30 Games That Emerged from Development Hell

  • Publish Date: June 23, 2011
  • Comments: ↓ 28 user comments

We waited for this?

This last batch of games includes the most disappointing titles that, despite years of development, still feel unfinished or lacking.

game imageAPB: All Points Bulletin PC 58
5 years in development (2005-10)

Intended as an MMO take on a Grand Theft Auto-style open-world crime game by one of GTA's original creators, David Jones, APB was plagued by years of delays before its 2010 release, and poor reviews and financial problems after its release, leading to the game's eventual shutdown last fall. Under new ownership, it is expected to resurface later this year as a free-to-play game, retitled APB Reloaded.

game imageDaikatana Nintendo 64 n/a PC n/a
3+ years in development (1997-2000)

First previewed in 1997, the next game from Doom and Quake co-creator (and industry star) John Romero was supposed to hit store shelves in Christmas of that year after an (overly) ambitious seven-month development schedule. But the aggressively marketed 3D action-adventure Daikatana didn't reach gamers for another three years, following several more missed release dates and disappointing demos. The resulting game was terrible, and stands as one of the most notorious failures in the industry's history.

game imageDarkfall Online PC n/a
8 years in development (2001-09)

Though fantasy MMORPG Darkfall was announced during the summer of 2001, the game didn't even reach the non-playable demo stage until 2006. It took another three years before players were welcomed into the world, but many weren't happy with what they saw.

game imageDuke Nukem Forever PC 55 PS3 54 Xbox 360 49
15 years in development (1996-2011)

The problem with Duke Nukem Forever is not that it took 15 years to finally reach gamers, but that the game feels like it was created 15 years ago. The textbook definition of vaporware -- Wired gave DNF its vaporware lifetime achievement award ... in 2004 -- this sequel to the beloved 1996 game Duke Nukem 3D went through a well-documented development hell to, against all odds, arrive in stores last week. While a reaction of disappointment is not unexpected, many of the reviews have been scathing, with critics calling DNF dated, moronic, mean, irrelevant, and incompetent.

game imageStar Trek Online PC 66
6 years in development (2004-10)

The first and only MMORPG set in the Star Trek universe, STO went through two different developers and nearly six years of work to reach its official 2010 launch. While the game is not terrible, the initial reaction was mostly one of disappointment, making STO just one of many mediocre Star Trek games.

game imageToo Human Xbox 360 65
9 years in development (1999-2008)

First developed for the original PlayStation, and then for GameCube, Silicon Knights' action-RPG Too Human (a sci-fi take on Norse mythology) eventually turned out to be an Xbox 360 release almost a full decade after it was originally slated to arrive. Unfortunately, little of that extra development time was used to create something that gamers enjoyed playing.

game imageUltima IX: Ascension PC n/a
5 years in development (1994-99)

The game that killed the popular Ultima RPG series, Ascension had a troubled five-year development process that saw at least four different versions of the game. The final product that emerged in 1999 was buggy and unpolished, with a story that alienated longtime fans.

What do you think?

What games did we miss? Which of these one-time vaporware titles did you like, and which were major disappointments? Add your thoughts to the discussion section below, either now or in a few years.

Comments (28)

  • Tkwz  

    Diablo 3 vaporware? Seriously?

  • tarekmallo  

    Hey guys Doom 3 anyone? not in development hell technically speaking but geez 1994 - 2004!

  • Sexbad  

    Where's Amnesia? The developers almost went bankrupt entirely and had to stop.

  • buellerbueller  

    You should've put Conker's Bad Fur Day. It was originally a cutsie-patootsie game until it became the hard-M game we all know today.

  • badkarma  

    I really miss Wizardry 8 in this article. When Wizardry 7 was released in 1992 it advertised multiple endings (with cliffhangers) and the possibility to export all characters to a sure-to-come sequel.....
    ...that sequel did not appear till 2001 and followed (!) the announcement, that Sirtech would close down directly after releasing the title. I've kept my savegames almost ten years!

  • susubarata  

    Ummm... Where's Doom 3 ?? O_o'

  • Xikar  

    @Super-Evil-DOOM- Why should Zelda be on there? This is a list of games that had painfully long development times. Games that should have come a year or two after they were announced. Most Zelda games come about 3 years after they get a full title. The longest one being Twilight Princess merely because Nintendo saw the chance to get a AAA title on the Wii's launch. Though the quality of the port is debatable.

    There is a difference between time between sequels and games entering development hell.

  • Super-Evil-DOOM  

    Not a single Zelda game in there, really?

  • Goofus  

    You forgot Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. In development for 7 years (1999-2006) and bankrupted the developer. Great game though... terrifying.

  • Krud  

    I enjoyed this article, but took issue with the statement that "Heart of Darkness" was the first game ever with full orchestral soundtrack. Am I missing something? Because I am nigh positive that games prior to 1998 had full orchestral soundtracks. "Star Wars: Dark Forces," any number of the mid 90's Sierra CD-ROM adventure games, and the LucasArts western shooter "Outlaws" in '97. Maybe the definition of "full" orchestra is the key factor, I don't know.

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