The world of video game development is oftentimes as harsh and unpredictable as the ocean. For every hit game that makes it to port there are dozens of others that get lost at sea. It’s a shame really because some of the games that never make it back had promising hopes and carried wonderful, never-before-seen treasures.
Here are 5 of the most amazing video games that we never got to play.
What it was: A First-Person Avengers Game!
Back in 2010, the Avengers, or Marvel for that matter, weren’t quite the proven multimedia juggernaut that it is today. With the exception of the odd Spider-Man title or Marvel Ultimate Alliance games, much of Marvel video games were mediocre, poorly-produced and bog-standard cash grabs. THQ Studio Australia’s The Avengers aimed to change all of that.
The Avengers was an ambitious first-person spin on Earth Mightiest Heroes. Players could play as Iron-Man, Captain America, Thor or Hulk each with their own unique special attacks, moves and ultimates in a concept not unlike today’s Overwatch. Players could then explore familiar Marvel locales and fight different variants of Skrulls which would serve as the game’s primary antagonists in its main campaign. The co-op squad-based nature of the game also allowed for three other players to join in the action with each playing a different hero.
The character designs were fantastic and would feature nods to other Marvel superheroes whether in the actual MCU or not. (Check out more of the concept art at Unseen64)
Despite the unorthodox approach to a superhero game, what we saw of The Avengers looked really good and at the very least fun to play. Each of the four playable Avengers felt distinct and unique in their gameplay. Iron-Man could fly around and shoot repulsor blasts, missiles and mines at enemies. Hulk was a devastating melee brawler; Cap could parkour around and throw his iconic shield at folks; Thor was never really shown but we imagine we he could hurl Mjolnir, channel lightning and fly around as he does.
See for yourself:
Why did it get cancelled: After around a year in development, tragedy struck the game in 2011. THQ Studio Australia’s parent company THQ was dealing with a deluge of bad decisions. These included bad investments on the ill-fated U Draw console Tablet, and some poorly received and problematic games such as Homefront. All of which led to some inevitable cost cutting. At the time, the rising value of the Australian Dollar prompted THQ to set its sights on their Australian divisions for a massive downsizing. In August of 2011, THQ layed-off 200 of its employees from its subsidiaries down under and announced that The Avengers had been canceled.
What it was: It’s Mario x Volleyball x Wrestling!
In 2007, Nintendo was thinking of adding volleyball to the already impressive lineup of sports that Mario has mastered.
That’s tennis, golf, baseball, basketball and ALL OF THE OLYMPICS for those of you keeping track.
Next Level Games was tasked with the development of what was then innocuously named Mario Volleyball for the Wii. Next Level had had some previous success with the plumber with their triumphant foray into soccer–Super Mario Strikers and Super Mario Strikers Charged. So how much different would volleyball be?
“Oh yeah, Volleyball, yeah we know what that is”
Early on, Mario Volleyball was going to be a pretty standard treatment of the sport while infusing it with that trademark Nintendo flair. However, somewhere down the line the Next Level decided it would shoot for the moon and add the flashy dynamics of professional wrestling and TV game shows to the volleyball mix. The result of the change, now named Mario Spikers seemed like a rip-roaring good time: our favorite Nintendo characters bashing each others brains in with piledrivers and power slams while loosely playing super-powered volleyball all while random game show hazards appear on stage.
“AT SACRIFICE! I’M COMING FOR YOU TOAD!”
Why did it get cancelled: Unfortunately, that final leap seemed a bit too much for Nintendo. When the game was pitched to the company’s higher ups, they regarded that the violence went against the company’s code of honor and was never greenlit.
The failed pitch did not appear to hamper Next Level Games’ relationship with Nintendo with the former being able to work on a Punch Out remake and a Metroid sequel Prototype in the years after.
Gotham by Gaslight
What it is: It’s an Elseworlds Batman Game!
To the comic savy fan, the words Gotham by Gaslight will be immediately familiar. It’s the title of an Elseworlds Batman story set in 1880’s Gotham where a version of Batman hunts down the serial killer named Jack the Ripper. Gotham by Gaslight the game by Day 1 Studio, the creators of F.E.A.R., would be an action adventure that will loosely follow the graphic novel as well as expanding on the universe and introducing some interesting twists. This was right around the time Rocksteady’s Arkham Asylum had just taken the video game world by storm and Gotham by Gaslight would have gave it a run for its money.
