A Whole New World
Metroid Dread is real. For those of us who have been obsessively following the Metroid franchise since the NES days, the name Metroid Dread means a lot. The fact that the game is not only real but actually releasing soon really turns the world upside down. If Metroid Dread, a game that was first seen in a leaked internal document back in 2005, can resurface after all these years, what else is still out there in the universe?
Now, we aren’t talking about stuff like Beyond Good & Evil 2, Duke Nukem Forever, or even EarthBound 64. Those games have all been publicly seen or even released after ages spent in development hell. No, we’re talking about games that were listed in a magazine at some point, or just names that nebulously floated around back in the old days. With Metroid Dread on the horizon, everything is back on the table, so let’s have some fun.
Let’s kick things off by sticking with the Metroid franchise. Before Metroid Dread was teased for the Nintendo DS and then disappeared for over a decade, Metroid went through a legendary hiatus following its iconic SNES release. Super Metroid on Super NES redefined what a 16-bit game could be, and while it didn’t hit the sales success of stuff like Donkey Kong Country, it was no slouch either. More importantly, it was a critical darling, and deservedly so. The game is an absolute masterpiece, and it continued the trend of the Metroid franchise sitting as one of Nintendo’s pillar franchises.
By the time it was released, there was one Metroid game on each one of Nintendo’s platforms.
Then the Nintendo 64 came to town, and it kicked off the revolution of 3D gaming. Super Mario 64 brought Mario into the 3rd dimension and basically taught the entire industry how 3D games should be made. Zelda 64 was announced pretty early on, and eventually became Ocarina of Time, another one of the most influential games of all time. Obviously, Metroid was next.
The first time I saw the name Metroid 64 was in the pages of GameFan magazine. It was in the back of their Virtual Boy issue, and they had a picture of Robotech 64 which looked absolutely incredible (turns out it was just concept art), and underneath it was a big list of upcoming Nintendo 64 games. When I read “Metroid 64” I about lost my mind. As a gigantic fan of the first three games in the franchise, I couldn’t wait to see what they did with it in 64 bits.
But it never surfaced. It’s said that Nintendo never got anywhere with the game because they couldn’t come up with a concept that could stand up to the quality of Super Metroid on the Nintendo 64, and while I believe that’s likely true, I also like to believe that game exists somewhere.
Now, if I’m right, there’s a better than even chance aspects of that game have already been reworked into other games. However, if my imagination is to be believed, I think Metroid 64 was going to be a 2D game.
This was more or less unheard of during this era, but I like to think Metroid 64 would have been the Nintendo 64’s answer to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. That being the case, I can’t help but feel that there’s some flavor of prototype in existence somewhere that’s chock full of unused Metroid concepts.
Part of me can’t help but feel that this is what morphed into what we saw when Nintendo showed off Metroid IV for Game Boy Advance. That game eventually became Metroid Fusion, but that early footage looks like a completely different game with completely different abilities on display.
Nintendo says it never got past the planning phase, but I’m not convinced. There’s something out there, I’m sure of it. Maybe someday we’ll actually see it.
Star Fox Grand Prix
There’s a long history of “credible” E3 leaks. Every year, someone leaks some sort of sure thing that’s guaranteed to be there. And in all fairness, a lot of these things turn out to be true. Just look at Mario + Rabbids. That crossover didn’t make any sense, and a lot of people didn’t believe it could be possible, but then there it was.
Then in 2018, another “credible” leak surfaced about a game called StarFox Grand Prix. The game was theoretically exactly what it sounded like. A racing game featuring the StarFox characters.
Now this one’s kind of weird because the current rumor surrounding it is that it was never actually real to begin with. The theory states that the title was intentionally leaked by Nintendo to try and find out who had been leaking information from inside. A valiant effort to be sure, but who knows if it actually paid off? One thing’s for sure though, that leak absolutely got out.
Of course, proving Nintendo intended Star Fox Grand Prix as a trap is just about as impossible as proving the game actually existed in the first place. Unless you work at Nintendo, there’s no real way to confirm any of it, so all we’re left with is speculation.
The thing is, this is kind of an awesome idea. Racing games are great, but how cool would it be to have tracks set in outer space with free flying and blasters abound? I’d buy it in a heartbeat.
Possibly considered to be the original vaporware, SwordQuest: Airworld was supposed to cap off the SwordQuest series of games for the Atari 2600. These games, (which were pretty awful, by the way) were tied into a comic book series that launched with the games and a crazy contest where you could win real treasure like a jewel encrusted sword and a crown.
Given the state of Atari when these were coming out, and the continued drop in sales from entry to entry, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Airworld never came out. In fact, Waterworld is one of the more expensive Atari 2600 games out there since it never even saw a retail release and was available by mail order only.
