10 Great Video Games Lost in Development Hell

By Charles Webb in Daily Lists, Video Games
Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 6:00 am


Video games! It's always the great ones you don't get to play. Whether it's the sad demise of Star Wars: Battlefront 3 and Star Wars 1313, or the nebulous state of Prey 2, game development is the history of great ideas that might never see the light of day.

With that in mind, I've compiled a list of 10 lost could-be greats that - due to everything from studio closure to internal politics to simply a change in the industry as a whole - never made it to our grasping, excited hands.

10. Call of Duty: Ghosts, With Actual Ghosts


Speaking with devs about Infinity Ward's first post-Modern Warfare 3 release, it was clear that the studio was burned out on the present-day action formula and aware that audiences might be as well.

With that in mind, IW looked at the zombie modes in Treyarch's alternate year CoD entries and started wondering how they might be able to get weird with their own game. And let's be clear: "Ghosts" wasn't simply going to be a multiplayer mode - instead, it would have been its own dedicated campaign.

The two-player co-op shooter would have put gamers in the role of Soap and Captain Price in an abandoned Russian nuclear facility, plagued with evil spirits (how and why, I don't know). The duo would have to blast their way out using silver-imbued, WWII-era pistols and rifles, and later, futuristic ghost-killing melee and ranged weapons.

Perhaps the most exciting element of this alternate Ghosts involved possession: when a player's health was low enough, a spirit could potentially possess it, allowing them to turn their guns on their co-op companion.

Ghosts with actual ghosts never made its way past the planning phase, but would have been an interesting deviation from the standard shooting model.

9. Firepro Meets KOF


Japanese game development has always been a little more secretive than here in the West (try to untangle some of the developer credits for anything pre-1995 or so). And it's harder still to get reliable information on cancelled games.

But the nixed PS1 project, Firepro Wrestling x King of Fighters is one of those things developers in the region talk about in hushed tones, a mashup title bringing together the popular fighting game franchise with the wrestling property in a clever mix.

It was more of a Firepro rather than KoF game, though, bringing SNK's fighting roster into the world of Japanese wrestling, complete with redesigned costumes and wrestling gimmicks.

It's not clear what killed the game, but conceptually, it was interesting and a chance to see redesigns of SNK's wildly popular fighting game characters was a huge missed opportunity.

8. Batman Starts a Gang, Arkham City Goes Online


Some of you comic readers might be familiar with Batman, Inc., the Grant Morrison-written book which saw the Caped Crusader traveling the world and recruiting would-be superheroes into the Bat-family in a corporation/charitable security organization managed by Bruce Wayne.

WB Interactive and WB Montreal (who developed last year's Arkham Origins) briefly toyed with a similar concept: a loose blend of the familiar Arkham mechanics with some of the outsized craziness of a Saint's Row game - a modern Batman title with a sense of humor.

The customizable bat characters could swing and leap around Gotham in solo and team-based missions around some of the odder corners of the DCU.

This was a case of the publisher breaking the individual elements down into multiple games, DC Universe Online was already out in the wild, and the goofy, class-based shooter Gotham City Impostors filled that lighthearted niche for capes versus crooks in Gotham.

7. Demon's Souls, Except Ganon Is Trying to Kill You


Holy crap, why don't we have a straight-up Zelda RPG?

This was something Nintendo contemplated on the Gamecube around the time that the development on Wind Waker was wrapping up. The third-person, dungeon-crawling RPG - which was being co-conceived with with the Metroid Prime studio Retro - would have been a slightly darker take on the franchise, with a greater emphasis on difficult, area-spanning battles against massive monsters (you can see a little pre-Shadows of the Colossus in there as well).

The concept was ultimately deemed too inaccessible - and worse, too demanding of the Gamecube hardware - and never progressed beyond some rough prototypes.

6. When Silent Hill Almost Used the FOX Engine


We've been cursed with some pretty terrible Silent Hill games over the last few years (The Room was maybe the last time the series wasn't crushingly horrible in some way), but for a short time, it was on the way to a massive visual reinvention under Hideo Kojima's (Metal Gear) Kojima Productions.

It's not really clear whether the studio would have developed their own Silent Hill title or if they were simply providing support to their photorealistic FOX Engine. My theory is that we were going to get a full-on remake of one (or both) of the first two games - which makes sense given that Silent Hill 2 is one of the most acclaimed survival horror games around.

While the series has been plagued with gameplay and story issues for a while now (Homecoming was especially egregious), a visual update using KojiPro's technology would have at least been interesting.

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