There are all kinds of reasons why games got delayed, from a lack of resources on the development side to corporate politics on the publisher side. Nobody wants to play a bad or unfinished game, but we still can't help but feel a tinge of disappointment when a game we are looking forward to gets pushed beyond its original release date even if we know it is typically for the best. That said, when game delays start stretching into years past when they were originally supposed to come out, there is often more going on behind the scenes than just a need for additional polish-- and it's usually not good news.
As the title of this list indicates, however, things aren't going to be all doom and gloom here. We've dug up an equal number of examples of games that got hung up in development for a protracted period and ended up being worth the wait as well as games that were massive disappointments. It should also be noted that not all of our "not worth the wait" entries are necessarily bad games, just that they didn't end up living up to the expectations that their years of hype set us up for.
26 Not Worth The Wait: Spore
Will Wright's place in the pantheon of legendary video game designers is firmly cemented, as he is the brains behind SimCity and The Sims. In fact, it's only someone with Wright's stature that could have his as-of-yet final video game release be something as monumentally disappointment as Spore and still not have anyone question his legacy.
Spore is nothing if not ambitious, and it's certainly fun to mess around with... for a little while. But it quickly becomes apparent that it never quite achieved what it set out to achieve from a technical or artistic standpoint, and what was left behind to make up for that fact is gameplay that is extremely simplistic and repetitive.
25 Worth The Wait: Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
Sometimes, a game is in development for so long that the original platform it was in development for is retired before the game is finished. Such was the case with Eternal Darkness, which began life as a Nintendo 64 game before developer Silicon Knights realized it wouldn't be done soon enough and they instead decided it should be a launch game for the GameCube... though that also proved too ambitious of a deadline.
When ED finally hit stores in June 2002, it wasn't a huge seller but received high acclaim from critics and gamers alike, remaining one of the most-requested games from that era for the HD remaster treatment.
24 Not Worth The Wait: Daikatana
What is it about FPSs from industry legends that seem to have a tendency to go so badly? After being one of the key creative forces behind such iconic titles as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake, John Romero left id Software in the mid-'90s to form his own company (Ion Storm) and work on something with which he finally had full creative control.
First announced in 1997, John Romero's Daikatana fell victim to a legendarily troubled development cycle and abysmal reviews post-launch. The game remains a cautionary tale for believing your own hype, letting ego get the best of you, and failing to acknowledge the other people who helped get you to where you are.
23 Worth The Wait: Alan Wake
Even though Finnish video game developer Remedy Entertainment has been around for 23 years, they've only managed to release seven unique video game titles in that time. Much of that has to do with how long the company took to make its two most well-known releases: Max Payne and Alan Wake, with those games alone taking a combined 12 years to create.
Alan Wake was first announced in 2005 for "next generation consoles," and wouldn't find its way to Xbox 360 until 2010 (with a PC version following a whole two years later). But it was released to rave reviews and numerous awards, including Time magazine calling it the best game of the year.
22 Not Worth The Wait: Perfect Dark Zero
Those who were around for the split between Nintendo and its longtime developer partner Rare remember what a huge shock it was. Even more surprising was that it was Microsoft who snatched up the UK-based developer, enlisting the team to hopefully do for the Xbox what they had done for the SNES and N64.
Having long-awaited sequel Perfect Dark Zero as an Xbox 360 launch game was extremely exciting, and expectations were sky high after years of delays that pushed the game from one console to the next. Sadly, PDZ ended up being one of the biggest disappointments of the 360's launch lineup, and the franchise has never recovered.
21 Worth The Wait: Fallout 3
Bethesda is taking a lot of flak these days, as is the Fallout series, and rightfully so. But people wouldn't be so hard on the company or disappointed in the current state of Fallout if both hadn't set such a high bar with the release of Fallout 3.
Van Buren, the code-name given to what was originally intended to be the third Fallout game, was shut down in 2003 after about five years of development. Shortly after, Bethesda acquired the rights to the series and started their Fallout 3 from scratch shortly after. While some old-school Fallout/Wasteland fans felt Fallout 3 strayed perhaps too far from its lineage, the game is otherwise considered a modern classic.
