1. Codename Titan, the Unfinished Halo MMO
Nothing screams "of its time" quite like a big-budget MMO built around a major franchise. There was a time -- somewhere between 2005 and 2012 -- where anything and everything needed its own, massively multiplayer subscription fee sink. Halo, a series lauded for its first-person combat and tight controls, seemed like fertile ground for fetch quests and menial animal murder. Such was the thinking of Microsoft at the time.
The game was in development at Ensemble Studios, the legendary makers of Age of Empires, and the far less legendary Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds. Production lasted about two years until "some reorganization at Microsoft" redirected the team toward Halo Wars, a real-time strategy spin-off that actually did come out.
What work did go into the game produced something that looked a whole lot like World of Warcraft in space. Right down to the reams of hotkeys and the user interface. The exquisitely named former Ensemble employee, Dusty Monk, would later explain that the game had more in common with then-unreleased MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Dusty was able to share this because part of Microsoft's "reorganization" apparently included shutting Ensemble down entirely shortly after Halo Wars launched. When the storied developer came to its ignoble end a veritable flood (get it?) of screenshots, concept art, and details about the game were leaked. And while we may never get to see it in action, we'll always have the knowledge that a Halo game very nearly featured a class of vehicle called the "Aardvark."
2. Resident Evil "1.5," What Came Before the Classic
(if you know who made this brilliant mock-up, let us know!)
Resident Evil -- Biohazard, if you're nasty -- has gone through a lot. There have been terrible sequels, worse spinoffs, and the very worst movies. Somewhere in the middle of it all there were a few games that someone might classify as pretty good: great, even!
One such game was Resident Evil 2. It was a near-perfect refinement of its slow, steady, and unwieldy predecessor. And while it might not hold up as well today, it was perhaps the last truly great Resident Evil game before the over-the-shoulder switch birthed in Resident Evil 4.
Before there was a 2, however, there was a 1.5. Or rather, there was a different version of Resident Evil 2 that Capcom was so dissatisfied with that they scrapped the whole thing only to rebuild it from scratch. This is back when Capcom had money, and could afford to do that sort of thing.
What's interesting about 1.5, as the fans have taken to calling it, isn't that it never saw the light of day. It's that it did. Footage of the game was officially released on PlayStation demo discs, and later leaked by kind souls who were apparently not afraid of Japanese lawyers. Even later, fans managed to get actual code of the game, translated it, and released a playable version to the public that you can still find to this day. At least, provided that you're well-versed in the shady corners of the internet, and we trust that you are.