In our last two installments, we explored a slew of major franchises with promising games abandoned before they ever saw the light of day. From the enigmatic ambition of Peter Molyneux’s Fable franchise, to the never realised depths of the Pirates of the Caribbean games, it’s clear that even the most popular franchise often suffer huge losses. This time, we’re focusing in on something a little bit different. In the wake of successful 3D platformers like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon on the Playstation, and Super Mario 64 and Conker’s Bad Fur Day on the Nintendo 64, developers of the early 2000’s began to focus on crafting bright, colourful platformers featuring a wide array of cute characters. Some franchises had more success than others, but throughout this period, there were several 3D platform games with great ideas and a lot of heart, but not enough to keep them from the chopping block. What follows is a collection of our favourites, each with their own unique appeal.
Super Mario 128
This title is probably the most disappointing of the lot, because it was initially planned as a direct sequel to the hugely successful Super Mario 64, one of the best platformers, and indeed one of the best games Nintendo have ever made. Super Mario 128 was in high demand following the original, and it appears that sequel production began as early as 1997. Rumours and misinformation about the planned game have floated for years, but as near as we can tell, it never went much further than a tech demo and minor experimentations. The only existing footage of Super Mario 128 is test footage featuring several dozen Mario models rolling around a 3D globe, picking up and throwing poxes as well as pushing each other. It features several different, experimental stages, all in early prototype form, and functions largely as a demonstration of the Nintendo Gamecube’s power. The functions demonstrated were eventually recycled for future Nintendo titles like Pikmin and Super Mario Galaxy, and news on the sequel went dead. In 2007, Shigeru Miyamoto brushed the initial tech demo off as a mere experiment, and all hope was lost for the scrapped sequel.
Image Credit: Gamespot
Developed by Midway Games, this promising platformer followed a humanoid playing card as he attempted to rise through the ranks of the Royal Family. There’s very little information about the game, only that it began development around 2000, and featured bright, colourful graphics and neat puzzles. Wandering through a fully rendered 3D world, the protagonist would have been accompanied by a warrior and a wizard as they defeated the evil Jack of Spades and his minions, mastering new combat techniques and solving complex puzzles in order to advance. There would have been several weapons and spells to collect, as well as fun bonus levels and rescue missions to free the card kingdom from the wrath of evil. The few screenshots that are available of the game are highly reminiscent of delightful platformer Kingsley, as well as shades of the Alice in Wonderland-themed level of Kingdom Hearts. It’s unknown why development of the game ceased, but what little glimpses we got of it were exciting, and showed off a unique world that we really haven’t seen before or since.
YoYo was a game that sought to emulate the success of the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, and featured a monkey named YoYo as its protagonist. Developed by little known studio, Magic Art, it’s unknown how far the game got before it was axed, or the reasons for its cancellation. What little evidence remains of the game are screenshots and a short walkthrough of a single, desert-themed level. Yoyo makes for an intriguing protagonist, with unique movement and a powerful slapping attack. The level, which seems quite similar to Scorch from Spyro: Gateway to Glimmer and Hang’em High from Crash Bandicoot: Warped, showcased side-scrolling vertical climbs, carpet-riding and star-shaped gems to collect. The level design seems neat and largely polished. If one were to speculate on the reasons for cancellation, it might have been that YoYo was deemed too similar to Spyro and Crash, with very familiar mechanics and unoriginal worlds. This doesn’t stop us from seeing the potential for the game, or speculating on the success it could have had as another delightful platformer.
