For every bit of mainstream pop culture you've ever consumed, there were hundreds and hundreds of others that never made it to the shelf. Sure, some of these projects got cancelled because they were dogshit, but sometimes it's because of petty politics, bad luck, or (most often) somebody just plain not having the cash.
This is never more true than in the world of blockbuster video games, where every title spends years in development and costs tens of millions of dollars. So, as we've done before, let's take a moment to gaze upon some notable titles in this graveyard of canceled games, and wonder what might have been.
Before the Arkham games rolled around, there had been countless atrocious Batman titles. But a few years before Arkham Whatever The First One Was revitalized the Caped Crusader's digital adventures, Day 1 Studios was hard at work on a weird little game called Gotham By Gaslight.
Based on a comic set in a steampunk 1889, Gaslight would have kicked off with Bruce Wayne travelling to Vienna to be psychoanalyzed by Sigmund Freud, because famous historical figures are legally required to appear in period pieces. After they chat about a recurring dream Bruce is having about the death of his parents, he returns to Gotham to discover that Jack the Ripper has been busy there. Jack frames Bruce Wayne for his murders, but Bats escapes and confronts the real killer, finally allowing gamers to fulfill their fantasy of punching Jack the Ripper in the face.
And history in the nads.
But the real star would have been the moody Victorian setting, with creepy mist rolling amongst the streetlamps and civilians whom we can only assume would have been wearing nothing but the fanciest hats. While gameplay details are scarce, it doesn't take much of an imagination to picture the potential of steampunk Batman. For starters, there's no way the game wouldn't have included a Batzeppelin, because just typing the word "Batzeppelin" sexually arouses us.
Zeppelins are perfect for Batman, since so many of them end in horrible death and tragedy.
If nothing else, its release would have radically altered the trajectory of Batman's gaming career. We might not even have the Arkham games, meaning that the release of this alternate universe title would have given us an alternate universe in which ... actually, maybe we better avoid that temporal rabbit hole. Unfortunately, Day 1 had only started work on the project in an attempt to convince DC to give them the rights. DC declined, a rare misstep by a company otherwise known for its sound business decisions.
And while we're talking about superheroes ...
Games released alongside movies tend to be rushed attempts at a quick buck, but the Avengers game that would have coincided with 2012's The Avengers: The Good One looked legitimately rad, based on early footage.
It was like Doom with personality, unless you played as Hawkeye.
It would have been the first-ever Marvel title with a first-person view, so you could really get into the head space of an iron-clad alcoholic. And unlike in many superhero games, each hero had their own unique play style. Iron Man could fly and focused on long-range attacks, the Hulk was slower but brawled in close quarters, Thor could throw his hammer, and Captain America was a balanced option for boring people. Throw in a host of multiplayer modes, and you essentially had Marvel's Left 4 Dead. Each character also got their own cinematic finishing moves:
The closest you'll ever be able get to this is buying Hulk Hands and PCP.
The developers had planned to add Black Widow, Hawkeye, and War Machine, as well as Marvel heroes from outside the cinematic universe, like the Fantastic Four, a smattering of X-Men, Ms. Marvel, and even Spider-Woman, Peter Parker's creatively-named female equivalent. The story revolved around an invasion by the Skrulls, one of the 8000 alien races in the Marvel universe that have it out for humanity. The villains could mimic the heroes and their powers, so you would have gone up against enemies like Mr. Skrulltastic and Skrullverine (working titles).
Sadly, the publisher, THQ, ran into a little problem called "being flat fucking broke." Marvel declined to offer them funding, because in 2012 they were only filthy rich instead of ludicrously rich and had to pinch every penny.
And it's not like a giant Wolverine monster with Cyclops eyes is guaranteed millions or anything.
When Sega got the rights to Alien, they commissioned two games. One was Aliens: Colonial Marines, an infamous dumpster fire that traumatized gamers for all the wrong reasons. The other was an RPG named Aliens: Crucible: Hopefully We'll Think Of A Less Generic Subtitle Later.
"Right after our entire testing department changes their underpants."
Crucible was made by Obsidian, developers of the incredibly popular Fallout: New Vegas. The game starred a cast of characters who weren't your typical space marines -- they were medics, engineers, and other technical support staff who knew the badass soldiers were always the first to die and wisely chose other professions. Your four-person squad had to work together to survive on a hostile planet by building a base, specializing their abilities, and upgrading their technology. The game also wanted to redefine how we viewed Xenomorphs, and not in a stupid way like that proposed alien cow. These new monsters were only loosely inspired by real animals like rhinos and ants, and they looked like they could have made aliens scary again.
