When I was younger I remember hearing about a Star Trek V game coming out for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Even though it was inspired by the worst film in the series, I still eagerly awaited the new adventure with the Enterprise crew. It would never come, at least not for the NES, and not officially. It was cancelled for undisclosed reasons, even though a good bit of work had been done on it; rumor has it the developer realized it might have bit off more than they could chew. At the time I was sad, and almost felt betrayed—if gets written about in a magazine, it better actually come out. Honestly, everybody involved was probably better off without the game coming out at the time; after finally playing the ROM many years later, I realized it should have been beamed somewhere far off in deep space.
What I didn’t know at the time is that games often go unfinished and unreleased, even ones that are nearing completion or are based on popular properties. The Star Trek V game is far from the only one. Even ones that were released could look vastly different from their Japanese originals. The relatively obscure NES game Kid Klown in Night Mayor World was originally released in Japan as Mickey Mouse III: Dream Balloon. It’s part of a larger series referred to as Crazy Castlethat burned through an ever-shifting assortment of licensed characters, including Mickey Mouse, Roger Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, Garfield, Woody Woodpecker and the Ghostbusters. None of the Disney versions were ever released in America due to licensing issues.
Occasionally promotional campaigns would already be under way for games that wound up being cancelled. We’d see screenshots in magazines like GamePro or Nintendo Power, even read about release dates, for games that were cancelled after those magazines went to press. The internet eventually made it easy for players to emulate old consoles and share ROMs of games, and a number of unfinished and unreleased old games found their way out into the world. As ethically dubious as emulation can be, at least it lets us experience some games that otherwise would have remained unknown and unplayable forever. Here are some of the most notable games that were developed for the NES but never officially released for the system at the time.