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The worst games you never played

Thrill Kill

What could have been: In the tail-end of the late-'90s fighting-game arms race, Virgin Interactive would up the ante with Thrill Kill: instead of two fighters, you could have four! And instead of generic grimness, you were in Hell! And instead of not being great, the game would be absolutely godawful!

That doesn't sound so bad... After being shitcanned, the game leaked onto the Internet. There, its surface elements (sadism, dick jokes) were dissected by a public eager for a glimpse of what they were missing, and equally eager to avoid the fact that actually playing the game was itself a mild form of torture.

What happened? Virgin got bought by EA, who promptly announced their refusal to be associated with such rubbish. In a reminder that sometimes “faceless corporate meddling” equals “sensible decisions,” the company refused to sell Thrill Kill to the public – or anyone willing to release it.

The legacy: The engine behind Thrill Kill was licensed to Activision, who used it for the Shaolin brawler Wu-Tang: Taste the Pain. With the violence removed – and the gameplay tweaked – the game still wouldn't sell, even under a license that had won unjustified success for everything from Rap Snacks fried-tater treats to the second Raekwon album.


Super Mario's Wacky Worlds

What could have been: During Nintendo's flirtation with Philips, someone suggested putting together CD-i versions of a few SNES games. “Shucks,” said Novalogic, “why don't we just do a CD sequel to Mario World, set on Earth?”

That doesn't sound so bad... It certainly didn't fail for lack of effort. Developers worked 24-hour days for two weeks on a demo, patching in graphics and sound from a video of Mario World. Wacky Worlds amounted to an early Mario fan-game – albeit one intended for sale as a canonical title.

 


What happened? Have you ever played a Mario fan-game? There's a reason these things don't usually go pro. By all accounts, Novalogic's work was impressive, but with CD-i sales dwindling and development funds routed to other projects, the game never eventuated.

The legacy: It would be disingenuous to say the quality of the Mario IP wasn't  diluted during the SNES era – witness Mario is Missing or Hotel Mario. But a bona-fide sequel to Mario World, on hardware never even designed to handle sprites? Fortunately, the real games stayed in-house.


Sonic-16

What could have been: While Sonic 3 was in development, a few clever-clogs at Sega Technical Institute developed the demo for a new-look Sonic game with slower action, redesigned oversized graphics, plot and characters based on the popular Saturday morning cartoon, and 3D elements.

That doesn't sound so bad... Unless you take into account that the things blighting later Sonic games were slower action, an overemphasis on graphical pizzaz, plot and characters that seem to have come from a Saturday morning cartoon, and the failure to translate to 3D.

What happened? Sonic Team head Yuji Naka put the kibosh on the project, setting in motion the long and tortuous saga of the game that would become Sonic Mars, then Sonic Saturn, then Sonic X-Treme, then cancelled – by which time we had plenty of other 3D Sonic titles to feel apprehensive about.

The legacy: Sega Technical Institute shifted their energies back to Sonic Spinball – which, at time of release, had the honor of being the only Sonic game audiences weren't so hot on. They were trailblazers, really.

43 comments

  • mlounsbury - February 1, 2011 3:58 p.m.

    According to the Wikipedia entry for Tattoo Assassins, the skater was based on Nancy Kerrigan, not Tonya Harding.
  • shyfonzie - February 1, 2011 4:49 a.m.

    Can I please have the words "That scythe ain't for no wheat!!" be the caption for all images containing my likeness?
  • Crimmy - January 31, 2011 6:59 a.m.

    Wasn't SF 2 released in Japan? I'm pretty sure it was, but the port was too close to the release of the N64.
  • RaptorRider - January 31, 2011 4:32 a.m.

    I actually think it would have been great if these game HAD been published, if for no reason other than to stand as a testament to how not to do it.
  • willyfoureyes - January 30, 2011 11:40 p.m.

    Hey! Sonic Spinball wasn't THAT bad...
  • FauxFurry - January 30, 2011 9:36 p.m.

    It looks as if Campfire would be the playable epilogue of just about every open world game ever expanded into an entire game. That's kind of missing the point and primary appeal of those games entirely. That kind of dominance has to be earned for players to be able to enjoy it to its fullest. Maybe if it ramped up the 'Camp' aspect and downplayed the 'Fire' element a bit,it might have been the videogame equivalent of Scary Movie. Then again,if one's opinion of the Scary Movie series is particularly negative, that might make it the most horrifying videogame of all time. I'm surprised that Sonic 16 wasn't just called Metal Sonic or Sonic Gear and didn't feature Sonic with a headband, a spiny mullet and a several-pack-a-day candy cigarette habit. Who would have needed Solid Snake in Super Smash Brothers Brawl had Sonic developed along those lines? The cancellation of B.C. is a real shame,though. Molyneux could have played the role of a prophet/shaman who makes grand pronouncements and prophecies promising paradise then have to deal with the complaints of the angry mobs feeling cheated who will be more likely to resort to using sticks and stones to make their grievances felt instead of trying to hurt his feelings or reputation with words...maybe by siccing his pet dinos on them or promising something even greater which will only be delivered if they defer their punishment.
  • Smeggs - January 30, 2011 7:05 p.m.

