'To be continued.' Those three little words can simultaneously fill our hearts with excitement and dread. The tension that comes from knowing proper closure won't be coming for a few years is palpable, giving weight to whatever massive, world-changing plot twist that preceded it, and making the moment when you finally get your hands on the sequel that much sweeter. But those three words are also very dangerous, especially if that sequel you're hoping for isn't as sure a thing as you want it to be.
A bad first chapter can cancel a trilogy before it gets off the ground. A poor new direction can completely dash any chances for closure lacking from prior entries. And development hell can ruin even the best, most interesting prospects, leaving fans hanging by a tenuous, gut-wrenching thread for years. If you're looking for a proper resolution to these cliffhanger endings, I've got news for you: You're better off putting your hope and energy elsewhere, because barring a miracle, it's probably not going to happen.
Spoiler warning, naturally
The cliffhanger: Advent Rising marked the beginning of a galaxy-spanning sci-fi trilogy centered around Gideon Wyeth, a human with latent mystical powers who discovers that an alien race known as the Seekers are attempting to wipe humanity out of existence, and that a human-like being known as Koroem is behind the recent attacks. He attempts to kill Gideon on the spot, but is defeated when Gideon activates a mysterious new power. In the aftermath, Gideon is dragged into a portal that whisks him away to a distant planet covered in snow, where he meets a creature known only as 'The Stranger'. "Come with me, human. There is much to be done," are the last words uttered before the scene fades out, replaced by an ominous 'To Be Continued' tease.
Why we'll never get closure: Majesco pushed Advent Rising hard, making massive ad buys in print and online media as well as running spots in in theaters nationwide, and even designed an in-game contest with a $1,000,000 payout. The game flopped at retail, and thanks to technical issues surrounding Xbox Live, the contest as planned was scrapped, the ultimate prize replaced by a handful of old Majesco games (yay Bloodrayne 2!). In addition to Advent Rising's woes, Majesco's other big title of the year, Psychonauts, didn't do too hot either, and the failure of both titles caused Majesco to put a halt on the whole Advent trilogy and restructure their entire business around handheld and licensed games. The lead designers ended up forming Chair Entertainment and would go on to create the widely-renowned Shadow Complex and Infinity Blade franchises.
The cliffhanger: Detective Sly Boots and company are attempting to stop an organization known as the Dark Servants from bringing matter forward through dimensional space in an attempt to save the previous universe by destroying the current one (it's a lot of complicated space-time nonsense, just know that it's bad). After a harrowing final boss fight, Grumpos, one of your long-time party members, reveals himself to be a member of the Dark Servants, snags the key to a dimensional gate located in the middle of the titular city, and bails. Sly decides he has to finish what he started, gathers up the rest of his teammates, and heads toward the portal to follow after him. Cut to credits.
Why we'll never get closure: Anachronox was originally going to be a three-part series (I'm sensing a trend here) with two expansions following its originally planned release in 1998. The game was beset by a litany of production issues, eventually coming out in 2001. Along the way, plans for continuing the story condensed into a single sequel and then were discarded entirely when Ion Storm Dallas shut its doors a month after the game's release. Square Enix currently owns the rights to the franchise following its acquisition of Eidos and has made the IP available to other developers through its 'Square Enix Collective' program. While there's a glimmer of hope yet for the franchise, the previous game is so far removed from public consciousness that a direct continuation seems unlikely.
The cliffhanger: Jason Fly has lost his memory and finds himself accused of assassinating the President of the United States. He uncovers a conspiracy made up of twenty members (called 'The XX'), all of whom are attempting to overthrow the US government. After discovering his own past and putting a stop to their nefarious plans, Fly finds himself with a brief moment to rest during a party, until he stumbles upon a secret message to Walter Sheridan - the president's brother, and apparent ringleader of the organization. Trapped inside Sheridan's office and surrounded by guards, the game closes with some dramatic trumpets and a comic panel displaying that dreadful phrase: 'To Be Continued'.
Why we'll never get closure: XIII released to mixed reviews and middling sales, and Ubisoft quietly shelved any plans for future entries, though subsidiary Gameloft released a mobile phone Metal Slug-inspired prequel subtitled Covert Identity in 2007 (that's pre-iPhone, so good luck tracking it down). There's a game that came out in 2011 called XIII: Lost Identity, but it's a 'hidden object' puzzle game from French adventure game developer Microids that tells a story completely divorced from Ubisoft's version, so it's probably not what you're looking for. If you're dying for closure, you're better off just picking up the comics the games are based on.
