With its larger than life characters and city-destroying fights, comic books are a perfect fit for video games. Since the days of the Atari, beloved comic characters have popped up in games of their own, allowing fans the world over to step into the form-fitting costume of their favorite heroes. Sure, plenty of these comic games fell victim to the curse of tie-in games, ending up boring, forgettable, or just plain not fun. But there have been plenty of great comic games over the years, with titles like Spider-Man 2 and Batman: Arkham City entering the pantheon of bonafide gaming classics. But buried beneath these bad and good comic games alike are the comic games that never even got the opportunity to earn either title. These are the canceled comic book games.
Over the years, plenty of video games based on comic book properties have been started, only to ultimately fall apart. These never-finished games slip into obscurity, falling victim to cancellation for a litany of reasons. Because no sane company is going to talk about their failed projects, these games go unaddressed and disappear into the sands of time, with no complaints from the comic companies. Except when they don’t. Canceled games don’t always disappear completely; footage, concept art, and details slip through the cracks and end up leaking online, letting fans get a glimpse at what might have been. Compiled for your reading pleasure are 15 canceled games based on comic books. All got the axe, and all should be forgotten about, if these comic companies had their way. But these scrapped games are just too intriguing to forget.
15. MARVEL 2099: ONE NATION UNDER DOOM
Before the Ultimate Universe was even a glimmer in Marvel’s eye, one alternate Marvel universe reigned supreme: Marvel 2099. Launched in 1992, this alternate universe whisked readers to the far off year of 2099, where futuristic interpretations of Marvel heroes fought the good fight. The 2099 line amassed a legion of fans and regularly sold very well, leading to Marvel deciding to bring the popular universe into the world of video games.
The game, titled Marvel 2099: One Nation Under Doom, promised to bring fan favorite characters such as Spider-Man 2099, Ghost Rider 2099, and more to the PlayStation in a side-scrolling beat-em-up that pitted the heroes against a time traveling Dr. Doom. But despite plenty of hype, the game was shuttered by Marvel and developer Mindscape Inc., due to unforeseen financial troubles. Marvel never publicly addressed the death of the game, and the specifics of Marvel 2099: One Nation Under Doom remains a heavily-shrouded secret to this day.
14. THE DARK KNIGHT
One upon a time, a big budget comic movie was all but guaranteed to receive a video game tie in. Batman Returns got a beat-em-up tie-in, as did Batman Forever. Hell, even the grim and gritty Batman Begins got the video game treatment. But not The Dark Knight. But it turns out, the world got very close to getting a game based on The Dark Knight.
The doomed Dark Knight game was helmed by Pandemic Studios, under the watchful eye of EA. Pandemic had ambitious plans for the game, angling to create an open world that would allow players to really feel like Batman. But the game would go on to run into a litany of issues, such as a buggy lighting system and missed deadlines. Ultimately, EA realized the game wouldn’t be completed in time to capitalize on the movie, and the plug was pulled on the project, leaving fans to wonder what The Dark Knight video game would have been like.
13. JUSTICE LEAGUE
If there is one thing comic fans love more than having their favorite characters work together, it’s seeing those characters beat the tar out of each other. Thus, a fighting game that would allow DC fans to pit the members of the Justice League against each other sounds like a license to print money. But this promising looking fighter fell victim to the Hollywood machine, leaving fans to wonder what might have been.
The simply titled Justice League promised a stacked roster composed of League mainstays like Batman and Martian Manhunter, along with a selection of DC’s most despicable villains, such as Mr. Freeze and the Trickster. The game was being developed by Double Helix, who would go on to relaunch the Killer Instinct franchise, which shows that the developers definitely understood fighting games. But despite the game showing promise, it was ultimately canceled, as it was intended to serve as a tie-in to a Justice League movie that was nixed. A canceled game for a failed Justice League movie? Yeah, DC would rather have everyone forget about this mess.
Lobo was red hot in the ’90s. DC put the Main Man in every comic under the sun, and pumped out everything from toys to statues to satiate fan demands for more Lobo. In 1996, during Lobo’s peak in popularity, the Bastich almost received a fighting game of his very own, but mysterious circumstances caused the all but finished game to be up and canceled.
Scheduled for release on the Super Nintendo and the Genesis, this Ocean-developed fighter brought Lobo, along with a small selection of his supporting cast, into the world of video games. Unfortunately, early reviews of the game lambasted the fighter’s shoddy controls, uninspired gameplay, and dull presentation. Despite being practically completed, Ocean pulled the plug on the game at the last minute, for reasons unknown. The game surfaced years later in the form of a playable ROM, but DC fans can forget about ever getting an official release for Lobo.