20 Not Worth The Wait: Too Human
With a game like Eternal Darkness under its belt, not to mention the classic RPG Blood Omen and the well-received GameCube remake of Metal Gear Solid, Silicon Knights should be a company that is remembered fondly by gamers. But it wasn't just the tendency of founder Denis Dyack to go to war with anyone who criticized his games that hurt the once-beloved company's reputation— it was major disappointments like X-Men: Destiny and Too Human.
Starting development as a PS1 game, Too Human finally hit the Xbox 360 in 2008 and still felt clunky and unfinished. Dyack vehemently defended his game in interviews and on message boards, but that ultimately just made things worse.
19 Worth The Wait: Resident Evil 4
It has been said that as many as four versions of Resident Evil 4 were thrown out before work started on the one that actually got released. After six years of false starts, RE4 finally hit the GameCube in 2004 and was almost unanimously hailed a masterpiece.
Considered one of the greatest and most influential video games ever made, RE4 completely changed third-person action games in particular, setting the mechanical and tonal template for future classics like Gears of War, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and The Last of Us. RE4 has since been ported to just about every platform that has been released in the last 15 years, and it never stops feeling fresh or exciting.
18 Not Worth The Wait: Galleon
Remember how we alluded to Tomb Raider's creator leaving the franchise behind to make an inferior copycat game? Well here is that game, the pirate adventure game Galleon by Tomb Raider and Lara Croft designer Toby Gard.
After growing justifiably frustrated with the growing creative interference by publisher Eidos— especially in the way they were amping up Lara's physical assets to market the series— Gard quit developer Core Design and left Lara behind in order to create a game he'd have full creative control over. After years of delays, Galleon for Xbox proved an instantly-forgotten dud, and Gard would eventually return to Tomb Raider to help guide the acclaimed 2006 reboot.
17 Worth The Wait: Owlboy
Following in the tradition of long-in-development labors of love created by small teams that throw back to the 8 and 16-bit gaming eras that also includes games like Fez, Cave Story, and Retro City Rampage, Owlboy's total development time stretched for nearly a decade and had to deal with astronomically high expectations upon its eventual release. Only Owlboy might very well be the best of that bunch.
Inspired by Super Mario Bros. 3— specifically, the mechanics of the Tanooki suit— Owlboy feels like a love letter to mid-'90s 2D platformers that will delight both gamers who grew up during that era and those that are just looking for an expertly-crafted Metroidvania-style adventure.
16 Not Worth The Wait: Wheelman
Say what you will about Vin Diesel, but the guy does seem to be a genuine gamer. He made a really strong video game debut via The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, still one of the best movie games ever made, which he both lent his voice and likeness to and also co-produced with his own Tigon Games.
With that, hopes were actually fairly high that Wheelman, the open-world driving/third-person action game that was to be his and Tigon's sophomore effort, might be better than the average forgettable GTA wannabe. After years of delays, Wheelman proved to among the worst of the forgettable GTA wannabes. Not surprisingly, the planned movie tie-in was cancelled.
15 Worth The Wait: Metal Gear Solid V
While the story behind Metal Gear Solid V— the high-profile clash between Konami and series creator Hideo Kojima that led to numerous delays and his eventual departure from the company he worked for for 30+ years— threatened to overshadow the game itself, it ended up being a fantastic "finale" to the acclaimed Metal Gear saga.
Eventually split up into two separate releases (prelude Ground Zeroes and main game Phantom Pain), MGSV was a bit divisive among fans in terms of how much it differed from previous installments, but most still found it to be one of the deepest, most-polished, and simply most fun stealth action games ever made.
14 Not Worth The Wait: APB: All Points Bulletin
There are several high-profile examples throughout video game history of people leaving behind a franchise they helped to create just as that franchise is taking off and trying to develop a new (similar) game. We'll be getting to Tomb Raider creator Toby Gard doing that later, but this entry is about Grand Theft Auto co-creator David Jones.
