and sell it to THQ. Unfortunately, everything fell apart when it came time to actually license Batman. Some say that WB simply didn’t like the idea, while others say that THQ (a frequent player on this list) just couldn’t get the money together. It’s a real shame, as there is prototype footage out there of Gaslight Batman wandering through the foggy streets and rooftops of England and it looks really nice. Just watching the physics of the Caped Crusader’s flowing, collared cape is hypnotic.
While nothing would come of the game, Gaslight Batman would at least live on as a costume in Batman: Arkham Origins and the mobile version of Injustice: Gods Among Us. The comic would also get its own animated adaptation in 2018.
12. Sonic X-Treme
The attempt to get a main Sonic the Hedgehog game on the Sega Saturn was a failure, but also a depressing and complicated misadventure. There was a lot of miscommunication and contradictions that came from Sega and the game’s staff was so overworked that a couple of vital programmers were stricken with critical illnesses. Sonic would only appear in non-platformers when it came to the Saturn and would not get a true new title until Sonic Adventure on the Sega Dreamcast.
The real novelty of this canceled project is not just the bizarre fish-eyed view that plagued it, but its strange tie-in status. To go along with Sonic X-Treme’s release, MGM was planning to release a live-action movie called Sonic: Wonders of the World in which Sonic and Robotnik are able to escape the Saturn console itself. Eventually, their attempts to murder each other help a 12-year-old boy accept his parents’ divorce. Er…yeah. Listen, I’m just saying that things would be more interesting if these connected projects saw the light of day. At worst, Wonders of the World would have made a fantastic double feature when combined with the live-action Mario movie and an edible.
As an evil, bald mastermind tries to take over the world, a mild-mannered man runs into action and changes into a cape and tights with an S on his chest. This solar-powered hero then takes on evil via flight, super-strength, and heat vision. One level even has a boss battle where he proves himself more powerful than a locomotive! You know who I’m talking about! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…Sunman?
What was going to be Sunsoft’s attempt at a Superman game ran into some notable licensing problems that prevented them from landing Superman. So, mid-production, they changed the character’s sprite to make him legally distinct. Their new project played like a cross between Sunsoft’s Batman and the Taito Superman arcade game. It looked like a great way to actually make a Superman game work in an 8-bit setting. the project came close to being finished, but didn’t quite make the cut. At least Sunsoft would eventually get to release Death and Return of Superman for the SNES.
10. Castlevania: Resurrection
Once upon a time, Konami attempted to release a Castlevania game for the Sega Dreamcast, which is unbelievable because how dare you try that and not call the game DreamCastlevania? I mean, come on!
Taking place in the conceptually perfect year of 1666, Castlevania: Resurrection revolved around the Countess, a powerful vampire and former lover of Dracula who was obsessed with bringing him back yet again. In her attempts to do so, she would create some time rifts, causing former series protagonists Sonia Belmont (from the year 1450) and Victor Belmont (from sometime in the 1800s) to appear to stop her.
Despite three years of effort, Resurrection was killed due to the belief that the Dreamcast was too unsuccessful out the gate and not worth investing in. Two decades later, someone discovered an E3 build and put it up for auction, which is now available on the internet. It is a very early and very glitchy build featuring only Sonia and one level, where sound effects and environmental damage are missing. It’s a bit chaotic (especially a hydra chase sequence with its unfortunate camera), but shows plenty of promise of what could have been.
9. Mega Man Legends 3
During the days of the first PlayStation, Capcom released two Mega Man Legends games as well as a prequel spinoff. Mega Man Legends 2 ended on a real downer cliffhanger that would never get resolved. It hurts just a bit more knowing that with the Legends series taking place thousands of years after the original games, the Legends 2 finale is the last canonical part of the Mega Man timeline.
About a decade later, it seemed like we were finally going to get some closure. Mega Man Legends 3 was announced for the Nintendo 3DS and even featured two new protagonists: Aero and Barrett. A website was put up to garner fan feedback and interest in an era where Capcom would only greenlight projects if fans went above and beyond in showing they were excited about it.
A downloadable prologue demo was being worked on and was nearly complete when Capcom decided that the whole project was not going to be worth it and pulled the plug. Capcom UK’s Twitter account shrugged it off and basically suggested the fans should have wanted it more.
