5 Incredible Real Video Games (You'll Never Get to Play)
Gamers tend to get more excited about the titles they're promised for the future than the ones that are actually available for purchase right now. This leads to a lot of heartbreak, since many of the most groundbreaking games get stuck in development limbo for years, or never get released at all.
Granted, there's no guarantee that any of these games would have been good (see: Duke Nukem Forever), but they're all intriguing as hell, which makes it that much sadder that they seem to be dead in the water.
(Y'know what's not dead in the water? Cracked's Star Wars mini-series. You can watch the trailer now.)
The Last Guardian
The Last Guardian is a heartwarming tale of a boy and his giant bird-dog griffin creature that was first announced in 2009 as a project of Team ICO, a development studio that has only ever produced two games. However, those two games are ICO and Shadow of the Colossus, which are widely regarded as two of the greatest video games ever made in terms of both innovative play mechanics and emotionally resonating story. Even The New Yorker went out of its way to talk about how amazing those titles are, which must have caused people who actually read The New Yorker no end of confusion.
"Hmph! Video games will never have anything on the single-panel gag cartoon!"
Why You Want It:
A huge part of The Last Guardian was to revolve around taking care of the mythical superbeast as you adventure through the environment. Basically this means feeding him, tending to his injuries, and generally keeping him not dead -- Team ICO likened it to taking care of a pet. And also like a pet, the creature will occasionally completely ignore your commands, bounce around like a jimmy-legged man-child when you need him to be still, or root himself to the floor when you need him to sit somewhere else to solve a particular puzzle.
"Yeah? Why don't you come make me roll over?"
Furthermore, you as the main character are completely helpless against the game's enemies. Your only means of defense is getting the griffin to stomp suckers out like a trashcan fire, so it's your job to keep him in good fighting shape. It's an action/puzzle game where you take the role of the support character rather than the hulking super-badass. Basically, it's like BioShock Infinite if you played as Elizabeth instead of Booker.
Why You'll Probably Never Get It:
The Last Guardian has been so plagued by delays and setbacks that getting any new screenshots or information about it is like spotting a leprechaun riding Bigfoot. The official reason for the deafening four-year silence is that the game is loaded with more bugs than a motel mattress, and Team ICO has to constantly rework large sections to make the damn thing playable.
Every one of those feathers needs to be individually bug tested.
At this point, Sony, the game's publisher, refuses to clarify whether The Last Guardian is on hold or still in active development, and the head of Team ICO announced that he would be leaving Sony as soon as the game is finished, which is typically a pretty good indication that a project is not going well. We will probably be having sex with our World of Warcraft characters before we get a chance to hang out with our giant luck dragon BFF.
Star Wars 1313
It was the game that, in the spring of 2012, simultaneously got everyone excited about gaming and Star Wars again. Star Wars 1313, a cutting-edge "looks too good to be possible" game to be released on the next generation of consoles ...
Hell, the game might have almost justified buying an Xbox One. Almost.
... promised to cast you as a bounty hunter descending into the seamy underbelly of the Star Wars universe to kidnap and/or murder people for money (but not credits -- credits are no good in the Outer Rim). It was a balls-out third-person action game / laser explosion festival created by a team culled from every branch of the Star Wars empire, including LucasArts, Lucasfilm Animation, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound. That's like if every member of the Justice League got together to build a supersonic asskick mobile and then tossed you the keys.
Why You Want It:
For starters, 1313 would have been the first Star Wars game to ever receive a Mature rating, even though the films themselves are famously applauded and derided in equal measure for being kid-friendly. However, the developers stressed that the Mature rating wasn't a reflection of how much blood and gore would've been in the game (although just one time we'd like to see a Wookiee rip someone's arms off), but rather the adult themes and character motivations in the game's story. If true, that's a big leap forward for a series previously dominated by puppets and bumbling slapstick aliens.
And maybe, just maybe, we would've gotten to see Jar Jar take a blaster to the face.
Also, most other Star Wars games focused on the Jedi and their magic Force powers, despite the fact that they're less than .001 percent of the galactic population. 1313 would've thrown all that space mysticism out the window in favor of darker, grittier realism, presenting us the Star Wars universe as it is experienced by the overwhelming majority of its inhabitants. The unnamed bounty hunting protagonist was also heavily rumored to be none other than Boba Fett, the most inexplicably popular ancillary character in the history of anything (some leaked concept art indicated that Boba Fett was the star, and "1313" is one of Boba Fett's aliases). If that were true, Star Wars fans would have torn their pants off in their hurry to pull out their wallets.
"I don't have to pay my rent this month! Forget the baby's formula! Take it! TAKE IT!"
Why You'll Probably Never Get It:
Star Wars 1313 had been changed, cancelled, and revived a ridiculous number of times before it was ever even revealed to the public, and shortly after Disney acquired all things Star Wars, they dropped the hammer on LucasArts, effectively killing all titles currently in production. Odds are we'll see a 60-year-old Princess Leia in a metal bikini before we ever get to play 1313.
