After 22 years, the 'most-delayed game in history' steals Duke Nukem Forever's crown by finally releasing on the GBA

Kien's start-up screen on the Game Boy Advance
(Image credit: Incube8 Games)

A Game Boy Advance action game 20 years in the making has finally come out and it might have just snatched the record for the most-delayed release of all time.

You've probably never heard of GBA's Kien - because it actually never released. In 2002, an Italian game studio had to shelve its fantasy side-scrolling action game about a warrior and a priestess because its publisher decided that spending more money on costly cartridges was too much of a risk. "The amount of capital required just to print the initial copies was daunting, especially since the chances of commercial success were low, based on industry trends at the time," original game designer Fabio Belsanti said in an interview with The Guardian.

Belstani has now returned to the project he said goodbye to 22 years ago as Kien, miraculously, just came out on the handheld it was always intended for. No, really - there's not a Steam or console port in sight, Kien is only available as a physical cartridge for the GBA. Kien's revival was made possible thanks to the recent retro gaming boom, Belstani says. "I believe we are in a phase similar to [the revival of] vinyl or cassettes for music." The antiquated release isn't just a cool, attention-grabbing gimmick though; Belstani believes there's a certain magic in going back to old hardware that "created a bridge between the artwork and the pixels, and filled every limit and absence with fantastic stories."

Depending on your criteria (does cancelation count as a delay?), Kien's 22-year-long development snatches the crown from the much-delayed and much-memed Duke Nukem Forever, which took 15 years to release, and similarly-once-canceled NES platformer 40 Winks, which took 18 years, to become the most-delayed game to ever see the light of day. Kien won't be holding on to the record for long, however, as Shantae Advance is also returning from the grave sometime in 2025 after also starting development in 2002.

Developer AgeOfGames is reportedly already working on a spiritual successor that will hopefully release before 2046.

For now, check out the upcoming indie games of 2024 and beyond.

Freelance contributor

Kaan freelances for various websites including Rock Paper Shotgun, Eurogamer, and this one, Gamesradar. He particularly enjoys writing about spooky indies, throwback RPGs, and anything that's vaguely silly. Also has an English Literature and Film Studies degree that he'll soon forget.