They were going to make a wasp-inspired one too, but then they settled on something even scarier: a wasp.
But most importantly, the game wanted to capture the uneasiness and dread of the first two films, rather than the over-the-top, cartoonish action of everything the franchise has seen since (at least until a certain other Alien game). In one demo, we see the player's squad hunkering down in a derelict, poorly-lit hallway as aliens scamper around the ceilings in an attempt to break their lines, which is the exact scene we've all played out in our heads countless times.
Roughly 500,000 spaces above "ugly humanoid slime-baby thinks we're its mama."
Sega ultimately decided that they couldn't fund two Alien games at the same time, and decided to put all their Chestbusters in their Colonial Marines torso, presumably because they flipped a coin instead of going through all the trouble of watching 10 seconds of game footage. Hey, at least they didn't try to combine Alien with Sonic.
Barring that, a lightsaber through their hearts.
Developer Red Fly wanted to take players through Maul's origins and training with Emperor Palpatine, but then the interference began. First, they were told by LucasArts to make a game in which Maul survives getting chopped in half, gets robot legs, and teams up with his brother, Savage Opress, to take revenge. Lacking a sense of direction, and probably not wanting to tell people that they pay their bills by bringing a character named Savage Opress to life, Red Fly sat down with George Lucas himself to hammer things out.
What followed sounds like madness befitting the Sith Lord they wanted to capture. Halfway through their presentation, Lucas cut them off, wandered over to figurines of Darth Maul and Darth Talon (a comic book character), shoved them together, and cryptically declared "They're friends!" When informed that the two lived 170 years apart, Lucas told to them to clone Maul or give him a great-great-grandmaul. Then he used the show Burn Notice as a reference point for the tone he wanted, and compared Maul to The Godfather's Sonny and Talon to Lauren Bacall -- while doing an impression of her that included explaining how whistling worked. Then he left, presumably to find some pigeons so he could give them a lecture on midichlorians.
The developers threw up their hands in confusion and simply went wild with concept art for a story that would find "Maul" and Talon fighting a war against a rival Sith Lord and his army. And a lot of it sounds quite cool.
And best of all, not a single racial stereotype among them.
Meanwhile, ideas for levels included moving environments, like a city built on a back of a giant lizard, an ocean town pulled around by a horde of eels, and a planet where the citizens couldn't survive on the surface during the day because of the intense heat.
This still makes more sense than deciding that Anakin's father had to be a bunch of bugs.
The game was finally coming together, and LucasArts was about to give Red Fly the go-ahead to get serious. There was even talk of LucasArts buying the studio. Then LucasArts stopped talking to them for two-and-a-half weeks. Then they cancelled the game with almost no explanation, although it likely had to do with Disney acquiring Star Wars. Then 70 percent of Red Fly was laid off. Then a million Star Wars fanboys cried out in disappointment, only to be ignored.
Sonic the Hedgehog has seen better days. In his recent and largely terrible adventures, he's battled a medieval knight, made out with a human girl, made 5,000 forgettable animal friends, and altogether done basically everything except run fast like everyone wants him to.
If that camera had lingered a second longer, we'd have learned why they call him "Knuckles."
Sonic has struggled ever since the third dimension was invented, but an early 3D title for the Sega Saturn, Sonic X-treme, looked fantastic, despite a title that was apparently conceived by a panel of moms trying to sound hip.
"It's hedgehogabungadacious, word to your us!"
Free package of Hydrox cookies with every copy.
Sega was pushing the bar of what could be accomplished in a Sonic game. The hedgehog was going to have brand-new attacks, the story was rewritten six times in three years (because we all play Sonic games for the moving stories, which in this case featured Sonic teaming up with -- and we swear we're not making these names up -- Professor Gazebo Boobowski and his daughter, Tiara Boobowski), and a wide variety of levels were planned.
This would've been the first game in history to require Dramamine to finish.
Unfortunately, two of the lead developers got ill from working 16-to-20-hour days to try to hit Sega's Christmas deadline. Their team ran into technical problems as well, and long story short, there weren't little bundles of Sonic goodness under everyone's trees. The project spiraled into a debacle and was eventually cancelled.
Welcome to Hell, Sonic.
Game journalists have speculated that, in addition to looking pretty damn fun, X-treme could have saved the Sega Saturn from bombing, which in turn would have kept Sega on track for continued success instead of a slow and painful decline. "What if Sonic X-treme had been released?" is essentially the "What if Hitler had won World War II?" of the gaming industry.
Guess what we did get to play. The awful games in the Seanbaby classic The 20 Worst NES Games of All-Time and The 6 Worst Games Ever Farted Out by Beloved Franchises.
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