Note: This article was updated in May of 2019.
There is a number of great video game titles announced but unfortunately never make it out into the market. Some become canceled or scrapped for a different project while others wind up in what is known as development hell. Essentially, these games are not technically canceled but are tossed on the back burner with hopes of being finished up for release.
While most of these games end up being completely scrapped, there are some video game titles that manage to release into the market after years of development. In this list, we’ll look at ten video games that had longer than expected development cycles. Also please note that this list is not ranked in any particular order and we’ll continue to update this list with new games to look at examples of a title left in limbo or uncertainty before being picked up and finished.
#11 Aliens: Colonial Marines
Aliens: Colonial Marines was a title that was first being kicked around by development studio Check Six Games where it was initially being developed for the PlayStation 2 with a release set for 2001. Players were supposedly taking the role of a colonial marine that was sent out to investigate the disappearance of the squad from the second Alien cinematic film. A year after development started it looked as if the game was scrapped.
During an E3 showing, it appeared that the gameplay suffered from slow frame rate and according to rumors it seems that the development team found the game to not be suitable for the PlayStation 2 hardware. The game would later be picked up again in 2006 after the video game rights for the Aliens franchise was purchased by Sega.
Development started in 2007 with Gearbox Software among other development studios that continued to work on the game. For the most part, it seems that the same overall gameplay remained the same however when the title finally launched in 2013 the reception for the game was poor. Most found Aliens: Colonial Marines to be filled with bugs and subpar graphics.
#10 Duke Nukem Forever
During the nineties, Duke Nukem was a staple video game franchise. Only three titles released as main installments though additional spin-offs and portable games have also released further fleshing out the franchise. Starting in 1997 development began on Duke Nukem Forever which would be a follow-up to the 1996 release, Duke Nukem 3D.
Duke Nukem Forever would stay in development for years where it would be exchanged between different development teams and publishers. Since the initial game announcement the development team was able to show off Duke Nukem Forever at various events such as 1998’s E3.
However, the first main delay was caused for a sudden engine replacement which resulted in most of the game has to be scrapped and worked on again which pushed the release from 1998 to 1999. Not long after the rights for Duke Nukem Forever ended up falling into various publishers after the original publishing team GT Interactive was purchased by Infogrames.
Years rolled by and while Duke Nukem Forever was still under development, the game would soon be forgotten about. It wouldn’t be until 2010 that the development for the game turned out to be something tangible. Under the control of Gearbox Software, Duke Nukem Forever was announced once again at Penny Arcade Expo in 2010 where attendees were able to play a part of the game.
After over ten years of development, Duke Nukem Forever finally launched into the market in 2011. Unfortunately, the game was riddled with bugs and technical issues.
#9 Final Fantasy XV
Before Square Enix slapped the Final Fantasy XV label on the game, developers had initially set to make this game as a companion title for Final Fantasy XIII. Final Fantasy Versus XIII was first revealed in 2006 where it was set to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive title where the title would be connected to Fabula Nova Crystallis.
The development was also said to be worked on by the team that also worked on the Kingdom Hearts series. However, over the years since its announcement we got very rare and small glimpses of the game with the PlayStation 3 exclusivity becoming more obsolete after the PlayStation 4 was unveiled in 2011.
It wouldn’t be until 2013 after leaks and rumors started to circulate that the development team confirmed Final Fantasy Versus XIII would be scrapped and transformed into the next main Final Fantasy installment, Final Fantasy XV. Despite the changes, developers had decided to keep a few elements of the previous video game production such as the cast of characters.
Finally, after ten years the game officially launched in 2016 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One while PC gamers received the title a couple years later in 2018.
#8 The Last Guardian
Team Ico was a beloved development team under Sony that released both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus on the PlayStation 2. In 2007 the developers were working on a brand new project known as The Last Guardian where a small trailer showcased a young boy being aided with a large creature. The game was being worked on for the PlayStation 3 though it would be years of mostly silence before more information was unveiled.
The hype was already building for the game due to the success of both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. However, it was unveiled during the Tokyo Game Show in 2010 that fans could purchase a copy of the game at some point in 2011. That started to seem less likely when a key member of the team, director Fumito Ueda, decided to leave Sony.
Despite leaving the company, Fumito Ueda had stayed on the project as a freelancer but again years would roll by before any further news was released in regards to The Last Guardian. That was until 2015 when the game was once again unveiled at E3 but this time as a PlayStation 4 exclusive title. Again the game was hit with delays but it finally managed to release into the market in December of 2016 worldwide.
#7 Team Fortress 2
Team Fortress was a big hit when it first hit the market as a Quake mod. In fact, the game mod was such a success that Valve took noticed and scooped up the creators to create a port known as Team Fortress Classic. However, this was a title just to tie gamers over while a sequel would be released in 1998.
This team class base shooter finally had a sequel announcement reveal in 1999 during E3 where the game looked like a more realistic military shooter. Since the announcement, the development team kept silent as the years rolled by.
Valve had acknowledged the game is still being developed though it wouldn’t be until 2006 during E3 that the game was once again shown off. This time, however, the gameplay was drastically different as the realistic military theme was dropped with the gameplay being more lighthearted with cartoonish visuals.