The City of Metronome
Mainstream gaming is nearly bereft of completely original game concepts, and by God, this looked like it was going to be one. Back in 2005, a new development studio by the name of Tarsier revealed their debut effort, a third-person action-adventure game called The City of Metronome wherein players would tiptoe through a haunted urban landscape playing prerecorded sounds to defeat satanic horrorbeasts. Think Fatal Frame, only with a soundboard instead of a camera.
"Stand back! I've got a mini-recorder and I'm not afraid to use it!"
Why You Want It:
First of all, the game had a striking visual style. It looked like Tim Burton and Hayao Miyazaki transcribed a bunch of H.P. Lovecraft stories onto their knuckles, punched each other into unconsciousness, and then made a game out of their ensuing nightmares. Looking at footage of the game, you could easily be convinced it was made this year instead of nearly a decade ago.
Aside from its awesome visuals, The City of Metronome had a truly original premise -- use a variety of recorded sounds, ranging from angelic melodies to bloodcurdling infernal shrieks, as a universal tool to solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and command the environment. Combat in the game would have you either running around enemies and playing sounds so harsh that their souls would flop spastically out of their bodies like a ghost on PCP, or enchanting your targets with a tuneful melody and forcing them to do your bidding. This is in sharp contrast to the "military shooter or Madden" approach most developers take when creating new games.
"Man, hopefully this map shows me where they're keeping the automatic weapons."
Why You'll Probably Never Get It:
Despite how brilliant the game both looked and played, Tarsier couldn't find a publisher willing to invest a large bag of cash in The City of Metronome because of the game's unconventional premise and the fact that Tarsier was a new and unproven developer. Please remember that this is the same industry that dumped millions of dollars into shitty Kinect games because they found the prospect of gamers shouting and waving frantically at their televisions too compelling to pass up.
"Yeah, original and beautiful are fine, but does it have a motion-controlled bowling game anywhere in it?"
The game was put "on the back burner" in 2007, and now Tarsier has many successful projects under their belt and a development deal with Sony. So you're welcome to cling to a shred of hope that we might actually get to play The City of Metronome before the children born the year the game was first announced have gone to college. But honestly, how many games that fell off the radar for eight years ever actually hit shelves?
Originally intended to be a Ghostbusters game (until Dan Aykroyd got the notion in his fourth-dimension-space-conspiracy-filled skull to make his own), TimeO was a third-person action game that tossed you into a Stygian, apocalyptic New York City where all the buildings have been brought to life by some kind of hideous technology and are actively trying to murder the shit out of you. Your job as the game's hero was to destroy every structure in sight, a concept that New Yorkers in the mid-2000s were probably a little less than excited about.
"Welp, time to go destroy New York! But in a good way! No really, I'm a hero, guys!"
Why You Want It:
According to one of the most grammatically embarrassing PR kits ever written, TimeO would have been the first game in history where the environment itself was the enemy. Players would have faced off against an entire living city (incidentally one of the most famous cities in the entire world), doing battle against buildings, subway trains, and historic landmarks.
You would literally have been tasked with shadow punching the Statue of Liberty in her giant copper grundle in order to defeat a technomancing wizard. That's one of the most original concepts we have ever heard. A game in which the scenery you're traversing could suddenly sputter to horrible life and attack you is a game that deserves to be played.
Besides, Lady Liberty's rusty metal ass has had it coming for a while.
Why You'll Probably Never Get It:
Brash Entertainment, the publisher originally attached to TimeO, went out of business in 2008, and the game's developer, ZootFly, has spent the subsequent half-decade trying unsuccessfully to get another publisher interested in their legitimately rad idea (see "terrible PR kit," above). Unfortunately, the only other efforts to their name are a handful of unpublished titles, a derivative tank game, and the official Prison Break tie-in game, which was released back during the brief window in human history when that show was relevant. That portfolio isn't going to wow too many publishers.
Having Prison Break on your resume in 2013 isn't a good way to impress, well, anybody, really.
ZootFly did quietly post a new TimeO trailer on their website back in 2011 (featuring now-outdated graphics and very little murderous skyscraper action), but since then there has been no other word about the game in any capacity. It will likely go down as one more fun idea in the hands of people who just couldn't execute it.
The Outsider and Agent
An "open-world espionage game" is apparently the White Whale to the game industry's Captain Ahab. For instance, gamers have been anticipating two awesomely ambitious open-world spy games for several years, The Outsider and Agent, and both are nowhere to be found.
Ironically, you'd probably have to go undercover to find out what the hell's going on with Agent or The Outsider.
The Outsider, originally scheduled for release all the way back in 2009, was promised to be an action-stealth game casting players in the role of a CIA agent named Jameson who has been wrongly accused of a crime. Jameson must use every skill at his disposal to covertly navigate the city of Washington, D.C., and break enough unsuspecting necks to uncover the truth. The capital city and several surrounding areas would've been faithfully recreated down to the smallest possible detail, giving players a realistic city to creep through like Harrison Ford in The Fugitive on his search for conspiracy-busting justice.
Also, you'd be able to flash a gun within view of the White House! OK, so maybe the game wasn't that strict about the realism.
