Dead Island 2
Image Source: Dambuster Studios

10 Games We Want to See Survive Development Hell Like Dead Island 2

If Dead Island 2 can make it out alive, these can too!

It’s amazing to think that Dead Island 2 is finally upon us. Having been announced in 2014, it’s changed hands three separate times but publisher Deep Silver never gave up on the game. Even though it was starting to look like a proper release would never happen, it’s finally here and has managed to escape from the depths of “development hell”. Regardless of the quality of the final release, Deep Silver and Dambuster Studios deserve commendation for seeing it through to the finish line with this project.

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Many games simply never get to that finish line. Some linger in development hell, only being brought up rarely in conversations as some kind of myth or urban legend of gaming. It’s always a joy to see games escape from this, though, even if the final product isn’t everything it could’ve been. Here are 10 games that we would like to see follow in Dead Island 2’s footsteps and push past development hell.

Beyond Good & Evil 2

beyond good & evil 2 key art
Image Source: Ubisoft

Let’s just get this one out of the way right now, because it’s the obvious inclusion. When it comes to vaporware, there’s almost no game that jumps to mind as quickly as Beyond Good & Evil 2. A game first teased in 2008, officially announced in 2016, showcased in 2017 and 2018… and it still hasn’t even entered full production yet.

Ever since the faint glimmer of hope we got out of the game at previous E3 shows, it’s been nothing but bad news for Beyond Good & Evil 2. Series creator Michel Ancel left the company in 2020, the game broke the Guinness World Record for the longest development period for a video game (unthinkably beating the infamous Duke Nukem Forever), and it’s since come under labor investigations as a result of concerns over the well-being of its team. With this, managing director Guillaume Carmona and senior creative director Jean-Marc Geffroy have departed, and the game’s hopes seem bleaker than ever.

It appears to have become far too overscoped but still lacking in a clear vision, and Ubisoft is at a point where it simply can’t cancel the game because too much money has already been dumped into it. It would be a great story to see this actually reach the finish line, and it’d be a greater story if it ends up being a good game. Expectations are sky-high, however, given what it has to live up to, so… here’s hoping.

Skull and Bones

Image Source: Ubisoft

At this point, it would be good for Skull and Bones to get out of development hell so that the hellish cycle of the game’s creation can finally come to a close. While Beyond Good & Evil 2 has had its own trouble with development, Skull & Bones has been arguably just as much of a problem for Ubisoft, evidenced by the fact that it’s already been officially delayed a whopping six times.

This title has been a massive, widely publicized mess for Ubisoft, who has already dumped copious amounts of money – at least $120 million, to be exact – into a game where no one knows what they’re doing. Several creative directors have come and gone like a revolving door, each one restarting its development from the ground up, but the overall game doesn’t seem to have any kind of direction despite all of these resources being invested into it. It probably would’ve been completely canceled long ago had it not been for Ubisoft Singapore’s agreement with the government that would earn them resources and funds to continue operating as a developer.

Thus, being a seemingly uncancellable title, Ubisoft has tried to push forward but continuously trod water. What started as a mere Assassin’s Creed expansion is becoming a massive example of the “too many cooks in the kitchen” ideology. It’s currently set for release in a vague 2023-2024 release window, one that it may also struggle to properly hit. For now, we only hope that Skull and Bones can actually make it out alive so that this nightmare of a development period can be properly completed.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake

prince of persia remake art
Image Source: Ubisoft

I’m sensing a pattern here: it sounds like Ubisoft has a lot of games it should be releasing. It hasn’t exactly been the best of times for the publisher lately, and it hits a little harder when you realize just how many unreleased games Ubisoft has been sitting on, with no signs of an upcoming release.

The remake of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was announced back at the Ubisoft Forward 2020 event, and it was set to bring the franchise back in a big way. Not long before its initially planned release of Jan. 21, 2021, though, Ubisoft delayed the project to March 18 in response to criticism over the initial trailer. Since then, it’s been removed from Ubisoft’s release schedule and delayed indefinitely, while also changing hands and seeing Ubisoft Montreal now head its development.