The game launched in 2007 where it’s currently available on the PC platform as a free-to-play FPS along with developers continuing to support the title.
#6 esident Evil 4
The Resident Evil franchise was well established at the time Capcom decided to make a fourth main installment. Originally, the developers were hoping to release a game in 2000 where the studio wanted a new action-oriented style video game.
Developers started to work on a variety of versions though the version in which first got a significant reveal didn’t happen until 2003 during E3. This version saw Leon Kennedy searching a mansion in which players would be fighting off ghosts and spirits. While reception seemed to be positive on this new take, Capcom decided to scrap the version and work on something new once again.
A year later in 2004 Capcom revealed what we now know has Resident Evil 4. Players still got the chance to play as Leon Kennedy once again but in a new setting with gameplay being aimed for a more action-oriented experience. This was a massive hit where the game is available on most current generation platforms with updated visuals and mechanics.
#5 L.A. Noire
It’s an exciting endeavor when you start something up which is what Brendan McNamara likely felt when he created Team Bondi. This was a new studio where that contained a team of thirty employees gathered together to work on a new project known as L.A. Noire. This is a game that follows a neo-noir story with players investigating and solving crimes.
The setting takes place in Los Angeles during the 1940s where developers intended on creating an insanely detailed replica of the city. Originally set to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive, the development team worked out a deal with Sony Computer Entertainment of America in order to gain the support needed to develop the game.
After so long Sony decided to leave the project which Rockstar Games was able to jump in and help to publish the game for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. There was also even talks of Rockstar Games acquiring Team Bondi, but apparently, there were some issues between the two companies resulting in Rockstar Games scrapping the idea.
This title was first in development starting in 2004 but the final game didn’t officially release until 2011. After its release, the company was disbanded with a number controversies being reported by former employees. Essentially it seems that Team Bondi was becoming a toxic studio to work at for developers who were being overworked and underpaid for their efforts.
#4 Too Human
Too Human was developed under Silicon Knights after it was first announced at E3 1999. The game was made to be a PlayStation 2 exclusive based around a science fiction crime game. However Too Human was shelved when Nintendo tasked the studio to create Eternal Darkness along with co-developing Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes on the Nintendo GameCube.
A few years later Microsoft made a deal with the development studio to bring back Too Human for the Xbox 360 which was once again shown at E3 in 2006. However that actually sparked a rather nasty legal battle between Silicon Knights and Epic Games.
Without going into the fine details, Silicon Knights claimed Epic Games offered a stripped down version of the Unreal Engine. Essentially Silicon Knights felt that Epic Games could use their current full engine to develop a better overall product giving them an edge against those who also used the engine.
Not only did the judge favor Epic Games but found that Silicon Knights actually stole coding from the Unreal Engine and claimed it as their own. When it was all said and done the development studio owed millions and was ordered to destroy any unsold copies of Too Human when it launched in 2008. A few short years later the studio filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors.
#3 Alan Wake
Remedy Entertainment has been around since 1996 though they are likely best known for bringing out Max Payne in 2001. After the release of Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne the development studio decided to work on a new IP known as Alan Wake. The concept for the game was being thrown around in 2003 where the developers decided on a new psychological horror title set in the Northwest.
It wouldn’t be until 2005 where the game was finally announced during E3. It was first announced to be available for the upcoming generation of consoles and PC platforms. However, it was finally set to be an Xbox 360 exclusive in 2009. The game would then find a home on the Xbox 360 in 2010 though the PC version of the game remained missing despite the demos shown off previously. Finally in 2012 Remedy Entertainment launched a PC port of the game.
Alan Wake was a hit and while fans have pleaded for a sequel, there are currently no plans in the works as the IP is owned by Microsoft.
#2 BioShock Infinite
The BioShock franchise also saw a title stuck in a bit of development hell. Months after the release of BioShock the development team was going over different game concepts that would eventually be used for BioShock Infinite.
In 2010 the game received its first official reveal though the title seems to have lost a few features when it finally launched a few short years later. With the first reveal, it looked as if developers had offered a bit more innovation than they could handle or scrapped completely for a new direction.
Even with various features and mechanics missing from the game when it was first unveiled and teased, BioShock Infinite still went on to be a hit once the game released in 2013. Unfortunately, that has been the last installment made to the franchise since the closure of Irrational Games.
#1 The Walking Dead: The Final Season
The Walking Dead: The Final Season has a pretty interesting backstory. While this game didn’t last very long in development hell, it was uncertain if the full game would actually launch. If you’re familiar with the game, Telltale Games released the title back in 2018 as an episodic adventure would follow the endgame of Clementine, the protagonist who we have been following since the first installment to this franchise in 2012. However, during this time the game developer, Telltale Games were having some serious problems. In fact, by the second episode release, Telltale Games closed down leaving gamers unsure if we would see the final two episodes would release.
This was surprising as the game was already confirmed to be the closing story for the main protagonist of the video game franchise. After some time passed, Skybound Games stepped up and managed to get a few developers to stay back and finish the game. So while the title didn’t have a very long development hell, it was still a scare for gamers who have been waiting to close the series.