Some way all the budget went to animating the cape
Why did it get cancelled: Unfortunately, signs once again point to prospective publisher THQ as to why Gotham by Gaslight would not see the light of day. In some reports, Day 1 was said to have pitched the project to THQ but was unsuccessful. Other reports state that THQ failed to acquire the license for the property from WB leading to its cancellation
What it was: WWE Meets Powerstone!
In 2009, THQ (yes them again) and Blue Tongue studio began work on a game for the WWE called WWE Brawl. The game would have had just the eccentric, out-of-the-box style that would have jumpstarted a new era for WWE in this gaming generation. The idea looked crazy fun: take a bunch of WWE superstars, ratchet up their personas so they’re more over-the-top than usual, and plop them in huge stages with destructible environments and have them do battle. NO RING. NO REF. NO RULES was the games slogan. The action itself was similar to the cult-classic arcade game Powerstone in that it was a 3D platform brawler that feature interactive environments, larger-than-life characters and devastating special moves.
Player can pick from 18 different wrestlers each with their unique, costumes, moves, powers and personas and beat the tar out of each other in 1 of 16 different stages. The action looked awesome, the character design was genuinely interesting and most importantly, the game looked really fun to play.
Why did it get cancelled: WWE Brawl’s progress was going swimmingly throughout its development process, with one source even remarking that the game might be six months away from completion at one point. Unfortunately, after nearly three years in development, WWE Brawl also became part of the great THQ-ening of 2011 and was canceled.
What it was: A stealth action game set in the Starcraft Universe!
Sometime in 2002, hot off the release of Warcraft: The Frozen Throne, Blizzard announced a game called StarCraft: Ghost. The game was supposed to be a third-person shooter spin-off of the popular sci-fi RTS franchise. It starred a Terran Black Ops operative or Ghost named Nova and she would have an epic campaign taking her through the Starcraft Universe, meeting classic characters and fighting off familiar enemies such as Zerg and Protoss in a way that hasn’t been seen before.
Primarily a stealth-action game akin to Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell, Starcraft: Ghost gave players a different way to look at a world that they know and love. Nova could sneak around using the signature Ghost cloaking, utilize different weapons and gadgets, and deliver stealth kills on to enemies. On the flip side, Nova could also run and gun through enemies with Firebat flamethrowers, energy blades and her iconic Gauss Rifle. Nova could even ride several vehicles such as the uber cool Vulture Hover Bike
Starcraft: Ghost also gave players and fans of the universe a new sense of size and scale. From Nova’s third person boots on the ground perspective, as opposed to the isometric top-down view of the RTS, we could see the world of Starcraft in a different way. Zerg Hydralisks and Protoss Zealots tower over regular humans, giant Mutalisks would fly overhead while massive Goliaths and Ultralisks did battle in the distance. From the lens of Nova, this was going to be a different world.
Why did it get cancelled: Starcraft: Ghost got pretty far along before it was eventually axed. A few trailers had already been released and multiple people from the international games media have played early builds of the game. However, Ghost got ultimately caught in the limbo between the then next-gen hardware and current gen, making the game look dated on some older gen consoles versus the ones coming in. As such, Blizzard became increasingly unhappy with the game’s progress and over time, development ramped down. Ghost languished in development hell for more than decade trying to rectify this until Blizzard finally announced that it would be pulling the plug on Ghost along with the mysterious Project Titan in 2014.
Project Titan’s DNA would go on to form the highly successful Overwatch in the years to come so maybe, there’s hope StarCraft: Ghost could come back from the dark side of Aiur.
What game do you wish you could have played? Let us know in the comments below or at the GG Network Facebook Page!
Big thanks to Unseen64 for being a key resource in my research about all these canceled games. If you haven’t checked them out they catalog amazing lost/canceled games through the ages and these entries are just some of the most interesting ones. Check them out here
Also check out some more of our video game related lists like 5 Overpowered Abilities that Broke the Game or 5 Video Game Final Bosses that Weren’t Worth the Wait!