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Video Games Canceled Due To An Idiot Mistake

The video game industry is highly competitive and fraught with struggles on the development end. Deadlines, bugs, securing that perfect timing when trends like zombies or flapping birds are hot rather than fading—projects are shelved and indefinitely delayed for all sorts of reasons, some of them dumber than others. Here, we take a not-so-fond look back at some of the worst offenders.

Hellraiser

Color Dreams is a company usually known for creating the worst video games that don't feature fist-pumping cheetahs. Because they never actually acquired a license to create Nintendo Entertainment System games, their cartridges featured a bypass for the "lockout chip." After a few aggressively mediocre jump-and-shoot games, they suddenly found themselves attempting to develop the most advanced cartridge in the system's history.

After seeing the movie Hellraiser, Color Dreams founder Dan Lawton resolved to purchase the video game development rights. It was decided the game engine would be a modified version of the Wolfenstein 3D engine, which you may remember as a game never released on the NES (although it would come out on the SNES) because the system couldn't handle it. The ability to cram the engine into the system required a completely redesigned cartridge with more RAM chips. Theoretically, the extra processing power in the cartridge—and its ability to harness the systems's ROM access to manipulate video output in real time—would have drastically increased the color pallete by allowing colors flickering faster than the eye could percieve to fill in the gaps. This feature never made it past the design phase, however.

The game iteself involved the player trapped inside the "Lament Configuration" puzzle box from the horror series, attempting to find ways to manipulate the outside to solve the puzzle. As the puzzle box changed shape, so would the player's available map. Once the puzzle was solved, the character would escape and have to solve the puzzle in reverse to trap the demons that escaped with them. Unfortunately, the whole concept and execution turned out to be much more ambitious than anyone was prepared for, and the game was shelved a couple months into production because it was assumed continuing would bankrupt the company. Shortly afterward, Color Dreams rebranded as Wisdom Tree, and have made religious games ever since.

Wait, so a struggling video game company tries to release a game about dimension-travelling demons, winds up invoking strange and infernal geometries in order to create one of the most advanced cartridges in the system's history, and the whole experience turns into such a nightmare they wind up going religious and disavowing it? That sounds like the premise to a horror movie we'd pay to see.

Space Fantasy Zone

Fantasy Zone is a classic Sega game about a living spaceship that flies through a colorful world of silly, bizarre monsters. Space Harrier, another Sega classic, is a first-person psychedelic sci-fi rail shooter. Space Fantasy Zone is a mashup of those two games by NEC for the Turbografx CD (in other words, not Sega).

The game followed Fantasy Zone's OPA-OPA character from behind much like Space Harrier, and all the baddies and bosses are recognizeable from Fantasy Zone, just repositioned in a head-on manner. Despite having print ad support and hype, legal disputes killed the game before official release, although an unfinished prototype disk of the game snuck out by an employee has been floating around video game collector spaces since the late '90s.

Superman (1999 Playstation Version)

Superman: The New Adventures on the N64, or Superman 64, or "that game where Superman flies through rings and does almost nothing else" is generally realized as one of the worst video games of all time. Fraught with trouble from the beginning, the whole game had to take place in "a virtual world" because DC didn't want Superman fighting "real" people. Hence, lots of flying through rings. It was a disaster.

After completion of the N64 version, BlueSky originally intended to port pretty much the same game to the PlayStation until reviews came in and they realized how deeply it was hated, so in order to save face, they retooled the entire project, making it look much closer to the animated series and changing all the game dynamics. After two years of development, they finally had a product to release. Pre-orders were made, print ads were bought, and... Blue Sky lost the license for the character and was not able to re-secure it for release. These guys just could not win.

Kid Kirby

Before Rockstar Games became known for the gloriously lawless carjacking and explosion orgy series Grand Theft Auto, they were a branch of Scottish video game company DMA Design. DMA had been known for developing computer games for publisher Psygnosis, like Shadow of the Beast and Lemmings. In the mid-'90s, they started working with Nintendo, and attempted to develop a game in their popular Kirby's Dreamland series.

Kirby is a fat little marshmallow of a creature that gains shapes and powers from creatures he eats. (It's a tragedy that DMA didn't keep this license long enough to insert him into Grand Theft Auto, because that would have been awesome.) Kid Kirby was going to be developed for the Super NES in order to help promote their new mouse peripheral. Not much is known about what the final game would have been like, but one of the designers dumped a bunch of sprite work into a Flickr account recently to give us an idea.

Unfortunately, the SNES mouse wound up about as popular and desired as an actual bag of dead mice. Attempts to retool Kid Kirby to respond to the regular controller were unsuccessful, and the game was abandoned.

Marble Madness II/Marble Man

Marble Madness is a one-of-a-kind arcade classic, but it almost wasn't. Due to popular demand to expand the difficult but short game, Atari planned a sequel that would have given fans everything they wanted. More levels, more tricks, multiplayer options—basically, everything that was good about the game, but more of it.

The game was finished and first-run arcade cabinets were built, and then suddenly Atari got cold feet. It was the '90s by then, and they worried the game was going to be considered outdated and corny, so production was shut down and the company focused on the release of the ultimately forgettable arcade game Guardians of the Hood. Because we all know how tacking "The Hood" onto literally anything from the '90s translated into lasting popularity.

The Dark Knight

Observant Batman fans may notice that The Dark Knight is the only Batman film that never had a corresponding video game. Well, there's an (incredibly embarrassing) reason for that.

In a G4 television special, Gary Oldman dropped rumors of the game's existence. This was during a time when the film itself was shrouded in a lot of secrecy and reality-jarring mindflip games. He mentioned that he would be reprising his role from the films and little else about the game except for some mention of the extensive work being put in to make the gameplay and animation seamless.

In reality, the work being put in was frantic, desperate and eventually disastrous. Electonic Arts tasked a studio called Pandemic to develop an open-world style game, but none of their senior developers had any experience in that area. They settled on an engine (Saboteur) which turned out to be wildly inadequate, high-definition light sourcing code they inserted caused rendering systems to crash, and the ability to even design levels wasn't available until seven months into development. Pandemic hired more people, but couldn't meet the deadline to correspond with the film's release. Even pushing it ahead to coincide with DVD sales wasn't enough to create a release-quality game—it was canceled after alpha testing, most of the team was laid off, and Pandemic closed its doors early the following year. The Joker himself couldn't have killed off Batman so thoroughly.