While the recent last-minute delay of Shenmue 3 has some people disappointed, its far from the first title to need some extra time to polish up right before release. Case in point: These are 10 games delayed just before release (and how they turned out).
Metroid Prime 3
Given that Nintendo’s legendary developer Shigeru Miyamoto is credited with the quote “A delayed game is eventually good; a bad game is bad forever,” it’s little surprise Nintendo has delayed some titles even as they were within reach of a release.
This was the case for Metroid Prime 3. Initially slated for an Aug 20, 2007 release, the title was delayed by one week in July of that year.
Granted, it was one of the tamer delays the industry has ever seen – delays usually entail several months of extra waiting as opposed to seven measly days – but it was still surprising to see any sort of delay so close to a supposed release.
How it Turned Out: For all intents and purposes, the game turned out great and was an excellent addition to the Metroid Prime series.
Most critics and fans applauded it for its graphical fidelity and presentation, with IGN even naming it the best adventure game of 2007.
The only gripes came from the similarities it had with past entries. While it had a more action-packed approach compared to the previous two entries in the series, the game tended to blur together with the design and gameplay of Metroid Prime 1 and 2.
All the same, it was a title that was well worth the wait, even with an extra week tacked onto development time.
For better or worse, Crackdown 3 was the poster child for delays and development time extensions throughout most of the eighth console generation.
Originally announced in 2014, the game suffered several delays throughout its development cycle. This included a delay in August of 2017, which saw its release date postponed indefinitely from Nov. 7, 2017 to an undisclosed date in 2018.
It then suffered yet another delay in June of 2018, wherein it was delayed into February of 2019.
Even though it would eventually make this February release, fans ended up being skeptical of the game’s quality due to the endless string of delays, especially given the delays that fell so close to its initial releases.
How it Turned Out: Sadly, when Crackdown 3 finally found its way to gamers, the response was that it was generally lackluster.
Granted, it had plenty of high points and good features. The game played like past Crackdown titles but with more polish, and some of its open world design ideas mirrored titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in the best ways possible.
Overall though, it was just a solid open world action game, and given the lengthy development cycle it went through, many people were disappointed that they’d waited so long for such a middle-of-the-road title.
Days Gone was no stranger to delays during the late stages of its development cycle, and one of its last delays came in the eleventh hour.
Following a lengthy stretch of development starting in 2015, the PlayStation 4 exclusive was set for a Feb 2019 release until October of 2018 when the game was delayed to Apr 22, 2019.
It was a bummer for those who had been waiting for the game, but given its ambitious premise of allowing players to wander a post-zombie outbreak open world via motorcycle, it was understandable there would be technical kinks to work out.
Likewise, the game followed a string of successful PS4 exclusive releases by Sony’s developers, raising the bar for what Days Gone would have to achieve.
How it Turned Out: While the extra development time most likely contributed to a cleaner, less buggy experience overall, the game itself wasn’t quite the masterpiece it needed to be to stand toe-to-toe with Sony’s other exclusives.
Most of this was due to the design elements of the game. While the size and scope of Days Gone’s world were certainly impressive, traversing across it to do repetitive quests and side missions wore on players quickly.
This was worsened by the game’s length, which critics and players saw as padding to elongate the game’s runtime.
Still though, it managed to provide a solid enough open world action title for those who had the patience to wait out its final delay.
Helmed by Miyamoto himself, it’s not that shocking Pikmin 3 ended up seeing its fair share of delays, including one in the final stretch of its development.
One of the more highly anticipated releases for the Wii U, Pikmin 3 was originally slated for a launch near the Wii U’s launch in late winter/early spring of 2013.
However, it was then pushed back into late spring of 2013 and, shortly after entering the spring 2013 quarter, was pushed back again into a summer release window of July in Japan and Aug 4, 2013 for the west.
Miyamoto himself responded to the delays, saying games he works on tend to get delays and that there were really “two kinds of games: games that get delayed and then there’s games that sort of shift.”
How it Turned Out: Fortunately, the extra development time proved beneficial for the title. The game was technically sound and polished, with critics and fans praising it for its design, gameplay, and presentation.
Admittedly it did receive criticism for lacking mechanics that could be implemented via the Wii U touchpad like selecting individual Pikmin, but the feature was added in a subsequent update.
Gears of War 3
The conclusion to one of the Xbox 360’s most prolific franchises, Gears of War 3 was a title fans couldn’t wait to get their hands on when it suffered a sizable delay in the last leg of its development period.
Set for release in spring of Apr 5, 2011, anticipation for the end to the Gears trilogy was at a fever pitch in October of 2010 thanks to plenty of hype from Epic Games and its auteur developer Cliff Bleszinski.
The game seemed to be on track for release too, until Microsoft and Epic Games announced the title would be delayed into fall of 2011, eventually hitting store shelves on Sept. 20, 2011.
The reason given for this was, according to a Microsoft spokesperson, to make the title a “marque release for the holiday season,” though it certainly helped give Epic Games more breathing room to polish the title up in the process.
How it Turned Out: And polish it they did. The game garnered widespread acclaim from critics and fans across most every category from graphics and gameplay to its story and character writing.
It went on to garner strong sales and received best shooter and action game awards from several outlets, going down as one of the most lauded titles in the Xbox 360’s library.