11. X-WOMEN: THE SINISTER VIRUS
With a best selling comic and a smash hit cartoon, the X-Men were everywhere in the ’90s. The Merry Mutants even ruled supreme in the world of video games, starring in popular titles on the Genesis and Super Nintendo. But developer bankruptcy and a shift towards 3D gaming caused one X-Men game to slip through the cracks.
Originally planned for release in 1997, X-Women: The Sinister Virus put the ladies of the X-Men front and center, promising to let fans play as the likes of Jean Grey, Storm, and Rogue. The game was planned for release on the Genesis, and would have tasked players with using the mutant powers of the X-Women to fight the forces of evil in a side scrolling beat-em-up. Unfortunately, Clockwork Tortoise, the game’s developer, would go on to declare bankruptcy and Sega shifted its attention to the upcoming Saturn, leaving X-Women to fade into obscurity, never to be addressed by Marvel again.
10. GHOST RIDER
Take one of the most popular Marvel characters of the ’90s, add in the developer renowned for creating Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and you have one interesting (and unusual) combination. The world very nearly got to play the end result of this oddball combination, as Neversoft put in extensive work on a Ghost Rider game that was ultimately canned.
Leaked footage of the game showed off the game’s 2D platforming/beat-em-up gameplay, throwing players into a gothic 3D world, armed with Ghost Rider’s chain and arsenal of demonic powers. The game featured full chain control, giving players a 360 degree range of attack, ensuring that danger could come from any direction. While Neversoft was in the very early stages of plotting the game, the developer planned to have the vampiric Lillith serve as the main antagonist, while the Ghost Rider in question would be a brand new character. Unfortunately, when Crystal Dynamics, the game’s planned publisher, backed out, Neversoft was left without a publisher to shoulder the costs of development, leading to Neversoft ditching the game entirely.
9. GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT
With the Elseworlds line, DC is able to explore odd, unusual, and just plain interpretations of classic characters. One of the most popular Elseworlds stories remains Gotham By Gaslight, which cast Batman as a brooding adventurer in a Victorian era Gotham beset by Lovecraftian horrors. The fan favorite story spawned a sequel, an upcoming animated film, and very nearly was the subject of a video game.
Sometime in the mid-2000s, developer Day 1 Studios got to work on creating a Gotham by Gaslight game, constructing a grimy and gritty Gotham that promised to bring the dark and moody comic to life. THQ planned to publish the game, and Day 1 Studios managed to make an impressive tech demo that THQ used in an effort to convince Warner Bros. to allow the company to create the game. Unfortunately, Warner Bros. passed, and development was halted. While Batman’s video game history is spotty at best, fans still bemoan the cancellation of what promised to be a unique Bat-game.
8. THE FLASH
When your whole shtick is being the Fastest Man Alive, it can be kind of difficult to build a game around you. After all, how can you create a game based on a character that can lap the Earth in nanoseconds? This didn’t stop developer Bottle Rocket from taking a crack at giving the Flash the video game treatment. And while the leaked footage of the game looked promising, The Flash was the victim of bad business, leaving a cool looking game to bite the dust.
When publisher Brash Entertainment won the video game rights to The Flash, they enlisted developer Bottle Rocket with the aim of creating a game that would accurately capture the world of The Flash. The game was planned to allow players to suit up as Wally West, zipping between Keystone City and Central City while fighting Flash’s famous rogues gallery. Despite development going smoothly, the game would become an unfortunate casualty in the bankruptcy of Brash Entertainment.
During the ’90s, Image Comics reigned supreme, and Jim Lee’s Gen13 was one of the biggest titles at Image. Gen13 almost got the video game treatment, only for the title to be shelved due to a business disagreement. Publisher EA enlisted developer Grey Matter Inc. to begin work on a Gen13 game. Planned for release on Playstation, it would have allowed players to suit up as the team, battling through side scrolling stages filled to the brim with thugs and goons.
Unfortunately, Grey Matter Inc. and EA weren’t able to come to an agreement on the terms of the game, leading to the deal being called off. Grey Matter Inc., having poured too much money into the canceled game, was forced to close its doors. A canceled game based on a popular Image property that caused the bankruptcy of a company? No wonder Image would rather forget about this one.
Daredevil is a classic Marvel character that has never managed to snag a video game of his own. Sure, the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen has popped up in the occasional co-starring role or in the odd glorified cameo, but Matt Murdock has never nabbed a starring role in a game. But he came very close to doing so, only for the game to be unceremoniously canned.
