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6 Canceled Games That Resurfaced In Unexpected Ways

This article originally appeared on video games magazine site The site is no longer online, but I’ve uploaded a few articles from my time as a staff writer there (2016-2017) here as portfolio samples.

Hype can be a fickle mistress. Sometimes a really exciting game is announced, you get pumped following previews, trailers and screenshots, psyching yourself up for release and then…nothing. Development stalls, or the company folds. Sometimes you’re strung along for years before being let down by a cancellation.

The hype bubble bursts and all we’re left with is a lingering memory of what might have been. But still, there’s a reason not to lose all hope. Elements from canceled games don’t always get thrown out, and in many cases their DNA gets cannibalized and repurposed for other titles. In time, your highly anticipated game might emerge after all, but as a different beast entirely.

Canceled Games That Came Back From The Dead

Here’s our pick of the coolest canceled games that ended up resurfacing in unexpected ways…

1. StarCraft: Ghost

Screenshot from StarCraft: Ghost [Blizzard Entertainment]

The Story

StarCraft: Ghost was announced for the Nintendo GameCube, Xbox, and PlayStation 2 in 2002, and promised to a stealth adventure in the StarCraft universe with the player controlling Nova, a ‘ghost’ or psychic assassin in the Terran army. The game suffered delay after delay in development hell, with Blizzard refusing to officially declare it canceled for years. As of 2015, it’s official status is ‘indefinitely postponed’.

What could have been

Imagine Metal Gear Solid in the StarCraft universe, providing the opportunity to get a look at the units, buildings and environments from the RTS games in close detail. Walk through a battlecruiser and check out the interior Yamato cannon. There was also a multiplayer element planned featuring arena-style combat between Terran and Zerg units, with vehicle combat to boot.

Check out the intro cinematic for StarCraft: Ghost, the game we’ll never get to play:

What we got instead

StarCraft: Ghost protagonist Nova Terra appeared during an optional mission in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty as a unique ghost unit with special abilities, which felt like a consolation prize for all those fans that had been waiting for StarCraft: Ghost. She was popular enough that StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops, a 9 mission DLC focused on her exploits, was later released.

Aside from the character of Nova, some art assets from the game were also cannibalized for use in StarCraft II, but in the end it’s a far cry from the unique perspective on the StarCraft universe that the canceled game could have offered.

2. WarCraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans

Thrall outside a busted goblin zeppelin in WarCraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans [Blizzard Entertainment]

The story

StarCraft: Ghost isn’t the first time Blizzard developed a spin-off from their RTS games. Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans was a point-and-click adventure game set to continue the story of Azeroth after WarCraft 2.

The protagonist was Thrall, a captive orc raised by a villainous human lord after the war. The game follows his escape from captivity and journey to re-unite the orcish clans. Unfortunately, even though the game was close to completion, Blizzard eventually decided it didn’t quite meet their high standards.

What could have been

Think Monkey Island or Broken Sword, but with orcs. Again, the appeal here is to experience the rich background of the game world in a level of detail that the RTS game’s can’t express. Things like building interiors and environments, non-military characters, and those classic snarky unit quips developed into more involved dialogue.

Maybe not so involved after all [Blizzard Entertainment]

What we got instead

Much like what happened with Nova, the character of Thrall was adapted for the next RTS game, WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos. Thrall was actually a major character, the leader of the orc campaign, and he continued life as a significant faction leader in World of Warcraft.

Elements of his WarCraft Adventures story are sometimes alluded to. A playable copy of Lord of the Clans was actually leaked in 2016, but it’s a shame we never got the top-quality adventure game that Blizzard could have been proud of.

3. Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun

The story

The Legacy of Kain games were great story driven action-adventures set in a compelling gothic world. The fifth game, Defiance, effectively completed the story of badass vampire protagonists Kain and Raziel, but the game world had plenty of potential for a sequel.

Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun was intended to be that sequel. Developed by Climax Studios for Square Enix Europe, it was canceled after 3 years of development, never seen by the public until internet forum neoGAF published leaked components of the game in 2013. Square Enix Europe maintained that Dead Sun ‘just wasn’t the right game, at the right time.’

What could have been

Set in the far future of Legacy of Kain’s world, the player would control both a vampire protagonist and a human one, whose souls became intertwined as they travelled the land of Nosgoth. It would have been an action-adventure title like the previous games in the series, but with an open world and a deeper combat system.

As well as dungeon crawls, puzzles and so on, the innovative plane-shifting mechanic from Soul Reaver was present, which enabled players to alternate between two planes of existence, changing the game environment.