Just as GTAIII was about to hit, Jones left Rockstar to form his own company and create the ambitious APB, an open-world, online-only game that tried to beat GTA Online to the punch. After numerous delays and amassing over $100 million in development costs, APB was a complete disaster whose servers were shut down after only a year.
13 Worth The Wait: Persona 5
In the years that the Final Fantasy franchise was struggling a bit with maintaining its popularity, the Persona series began to come into its own and make a serious run at being the new go-to JRPG brand. Persona 3 and 4 were both highly celebrated by critics and gamers alike, and Persona 5 found itself one of the most anticipated games in the genre.
Initially announced for a 2014 launch, Persona 5 wouldn't see the light of day in Japan until 2016, following in the rest of the world a year later. Still, it was well worth the wait, as multiple outlets have called it one of the best JRPGs of all time.
12 Not Worth The Wait: Gran Turismo PSP
While a lot of people seem to retroactively dismiss the PlayStation Portable as a failure, that is an inaccurate assessment. The PSP sold a very impressive 80 million units in its lifespan, which is especially noteworthy given that its main competition was the juggernaut that was the Nintendo DS.
Most of Sony's major first-party franchises made an appearance in some form on the PSP, including Gran Turismo. First unveiled when the system itself was, GT for PSP would be delayed for over five years before it finally made its way to the handheld with way too many sacrifices like a lack of a career mode and not having any car upgrading options.
11 Worth The Wait: Diablo III (After Patches)
Blizzard is one of those companies that has a reputation for repeatedly delaying its games and taking years and years to put out a finished product. They are also one of the only developers with the clout to outright cancel seemingly promising games like StarCraft: Ghost after years of work and tons of money spent.
But that approach speaks for itself, as Blizzard has basically never released a bad game— though Diablo III almost became the company's first major disappointment when its launch was plagued with server issues and catastrophic glitches. Fortunately, after extensive patching, Diablo III soon worked out all the kinks and is now considered a stellar sequel to a great franchise.
10 Not Worth The Wait: Ultima IX: Ascension
Nothing can take away Ultima's role as one of the most groundbreaking video game franchises in history, especially for the RPG genre. That said, 1994's Ultima VIII was the last time the series was relevant— and that's where it should've retired gracefully.
Richard "Lord British" Garriot and Origin Systems struggled for years on Ultima IX, and finally seemed to just give up and push it out the door in an unfinished state. Worse than the total lack of polish was the game's story, which alienated longtime fans by completely ignoring much of the continuity of the series. It remains the final core installment of the series, ending a once-great franchise on the sourest of notes.
9 Worth The Wait: Final Fantasy XV
By just how much did Final Fantasy XV overshoot its original planned release window? It began life as a game called Final Fantasy Versus XIII, meaning it was going to come out alongside or shortly after FFXIII— which was released in 2009, by the way.
Square Enix's spectacularly overreaching ambition for the "Fabula Nova Chrystallis Final Fantasy" sub-series aside, the game that was eventually released as FFXV took some warming up to by longtime series fans, but those that gave it a chance and worked through the quirks found a satisfying and well-made action/RPG epic. Plus, it's likely all we'll have until the FFVII remake which will probably come out sometime in the mid-2020s...
8 Not Worth The Wait: The Last Guardian
Speaking of developers who released relatively few games, Sony's Team Ico was founded in 1997 and shuttered in 2011, having only completed Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and the PS3 collection of those two games.
When Team Ico called it quits, they had already been working on "Trico"— the game that would evolve into The Last Guardian— for four years and were seemingly getting nowhere with it. While Sony reassembled a new team overseen by some of the Team Ico folks who got Guardian shipped in late-2016, it felt like a game that was finished up by people who had long since stopped believing in it and were only there out of contractual obligations.