    Seriously, BC and Campfire sound like they would've been good, had BC had more time or tech and Campfire's stalkerish serial-killeriness been done correctly.
  • GorditaSlim - January 30, 2011 6:07 a.m.

    I think B.C. had a lot of potential, and aside from gross muscular cavewomen, it looked like a lot of fun. That's a project I certainly wouldn't mind seeing revived in the future. I would DEFINITELY play a game featuring a digitized Steven Seagal, especially if there's a level with goddamn lava. Maybe we'll get a sweet 16-bit XBLA titled based upon Seagal's adventures in the world of policing. I think Thrill Kill gets shit on a lot, probably because of it's ridiculous history and the mass amounts of hype. I played the leaked game online, and it was moderately fun. I think it could benefit today from being a cool, super-bloody (a la Splatterhouse) "Power Stone" type fighter. I'm just a sucker for cancelled games, and I love reading about them, so this article was right up my alley.
  • razorwiretensho - January 30, 2011 2:23 a.m.

    @ Letter11 Don't worry, you're not the only one. I loved Sonic Spinball too... I was so proud of myself when I beat it, that game was bastard hard >.<
  • philipshaw - January 29, 2011 4:10 p.m.

    I do remember reading about these games back in the day, good to hear what actually happened to them
  • AngryScotsman - January 29, 2011 3:48 p.m.

    THAT SCYTHE AIN'T FOR NO WHEAT
  • hanktherapper - January 29, 2011 3:40 p.m.

    I remember B.C. Despite all the articles about the game, I could never figure out what the gameplay was about. I figured it must have been bad because the last article I read before it was canceled stated the game was done, they were just refining the code. Six months later B.C. was canned.
  • thedonut - January 29, 2011 12:35 p.m.

    That Sonic game didn't look that bad. I think it should've starred a different character though.
  • RiksK - January 29, 2011 11:09 a.m.

    Hey, but in the first picture there was Starcraft Ghost, I remembr I was so looking torwards that one, I think it would have come out great, it totally sucked they canned it!
  • Spybreak8 - January 29, 2011 8:52 a.m.

    Holy shit TA looks hilariously bad. At least you might get a few laughs while you tried to enjoy the game right.
  • jmcgrotty - January 29, 2011 8:20 a.m.

    Tattoo Assassin wasn't as bad as this article says it was. It's just a boring run-of-the-mill fighter, yeah, but no worse than the other 1,000 that were released. And it had at least one decent mechanic where you could choose a different specific tattoo to take advantage of each time. Again, I'm not saying it's a world-class game, but there were a shitload of other fighters that were made that were worse and that were actually released. And as someone else said, Thrill Kill has been way too distributed to be on this list.
  • Defguru7777 - January 29, 2011 7:53 a.m.

    Man, that Sonic 16 game looked really bad. The only game I'd heard of in this article was Star Fox 2. Interesting how much they got done before they canceled it. One game I was kind of looking forward to was the Kirby game for the Gamecube. I remember being really into Kirby then, and the prospect of a console Kirby (other than that Star racing game for the Gamecube) had me really excited. Then its development got pushed back from the Gamecube to the Wii. Then it just disappeared. It never even got a real name. All the Nintendo Power coverage just called it Kirby.
  • Darkhawk - January 29, 2011 7:25 a.m.

    Great article, but I'm taken aback by your comment on Maximo. Those games were great! They took the heart of the GnG series, and converted it into an excellent 3D pair (with a cancelled third game, by the way) on par with the best of the PS2. PSM (your pseudo-progenitor) gave both games a 9/10.
  • kicking222 - January 29, 2011 4:54 a.m.

    My god, a "Johnny Whatever" reference! When that game was first announced (keep in mind, this was 2005, and it was supposed to also be on the PS2), it looked so ridiculously cool. I mean, hell, the trailer had the White Stripes! I was really excited about that one for... a few minutes, at least.
  • 8bitBaby - January 29, 2011 4:31 a.m.

    HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLEEE CRAP! what fantastic rubbish!

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