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When people think of the best video games never made, very often we look to the distant past, at big studio games that had displayed such potential, only for development to be canceled. Anything can go wrong with making a game. Gamers never really seem to realize how much blood, sweat, and tears go into making video games, and all it takes is one studio exec to kill it all mid-production.
Maybe the proliferation of indie games happened in response to big studios ruining everything. In 2016, 4,200 games came out for Steam alone, thanks to the platform allowing indie developers to bring their dreams to digitized life. Some of the most successful games in the last year (from Undertale, Stardew Valley, and Enter the Gungeon) were made with a core, small group of developers. No big studio to shut down plans or "have an idea."
On the other hand, big developer releases, while consistently successful, have been in decline since 2008, with more and more developers going independent. Once huge developers like Keiji Inafune and Hideo Kojima have moved away from the big studio model to make independent games (with varied results).
These and many more big-name developers realize that, sometimes, things don't work out. A game can be cancelled in the middle of development, killed before it ever has a chance to make it to market. Maybe the big name devs had a better idea. Or maybe a terrible one. Players are left scratching their heads, asking one another "What if?" We are left dreaming for the best video games never made.
Mega Man Universe
Mega Man remains one of the most popular video game characters in the world. At the time of writing this article, he has starred in countless games, and is making something of a comeback as of late.
However, the reason Mega Man even needs to come back is because, in the early 2010s, Capcom seemed to start hating Mega Man. Many games in active development were cancelled, like the long-awaited sequel to Mega Man Legends 2. Mega Man was even cut out of Marvel vs Capcom 3, to date the only time in this fighting video game franchise Mega Man was absent.
Most egregious of cancellations, however, is Mega Man Universe. Many argue it is one of the best video games never made based on its concept alone. The idea behind Mega Man Universe was that players could create customized levels using the classic Mega Man aesthetic from the old NES days, brought to life with next generation content.
However, Capcom thought this sort of game had no audience, and, thus, cancelled it.
If that sounds familiar, it should. Nintendo released Super Mario Maker for the Wii U several years later, which gave players the chance to make customized Mario levels. A shock of all shocks, it turned out to be one of the biggest Wii U games ever. So Capcom might need to reconsider their business choices.
As for developer Keiji Inafune, the creator of Mega Man, he left Capcom to make his own indie, crowd-funded game, Mighty No 9. And the results were so awful that some reviewers asked why they even enjoyed playing video games.
But hey, look, "It's better than nothing."
Blizzard's Starcraft franchise remains one of the most beloved PC games ever created. In South Korea, the game has become almost a national sport. This is partially because the game is really, incredibly good. So, naturally, any cancelled Starcraft game is bound to be one of the best video games never made.
While it took years for Starcraft 2 to hit the web, a Starcraft game was in active development in the mid-2000s that may have helped slake the hunger players had for a follow-up game.
Starcraft: Ghost was announced for the PS2, Gamecube, and Xbox back in 2002. While its active development took place over the course of years, it wasn't officially cancelled until 2014.
Developer Nihilistic Games tried to create a stealth game in the RTS Starcraft series that would've focused on smaller-scale action. For whatever reason, development stalled. Other games required more attention and finance from Blizzard, so, ultimately, Starcraft: Ghost faded away, leaving a legacy as one of the best games never made in one of the best video game franchises ever made.
But Blizzard is not one to waste a good concept. The main character of the game, Nova, would later be incorporated into various Starcraft novels, as well as Starcraft II and its DLC.
That idea came from an urge of a gamer to say, ‘Let’s create an empathic experience for a player to save babies.’ Who’s more helpless than a baby thrown into the air, heading for the ground? You gotta catch the baby... But as players started to play the game they stopped looking at the baby as a human being and they started looking at the baby as a score.
- Steven Spielberg on LMNO
Steven Spielberg working on the development of a video game? That already sounds cool. Spielberg has made some great movies.
Bug dig deeper into the development of his pet project, LMNO – uncover an unfinished gem whose development saw many twists and turns over the course of five years. At some point, it looked like they had made something brilliant, but, with each turn, we were steered farther and farther away from the best game never made.
Originally, LMNO was going to be an emotional art piece hoping to make players cry. An action-RPG, LMNO would have focused on the interactions of a human player and an alien companion, exploring the nature of humanity through involving game play and narrative.
The problem? Electronic Arts.
EA is commonly regarded as one of the worst video game developers of all time due to their cynical approach to marketing and developing games. Spielberg came to the medium to make art. EA cares more about money. So video games need action! Who cares about emotion or experience? Put in some cool gunfights or something.
The game became a Mirror's Edge clone before Mirror's Edge entered development. Then, it became an Unchartered/Tomb Raider clone. The game lost its sense of identity as new developers joined the project, and old ones, frustrated by action-oriented direction development had taken their emotional art piece, left.
In 2009, LMNO died, leaving a lot of concepts but not a real clear picture as to what Steven Spielberg's video game would have been. Easily one of the best games never made.
Star Fox 2
Star Fox for the SNES and Star Fox 64 are considered among the best video games ever made, and the legendary Star Fox 2 ranks among the best video games never made.
This SNES sequel to the original video game was cancelled late into its development. Many say the cancellation happened after a complete game was produced, but this may just be a rumor. The game has never been released on Virtual Console, despite fan request for it.
Apparently, the core reason for its cancellation was that Star Fox 2 turned out to be so advanced and technologically advanced that Nintendo didn't think the fading SNES could handle it.
But there is a silver lining to this tragedy. Nintendo recycled many of the game's assets and gameplay mechanics by incorporating them into Star Fox 64. Ultimately, this was seen as a wise move, but many Star Fox fans (as well as video game players like myself) would love to play another SNES title in the Star Fox universe.
