Video games, like any work of art, go through many revisions before a final product is achieved. This refinement process is what allows a game to grow and morphs it from a simple idea into a fully-fledged work of interactive entertainment. Some games are built around a single mechanic, while others are deeply plot driven and attempt to convey a message or feeling. No matter their creative origins, developers spend years honing their games, and as a result many ideas are left on the cutting room floor.
Some of these ideas are rough drawings of characters, environments or enemies that had potential, but lacked feasibility. Others become fully developed and are coded into demos or prototypes, but no concept is safe from the editor's axe. AAA developers are some of the most meticulous when it comes to refining their content and the games we love could have been very different if other creative routes had been taken. Here is a look at some unused ideas from some of the best-known games around. Whether these concepts were abandoned early on or right before launch, it’s amazing to imagine what these games would have been like if their original ideas had stuck.
The Last Of Us is a technical marvel that showcased the Cordyceps fungus, one of the most frightful plagues to wipe out humanity. This parasite exists in the real world, though thankfully it only affects insects (for now). Naughty Dog imagined the possibilities of a human strain of Cordyceps and had a lot of fun designing the infected that we fight throughout the game. Clickers and Bloaters are the most memorable, but did you know that there was originally going to be infected elephants and lions in the game?
The developers toyed with the idea of having the Cordyceps infect escaped zoo animals, but this was ultimately substituted for the giraffe scene that was one of the most gripping moments in the game. They also conceptualized stage-five infected, which would have been horrible monstrosities covered in tendrils and human limbs. We'd never suggest getting rid of the giraffe scene, but think they could've found another way to work these beasts into the game.
The Legend Of Zelda: Wind Waker stirred controversy for its cartoonish visuals when it was first unveiled, but all worries were laid to rest upon its release. The game is one of the most charming and expansive entries in the series, and crafts a truly epic tale, even by The Legend Of Zelda standards. It also features some incredible dungeons, but sadly a few were removed due to time restraints.
When you play through the game, you can see where these dungeons would have been implemented. You find items such as the iron boots and power bracelet with little difficulty, and receive Nayru’s Pearl directly from Jabun, an item that should have been given after defeating a boss. Supposedly, the ideas from these cut levels found their way into later Zelda dungeons, one of them being the Ice Mansion from Twilight Princess.
Few games make you think as laterally as Portal 2 and “thinking with portals” is the only way to conquer its many puzzles. The game introduces and layers its mechanics slowly so its solutions become intuitive, and players don’t become overwhelmed.
Turrets, cubes, gels, and circuit breakers are all familiar tropes in Portal 2, but there are some mechanics that Valve chose not to include. Purple adhesion gel was play tested, but removed due to complaints of motion sickness. Reflection gel, a substance that would redirect laser beams, was also considered, but removed for unknown reasons. Valve also developed a “pneumatic diversity vent” that pulled objects and the player at high speeds, but this became the elevator system used to move between test areas. There is also evidence of hovering rocket turrets that undoubtedly would have been a hilarious nuisance.
Bloodborne is not a game that is known for its leniency. It's one of the toughest games ever made, and also one of the most satisfying. This is largely because of its beautiful art design, in-depth lore, and fluid mechanics. The game also features procedurally generated areas known as Chalice Dungeons and some of Bloodborne’s greatest challenges can be found within its winding corridors.
One Chalice Dungeon mode that was supposed to be implemented is called Boss Rush. In this dungeon you would fight one boss after another in consecutive rooms and pray to Umbasa that you could make it out alive. Such an experience sounds almost too difficult to comprehend and, though the feature as such is missing, some tomb prospectors have found boss monsters casually roaming the labyrinth halls. Watch your back!
CD Projekt Red has become synonymous with accomplished open world games and The Witcher 3 solidified this reputation. The game is immersive, beautiful to behold, and tells the story of Geralt as the player sees fit. The characters you meet make this journey come to life and naturally there are a few that were scripted, but didn't make the cut.
One such character is Hierarch Hemmelfart (lol), who would have been a high-ranking member of the Church Or Eternal Fire and would have been “manipulated by Tanja.” Another is Hvitr, who would have been a mentally ill albino from Skellige, and would have factored largely into the main mission on the island. The last is Iorveth, the elf in charge of the squirrel commando in The Witcher 2, who was supposed to appear in Triss’ basement playing his signature flute tune.
The Resident Evil series is famous for its creative enemy designs. From Nemesis to William Birkin, these games are always finding new ways to shock and terrify players. Resident Evil 4 carries on this tradition and introduces horrors such as the Las Plagas parasite and Regenerators. Sadly, there were a few enemies that didn't make it into the game.
There was supposed to be a foe in the castle section known as Black Fog, but it was cut due to technical issues. Black Fog would eventually reincarnate as Uroboros in Resident Evil 5. There was also the parasite woman, a frightful creature bound in a straightjacket with arms that could grow to freakish lengths. Finally, there was Hookman and the Living Doll, who both appeared in the E3 demo, as well as the unfinished ideas of “Lurching Man” and “Electric Man.”
Metroid Prime reinvented the Metroid series in a way that no one anticipated. Samus’ adventure through the jungles and caves of Tallon IV was a riveting experience, and this was greatly due to the game’s exceptional level and enemy design. There are a few iconic bosses, however, that didn't make it into the game and their inclusion would have made Metroid Prime a serious nostalgia trip.