Set for release on the PS2 and the Xbox, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear planned to bring the vigilante into the spotlight. Developer 500ft Inc. envisioned the game allowing players to recreate some of Daredevil’s most iconic moments. Unfortunately, this project was a victim of plain old bad timing, as Marvel announced a Daredevil movie and wanted the game to tie into the film, which proved impossible with the limited timeline provided to the developers. The relationship between 500ft Inc. and Marvel soured, leading to the game being axed altogether, making the Man without Fear a man without a game.
5. SPIDER-MAN CLASSIC
After Activision released the morality focused Spider-Man: Web of Shadows in 2008, the publisher decided that a sequel to the game should get back to the roots of Spider-Man. Activision wanted to create a game that would allow Spidey fans to relive some of the Webhead’s most iconic moments. Thus, the publisher, along with developer Shaba Games, got to work on the tentatively titled Spider-Man Classic.
Spider-Man Classic was planned to be a more linear affair, whisking players through time as Spider-Man revisited some of his most famous battles. Shaba Games intended to incorporate Wolverine into the game, allowing players to swap between the fan favorite characters at will. Unfortunately, Activision decided to move in a different direction with the franchise, pulling the plug on Spider-Man Classic to make way for the Beenox developed Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Much like Uncle Ben, Spider-Man Classic is likely to stay dead and buried.
4. MARVEL CHAOS
When comic giant Marvel joined forces with gaming giant EA, it seemed like big things were ahead. But the partnership proved disappointing, yielding only a single poorly received fighting game, Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects. But leaked footage of a canceled fighting game shows that EA had grand plans for a follow-up to the mediocre Marvel Nemesis, only for the project to crumble under the weight of its own ambition.
The tentatively titled Marvel Chaos sought to capture the feeling of a city-destroying superhero fight, plopping fan favorite Marvel characters in massive, entirely destructible arenas, allowing characters to throw each other through buildings, scale skyscrapers, and wing cars at one another. Problem is, EA Chicago encountered problem after problem during development. Marvel and EA clashed over the developer’s desire to redesign classic Marvel character, the companies clashed over who would make the roster, and EA Chicago found the big arenas planned for the game didn’t translate into compelling gameplay. In the end, Marvel bailed, putting an end to this potentially promising game.
3. FACTOR 5 SUPERMAN GAME
In the early ’00s, there was no game studio more synonymous with dog fighting and air battle than Factor 5. Working with Lucasarts, Factor 5 developed several classic Star Wars games, including the Rogue Squadron series. Looking to bring their knowledge of aerial battle into a new franchise, Factor 5 jumped at the chance to develop a Superman game when approached by Brash Entertainment. Unfortunately, this ambitious title would prove to be Factor 5’s undoing.
Factor 5 planned to make their Superman game into the ultimate love letter for the character; with the developer working painstakingly to capture Superman’s arsenal of moves, and incorporating villains ranging from Doomsday to Killer Frost. Unfortunately, Brash Entertainment would declare bankruptcy, leading to Factor 5 being left to shoulder the cost of continuing to develop the game. This led to Factor 5 eventually following in Brash’s footsteps, declaring bankruptcy in 2008. DC never spoke of the game’s cancellation publicly, leading to this promising Superman game becoming a sad, unaddressed footstep in the company’s history.
2. SUICIDE SQUAD
To call the Suicide Squad movie “troubled” would be generous. The movie encountered a laundry list of issues, only to release to scathing reviews. Turns out, this trouble didn’t only apply to the movie; it even seeped into a planned video game tie-in being developed by Warner Bros. Montreal.
Best known for developing the polarizing Batman: Arkham Origins, Warner Bros. Montreal was tasked with crafting a video game to accompany the Suicide Squad movie. But when several of WB Montreal’s executives departed the company mid-development, the game was left in a state of flux. The movie’s release came and went without a formal announcement. While its existence was confirmed in leaks, the game would go on to be unceremoniously canceled without ever being formally announced, leaving its exact details shrouded in mystery. Speculation abounds on what did the game in.
1. THE AVENGERS
Marvel’s Cinematic Universe currently rules the box office with an iron fist (not that Iron Fist), with every new Marvel movie making more money than the last. But in Marvel’s selection of stars, they don’t come bigger than The Avengers. Despite being a hugely popular franchise, the Avengers have yet to receive a big budget video game to cash in on their movie success. However, the team very nearly got the video game treatment in a unique co-op action game, only for the title to get axed.
Developed by THQ Australia, the game was designed as a “first-person brawler,” allowing players to battle the shape shifting Skrulls alongside their friends as Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Hulk. Together, the Avengers would fight through the Triskelion, across a SHIELD Helicarrier, and a Skrull-ravaged New York. Despite showing promise, THQ was forced to cancel the game in an effort to save money after the company posted record losses, making this promising Avengers game a sad footnote in the death of THQ.
What other canceled games would you have loved to play? Let us know in the comments!
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