Little is known about this title, but that only makes it more intriguing. The potential for this game makes it rank among the best games never made, in part because of all the untapped potential.
Back when the Nintendo Wii was known as the Nintendo Revolution, Polish developers Nibris started development on a black-and-white psychological horror game that would incorporate the Wii's motion controls to establish a setting of creeping fear.
Similarities were immediately drawn to both Silent Hill and the then-in-development game Alan Wake. Unfortunately, development went nowhere with this game, and, eventually, Nibris closed its doors. Still, players and gamers have to ask what could have been. Could Nibris have developed one of the few adult-only video games on the family-friendly Wii? We'll never know.
Star Wars: 1313
When Disney bought LucasFilms, the company's video game division, LucasArts, folded, leaving many games in active development unfinished. Among the cancelled properties was a game that would have starred Darth Maul. While that sounds cool, the real tragedy of LucasArt's cancelling all their titles is that Star Wars: 1313 would never be released.
Star Wars: 1313 would have starred a young Boba Fett rising up in the criminal underworld. Jedi and the Force would be uninvolved with the narrative, focusing instead on the gritty criminal underworld of the Galaxy Far, Far Away.
Disney didn't feel they really wanted a game this gritty in their catalogue, and cut short development on the game. They handed the reigns of future Star Wars video games to Electronic Arts, who thought it would be an amazing idea to release an unfinished Star Wars Battlefront game, and charge people fifty dollars for the rest of the actual game – er, charge fifty dollars for bonus downloadable content!
While Kathleen Kennedy, the head of LucasFilms, claims that the project may see life later on as a graphic novel or film or something, there's a good chance that development on the game will not be picked up again (thanks, EA!), making this easily one of the best games never made.
This game, Aliens: Crucible, was cancelled, so Gearbox's Aliens: Colonial Marines could see the light of day. Yes, that rushed cash-grab with such awful level design and enemy AI that you can literally walk through levels without ever needing to fire your gun. The game that literally faked gameplay footage to hide how terrible the game was. That should infuriate you.
Aliens: Crucible was an almost completed RPG set in the Alien universe. The game would have been a grim RPG with gameplay akin to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Atmospheric, dark, and unsettling, this game was in development – almost complete – when Sega decided to can the whole thing.
And, again, went with Aliens: Colonial Marines, one of the biggest disappointments in recent video game history.
Thankfully, Sega would later release Alien: Isolation, but that game does not satisfy the itch that this best game never made would have satisfied. Engaging gameplay, fascinating lore – Aliens: Crucible has so much potential, and is, in essence, near completion. Maybe the game will leak someday, but, until then, we are left with our own crushed hopes and dreams.
This is where you say "Hey, man! Are you off your rocker? Fallout 3 exists. It's on my shelf right now!" And you're right. Bethesda did release Fallout 3 back in 2008, but between the release of the apocalyptic RPG and its predecessor Fallout 2 (1998), another version of the third game was in active development, one that had a lot more in common with the earlier games.
As many may know, Bethesda did not originally make the Fallout franchise. Black Isle developed the first two games and developed their own Fallout sequel, codenamed Van Buren. While it was going to be in 3D, Van Buren would have had much more in common with the first two games in terms of game play and aesthetics. However, when Black Isle fell through, the game was cancelled in development.
As Fallout 1 and 2 were, for their time, cutting-edge American RPGs, it is wise to assume that Fallout 3 could have either been one of the best games never made or just a shallow attempt at capturing the former game's glory.
But Bethesda, honoring the development of the unfinished game, incorporated elements of Van Buren's story into Fallout: New Vegas and its DLC. So the game survived in some fashion.
Fuck you, Konami.
Of all the games on this list, this is the most infuriating. Nothing – I mean nothing – is more disgusting and insane than what happened with this game. Many of the best games never made were cancelled for understandable reasons. But this game? No, this was killed because of corporate greed and incompetence.
Silent Hills was going to be the perfect game, with Hideo Kojima, developer of Metal Gear Solid, teaming up with Guillermo del Toro, the guy who directed Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth, and Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead involved.
That's enough to get excited, but the release of PT proved not only they had an amazing concept, but that they had some incredible gameplay to boot.
But Konami, hoping to cut costs and boost profits, killed it and every other game in active development so they could instead make Silent Hill-themed pachinko machines.
Do you think I want to say Silent Hills is one of the best games never made? No. No one does. Thankfully, Kojima left Konami, and, while he doesn't own the rights to the Silent Hill property, he is making Death Stranding, which he is making with Guillermo del Toro, Norman Reedus, and Mads Mikkelson (Hannibal), so maybe Silent Hills will see the light of day in some form. Until then, Silent Hills begs the question "What could have been?"
This last entry is not one game, but several games, all of which count as among the best games never made. Toward the end of the Nintendo 64's life span, the company intended on creating a disc-drive add-on called the Nintendo 64DD. The add-on saw a limited release in Japan, and a couple games were officially sold. Ultimately, Nintendo cancelled development on the add-on in order to focus on the upcoming Gamecube. It was only available on the market for about a year, if that.
The add-on would have used disc technology in order to play more powerful games on the 64. Its cancellation led to the death of many games in various stages of development for the 64DD.
While many games, such as Zelda Ocarina of Time Master Quest and Kirby 64 were later ported to the 64 as cartridge games or Gamecube, many others in earlier stages of development were completely cancelled. This includes Pocket Monsters RPG, Fire Emblem 64, Earthbound 64, Super Mario 64 2, and Mario Artist.
All of these games showed incredible potential, and all of them were canned before release. No best games never released list is complete without recounting the death of the 64DD, which left a huge hole that has never really been filled.