Get a taste of blood and souls with this footage of the canceled game courtesy of InsideGamer:

What we got instead

Dead Sun was meant to feature both single player and multiplayer components. The latter, which was being handled by a different development team (Psyonix), actually ended up being salvaged and expanded into a distinct game. The result was a free to play multiplayer third person battle game called Nosgoth, which ran in open beta from January 2015 to May 2016.

Fans of the series who had been waiting for another narrative-driven single player adventure were disappointed by this departure from the series’ strengths, and many were also turned off the use of micro-transactions in Nosgoth‘s multiplayer arenas. Ultimately, Nosgoth also lost the struggle for survival, as it was itself canceled in 2016.

4. Silent Hills

Cover for Silent Hills [Konami]

The story

This one really stings. Silent Hills was a horror game collaboration between Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro, featuring a protagonist based on (and voiced by) Norman Reedus. We got a spine-chilling demo in the form of P.T., a ‘playable teaser’ for Silent Hills, but things turned sour between Kojima and publisher Konami, and the most horrifying thing about Silent Hills turned out to be its cancellation.

In April 2015 Konami ceased distribution of P.T. and officially canceled Silent Hills soon after. Then, in a serious dick move that really rubbed salt in the wound, rescinded all digital licenses worldwide for P.T.. This made the demo impossible to re-download and almost impossible to play.

Flashback to the Silent Hills reveal trailer if you dare:

What could have been

The psychological horror of the early Silent Hill games mesmerized me back in the day, when I played through 1-3 with a mix of fascination and nail-biting terror. P.T. brought this back to me in a way that other more recent Silent Hill titles failed to do, with its skilful use of noise and subtle creepiness, fourth-wall breaking surrealism and twisted plot reveal.

What we got instead

Although we’ve lost what had the potential to be the greatest Silent Hill game ever, at least Kojima, Del Toro and Reedus have continued their partnership with Kojima’s first project after leaving Konami, Death Stranding. P.T. proved this to be a winning combination, and so far the teasers for Death Stranding are tantalizing indeed. But it remains to be seen whether it’ll fill that Silent Hills shaped hole in our lives. One thing’s for sure, Del Toro is definitely burning that bridge.

5. Fallout: Van Buren

The closest we ever got to a very different Fallout 3

The story

Fallout: Van Buren was the codename for the original Fallout 3, developed by Black Isle. Despite being close to completion, it was canceled shortly before publisher Interplay went under in 2003. Although Bethesda would release Fallout 3 five years later, many long term Fallout fans viewed Van Buren as a more authentic version, and are still venomously bitter about its cancellation.

What could have been

Van Buren was a fully 3D game, but followed the older games by utilizing a top-down perspective. The player is an escaped convict wandering through post-nuclear war Arizona, trying to survive while a war rages between the New California Republic and Brotherhood of Steel, a pseudo-Roman army of slavers called ‘Caesar’s Legion’ and an evil scientist who seeks to unleash another nuclear catastrophe upon the world. Imagine combining the best parts of Fallout 3 with the coolest elements of New Vegas, which also stayed faithful to the feel of the first two classic Fallout titles.

What we got instead

Bethesda’s Fallout 3 wasn’t a terrible game, but it did break with series tradition and played very differently. It took Obsidian, which counted a lot of Black Isle veterans among its staff, to make a 3D Fallout that stayed true to the series roots with Fallout: New Vegas. Select elements from Van Buren, such as Caesar’s Legion, were used in New Vegas, but ultimately a lot was thrown to the wayside.

6. Doom 4

A doomed DOOM [id Software]

Before id Software started developing what would eventually become 2016’s DOOM, they were actually working on a very different sequel to Doom 3. You could even pre-order Doom 4 in 2008, although the development process dragged on and on, before its cancellation in 2011.

What could have been

Doom 4 was a departure from the series typical form. It had a sprawling cinematic story set on Earth, and a heavily military focus with humans resisting the demonic invasion. It was slated to feature more character interaction and fewer demons. Ultimately, Doom 4 drifted too far away from the core of the Doom experience, drawing unflattering comparisons to Call of Duty.

Watch this trailer for DOOM and be thankful they went back to the drawing board:

What we got instead

id Software decided to scrap Doom 4 and return to the fundamentals of gameplay and quite frankly it was the best decision they could have made. 2016’s DOOM is a masterpiece that really feels like the best modern revival that could exist; keep the extraterrestrial setting and focus on one marine blasting through the forces of Hell pretty much nonstop.

There are still some elements from the canceled game that linger in the newest DOOM, in the form of the glory kills. It just goes to prove that sometimes it really is best to cut your losses and start again.

Do you have any hopes that a beloved canceled game will come back in some form? Let us know in the comments!

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