Ubisoft is insisting at this point that the remake has not been abandoned, though pre-orders have been canceled as a result of the game not having a release date. Even still, we hardly heard anything about it in 2022 other than that the development team still has a pulse. It would be great to see it push through development hell, though, for the sake of giving this franchise the return it deserves.

In The Valley of Gods

In The Valley of Gods game desert environment
Image Source: Valve/Campo Santo

Perhaps the smallest title on this list, In The Valley of Gods carried so much promise. Campo Santo’s planned second game after 2016’s Firewatch, the developer’s progress would be halted by its acquisition from Valve, who wanted the team to help on then-upcoming projects like Half-Life Alyx.

While the game is currently said to be “on hold”, there are some greater concerns that it may be vaporware. Developers at Campo Santo have removed mentions of the title from their Twitter descriptions, the company has scrubbed all mentions of it from its website, and the officially uploaded trailer has since been set to private.

It has not been officially canceled, however, and the game’s individual website and Steam page remain active. Of course, Steam lists the release date as December 2029… surely, that’s just a placeholder. Regardless, perhaps it’s simply on the back burner as Campo Santo assists Valve with other projects. Hopefully, this promising first-person adventure game finds a way to release at some point.

Deep Down

deep down gameplay
Image Source: Capcom

Hey, remember this one? Probably not, right? Announced way back at the PlayStation 4’s debut in 2013, Deep Down was Capcom’s planned free-to-play take on the Soulslike formula, offering single-player and four-player co-op gameplay in a dungeon crawler style. After this event, though, Capcom went quiet on the project, never showing it off again.

Yet, the publisher continues to extend its trademark, despite the fact that producer Yoshinori Ono departed from Capcom in 2020. Still, while it looks like the project has not officially been canceled, no one seems to be doing anything with it. Even PlayStation’s former chairman Shawn Layden was asked what happened to the game, and could only respond that he had “no idea”.

Ultimately, Deep Down seems to exist somewhere, but precisely where is anyone’s guess. It appeared to be in a near-complete state before being shelved, so Capcom could possibly bring it out at any time. It would be interesting to see this game, which was announced so early in the PlayStation 4’s life, make a return in the next generation to finally close the book of its development hell.

Payday 3

Image Source: Prime Matter

You might not even know it, but yes, Payday 3 is indeed a game that is happening. With how much content Payday 2 has continued to receive, it might be forgotten that a third entry in the series was announced back in 2017. A little over a year later, though, co-developer Starbreeze Studios had to undergo restructuring following the commercial failure of Overkill’s The Walking Dead. With this financial difficulty, concerns arose that Starbreeze wouldn’t survive long enough to see Payday 3 through.

Thankfully, the team was able to properly restructure, but this process was not fully completed until December 2019. All of this clearly meant that Payday 3’s development was not a massive priority, and the COVID pandemic coming shortly after had to have further impeded the overall progress of the game. It wasn’t until 2021 that the team was able to sign a deal with Koch Media to assist in publishing it.

Better news, Payday 3 is set for a release at some point in 2023. Thus, we may see the development hell period finally come to an end sometime soon. Here’s hoping this sequel offers up the same chaotic fun that Payday 2 was able to provide players with.

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2

vampire the masquerade bloodlines 2 key art
Image Source: Paradox Interactive

If you’re looking for a game whose development has been extremely messy, let’s have a refresher on this one. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 was first teased in 2019 with an expected release in March 2020. Since then, it’s been delayed numerous times, to the point where it currently doesn’t have a release date whatsoever. It’d be one thing if the developers simply went quiet on the game, but instead, there’s been a bevy of drama.

Chris Avellone, a writer on the project, would see his contributions removed in 2020 following allegations of sexual assault, while lead narrative designer Brian Mitsoda, creative director Ka’ai Cluney, and senior narrative designer Cara Ellison exited from the project. Already losing a lot of key players, publisher Paradox Interactive later announced that developer Hardsuit Labs would no longer be working on the title, with a new development team set to take over. Who is that development team, you may ask? That’s a great question that still doesn’t have an answer because Paradox still hasn’t revealed who it is.