Donkey Kong Racing
Diddy Kong Racing is one of the greatest racing games of all time. This is fact, and not up for debate. Donkey Kong Racing would have no doubt continued the trend, if the tech demo is anything to go by. The footage shows off much of the same humour as the original game, and featured underwater races, elephant riding, bug riding and a few cool locations. One of the awesome ideas floated around during production was that not only could your character ride a variety of animals, but they would also be able to change between animals during races, with each animal type providing some advantage. After Microsoft bought developers, Rare, the team behind the project changed, lead to new iterations of the initial prototype. This included the new team trying out more of an adventure-based game, to an open world game that eventually grew so different to the original idea that it became a new game called Sabreman Stampede. Development ran into several roadblocks, but it was Rare’s acquisition by Microsoft that led to the cancellation of the game, as it changed the entire process and scope of the project. With development initially planned for the Nintendo 64, then moving to the Xbox, then eventually the Xbox 360, it’s no wonder that the constant changes to the game led to its eventual collapse.
Recently, alpha footage of Crash Landed has surfaced on YouTube, giving a glimpse into what could have been. The prototype features several snapshots of production, giving glimpses into its bright, cartoony style. The game appeared to be going for an open world style of gameplay, with the demo taking place in vague Island-like environments. Concept art further showed off new lands to explore, including locations in and around the Wumpa Islands. New gameplay options would have included the ability to grab objects and combine them to create weapons and to take full advantage of your environment. Planned sometime around 2009, Crash Landed aimed to return Crash Bandicoot back to its roots in a semi-reboot that highlighted the humour of the series. Largely, the game was about erasing the memory of the awful duo of Crash of the Titans and Mind over Mutant. Unfortunately, development was cancelled in early 2010, as Activision decided to focus on Prototype 2. Since its cancellation, Sony were rumoured to have acquired the rights to the franchise back from Activision, but that turned out not to be the case. At least we’ve still got the N. Sane Trilogy to look forward to though.
Crash Team Racing 2010
As stated previously, Diddy Kong Racing is the greatest racing game of all time. As that’s the case, the original Crash Team Racing will have to settle for a very close second place. With a wonderful cast of characters from across the Crash Bandicoot franchise, it featured colourful, bright levels each with varied themes. Bosses from the series made a return in wonderfully hectic boss races, including personal favourites Ripper Roo and Pinstripe. Crash Team Racing 2010 would have continued the series in a similar vein, with updated animations, new additions to the already brilliant roster and a whole range of unique power-ups. While cynics might point out similarities between Crash Team Racing and the more popular Mario Kart series, CTR has its own original appeal, and is one of the few Mario Kart clones to develop its own personality. Leaked footage of the game depicts a gorgeous looking, almost finished 3D world with modifiable vehicles and original characters like Land Shark. This game was being developed alongside Crash Landed. The cancellation of of Landed presumably led to the cancellation of this title along with it, leaving a trail of disappointment in its wake. Crash Team Racing 2010 looked brilliant, and it could have been something special.
Conker: Gettin’ Medieval
This is one of the more recent cancelled games to have been revealed, with developers Rare unveiling the plans for the game in 2015. Gettin’ Medieval would have featured a new player character named Gregg the Grim Reaper, though the foul-mouthed squirrel protagonist of the original game would have made a guest appearance. It seems a bit strange that Rare would even attempt to replace Conker given the popularity and endurance of the character, and, y’know, the fact that the series is named after him. Nevertheless, Gettin’ Medieval was an interesting prospect, with a focus on team-based multiplayer and siege warfare-style gameplay. Set in the same world of Conker, it would have featured the characters in a medieval setting, and several pieces of concept art were produced for the game. Unfortunately, despite the exciting sounding pitch, and much time spend in development, the game never got further than this stage, with some neat character art the only remaining piece of the game. Many have speculated about the reasons for cancellation, but not much reason was given. Since Gettin’ Medieval was cancelled, Conker has yet to make a return, bar for a guest appearance in the Xbox One’s shuttered sandbox title, Project Spark.
These are just some of the few brilliant 3D platform games that were cancelled despite their potential. With 3D platformers becoming somewhat of a dying art, it would be awesome to see any of these franchises make their grand return in the future. In our last instalment, we’re going to be exploring some more obscure, weird and wonderful games that were gone before their time. What games were you most excited to play? Join the conversation on our Twitter or Facebook!