The cliffhanger: Nathan "Rad" Spencer learns that the spirit of his dead ex-wife is actually embedded inside his bionic arm and that Super Joe, your ally in the original NES game, has gone rogue. He's now working with terror group known as Bio-Reign, and Spencer is pissed - and not just because his arm looks like an over-stuffed package of hot dogs. He chases Super Joe down, beats the crap out of him in mid-air, and plummets to the ground, the screen fading to black as he falls into a massive, dome-shaped building. Oh, and there's this mysterious sniper that showed up earlier in the game, but he disappears as quickly as he enters and nothing is ever explained about him. A brief exchange in Morse code between this sniper and a shadowy figure hints at a much larger plot, but the chances of us seeing it play out are slim-to-none.
Why we'll never get closure: Turns out the general public didn't really resonate with Hot Dog Wife Arm Guy and the generally hyper-gritty atmosphere of the game, as Bionic Commando only sold 43,000 units during its first month of release. It didn't help that the next-gen reboot was completely overshadowed by Bionic Commando: Rearmed, a vastly-superior remake of the sidescrolling original made by a smaller team within reboot developer Grin. The studio tried to recapture that success by developing a sequel to Rearmed, but tepid critical and commercial response to that all but ensured that Grin was finished with the franchise. The studio closed shortly after, and hopes for the Further Adventures of Hot Dog Wife Arm Guy died with it.
The cliffhanger: A giant meteor crashes into the face of the Earth, leaving a few lucky survivors to ride out the apocalypse in cushy stasis pods known as Arks. The rest have learned to fend for themselves in the harsh, totally-not-Mad Max desert wasteland. An all-powerful faction known as the Authority claims to be the reigning governmental body, and is attempting to find and destroy the remaining Arks and their inhabitants. In an effort to stop them, you infiltrate the Authority headquarters in Capital Prime, upload a special program that simultaneously activates and opens every remaining Ark on the planet. Aaaaaaand that's all we got.
Why we'll never get closure: Doom, most likely. Rage was beset by a lengthy production cycle - id developer John Carmack showcased the title at an Apple conference in 2007, and it wouldn't see release until September 2011 (ironically not hitting Apple computers until early 2012). Rage did OK critically and commercially, but it didn't exactly set the world on fire. id is now working on a reimagining of its flagship shooter property, Doom, with Bethesda CEO Pete Hines describing any sequel plans for Rage as "To be determined". My guess is that if Doom does well, we're more likely to get more Doom before we ever get more Rage.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
The cliffhanger: After hopping through time (and dealing with a few double-crosses), Sly Cooper finally confronts the larcenous Le Paradox on the roof of his blimp. During the fight, the blimp catches fire and crashes into the ocean. Le Paradox is found and brought to justice, but Sly remains missing. A secret ending is unlocked after collecting all of the game's trophies, revealing that Sly has been transported to ancient Egypt, possibly hinting at a future Sly sequel.
Why we'll never get closure: Sucker Punch, the team behind the first three Sly Cooper games, have since moved on to the far more successful Infamous franchise. Sanzaru Games handled the fourth entry (as well as HD-ifying the original PS2 trilogy), but have confirmed via a company Facebook post in 2014 that the studio is not "currently working with PlayStation on a project and there are no plans to work on another Sly Cooper title." Looks like Sly's going to be stuck in the past for the indefinite future, then.
The cliffhanger: Baldur spends most of Too Human chasing after Hod and Loki to force them to answer for their crimes against humanity. Eventually, Baldur learns that he was killed by Hod and brought back to life by his superiors, and confronts the Norse cyber-council about this during a toast to Tyr's heroic death during the final skirmish. They explain that they brought Baldur back because he'd failed to live up to his true potential, though Baldur remains unamused. He laments that all of the trouble caused was due to his own return, slamming his sword into the table and storming out of the council chamber in disgust. Meanwhile, Loki walks through a frozen tundra, glancing upward at a massive titan.
