Whether it’s a lack of money, a loss of faith in the project or plain old controversy, games get taken out behind the barn to be put down with a Zapper all the time. Some will live on in infamy, like StarCraft: Ghost, and we don’t think anyone will miss others, like Project Milo. It’s always a shame when a creative project doesn’t see the light of day, but we’ve dug up a few obscure titles you’ve probably forgotten (assuming you had even heard of them to begin with), that we especially wish had made it to the retail promised land.
The Wii sold almost enough units to give everyone in Canada three of them, but many gamers lamented its lack of hardcore titles. It wasn’t always going to be that way – several “serious” titles were announced but later vanished into the ether (rest in peace, Project H.A.M.M.E.R.). But of all the empty promises, none were more fascinating and infuriating than Sadness.
It was going to be a black and white psychological horror game set in an early 1900s Ukraine and featuring scenarios and enemies from Slavic mythology, which is difficult to imagine flying off the shelves. The Wii remote would serve as a torch, as well as an improvised weapon like a broken off chair leg. The game would lack a menu or a HUD to increase immersion, a tactic more horror games need to experiment with.
Sadness was hyped up even before the Wii was called the Wii. But it eventually became clear that there was nothing behind the hype, as the developers failed to produce anything other than impressive concept art and nice words. Journalists rightfully dismissed the project as a farce, but had it been in the hands of developers who had their act together it could have been exactly the kind of game the Wii needed to appease serious fans.
7. Super Mario Spikers
Mario has branched out into so many different sports it’s shocking to learn that one of his outings was actually cancelled. Spikers implies volleyball, and Mario volleyball sounds like a simple and fun little game… but it also would have included elements of wrestling and game shows, and I’m guessing that’s when the same company that’s had their portly plumber participate in the Olympics realized they had finally gone too far.
And that’s disappointing, because that craziness is the exact reason this could have been amazing. The developers were the same team behind the two Super Mario Strikers games, soccer titles that were well-received due to the sheer insanity every match turned into. Doubling down on that premise with a volleyball-wrestling-game show may have been a disaster, or it may have been a beautiful rendition of chaos incarnate. Unfortunately, we’ll never know, and we’ll never see Peach pile-drive Bowser in revenge for all those damn kidnappings. Reasons for the cancellation were vague, although we’re told that “certain aspects of its premise clashed with the company’s code of honor.” I’m guessing that means Nintendo didn’t want gamers to be able to make Mario suplex his girlfriend.
6. Donkey Kong Racing
Hey, remember when Microsoft bought Rare? For Nintendo fans, it was kind of like a high school breakup – it seemed like a huge loss at the time, but years later you look back at it and shrug your shoulders. With apologies to all the hardcore Grabbed by the Ghoulies fans in the audience, Rare’s post-Nintendo work has been mediocre at best and the company is a shadow of its former self.
But a lesser known consequence of the sale was the suspension of games Rare was working on for Nintendo at the time, and one of those games was a sequel to the beloved N64 classic Diddy Kong Racing. Not much is known about what would have been, although the Kongs would have raced on the franchise’s animals, which could have been upgraded with food and prizes collected from races and even could have been swapped mid-race. Players could also be knocked from their steeds and forced to run to catch up with them, and the tracks would change as the races went on.
A fair amount of progress was made on the game, to the point where a multiplayer version the project lead described as “lots of fun” was playable. Rare tried to re-work it into Sabreman Stampede for Microsoft, but that never got off the ground either, to the disappointment of all the Sabreman fan. And Diddy Kong Racing fans are still waiting for a proper sequel over 15 years later. No, Donkey Kong Barrel Blast doesn’t count. Don’t mention that crap in our presence again.
5. Six Days in Fallujah
If you remember this one at all, it’s not hard to guess why it was cancelled. The backlash was immediate – veterans and talking heads decried the idea of gamers shooting their way through a 2004 battle in a war that real soldiers were still fighting and dying in as of the game’s 2009 announcement. On the surface it seemed tasteless.
Six Days in Fallujah evolved out of training tools the developers were making for American Marines. Some marines were assigned to the developers to help them with the tools, and those marines would go on to fight in Fallujah. When they returned they told the developers about their experiences, and the game began to take shape.
Maybe it’s best it didn’t come to fruition, because we could spend all day listing ways Six Days could have gone horribly wrong. But considering that the developers interviewed marines, military officials, insurgents, Iraqi civilians and war historians, and pitched the game as a horror story about the psychological impact of modern warfare, it’s safe to say that at the very least they weren’t aiming for a exploitative, ripped from the headlines Modern Warfare knockoff.
