The 10 Most Painful Videogame Cancellations

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?When fans go through all the trouble to mock up fake box art for an unreleased game (like the Shenmue 3 package to the right), you know that there are gamers out there who were deeply wounded by that game’s cancellation. When a gamemaker announces a title, it’s an unspoken promise between publisher and player — and when that promise is broken, it can leave a hole in some gamers’ hearts that no fan art can fill. The videogames that follow on this list are those types of games: real, announced projects that for whatever reason were canceled, much to the anguish of their fans. Some should have been great, others could have been bad, and now we’ll never know one way or the other.

A quick note about one conspicuous absence — Duke Nukem Forever is not on the list for a couple reasons. First, despite the closure of the studio, 3D Realms CEO Scott Miller still won’t officially call the project dead, saying that it may be passed off to a new developer. Second, was anyone really looking forward to it by this point, or were we just morbidly curious? With that out of the way, on with the list!

10) George A. Romero’s City of the Dead
A zombie shooter from master of the undead George A. Romero is something that every self-respecting nerd would want to play, right? Probably, but perhaps not. Thanks to the weird tangle of legal issues surrounding Romero’s films, he wasn’t even truly involved, and to make things more confusing, there were actually two canceled games by this same name. This version was scheduled to be published by Hip Games and was sunk when that company folded. Rumor has it that a complete version of City of The Dead can be found on torrent sites under a different name — not that we condone that sort of thing.  

9) B.C.
Dinosaurs! If there’s a single word that can sell our people on a project, that’s the one. A “prehistoric life simulation” from Fable creator Peter Molyneux, B.C. was canceled by Microsoft reportedly because development was dragging on too long. It’s really a shame, because B.C. supposedly featured a complete food chain that we weren’t at the top of, and because c’mon, every good nerd wants to fight dinosaurs.

8) Fear & Respect

You’d think that a Grand Theft Auto-style game starring Snoop Dogg would be destined for huge sales numbers, but Midway’s entry into the open-world crime genre died before it could bust a cap in anyone’s ass. Aside from the D Oh Double Gee, Fear & Respect had some other strong talent involved in John Singleton, director Boyz N the Hood and, uh.. 2 Fast 2 Furious. The big names attached weren’t enough to keep Fear & Respect going when Midway decided that the urban-themed game market was getting too crowded. 

7) Fear Effect: Inferno
A sci-fi series with funky graphics and implied lesbianism is bound to earn a fan following, so naturally many fans were crushed when the third game in the survival horror series was canned. Although a trailer was shown at E3 in 2002, nothing else solid about the game emerged until the news of its death hit in 2004. Eidos still owns the rights to the franchise and may revive it at some point, but at this point both the series and the proposed spin-off film are as dead as can be.

6) Lord of the Rings: The White Council/The Aliens RPG (tie)

These two are getting lumped together because we know roughly the same amount about both. Each is a based on a fan-favorite movie series, but both were canceled before too much information was released about either game. The White Council was described as open-world RPG in the style of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion or Fallout 3. The Aliens RPG, based on the very, very dark footage that leaked online, played more like Mass Effect and was nearly complete when it was canceled by Sega, according to the head of developer Obsidian. Thanks a lot for that, Sega!


5) Thrill Kill
Ah yes, back in the day when video games thought that being shocking was the only concept you needed, there was Thrill Kill. The uber-violent four-player fighter was essentially complete when publisher Virgin Interactive was purchased by EA, which decided not to release “such a senselessly violent game.” Not only was it violent, it was overtly sexual and gross, and naturally it’s been widely bootlegged. Sadly, it’s not even a very good game, but nonetheless it has a devoted cult following.

4) Indiana JonesWe’d all love a proper new Indiana Jones adventure, and lord knows that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull wasn’t it. LucasArts promised the greatest Indy game ever, and when it missed its original 2007 release date, many fans expected that it was being held back to tie into the movie. It turns out that development of the game was troubled all along, partly because the other game based on the same engine (Star Wars: The Force Unleashed) was getting all the attention from LucasArts’ in-house developers. The Indy game was quietly canceled, although a separate game was released for Wii, PS2 and PSP. Nobody cared.

3) Shenmue III

The original Shenmue is considered a milestone of gaming history or a colossal blunder depending on who you ask. It was one of the best-selling games on the Dreamcast, but cost so much that it still lost money. The sequel moved the series to the Xbox (in the U.S.) and included several chapters of protagonist Ryo’s story — a move that meant Sega didn’t think a third entry was likely. And while the company has expressed interest in continuing the Shenmue saga more than once, development has never really gotten off the group. And yet, there are dozens of fan-made trailer for a third game on the web, the like one above.  

2) Starfox 2A direct sequel to the original SNES Starfox, Starfox 2‘s Japanese version was essentially complete when it was canceled. You can blame the impending launch of the Nintendo 64 for that. Nintendo decided it wanted the next Starfox game to be as impressive as it could be and canceled the SNES sequel. Even though you’ve likely never played Starfox 2, you may have played parts of it — parts of its code were reused for Super Mario 64, and several elements were incorporated into Starfox 64 and Starfox Command on the Nintendo DS.

1) StarCraft: GhostBlizzard fans are used to waiting years — sometimes decades — for the company to release its products. After all, the developer is so successful it can afford to wait until its games are perfect before releasing its games. But sometimes that day never comes. Featured on multiple magazine covers and playable at several events, StarCraft: Ghost was announced in 2002 as the franchise’s first console game. Starring a Ghost named Nova, the game was an action/stealth title with a variety of multiplayer modes that took their influence from the core StarCraft title. And even though its has gone through two separate developers and it’s been years since Blizzard has said anything about the game, it’s never “officially” been canceled. Maybe we’ll see the game some day, maybe not. Either way, millions of StarCraft fans would have been happy to play Ghost even if it didn’t live up to Blizzard’s impossibly high standards.

J. Matthew Zoss is the editor of Topless Robot‘s sister site Joystick Division