It’s a miracle a game like this persists on, and Paradox’s CEO Fredrik Wester insists that the project is still in development. Wester even said a 2023 release is “absolutely not impossible”, which indicates that a solid amount of progress is being made, so much so that we don’t know who the developer making that progress is but hey, it’s progress! Hopefully, the fruits of that labor can be shared with the rest of us sometime soon, and this messy development can be put squarely in the rearview mirror.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl

Image Source: GSC Game World

This is the rare example on this list of a game affected by world-based conditions, and a title that otherwise probably would’ve been out by now. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl, first announced in 2010 and canceled in 2012, was revived in 2018 and prominently featured at Xbox’s E3 2021 show. It even received a release date of Dec. 8, 2022 at one point, and it appeared the game was almost ready to finally end up in the hands of gamers.

Unfortunately, life got in the way; developer GSC Game World, based in Kyiv, Ukraine, was obviously rocked by the Russia-Ukraine war that forced the team to flee for the Czech Republic. Naturally, development had to be suspended in the wake of this, as the team had to make sure that they, along with their families and loved ones, could live safely. One of the former developers at the studio was also killed in action fighting in the war, which is obviously going to rock the team and slow down development.

It appears as though GSC has been able to continue working on it, though, enough that it’s still set for a release sometime in 2023. Given all that the team has had to endure, it would be wonderful to see this game make it out of this long development cycle. We sure hope that GSC can have the game out in 2023, while also keeping its employees and their families safe in this trying time. 

Metroid Prime 4

Image Source: Nintendo

Metroid Prime 4 has had a rather long saga of silence compared to the typical Nintendo game, only made more bearable by Nintendo’s recent attention paid to the series. This entry was announced early in the Switch’s life – at E3 2017, to be exact – but the only news we’ve heard about it since then was its switch in developers, with Retro Studios returning to the helm in 2019.

The upside for Nintendo has been its recent commitment to the franchise, with 2017’s Metroid: Samus Returns and 2021’s Metroid Dread bringing the franchise back in a fantastic way. 2023 also saw the Prime sub-series make a return with Metroid Prime Remastered, and this re-release may be the biggest sign that Prime 4’s vaporware saga may be over soon.

Rumors of this remaster existed for years before its eventual release, with reports noting that the game had been finished for some time but that Nintendo was sitting on it until Metroid Prime 4 was closer to being ready. This was further supported by its surprise release, so maybe Prime 4 might come sooner than we think. Given the incredible quality of the series and massive anticipation, it will almost certainly be a wonderful time when Prime 4 breaks from development hell.

Perfect Dark

Image Source: Xbox Game Studios

Quite frankly, you can put a bunch of other first-party Xbox titles in this spot. With a bevy of games like Avowed, Everwild, Fable, The Outer Worlds 2, and Hellblade 2 taking their good old time to release, any one of them could fill this list. Fable is a particularly strong choice as well, but in this case, we’re gonna go with Perfect Dark.

It was a pleasant surprise when a Perfect Dark reboot was announced at The Game Awards in 2020, but beyond a general silence ever since, what little news we have gotten hasn’t been all that nice to hear about. Set to be the debut title from new Xbox team The Initiative (with Crystal Dynamics co-developing), this supposed “AAAA” game has seen large amounts of developers and key senior staff members exit the company, with a lack of creative autonomy and exceedingly slow-paced development being the biggest issues.

Worse, it sounds like the game is not close to being finished, which means the wait is going to feel even longer from this point forward. Even so, seeing this game exit development hell could be a big moment for Xbox and for the franchise. Given the beloved status of the classic Perfect Dark and the more polarizing reception to Perfect Dark Zero, a game like this would be perfect for putting the franchise back on the map.


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Author
Matt Anderson
Matt has been a freelance writer at Twinfinite for a year, and he's been in the games media industry for three years. He typically covers topics related to console news and industry trends for the site, and he has a major interest in first-party console games. Matt also has a Bachelor’s in Screenwriting from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, is an avid content creator on YouTube and TikTok, and legend has it he once asked Super Smash Bros. Melee to be his Prom date.