Mega Man Volnutt is still waiting on that rescue…
8. Primal Rage 2
While its control scheme was a big turn-off, the original Primal Rage was an impressive game. It came with some damn good stop-motion giant dinosaurs and gorillas, though all that effort worked against them in ways. Actually, the folks at Atari did not have the time to put together a real final boss for the game’s release. Originally, they planned to include Necrosan, a dragon skeleton, as the final boss in revised Primal Rage arcade units. Then, they greenlit a Primal Rage sequel and decided to just save him for that.
The new game focused on each monster’s avatar, all giant humans who were also stop-motion. A humanoid sabretooth tiger and his avatar were also included, plus the original roster was unlockable. The game was reportedly far along before Midway bought Atari Games and dropped the project.
Despite never being officially released, the game did have action figures and a paperback novel called Primal Rage: The Avatars. Sadly, copies of the book are incredibly expensive online. Disturbingly expensive. A cabinet of the game can also be found in the legendary Galloping Ghost Arcade.
7. StarCraft: Ghost
In an effort to capitalize on the popularity of StarCraft, Blizzard Entertainment greenlit a third-person shooter based on the RTS series that was being developed for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube. Following a Terran operative named Nova, Ghost would have seen players shoot and stealth their way through new and familiar corners of the StarCraft universe. The game looked really fun and surprisingly smooth. For quite some time, Ghost remained a fixture on many “most anticipated” lists. However, this ended up being a case of a game that stayed in the oven a little too long.
Outside of the endless fine-tuning over how the ratio of action and stealth should balance out, the developers at Nihilistic Software reportedly lacked a solid deadline which led to a lack of focus. Nihilistic Software was dropped and replaced with Swingin’ Ape Studios. Once all the ducks were in a row and everything seemed like it was ready to go, it ended up being too late. The video game industry had moved on, and it had moved to the next console generation. Ghost was suddenly outdated compared to its contemporaries. The game was dropped and Nova’s adventures would merely live on in a series of StarCraft novels.
Those novels go for WAY cheaper than the Primal Rage one, by the way.
6. WWE Brawl
In 2011, THQ released WWE All-Stars: an over-the-top one-off that was simply too beautiful for this world. They were going to follow that project up with something bigger and more off-the-wall: a project known as WWE Brawl. It was going to take All-Stars’ engine and make it a bit more like Power Stone, with fights taking place in more urban settings. This time around, the wrestlers would be redesigned to be more like something out of a comic book (not unlike the concepts later found in the mobile game WWE Immortals). It had Sheamus as a Celtic swordsman, John Cena dressed like he’s part of a SWAT team, Kane as Frankenstein’s Monster, and the wonder of Vince McMahon piloting a mech.
Footage exists of the game, and it was presumably set for a 2013 release. Then seemingly everything went wrong. THQ had money issues, they deemed the project too daunting, and the WWE license was given to 2K Games. A promising project was lost and the closest thing we ever got to it was the incredibly limited WWE 2K Battlegrounds.
5. Duelin’ Firemen
I’m going to level with you. This article was at least partially an excuse for me to write about this game.
Duelin’ Firemen was intended to be released for the 3DO back in the mid-90s by RUNANDGUN! Studios. The game’s story suggested that the Great Chicago Fire II happened due to Air Force One and a space shuttle colliding with the Sears Tower during the hottest day in history. This leads to two firemen protagonists, one played by Rudy Ray Moore of Dolemite fame, going around Chicago to find places to party in the face of Armageddon. During these misadventures, they would come across aliens, a shady conspiracy, and a very cursed CGI Timothy Leary.
The game was going to be mostly FMV choose-your-adventure stuff with minigames mixed in. You would do everything from drive your firetruck through the city, perform with a band, or go on a trip through your own brain. Really, the whole thing is a trip, as the existing footage of the game is a demented psycho-billy fever dream. I’m not saying that it would have been a good game, but the world is worse off without a confused Tony Hawk being filmed in what would have been his video game debut.