Meanwhile, Agent, announced six years ago, was to be an open-world stealth game set against the backdrop of Cold War espionage in the 1970s. It was essentially what would happen if Metal Gear Solid collided with Grand Theft Auto in a flurry of turtlenecks, mutton chops, and Grand Funk Railroad. You may recognize this as the greatest combination of ideas ever assembled.
Why You Want Them:
The Outsider was supposedly going to give players an unprecedented amount of freedom to decide how the story would unfold -- do you track down those responsible for your frame-up, burst into their offices, and go on a shoot-punching spree? Or do you carefully work to stay hidden, solve the mystery, and clear your name? Or do you just lose your mind and punish everyone in sight for your misfortune like a bullet-spitting supervillain?
Next time don't go swinging your piece around in public on Capitol Hill, buddy!
The game would've also allegedly featured a complex morality system far beyond the typical "living saint or relentless asshole" choices players are normally given in games of this type. Players would truly be able to affect the outcome of the game, rather than simply earning one of a handful of predetermined endings based on the number of "good" and "evil" decisions made throughout. It also claimed advanced facial animation technology that would have made every single inhabitant of the game's massive world as lifelike and expressive as actors in a movie (and perhaps even more so if we're talking about certain actors).
We'll take the classy route and not name any names.
If those all sound like promises that are awfully tough to fulfill with current technology, well, that might be why we never got to play it. Maybe they just bit off more than a small studio could chew.
Agent, on the other hand, had no such excuse -- that game was being developed by Rockstar, a company that straight up doesn't release a game unless it's massive -- Max Payne, L.A. Noire, Red Dead Redemption, and Grand Theft fucking Auto are all edgy, groundbreaking, genre-defining, and/or just plain ol' crazy. And nobody captures the look and feel of specific settings and time periods like these guys -- Agent was destined to be unique for that reason, if nothing else.
Imagine Sam Fischer, Jason Bourne, and James Bond, and you've got Agent. Promising, no?
And it wasn't going to be some farmed-out side project, either -- it was being developed by Rockstar North (the company's top team) and overseen by Dan and Sam Houser, the writers and producers of nearly every Grand Theft Auto title. The idea was to take a stealth game, which is usually fairly linear and restrictive, and toss it into the open-world, sandbox style of gameplay Rockstar is known for ("sandbox" is a term here meaning "ramping over commie spies in a Camaro, while murdering a prostitute"). The action would have been on a worldwide scale, tasking players to alter real historical events in the midst of Cold War era tension.
Why You'll Probably Never Get Them:
The Outsider was first announced way back in 2005, and then proceeded to miss every single one of its projected release dates until Frontier, the game's developer, announced in 2011 that all work being done on the title had ceased. They insist the game hasn't actually been cancelled (despite "we're not doing any more work on it" being the exact definition of "cancelled"), only put on hold so they can concentrate on other equally mind-blowing titles such as Kinect Disneyland Adventures, Kinectimals: Now With Bears, and a Zoo Tycoon remake for Xbox One. So ... yeah, it's probably safe to cancel that eight-year-old Outsider preorder at GameStop.
As for Rockstar, they first announced Agent back in 2007, revealed it to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive back in 2009 ... and then never said anything else about it ever again. Here's all of the information their website has on it:
Well, gee, thanks for the clarification.
Rockstar won't even say whether or not it's been cancelled -- they literally don't discuss it, like Agent is some creepy uncle that got carted off to prison for a laptop full of illegal pornography. And with the company gearing up for its next big Grand Theft Auto release, it seems unlikely that we will ever hear another word about Agent. The only concrete evidence we have that Agent ever existed is a series of nondescript images posted by a Rockstar artist to his online resume.
Well, Agent certainly wouldn't have suffered for lack of stairwells.
Agent also popped up on another Rockstar employee's LinkedIn profile a few months ago, so at the very least the company is still allowing their development teams to list it on their CVs. And truly, the crowning achievement of electronic entertainment is being able to take credit for the creation of a game that nobody ever got to play.
No one gets to play these games, but we all get to watch the trailer for Cracked's new Star Wars series.
Thanks to Strych10 for his help finding and researching entries. Sam Jackson can be found accepting offers of friendship, food, wine, and work on Facebook and Twitter. When not glued to a controller or working for Cracked, Nathan Birch also writes for Uproxx, and occasionally posts pictures of his pet tortoise on Twitter.
For more video game goodness, check out 5 Ways Video Games Are About to Get Way More F#@kable. Or learn about The 6 Most Retarded Gaming Consoles Ever Released.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 4 People Filing Lawsuits For Their Own Dumb Mistakes .
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn the easiest way to beat Ghosts and Goblins. (Hint: There is no easy way.)
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Extra Credit: To make this article more depressing, read about ridiculous game innovations that reached production. We'll never see Agent, but there's totally a game powered by screaming. And did you realize the first handheld 3D game came out in 1983? Because it totally did. But don't let any of this convince you that the game industry is out of ideas- they've got no shortage of ways to screw you.