This week, the impossible happened: Shenmue 3 is happening. But even so, there have been loads of spectacular-looking games that, for some reason or another (money), died before they even had a chance to grace gamers with their presence.
As the E3 that magically un-cancelled The Last Guardian winds down, here are ten phenomenal games that aren’t likely to get a second chance.
1. ‘Star Wars 1313’
Star Wars 1313 was going to be the gritty Star Wars we’ve always wanted. Taking place between Episodes III and IV, players would have assumed the role of a rookie bounty hunter dragged into the slums of Coruscant. The game was going to combin third-person shooting with suspenseful, shit-is-falling-everywhere platforming (think half the action of Mad Max: Fury Road, but Star Wars) than typical lightsaber fights of other Star Wars games.
The Disney buyout of everything Star Wars, caused all developing projects to be canned. LucasArts, the game’s developers, was drastically restructured and most of its staff laid off, effectively killing the project. Tears were shed.
2. ‘Star Wars: Battle of the Sith Lords’ (aka “The Darth Maul Game”)
Star Wars makes the list once again, this time with a hack-and-slash title starring Darth Maul. Proposed as an origin story for the slick red-and-black killer, the game — like Star Wars 1313 — slanted to an older audience and would have allowed you to go HAM on losers by slicing their heads and limbs off.
The prequels may be terrible, but Darth Maul was one of the coolest things about them, but like Star Wars 1313, Disney iced the project. Fucking Mickey Mouse.
3. ‘Gotham By Gaslight’
Holy shit, look at that cape.
The Batman: Arkham games are the definitive Batman video games, ever. With Arkham Knight just about to hit shelves and take up all our free time, it’s worth remembering Gotham by Gaslight, a cancelled game also starring the Caped Crusader.
Based on the graphic novel of the same name, Gotham by Gaslight was going to be a steampunk-style open-world action game that pit Batman against Jack the Ripper who has come to reign terror on Gotham. How badass would it have been to chase down Jack the Ripper as freaking Batman while Gotham looks beautifully foggy? VERY badass is the answer, but sadly we’ll never get to experience that.
Gotham by Gaslight lived on in some form as the costume was a DLC for 2013’s Batman: Arkham Origins.
A sprawling, epic sandbox game across five continents with no guns or superpowers, only human instinct. B.C. would have allowed players to start a tribe in the time of the dinosaurs and to survive against t-rexes, raptors, sabre-toothed tigers, and other, deadlier bands of savages.
The world was the weapon. Players could have crafted tools or use the environment against large prey (imagine causing an avalanche to kill a mammoth). The world’s ecosystem was going to be fluid — hunt an animal too much, and it could go extinct.
The game was cancelled in 2004 for reasons not entirely clear, but Lionhead Studios founder Peter Molyneux alluded to the game just being so goddamn huge for its time.
In the fall of 2006, the Nintendo Wii was a best-selling console that allowed families, for once, to stop bickering over your cousin’s pregnancy and bond over virtual bowling and tennis. But one game announced for the system would have disrupted that wholesome, family-friendly image: Sadness.
Developed by now-defunct Nibris, Sadness was a survival horror game set in a pre-World War I Ukraine and gamers would play a Victorian-era aristocrat lost after a train derailment. Sadness promised innovative controls, groundbreaking storytelling, and a focus on psychological horror (paranoid schizophrenia, narcolepsy, and nyctophobia were mentioned in pre-release) instead of like, ghosts and shit.
But as the years went on with virtually no proof of the game’s development except the one live-action concept trailer, gaming journalists stopped covering Sadness, some declaring it “a public embarrassment.”
6. Halo on Nintendo DS
It seems impossible, even back in 2007 when IGN showed it off, but somehow Microsoft and Nintendo had some deal that would have produced a Halo game for the Nintendo DS.
Obviously it fell through, but a build was made and based on evidence, it would have been awesome. For starters, it’s portable Halo. Second, according to the few who played it, it was an accurate and faithful creation of Halo that smartly used the unique DS controls to its advantage.
But still. Portable Halo. How did this fall through? That’s not widely known, but it would have been great.
7. ‘Division 9’
Before they wowed the world with BioShock, Irrational Games had a tactical zombie survival-horror game in the works. Titled Division 9, the game was a passion project for the studio before its cancellation.
Taking cues from the studio’s previous SWAT series, the game was set on the outbreak of a zombie apocalypse where players were forced to work like an oiled machine to extract survivors from zombie hordes. Players could also create traps for zombies or re-enable city services. With Irrational Games now defunct, it’s unlikely Division 9 will rise again.
8. ‘Faith and a .45’
A Bonnie and Clyde-style shooter that emphasized story, character, co-operative play, and cinematic flair, the cancelled Faith and a .45 could have been a real stand-out game. Set in the Great Depression, players take on the roles of Luke and Ruby, two outlaw lovers on a cross-country journey determined to take down ruthless oilmen and oppressive, authoritarian forces.
The ironically-named Deadline Games shelved the project and folded after another co-op game of theirs, Watchmen: The End is Nigh was released in 2009.
9. ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned’
Oh hey. Disney again.
An open-world action RPG set before the first Pirates of the Caribbean, Armada of the Damned focused on a swashbuckler named Sterling brought back to life by supernatural forces. Based on the actions the players take from there, Sterling can either walk a Legendary path — acting with pirate’s honor and nobility (do pirates have any?) — or a Dreaded voyager, where Sterling becomes shrouded in mystery and instills fear.
Effectively Mass Effect but with fucking pirates, the game wasn’t going to be tied down to the movies so these games could have seriously taken off. Assassin’s Creed have since fulfilled gamers’ wishes to be a thief of the seas… but still, we could have had more.
10. ‘Untitled Marvel Fighting Game’
The now-closed EA Chicago had a wild Marvel-themed fighting game in the works just a few short years before Marvel took over the world with The Avengers franchise.
Marvel vs. Capcom is great, but it’s a straight arcade fighter. This game looked intent on recreating the wild, explosive brawls seen in the comics and movies, and its stylish shading looked great to boot.
Disney now controls Marvel, and despite killing it at the worldwide box office Disney is on this list a lot. So it’s unlikely we’ll see a game like this again.
Looking at this whole list is such a big disappointment. But at least we’re getting Shenmue 3.