Rumors have been floating around for decades that there’s a functional prototype out there somewhere for this game. Its lead programmer has debunked its existence, but stranger things have happened for sure, especially in the world of Atari 2600 ROMs. These kinds of things pop up all the time, and with such a dedicated fan community still surrounding the platform, if Airworld ever truly does surface, you can bet it’ll be preserved and let loose for all to suffer through.
The Contra franchise has seen some pretty big ups and downs over the years. With big missteps like Contra Force on NES and C: The Contra Adventure on PlayStation, some felt that the brand had more than occasionally lost its overall sense of direction. Of course the same could be said of now, what with the last entry in the series being the absolutely dreadful Contra: Rogue Corps, but the less said about that game the better.
Where Contra redeemed itself big time in the eyes of many fans (like me) was when they let WayForward take the reins and make Contra 4 for the Nintendo DS. This game played like a direct sequel to Contra III: The Alien Wars, and was a master class on how to make a Contra game on every single level.
The music was great, they introduced new mechanics like the grappling hook and the weapon stacking system (okay, that one’s only sort of real, but it was never used to this effect before), it even intelligently used both screens which was super cool at the time (though it’s made it nearly impossible to properly port the game to modern systems.)
For fans, proper 2D Contra was back on the table, and they couldn’t be happier. With all the success its sister series Castlevania had been having on Nintendo handhelds, it was reasonable to hope that the franchise would follow suit on the 3DS. Unfortunately, also like Castlevania, the original DS was where the party more or less ended.
While Castlevania did see an entry in the reboot Lords of Shadow line for 3DS, the franchise proper had been all but killed off by then. Contra fans still had a glimmer of hope though, as listings at various retailers popped up for something called Contra 3DS.
The game was confirmed by Konami multiple times as a product that was in the works, but as far as I know, nothing was ever shown of the project. Not even so much as a screen shot. What this game ultimately was going to be remains a mystery, but who knows? Konami has been doing a suspicious amount of franchise legacy care lately, so maybe the core concept of the title is still kicking around somewhere. Will it ever resurface? I certainly hope so.
Oh boy, this game. This game concept, I mean. Chrono Break is the name of the theoretical third entry in the Chrono series, following Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross. The rumor mill surrounding this game is what dreams are made of, and of all the rumored games in the universe, this is the one I want to be real the most. As far as I know, it’s never actually been officially acknowledged by Square, but that hasn’t stopped a tremendous amount of speculation and even full blown fan projects from surfacing over the years.
Signs do point to the game having existed on some level at some point. Square did trademark the name a couple of times dating back to 2001, and developer interviews have alluded to a third potential game in the franchise, though clearly nothing public ever came of it.
This one though, this feels like Metroid Fread. If any of the games mentioned above were to happen, it would be incredibly cool. But if Chrono Break suddenly surfaced, it would, well, break me.
Chrono Trigger is a beloved game by a huge number of fans. It’s one of the most charming RPGs ever made, and it still holds up today. Its pseudo sequel Chrono Cross is considerably less loved, but still well respected. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its fans, but it was Chrono Trigger that put that name on the map, and that's the game people would love to see a followup to.
As for what the game could be, that’s an incredibly difficult question to answer. Elements of the original concept were supposedly reworked into Final Fantasy Dimensions II, and Trigger’s creators have become some of the biggest names in Japanese gaming culture. Reassembling that team would be a challenge to say the least.
But if they could, the potential is near limitless. Akira Toriyama’s art has arguably never been more popular around the world. When Chrono Trigger hit, Dragon Ball hadn’t yet taken off internationally yet, and the Dragon Quest franchise was basically only big in Japan. But now, those brands are household names (moreso DBZ than Dragon Quest), and proper traditional turn based JRPGs are the kinds of games people are positively begging for. There’s also been an incredible resurgence of pixel art/hand drawn animation in games, so it’s not hard to images a new Chrono games being staggeringly beautiful if put into the right hands.
For a game whose namesake is all about potential, it’s painful to see it lie dormant for so very long.
But ever since E3 2021 happened and those words “Metroid Dread” appeared across my screen, anything is possible. And who knows, maybe Square Enix will find a team worthy of the job and make another magic moment like that happen in my lifetime. I mean, look at that screenshot above. Fans have made some incredible looking mock ups of what the game could eventually be.
Again, things have truly changed now that Metroid Dread exists. This kind of stuff has happened before. There is a third Kid Icarus game. Duke Nukem Forever is a physical game that exists (for better or worse). Nintendo released StarFox 2. So whenever I feel like a project is truly dead, or a sequel is impossible, I think back to those other games, and I try to remind myself, anything is possible. And that's the magic of being a video game fanatic, I guess.
What long lost titles would you like to see revived? Let us know!