Most notable of these are Kraid and Mother Brain. Kraid’s level was well into development when it was cut. Retro Studios decided his inclusion was not integral to the Metroid Prime story and did not want to push deadlines. Mother Brain didn't make it past the concept stage, but was potentially going to occupy the impact crater and be magically enhanced by Phazon. The team also considered including the Omega Metroid through a system link with Metroid Fusion, but this idea was ultimately dropped.
Super Mario 64 is one of the most beloved games of all time. Its soundtrack and design are the stuff of legend and it plays beautifully to this day. Gamers have explored every inch of it and each stage is burned into our memories.
As such, can you imagine a world where there 32 stages instead of 15? This was the original plan that Iwata and Miyamoto had for the game, but this clearly proved too ambitious. The two developers also envisioned co-op for the game. Mario and Luigi would explore the castle together, going into spilt screen when they were apart and having the screens merge when they were together. It was a great idea, but one that was prevented by the technical limitations of the console.
Rapture was built so that the most world’s brilliant minds could have an escape and live free of society’s limiting mould. Sadly, their utopic dream turned into a nightmare with the discovery of Adam, a highly addictive substance that allowed for incredible genetic mutations. Into this world you are thrown and you have no choice but to discover the truth about yourself and this frightful city.
Rapture is full of danger and Bioshock’s developers wanted to give us one more tool to manage it. Original drafts of the game included an atmospheric pressure system with high, medium and low settings. Each setting would activate certain effects, such as flames shooting farther under low pressure and canisters being more volatile under high pressure. The feature was scrapped because it was too difficult to visually covey the changes in the air.
Final Fantasy XV faced absurdly high expectations leading up to its release and met many of them with grace. The game was beautiful, had a fun battle system, and featured an intriguing open world. As one gets towards the latter half of the game. however, things became more streamlined and one can’t help but feel as though something is missing.
That something, it turns out, is a second continent. A glitch has been found that that allows players to explore all of Niflheim by foot, an area normally seen from the window of a train. Much of the map looks quite complete, while some parts of it are just featureless tundras. Whether this environment was cut from the original game or is waiting to be used for future DLC remains to be seen.
When you first visit the Nexus in Demon’s Souls, it’s impossible not to notice the broken Archstone on the stairs. Archstones lead you away from the hub world and into the games punishing levels, so having a broken one left players hopeful for a secret world, or potential DLC.
Sadly, the stone has remained broken. Lore wise, this makes sense. The Land Of The Giants is where the demon-spawning colourless fog first appeared and breaking the stone may have been an effort to slow or stop the fog’s progress. Logistically, the developers just didn’t have time to finish the level. Clever gamers have peaked into the game's files and have been able to examine the unfinished prototype of the Land Of The Giants. It looks to be a fortress in the midst of an icy plane and likely would have been a joyfully sadistic place to explore.
Amidst the side quests and dragon hunts, Skyrim tells a tale of deep political intrigue. The two factions are the Imperials and the Stormcloaks, and as the Dragonborn you can choose which side to support, and assist them in the civil war that ensues. This quest line was enjoyable, but its ending was rather anticlimactic, resulting in a dingy skirmish between about four or five members of each division.
This was not Bethesda’s original plan. They wanted a conflict that was dynamic and uncertain, one where you could lose battles if you weren't careful. They envisioned sieges for each hold in the game and a final battle that occurred where the player chose. They also imagined more scenes and dialogue between keys players in the conflict, and a mission where you could recruit giants to come to your aid.
Dead Space 3, though an enjoyable experience, was up to its eyeballs in missed opportunities. Ben Wanat, the creative director of Dead Space 3, stated in an interview that he wanted the story to be mainly about Isaac’s struggle with reality, and have moments that would both terrify players and leave them pondering. The game’s distributors, however, compromised this vision.
There was a fierce bartering process going on between EA executives and Dead Space’s creative team. The distributors wanted a game that featured co-op, micro-transactions and action heavy combat, features that were proven to sell. The developers, naturally, wanted to retain the game’s horror elements. Compromises were reached and the final product was very different from the Dead Space players expected. One can only imagine what might have been if the developers were allowed full creative control.
Shadow Of The Colossus is a game that thrives on its feeling of massive scope. You explore a vast, empty land whose only inhabitants are creatures more akin to mountains than beasts and you must slay each of them to bring back your lost love. Each of the 16 Colossi you face in the game offer unique and exhilarating experiences, but did you know there were originally going to be 48?
Fumito Ueda had lofty ambitions when he began this project and eventually cut his number down to 24. Even this proved too much and only 16 were included in the final game. The other eight Colossi were well along in development when they were abandoned and their designs look incredible. They resemble spiders, devils, and phoenixes, and would have made an epic game even grander. Their designs can be viewed in the game’s art book and wiki.
Metal Gear Solid 5 is a masterpiece and Hideo Kojima’s most accomplished game to date. The game’s visuals and mechanics are beautiful and engaging, and offer freedom in a way that few games ever have.
And yet, for all its accomplishments, this is a game that leaves may narrative threads untied. While the final twist is a complete sucker punch, one glaring question remains (SPOILERS AHEAD): whatever happened to Eli and the giant, bipedal nuclear weapon he stole? His conclusion is offered in chapter 51, a mission that was cut just before the game’s release, likely due to the tension between Kojima and Konami at the time. The MGS5 Collector’s Edition includes the play-by-play, concept art and cutscenes that goes with the cancelled mission and, needless to say, things get epic. It's a tragedy that we didn't get the ending Kojima originally envisioned.