4. Avengers (2012)
The early days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe included a handful of tie-in games. With the first Avengers movie about to make a big splash on pop culture, it was fitting that THQ was ready to have an Avengers game released to capitalize on it for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. Unlike the other tie-ins, this one was not going to be an adaptation of the movie itself. Instead, it was going to be an adaptation of the Secret Invasion storyline, but with an emphasis on the movie’s line-up. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk were to be the default heroes, while Hawkeye and Black Widow could be unlocked. Incredibly, The Fantastic Four were also reportedly going to be unlockable.
The game was going to be a first-person shooter mixed with beat ‘em up design elements. Multiplayer and team-up offense were also going to be major aspects of the core gameplay experience. By using Skrulls as its antagonists, this project opened up an easy avenue for variety as the developers could simply give the Super-Skrulls all kinds of combinations of superhero powers. Unfortunately, the promising project was never completed as THQ was hurting financially and they simply did not have the funding to make it all happen.
To get something out of the dire situation, Ubisoft picked up the Marvel license and made their own more direct adaptation of Secret Invasion with Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth. It was uninspired compared to what THQ had in store, but Disney+ shows that there are worse things you can do with the Secret Invasion concept.
3. Mortal Kombat: Fire & Ice
There have been multiple Mortal Kombat spinoff games, but the only one that is generally liked is Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. The game retold the story of Mortal Kombat II in the form of a beat ‘em up with exploration elements. In that game, you got to play as Liu Kang and Kung Lao with the more popular Sub-Zero and Scorpion available as unlockable characters.
In 2005, Paradox/Midway Studios Los Angeles started work on a sequel. This time it would be based on the idea of rival assassins Sub-Zero and Scorpion being forced to work together against a common threat. Work was done on the title until its development team was pulled to work on TNA Impact! Soon after that game’s release, the studio went bankrupt. After the Mortal Kombat franchise was rebooted, the two characters started regularly teaming up, including a chapter in Mortal Kombat 11’s story campaign simply called “Fire & Ice.”
2. Star Wars 1313
In late 2012, Disney bought Star Wars. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the era of, “This is the way.” It was the era of, “Somehow, Palpatine has returned.” Among all the ripples in this acquisition, we lost what seemed like the most kickass Star Wars video game concept in a long time: Star Wars 1313.
Famously shown off with beautiful graphics and gameplay at E3 2012, Star Wars 1313 appeared to be similar to Uncharted, but set in Coruscant and the planet’s seedy Level 1313. Initially, the main character was strapping young bounty hunter Rak Jaren, accompanied by his mentor Kellic. Shortly after its reveal, though, LucasArts decided that if they were going with a young bounty hunter as their protagonist, why not go big?
The game was altered so that Rak Jaren was replaced with a young Boba Fett, who was still a bit of a rookie in that walk of life. Pretty much everything that was shown of the game made it look like one of the most promising Star Wars projects ever. Even as recently as 2022, unearthed footage showcased Boba walking through the underbelly of the planet, rubbing elbows with all the scum and villainy.
The presumably M-rated Star Wars 1313 was well into production before Disney stood on the high ground and chopped it to pieces. Unlike Anakin’s screaming torso, there would be no new life. Star Wars 1313 was simply dead.
1. Silent Hills
The story of Silent Hills is a legendary story of heartbreak that will be remembered for as long as the video game industry exists.
Back in 2014, a free and mysterious game called P.T. was available to download for the PlayStation 4. This disturbing, enigmatic, and claustrophobic horror puzzle game roped gamers in and quickly took the world by storm. Some still consider it the scariest game ever made.
P.T. even gave its bravest and cleverest players one hell of an ending reveal. By escaping the seemingly endless corridor of a haunted house, a cutscene revealed that “P.T.” means “Playable Teaser,” and it was all part of an elaborate plan to reveal a Silent Hill sequel that would be helmed by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro. To drive home the “holy shit” factor, the protagonist was revealed to be played by Norman Reedus. It was a dream game that few dared to hope could ever actually happen.
And then…nothing. Kojima and Konami had a famously major falling out that came with the creation of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. With Kojima gone and Konami deciding to change their business strategies, Silent Hills was no longer happening. To add salt to the wound, P.T. was then dropped from the PlayStation Store. Now, deflated gamers can only sigh in frustration and imagine what could have been.