If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, fan games are the ultimate love letter. Unofficial sequels or remakes of existing game franchises created by ordinary gamers, they range from casual ROM hacks to full-out new games created from scratch. A true labor of love, they’re almost always developed by fans working on them as a side project, who very likely won’t get any payment for the final product.
Above: Don’t look for the Nintendo Seal of Approval on that Arwing
In fact, many fan-game makers often get shut down before they can finish. Game developers and publishers, looking to protect their intellectual property, frequently order fan-game makers to shut down production or risk being dragged into court. It’s a heartbreak for the people who put so much time into the games, but also for us; it’s bitterly disappointing to find out about promising new games that extend the franchises we love, only to realize they’ll never make it out the door.
So here, we’ll give you a glimpse of 10 impressive-looking fan creations, in the hopes that our support will help their causes. While some have been shut down or possibly abandoned, others just might see the light of our monitors.
1. Chrono Resurrection
We heart the original because: We didn’t know what to expect from Chrono Trigger when it first came out on the Super Nintendo. We were busy with Square’s other good stuff, like Final Fantasy and Secret of Mana. But when we saw how amazing it was – new battle system, memorable characters and soundtrack, multiple endings – we were quickly hooked. Then came an official sequel, Chrono Cross, for PlayStation, but… meh. We didn’t think it was head-bashingly terrible, but CT is one hard act to follow.
Who's behind it: Nathan Lazur, a self-taught game programmer who first started working on the idea during his senior year of high school. He gave up on it for a while, but decided to start again a few years later, forming a team with around six other members helping out.
Why it rocks: It's Chrono Trigger, but in freaking 3D: beautifully rendered characters, environments and all, which still look pretty impressive even today. Lazur planned to create an abridged remake of the original, focusing on a few key scenes rather than the whole thing, since recreating the entire game without a considerably larger staff would have taken, oh, forever.
Where it's at now: Resurrection has sadly been ceased-and-desisted as of September 2004, at the request of Square-Enix's lawyer patrol. All that's left of the project now are a sweet trailer and a video playthrough on YouTube, reminding us of what tragically will never be.
2. Shadows of Lylat
We heart the original because: We hold fond memories of the Star Fox games, especially Star Fox 64. We learned so much from them; like, animals make great spaceship fighters, if a bit on the chatty side when in the cockpit. No, Peppy Hare, we’re not going to do a barrel roll again. Find some other schmuck to annoy.
Who’s behind it: The “Shadows of Lylat” team, aka fanboys who must have a lot of time on their hands and a lot of love in their hearts for Arwings.
Why it rocks: Just look at previews like this one. These guys aren’t messing around. If the actual game delivers on the promise of these tantalizing trailers, Nintendo won’t need to bring back the series, the SoL team will have done it for them.
Where it’s at now: Development began six years ago, but the updates on the website look fresh. “It will be done when it is done,” is the answer on their FAQ. That’s probably a good slogan for any fan game, really.
3. Mushroom Kingdom Fusion
We heart the original because: Drawing from Mario, Sonic, Zelda, Halo, Doom and more, this game has a lot of “originals” behind it, sooo… we’re not even gonna go there.
Who’s behind it: “JudgeSpear,” who started the project in December of 2007, and the ever-growing Fusion Team.
Why it rocks: We’re going to say a few phrases. Your brain might explode, but don’t say we didn’t warn you. Mario packs heat and guns down Covenant scum from Halo. Link fights Nazis in Castle Wolfenstein. Ninja Gaiden meets Mega Man. And so on. That is the crazy-mashup-hybrid-crossover hot mess called MKF.
Where it’s at now: Version 0.31 is out as of last October, and there’s also a 3dchannel for new level previews. This looks like a healthy ongoing project, so keep your eves peeled for future releases.
4. Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes
We heart the original because: See No. 1.
Who’s behind it: A fan gamer going by the handle ZeaLitY, along with some others, got to work on this in 2004, hacking the original Chrono Trigger ROM to create a new story.
Why it rocks: This sequel featured a totally new, full-length storyline that picks up where CT left off, and with a new threat coming out of everyone’s favorite once-floating kingdom, Zeal. Things we would have gotten to experience/see: Crono talking (a lot!), 10 multiple endings and an estimated 35 hours of gameplay.
Where it’s at now: A big, fat, piece of Nothing, served with a side of Legal Smackdown, again from Square-Enix and its legion of demon-spawn, we mean, lawyers. The game’s makers claimed it was 98 percent done when they got the cease and desist in May this year. There’s some media on the website and a YouTube page featuring an entire playthrough of the game. Le sob.
5. Super Smash Flash 2
We heart the original because: It’s hard to come by multiplayer mashups more magnificent than the Super Smash Bros. games. Pitting iconic favorites from the Nintendo-verse against each other in combat was a stroke of genius and a heck of a lot of fun.
Who’s behind it: “Cleod9” of McLeodGaming.
Why it rocks: Cleod9’s first Super Smash Flash was already a pretty rockin’ port of Smash to Flash. Though slightly buggy, it comes full with Melee and Adventure, among other options, and throws a bunch of cool non-Nintendo characters, like Naruto, Cloud and Crono, into the mix as well. SSF 2 looks even better, with improved controls, graphics and interface.
Where it’s at now: There’s a playable demo out, and from the looks of it, things are going just swimmingly. We can’t wait.