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5 Games That Endured Development Hell (& Still Survived)



“It's all smooth sailing from here,” said one developer to their army of subordinates, oblivious to the underlying fact that behind the ambition and hunger idled a metropolis of molehills, all capable of burying the hopes of ever launching a successful game. “This time next year — we'll have it done, ready to go gold…”

Over a decade later that game finally released to the public. And it sucked. Big time. But did we continue to praise the developer and their devotion anyway? Of course we did. Despite being in development hell for fourteen years, Duke Nukem Forever (you probably expected that one) did actually surface. Granted, it was plastered in dirt and ash — but it was playable at least. And that's just one of the many games that have managed to emerge from the darkest depths of the gaming chambers. Stare a little deeper into the looking glass and you'll find a whole army of them. But for the time being, we'll just hit you with these five.


5. Prey (2006)

1995 — 2006

Prey (2006) - Original Game Trailer

If you thought 3D Realms butchering the heck out of Duke Nukem Forever for fourteen years straight was a one-off sort of deal — then you were sorely mistaken. Remember Prey (not to be mistaken with Bethesda's 2017 game), the game that released back in 2006? Well, that's another victim of 3D Realms god-awful development strategies.

Starting work in 1995, 3D Realms aimed to build Prey with their newly found in-house game engine, with Tom Hall heading the project. However, after Hall left the company to establish Ion Storms, 3D Realms looked to assemble a new team to bring the project to fulfilment. Fast-forward a decade and Prey went through several iterations until it finally launched in 2006. And it was generally well-received overall, though not enough to green light a sequel. So, was it worth the effort poured into it? You decide.


4. Team Fortress 2

1998 — 2007

Old Team Fortress 2 trailer

What started off as a mod for Quake eventually spiralled into a standalone project, where the likes of Valve would carry it through to its final platform in 2007. Before that happened, of course, Team Fortress 2 first had to go through wave after wave of development hell, with players often citing the game as vaporware, a type of software that neither released nor officially cancelled, therefore idled in limbo indefinitely.

First being showcased at E3 1999, Team Fortress 2 was put under the hammer using Valve's in-house GoldSrc engine. However, after a lengthy delay, the game was rendered for a new local Valve engine, Source. After that, the studio kept the game under wraps for a further six years, even working on other titles between such as Half-Life 2 and other Steam projects. But after a complete switch in direction and compete new cartoon-ish look, Team Fortress 2 finally released in 2007. Phew.


3. Mother 3

1994 — 2006

Mother 3 JPN Trailer

Originally pinned for the SNES, Japan-exclusive Mother 3 was set to be the grand follow-up title that would be adored for generations to come. However, after encountering complications with the Nintendo 64's capabilities, Mother 3 was moved to the 64DD, a bolt-on that expanded on all the N64's key features. Sadly, this didn't bode well with the studio after the 64DD crashed in sales, and was therefore moved for a third time.

Before long, developer Brownie Brown officially pulled the plug on Mother 3, stating that the 3D model for the game was “overcomplex”, and that resources needed to be poured into the newly-built GameCube console. However, despite the game being scrapped, the Mother fan base continued to clutch at straws for years to come, eventually making Brownie Brown reconsider the future of the franchise. Come 2007, to our amazement, Mother 3 launched on Game Boy Advance to one incredibly thankful following. Ker-ching!


2. L.A. Noire

2004 — 2011

LA Noire: Gameplay Video Trailer

Rockstar North sure aimed high with L.A. Noire. With seven years of development under their belts, the devoted team poured quite an impressive cash flow into its pioneering facial motion capture technology, effectively fast tracking the detective title into the spotlight. And while it did pay off in the end — it sure was a lengthy cruise through the fiery depths of development hell before serving up its fruits of labour.

Although L.A. Noire launched with all the bells and whistles one would expect from a triple-A studio, it did face its fair share of difficulties along the way — if only financially. With a whopping $50 million budget, L.A. Noire quickly went down as not only one of the longest video games ever to develop — but also one of the most expensive. But, like all Rockstar titles, it paid off in interest. And then some.


1. Diablo III

2001 — 2012

Diablo III Official Trailer

Sitting just beneath 3D Realms and their disastrous launch of Duke Nukem Forever is Blizzard's beloved Diablo III, which spent just shy of eleven years being strewn together before finally releasing in 2012. And while the reception of the game was generally well-received, the Blizzard folks, on the other hand, spent a little too long dwelling on living up to its legacy. Hence the eleven years stuck in development.

Diablo III first entered the early stages of development in 2001, shortly after the release of the second instalment. Following on from that, Blizzard spent a solid seven years revising the build of the game, preparing to reveal it at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational. Another four years later and the game finally released, totalling eleven messy years of iterations, roster shifts and in-house game engines. So, not quite the soft launch Blizzard probably hoped for back in 2001. And yet — nothing compared to 3D Realms, that's for sure. Poor Duke.

So, what games did we miss? Have you poured hours into any of the above? What would you change? Let us know over on our socials here.


All done here? Looking for more content? You could always take a look at one of these lists:

5 Games That Are Famous For Rage Quitting

5 Survival Horror Games That Deserve Way More Credit

Jord is acting Team Leader at If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.