Not to oversell things, but this could have been a landmark game that tried to say and do something important with its medium. The argument that it was “too soon” rings hollow considering multiple movies and TV shows covered the exact same conflict in the exact same time frame – The Hurt Locker came out in 2008 and won six Oscars, while NBC’s exploitative Saving Jessica Lynch came out in 2003. If you think shooter games are simply too violent and visceral to cover the topic maturely, that’s the exact argument Six Days in Fallujah could have challenged. Maybe it would have risen to the occasion, or maybe it would have served as an important growing pain for the industry. Thanks to the controversy, we’ll never know.
4. Star Trek: Secret of Vulcan Fury
Despite sounding a like a piece of bad fanfiction, Secret of Vulcan Fury was a staggeringly ambitious game. It promised hours of beautiful (for the late ’90s) computer animation, a script from veteran Star Trek writer D. C. Fontana, and voice acting from the entire original cast. It was a Trekkie’s dream, and the hype was huge – the developers bragged and bragged about how beautiful the game was going to be in their ads and demos.
But according to the game’s former lead engineer, they neglected to consider how expensive hours and hours of high-quality animation is. The two-year production process sounds like an abject disaster – amateurish mistakes ruined expensive live action scenes, and the script was never even finished. Only a tiny portion of the game was completed before the project was canned thanks to a ballooning budget and fleeing staff.
There have been some good Star Trek games over the years, but there have also been a number of truly abysmal ones. A well-written adventure featuring the original cast would have certainly shifted the balance towards the former, but now we’ll never know just what the secret of Vulcan fury was. Maybe it has something to do with Spock re-enacting Goodfellas here:
3. Aliens: Crucible
The history of games based on the Aliens franchise is long and often tortured. The recent critical and commercial success of Alien: Isolation addressed a lot of the problems that plagued the series, but let us never forget the long and winding road it took to get to this point.
Crucible was an “epic RPG” announced in 2006 by the developers who would later create Fallout: New Vegas. It would have featured an elaborate character creation system, skill and dialogue trees, and while the focus would have been on survival your party could have built up a stronghold by scavenging supplies while skulking through the spooky environments.
Leaked concept art and rough gameplay videos showed promise, but Sega cancelled the game in 2009. They said, and we kid you not, that they needed to “take a step back and carefully consider the type of game we want to release.”
So they stepped back, considered long and hard, and released Aliens: Colonial Marines, the Alien: Resurrection of the franchise’s video games. We can’t guarantee that Crucible would have been good, but there’s no way it could have been worse than the disaster that was Colonial Marines. Crucible is both a fascinating project and a harsh lesson on hindsight.
2. Faith and a .45
It’s rare to see promising new franchises emerge in an industry so enamored with sequels and spinoffs, and it’s even rarer to see one with such a catchy title. Set during the Great Depression, the co-op shooter would have found a Bonnie and Clyde-style outlaw couple on the run from a corrupt oil baron and his nefarious forces.
Any shooter that features making out as the skill needed to revive your fallen partner would have been a breath of fresh air for a genre overrun by marines and space marines. Kotaku described it as “Gears Of War with kissing,” and we’re amazed a publisher didn’t snatch it up based on that premise alone. Maybe the fact that other games from the now defunct developer didn’t fare well scuttled its chances of evolving beyond concept art and trailers. At least there are like eight new space marine games to look forward to.
We can understand not wanting to partner up with a mediocre developer, but it’s still a sad example of how loathe the gaming industry can be to take risks on new franchises. Also, how awesome would it have been for two stereotypical Call of Duty playing bros to pick this game up so they could blast bad guys together, only to discover that their characters had to kiss every time one of them went down?
1. Bob Ross: The Joy Of Painting
There are a surprising number of games based on TV shows you wouldn’t think could be turned into a games, as the existence of Pimp My Ride and The Office games will attest to. And yet somehow the industry didn’t see fit to make The Joy of Painting game a reality.
Look, I’m not saying this would have been a masterpiece. Using your Wiimote or DS stylus to paint pretend schlock on par with what you’d find at a community center art sale isn’t exactly the most productive use of your time. But the developers had the full rights to all of the audio from the TV show, and that meant hours and hours of serene Ross dialogue coming from your console.
Think about it. You get killed by the same cheap Dark Souls boss for the 10th time in a row, and your precious video game session is at risk of being ruined. To save the day you pop in The Joy of Painting, and soon you’re creating happy little trees while the memories of your defeats fade away. It would be the perfect antithesis to video game frustration, and would also be great to play when you stumble home drunk at two in the morning.
Previously by Mark Hill:
Seven Hilariously Bad Animated Movies You Didn’t Know You Should Watch
Nine Reasons the Zombie Fad Must Die
The Top 7 Video Games that Screw With Your Expectations the Most