Why we'll never get closure: Too Human's development troubles are legend at this point. The game was originally meant to hit the PlayStation in 1999, and was supposed to be set in the far-flung future of 2450, rather than a high-tech version of Norse mythology. It eventually made the jump to Xbox 360, where it was planned to be the start of a sweeping trilogy (there it is again), with the first chapter originally planned for a holiday 2006 launch. Developer Silicon Knights, faced with a using a version of the Unreal Engine that they claimed was inferior to what they were promised, delayed the game's release for another two years to port everything to an in-house engine. Silicon Knights sued Unreal for breach of contract, and Unreal counter-sued, claiming that Silicon Knights was using its engine without paying royalties. Unreal won the court case, and all Unreal-developed projects made by Silicon Knights - including Too Human - were recalled from store shelves and destroyed, their digital rights removed from the Xbox 360's Marketplace. So yeah, it'll be a warm day in Helheim before we get a second chapter.
Dino Crisis 2
The cliffhanger: Edward City has disappeared off the face of the earth, and special operatives Regina and Dylan are sent into a Time Gate to investigate the disturbance and rescue any survivors. And murder all of the dinosaurs, that's especially important. Dylan finds his daughter in the city, and they decide to activate the one-way gate back to present day - until the facility's self-destruct sequence is activated, that is. They defeat the Gigantosaurus standing in their way, but Dylan's daughter gets trapped underneath some fallen debris. Dylan tells Regina to use the Time Gate to figure out a way to come back and save them, and she jumps into the portal before the base explodes.
Why we'll never get closure: The good news: We did get a sequel a few years later on the Xbox. The bad news: It has nothing to do with Dino Crisis 2, as it's set in the year 2548 on a dino-filled spaceship orbiting Jupiter. The worse news: It's a terrible game, effectively souring the entire future of the franchise. If Capcom decides to revisit the series, it would make more sense to do so as a reboot, considering it's been 16 years since Dino Crisis 2 left us hanging.
Mega Man Legends 2
The cliffhanger: Mega Man Legends 2 sees the titular hero exploring his own past, eventually learning of his origins on Elysium, a moon orbiting high above Terra that was originally the home of an advanced, highly-technological race of humans. Elysium also houses the Carbon Reinitialization Program, which would effectively clone the moon's prior inhabitants while simultaneously destroying all sentient life on the planet below. Mega Man puts a stop to this program, but his friend Gatz perishes in the process. Considering Gatz was the only one who knew how to operate the shuttlepod that brought them to Elysium, Mega Man is now stuck on this abandoned moon, leaving his partner Roll back on Terra attempting to build a rocket to reach him and bring him home.
Why we'll never get closure: A sequel was planned for the Nintendo 3DS, which would have continued where Mega Man Legends 2 left off, and a team at Capcom was working on a prototype that would have served as an intro to the new game, as well as show off some of the new features fans could expect. Unfortunately, Capcom unceremoniously pulled the plug on the project in 2011, and in the years since has cancelled several other Mega Man projects. The future isn't looking too bright for the Blue Bomber, though it's possible its spirit could live on in Mighty No. 9 and Red Ash, two upcoming projects from Mega Man co-creator Keiji Inafune.
Half-Life 2 Episode 2
The cliffhanger: A series of several planned episodes were meant to continue the cliffhanger that Half-Life 2 ended on, and Episode 2 ends on the mother of all cliffhangers. Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance learn of a mysterious Aperture Science (yes, that Aperture Science) vessel called the Borealis, which could potentially hold the technology the Resistance needs to defeat the Combine once and for all. As Gordon and Alyx prepare to leave for the vessel, a pair of slug-like beings called Advisors storm the building, kill Alyx's father, and attempt to kill Alyx before being chased away by her robotic friend D0g. Fin.
Why we'll never get closure: LOL. Episode 2 released in 2007, and each episode was originally slated to hit about six months or so apart from each other. But it's been nearly ten years since then, with nary a peep from Valve about its status. There have been numerous teases found over the years, but never confirmation as to whether it's still coming as another episode, if it's being spun off into its own separate game, or if it's even in development at all. Meanwhile, Valve has turned Steam into a worldwide PC game distributor, and has released eight other games since then, including both Portal games, both Left 4 Dead games, Dota 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Valve announced in early 2015 that an updated Source engine was coming, with many speculating that the next chapter of Gordon's adventures would debut with it. Unfortunately for them, that honor actually went to eSports phenom Dota 2. The only concrete thing we have is our hope that Valve wouldn't leave us hanging forever… so yeah, I wouldn't hold my breath.