Video games are hard to make. You’ve probably read that line a million times. But the fact is, even within some of our most beloved franchises and the storied companies that make them, stinkers happen. Sometimes ideas just don’t work out, no matter who you are or what your pedigree is. We’re all humans, after all. With that said, here’s a little collection of games I thought were interesting on paper and could have been great games if things worked out differently. Sadly we live in the darkest timeline, at least for the folks involved with these titles.
Star Wars Battlefront
Everyone loves Star Wars ! Everyone loves the old Star Wars: Battlefront series! A lot of people love DICE and Battlefield ! Um… some people like EA, probably! Anyway, despite some long-lasting consternation within the gaming community over EA as a business, people still play its games. And everyone knew EA has that money, so a huge budget Battlefront successor had folks hyped. Then it came out and, while it wasn’t offensive, it was kinda light on content and never really recoverd. Especially since the Season Pass was a controversial $50. Then the sequel happened, and we all know how that went.
Before there was No Man’s Sky , there was Spore . This wacky sci-fi title (also published by EA) was from Will Wright, the guy behind classics like Sim City . Spore was a victim of its own hype, a title gamers had convinced themselves was going to be revolutionary in impossible ways. Instead, it ended up being a source of memes from people making… anatonically challenged alien animals, and a neat little toy of sorts for people who understood what it was. Sounds familiar, right?
Anthem looks amazing. Dropping down into a body of water in the middle of a lush, alien forest and smashing on ye olde flight thrusters is a thrilling experience. Sadly, just about everything else about Anthem was a total botch. According to inside reports, BioWare had grown too complacent, relying on “BioWare Magic” and succumbing to growth-related management issues. If these reports are true, and BioWare deciding to basically remake the whole game is an eyebrow-raiser, Anthem was barely even a game until the last possible minute. Whoops! A massive loot shooter from BioWare sounds like such a cool thing, too. We’ll see what happens, I guess!
Sonic Lost World
Nintendo hooked up with Sega briefly for a line of exclusive Sonic the Hedgehog games. As one might be able to predict, it didn’t work out so well. Nobody had a Wii U, so even though Lost World was solid (for a Sonic game) nobody noticed until it was on PC. Anyway, Lost World was a huge departure for the usual 3D Sonic game, trying to do a sort of Super Mario Galaxy -style shakeup. Sonic had a run button, for chrissakes. Like many modern Sonic games, Lost World is full of neat ideas, but kneecapped by glitches and an obviously rushed, low-ish budget dev cycle.
Metal Gear Survive
Okay, hear me out; there’s a reason Metal Gear Survive is on this list. Try to think about it in a vacuum. Pretend all the Kojima drama didn’t exist, and think about the concept. This was when survival games were still cool, and it’s a game made over top of Metal Gear Solid 5 ‘s skeleton. And that’s one amazing skeleton. Unfortunately, despite an open world action/survival game that plays like MGS5 is a great idea, the execution here was abysmal. Full of premium currency, weird storytelling, and just horrible system interactions, there was nothing good about this game.
Heroes of the Storm
Blizzard seems to be managerially salty about the whole MOBA genre, if the recent Warcraft III: Reforged drama is any indication. Losing a lawsuit over Valve’s acquisition of DoTA , which was originally created with Blizzard’s own tools, probably is the kind of sting that lasts a while. It doesn’t help that when Blizzard tried one of its own, the result was a largely failed esports push. It’s a good concept–a more accessible MOBA with a bunch of Blizzard characters from past and present games–but it just didn’t do enough to stand out and ultimately didn’t catch on like the competition did. Oh well!
This is the most disappointing entry on this list, personally. Here’s an idea: let’s take a major gaming brand, Nintendo’s primary competition, and do a Smash Bros. ripoff. But also, let’s spend a fraction of the money on it, not support the developer at all, and include approximately zero extra content. That’s PlayStation All-Stars in a nutshell. It was fun to play, but completely vapid and devoid of that extra special history juice Nintendo packs its Smash games full of. It had weird scoring mechanics, a strange roster of third-party characters, and very little to do outside of play matches. The developers (RIP) did the best they could with what they had, but Sony dropped them the second the game wasn’t an instant blockbuster.
Bethesda’s Fallout series fundamentally misses the point of the series up to that point, but people love the combination of ironic humor and open world nonsense anyway. A version of that, but multiplayer? That sounds pretty good. But Bethesda was clearly out of its depth here and released a game that was a structural mess, and didn’t even have a story (slight exaggeration) or NPCs to interact with (not an exaggeration). To its credit, the team at Bethesda hasn’t given up on Fallout 76 yet, but frankly that may have been the more merciful option here.
Ubisoft was struggling a bit around this time, and the way that manifested with Watch_Dogs was bizarre. It was right on the edge of the current generation just getting started, and Ubisoft drummed up so much hype for this game it broke pre-order records. Then the game came out, and it was like the Killzone 2 bullshot thing all over again. The visuals were drastically changed from E3 demos, the gameplay was kind of vapid, and the storytelling was hardly there at all. It was basically Grand Theft Auto with computers, sans any sort of personality. Then the second game was cool, but it didn’t sell well.
Justice League Heroes
Man, was I ever excited for this stupid game. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance was like the best thing ever, and Activision was milking it as much as it could. Meanwhile, DC Comics was still struggling to find its video game footing. So eventually someone decided to just do what Activision did with Marvel. They even got the studio behind Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance to make it. The problem is, Snowblind Studios was having a rough time and probably wasn’t given enough time or money. So while this game is… fine, it’s basically Walmart brand Ultimate Alliance . Ron Perlman plays Batman, though.