Final Fantasy XV
Even though Final Fantasy XV suffered its fair share of delays over its 10 year development history, none stung worse than one which came right at the edge of its intended release.
Following a lengthy development period which included swapping out directors, changing the course of the game’s story and starting over from scratch on the title, things looked to have settled after the game had received a release date of Sept 30, 2016.
However, just one month out from this intended launch date, it was revealed that the game would be pushed back to a Nov 29, 2016 release date.
The reason given was that the team at Square Enix being led by game director Hajime Tabata needed more time to polish the game, especially in order to avoid a massive day one patch for the game.
How it Turned Out: Fortunately, this proved to be the right call. Upon release, Final Fantasy XV was technically sound and polished to a fine sheen, selling the scope and splendor one would expect from a title stuck in development for so long.
Admittedly, there were still issues – the story felt disjointed in places and the open world elements left several segments of the title feeling extraneous – but as a base experience, it was solid enough to please critics and fans alike.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Making a good first impression is crucial to new IPs, so most didn’t blame Guerrilla Games for delaying Horizon Zero Dawn as it entered the final stretch of its development cycle.
Originally intended for a 2016 release, the game was hotly anticipated not only by Sony faithfuls but by those eager to see a new property introduced in a time full of sequels and follow-ups to existing franchises.
It also marked the first departure Guerrilla Games had made from the Killzone franchise, leaving many to wonder if they had the chops to develop an original open world title outside of the storied first-person shooter franchise.
Given all of these expectations, it’s little wonder Guerrilla ended up delaying the game’s release in June of 2016, saying they would take more time to polish up the experience and launch it on Feb. 27, 2017 instead.
How it Turned Out: This ended up being a wise call. Upon release, Horizon Zero Dawn was heralded as a top of the line experience, falling comfortably in line with Sony’s other properties in terms of quality and scope.
The graphics brought the post-apocalyptic world of robots ruling a reforested world to life beautifully, while the gameplay left players engrossed in the experience for hours on end.
It likewise became one of the most promising new IPs to be introduced this generation, with many eagerly awaiting news on a potential sequel or follow-up since.
The Last of Us
Much like how Guerrilla Games wished to make the best first impression possible with Horizon Zero Dawn, Naughty Dog wished to make The Last of Us the best it could be before its eventual release.
First revealed in 2011 after two years of prior connecting and development, the game marked Naughty Dog’s first new IP since the launch of the Uncharted franchise in 2007.
Though similar in its aesthetic and character writing, the game would offer a grittier, darker experience that, according to the game’s marketing, would be something people “wouldn’t believe.”
Of course, living up to the expectations built up by this wasn’t easy, and shortly before its intended May 7, 2013 release it was delayed to June 14, 2013.
How it Turned Out: Needless to say, the game proved well worth the wait. Critics and fans heralded it as a masterpiece, pointing to its story and characters as a cut above and exemplary of what story-driven games should strive for.
That’s to say nothing of the gameplay or presentation, both of which stood shoulder to shoulder with the best titles of the generation as well as early offerings for the eighth generation of consoles.
As a result, The Last of Us cemented itself as one of the most prolific properties around, with the upcoming The Last of Us Part II remaining one of gaming’s most highly anticipated releases.
Kingdom Hearts 3
The wait for Kingdom Hearts 3 was a lengthy one, so when the news came from Tetsuya Nomura and his team at Square Enix that the game would be delayed shortly before its initial release, most weren’t too perturbed.
Following years of scant details and reveals after its 2013 reveal, Kingdom Hearts 3 received its first strict release window of late 2018 to heavy fanfare.
Excitement and anticipation were at an all-time high, especially given that a mainline entry hadn’t been seen since Kingdom Hearts 2 in 2005.
As June of 2018 rolled around and the release window approached, however, Nomura announced the game would be delayed into the next year with a new, firm release date of Jan. 29, 2019.
It was a rather minor delay to be sure, and some fans bemoaned the further delay of its arrival, but most accepted it as an opportunity for the game’s developers to hone the experience further.
How it Turned Out: And hone it they did. Upon release, Kingdom Hearts received generally positive reviews praising its story, presentation, and gameplay.
Though critics and fans alike still found flaws – namely in some repetitive horde fights and under-utilized level concepts – the game managed to become an early contender for game of the year and a fitting end to the popular franchise.
Another example of Naughty Dog taking time to polish their offerings to perfection, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End saw its release delayed just before it was intended to launch several times.
Though far from a new IP, the Uncharted series’ fourth entry had high expectations riding on it from the second it was announced.
Touted as the end to the saga of protagonist Nathan Drake, it would serve as a final bow by Naughty Dog and mark the end of their core focus being put on the franchise in the years to follow.
To that end, fans expected it to be the best Naughty Dog could offer, and Naughty Dog sought to deliver on these desires.
To do that though, they’d need time to polish the game, leading to a slew of delays that many times occurred when the game was within shouting distance of its release.
The last of these delays happened in March of 2016, wherein the game was delayed just one month out from its intended release.
How it Turned Out: Fortunately, all of these delays proved to be good for the game. Upon release, Uncharted 4 was considered by many to be the best entry in the series, blending the bombast and action of past titles with phenomenal character writing.
It now stands as one of the best PlayStation 4 exclusives to date, and has left fans of the series contented in a way few other series and franchises ever have.