7 Worth The Wait: Prey
Prey is the kind of game that had such a long and tumultuous development period that you could write an entire book about all that went on from conception to the game's eventual launch. With development that can be traced as early as 1995, Prey wouldn't hit store shelves until 2006... and wouldn't you know it, its original developer was 3D Realms of Duke Nukem Forever "fame."
A lot of industry legends contributed to Prey throughout its troubled development cycle, people responsible for games like Doom, KOTOR, X-Men Legends, and of course, Duke Nukem 3D. That the game actually came together into a fun, innovative (if still rough around the edges) FPS is an ending nobody could've predicted.
6 Not Worth The Wait: Mighty No. 9
There was a lot of optimism around Kickstarter when it was first created, especially for what it could mean for video games. One of the earliest projects that had gamers excited for the possibilities of Kickstarter-backed games was Mighty No. 9 from Mega Man "father" Keiji Inafune, who sold it as the true successor to the classic Capcom franchise he helped to create and steer for many years.
Mighty No. 9 was pioneering in another way: It showed the world how disappointing a Kickstarter game could end up being. After numerous delays, Mighty finally showed up, looking nothing like its beautiful concept art and lacking the polish and heart that the best MM games had.
5 Worth The Wait: Kingdom Hearts III
Fourteen years. That is how long of a wait there was between Kingdom Hearts II and the recently-released Kingdom Hearts III. If it doesn't feel like it's been quite that long, that's because there were at least a half-dozen side games plus the various remasters of KH and KHII to keep people from noticing that KHIII was in production for so long that Pixar managed to release fourteen feature-length movies during its development cycle.
While a lot of people are still working their way through the game, the buzz has been almost universally positive so far. In fact, KHIII is the second-highest-rated game in the series according to Metacritic, only one point shy of KHII.
4 Not Worth The Wait: Aliens: Colonial Marines
As gamers, we're used to being mislead about what a game looks like prior to release. So it takes a pretty bad example of that to lead to people trying to file a class-action lawsuit for false advertising— but Aliens: Colonial Marines deserved it.
Colonial Marines looked amazing when it was first shown off by Gearbox Software in 2008, but the company got so wrapped up in Borderlands and Duke Nukem Forever that they ended up farming Marines out to other teams, not bothering to check up on their progress. Five years later, Marines was released and was barely a shadow of its former self, not even earning a 50% Metacritic score.
3 Worth The Wait: Team Fortress 2
The Team Fortress "franchise" has a fascinating history, beginning life as just a mod for Quake before being remade using the Half-Life engine and becoming an official Valve property in 1999. During what would become nearly a decade of development time, the last six years of which occurred with no new updates or information from Valve, Team Fortress 2 began to find itself a regular fixture on vaporware lists through the mid-2000s alongside Duke Nukem Forever.
Then, in 2007, the game re-emerged with a striking new cartoony art style, and was in gamer hands by the end of the year. 12 years later, TF2 continues to be officially updated and still has an active player base.
2 Not Worth The Wait: Duke Nukem Forever
Though it's now an eight-year-old game, Duke Nukem Forever still hasn't been out for as long as it was in development— it won't hit that milestone until 2025.
To be fair, you can tell that the groundwork is there for DNF to be an awesome and groundbreaking game, it just would've had to have been released about ten years earlier for it to be recognized as such. As it stands, all we're left with is a game that looks, plays, and has the sensibility of a 2001 game trying to make it in the 2010s, like a forty-something still trying to proudly rock their style and persona from high school.
1 Worth The Wait: The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
All of the modern Zelda games took years to develop, but only Breath of the Wild was actually the victim of multiple official delays, slipping from its original planned 2015 release as a Wii U exclusive all the way to being both a swan song for that system and a launch game for the Nintendo Switch in 2017.
Despite being the first mainline console Zelda game in six years, BotW was absolutely worth the wait and then some. Simultaneously giving the franchise a long-overdo modern overhaul while also throwing back to the series' roots, BotW racked up perfect scores from dozens of outlets and had many fans proclaiming it their new favorite Zelda game.