9 Games That Spent the Longest Time in Development Hell

February 16, 2021

The old saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait.” Well, there are some video game players out there who know that this simply isn’t the case every time.

Some games take insane amounts of time to come out, and sometimes that wait just isn’t worth it. Naturally, there are times when it absolutely is, but it seems like it can be a real coin flip sometimes. 

As such, we will be taking a look at a bunch of games that took forever to come out! Did your highly anticipated game live up to the hype?

Shenmue III — 18 years

The Shenmue series has always been a bit on the odd, experimental side. The first two games in the series had a super in-depth simulation feel to them. As it turns out, however, video games aren’t hyper realistic in many ways for the sake of fun. Be that as it may, many fans enjoyed the Shenmue series for the gameplay, story, and characters.

Shenmue II released in 2001. Then the series disappeared until a Kickstarter campaign finally breathed some life into the long dead sequel. Fans clamored to see the adventure continue and finally got their wish in 2019.

This 18-year wait resulted in a game that was met with a lot of mixed feelings and none of them overly positive. Plus, the game chose to leave the story open to more sequels. This was rather than finally giving closure to players who had been waiting for so long.

Duke Nukem Forever — 15 years

Just to get it out of the way, this game wasn’t great. 

It definitely had the chance to be a great callback to the FPS games of the 1990s, but that clearly didn’t happen! Whereas games such as Wolfenstein: The New Order and DOOM 2016 took classic franchises and reinvented them for modernity, Duke Nukem Forever just kinda hung out in the ’90s. 

Development started in 1996, but the game didn’t come out until 2011. Atrocious humor, dated mechanics, and a basically nonexistent story were the results of a 15-year game development. That has never stopped being impressive.

Half-Life: Alyx — 13 years

While Half-Life: Alyx wasn’t technically in development for all that long, it did end an intense drought for Half-Life fans. Half-Life 2: Episode 2 was released in 2007 and ended on a pretty serious cliffhanger. After that, the series just disappeared for years, leaving fans desperate for any signs of life for Half-Life 3. 

By 2020, Half-Life 3 had reached meme status and the series had been cold for years. Then suddenly Half-Life: Alyx was a thing and gave fans a well-deserved return to the world of Black Mesa. But this time in VR!

Surely news of Portal 3 in VR will be announced any day now, right?

Diablo III — 11 years

Diablo II was definitely beloved by many players to such an extent that the developers know that Diablo III would have to be something special. That would be enough to put pressure on anyone, understandably. Apparently, however, the pressure was so intense that it would take 11 years of development before the game finally released in 2012.

As it has been well documented, Diablo III had a pretty messy launch. After all of that time, the game was basically unplayable for the entire first month of its life. That isn’t even bringing to light the issues with the widely disliked auction house at the time. While the developer, Blizzard, was able to turn Diablo III into the game that fans wanted after the fact, that release was rough.

The Last Guardian — 9 years

2005 saw the release of the now-classic game Shadow of the Colossus. That game was so incredible that the developer, Team Ico, was always going to have a rough time living up to it with their next game. The pressure of that may have set in, as their next game, The Last Guardian, took nine whole years to develop, before it released in 2016.

Of course, The Last Guardian was never going to live up to Colossus, even after over a decade between them. The game that fans finally got still had that same Team Ico charm and unique gameplay decisions. However, it just wasn’t what many people were into in 2016. 

Cyberpunk 2077 — 8 years

Considering that Cyberpunk 2077 was announced way back in 2012 and released in late 2020, it definitely belongs here. Work on the game reportedly began in 2012, but it didn’t actually enter full development until 2016, after The Witcher III: Wild Hunt and all of the DLC for that game had been shipped. It could be said that announcing a title years before real development even starts isn’t the best move.

Exactly what happened during the development of Cyberpunk 2077 is a story that has yet to be fully told. However, given the controversy of its release, with so many bugs that it was pulled from the PlayStation Store, it will most definitely be the topic of discussion for the foreseeable future.

L.A. Noire — 7 years

L.A. Noire is a detective game from Team Bondi that took an odd amount of time to develop. It began development in 2004, but didn’t release until 2011. This seven-year stretch may have been due to the facial technology used, which in fairness was quite advanced for that time.

Although, a few harsh horror stories of troubled development have leaked out in the time since the game’s release. In any case, however, L.A. Noire was still a reasonably good detective game.

Alan Wake — 6 years

This cult classic horror thriller was Remedy Entertainment’s follow-up the Max Payne games. It was a totally different game with a wildly different tone, which was exciting for the studio. As such, they began development on the game in 2004, with an announcement following in 2005. In the five years that followed, Alan Wake went through a lot of conceptual changes until the game finally shipped in 2010. Following the six-year development, it received a good amount of acclaim and cultivated a decent following.

Considering that Alan Wake received a huge follow-up in Remedy’s most recent game Control, a sequel may be in the works over a decade later.

Resident Evil 4 — 6 years

The development of Resident Evil 4 is actually pretty interesting. Not only did one of the most beloved entries of the Resident Evil series come from it, but it also resulted in an entirely different series being created. 

Originally, Resident Evil 4 was going to follow a new character named Tony Redgrave. This character would be a wildly different cop than that of Leon S. Kennedy, Chris Redfield, and Jill Valentine. Redgrave would be fully clad in a red-and-black outfit, and carry magical melee weapons to style on the Umbrella monsters. 

As you may have guessed, that idea wasn’t in line with Resident Evil. However, it was a good idea. Tony Redgrave became known as “Dante,” and the Devil May Cry series was born.

Following that, the Resident Evil 4 team had to start all over. They then began experimenting with an over-the-shoulder camera position and a more action-oriented approach. Following a six-year development, Resident Evil 4 finally emerged and took the world by storm in 2005.

Which game have you waited the longest for that was worth the wait? Which long-in-development game was the biggest disappointment? Tell us in the comments below!

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