Avatar Sports [Xbox 360 – Prototype]

Avatar Sports was a sports game in development at Rare Ltd. in 2007 / 2008 before Kinect development started. It used an unpublished motion controller that can be compared to the Wii Remote. Little is known about this title apart from the use of Microsoft’s Avatars and the inclusion of tennis. Development was halted when the motion controller was abandoned and first Kinect/Natal prototypes emerged. Rare then started to create their Kinect Sports, released in november 2010.


Wicked Surfing [GBC – Cancelled]

Wicked Surfing is a cancelled sport game that was in development in 1999 / 2000 by RUNANDGUN! / Cave Barn and it would have been published by Interplay for the GameBoy Color. As we can read from a short preview on IGN, in the game you would have been able to use 5 playable characters to do various surf-tricks in 2 different modes: Thrash Mode (timed competition for points) and Contest Mode (tournament against other surfers). The team that was working on Wicked Surfing was small (1 programmer, 1 artist and 1 musician), but the graphic was really good for a GameBoy Color, with an isometric view and a nice palette. Sadly Interplay was in some economic issues at the time (in 2001 it was acquired by Titus Interactive) and they decided to never pay Runandgun! to finish the game, even if it was almost complete.

Thanks a lot to Jeremy for his help to preserve more screens of their lost game!



Super Mario Spikers [Wii – Cancelled]

Super Mario Spikers is a cancelled volleyball/wrestling hybrid game, which was being developed by Next Level Games; the makers of Gamecube title, Super Mario Strikers, and its follow-up, Mario Strikers: Charged. It was planned to be developed for the Nintendo Wii, but never made it far past the initial phases of conceptualisation.

In 2007, Mario Strikers: Charged was released on the Nintendo Wii and was met with both a positive reception and commercial success. Pleased with Next Level’s work, Nintendo allowed the developer a larger budget to tackle its next project with; as well as a greater level of creative freedom with their characters.

A former artist at Next Level Games spoke to us about the project:

“It was a wrestling/volleyball hybrid with a game show slant. It was never released and was financed as more of a reward to Next Level for doing such a great job on MSC”

The core development team at NLG didn’t begin fully working on Spikers until 2007, but the company’s artists had already been drafting new ideas for future Mario sports games throughout 2006, alongside work on Charged. Concept artists worked intermittently on the project until Strikers: Charged was nearing completion. It was around the end of the 2006, that Next Level’s heads settled on their new direction from early renders created in September.

Towards the very start of this project, the developer went back and forth on various names for the game. Its initially proposed title was simply ‘Mario Volleyball’; we assume to associate it with Nintendo’s other Mario sports titles at the time, such as Mario Golf and Tennis.

Although the game would eventually evolve into a hybrid of wrestling and volleyball, in the beginning, it started off solely as a relatively simplistic volleyball title with Mario characters. It was as more employees began to transitioning into Mario Volleyball that its mechanics and ideas became more fleshed out and the decision was made to add the twist of wrestling, among other things.

Once the project had begun to shift further and further from the realms of standard volleyball, the team opted to rename it ‘Super Mario Spikers’; a clear reference to their previous Mario sports productions. The significance of Next Level Games adding wrestling to one of their games like this will not be lost on those thoroughly versed in their back catalogue. Between 2004 and 2005, they were developing a WWE game with sci-fi and fantasy elements called ‘WWE Titans: Parts Unknown’.

An anonymous contributor close to the Spikers project described this game’s influence on it:

“Between the contact sport part of Strikers and some of the work that was done a couple of years before that on an unreleased wrestling game, it came as a pretty natural progression”

The wrestling mechanics drew upon NLG’s experiences with the title, which was a more stylised, cartoonish version of WWE to begin with. We have been fortunate enough to recover some of the animations made for the wrestling moves in Mario Spikers, thanks to Refurs, who discovered them in a reel put together by a former Next Level animator.

As we can see here, the combat system incorporated special moves made up of established wrestling maneuvers. For instance, in one clip, we can see a Yoshi performing a pile-driver attack. In another, Waluigi stomps on Mario’s stomach, who is grounded, laying on his back.

Unlike the Strikers games, which played out almost exclusively in a selection of large football stadiums set around the Mario universe, Mario Spikers had a slightly more varied collection of environments proposed for it.

In one of the level concepts, we can see a huge wrestling arena, the setting of a match between Mario and Wario. The massive crowds are populated by smaller Mario characters, including birdos, shy guys and the piantas from Super Mario Sunshine.

On the other side of the spectrum, some of the stages put forward took place in comparatively smaller areas and took inspiration from TV game show sets.

Each one of these was planned to sport its own unique environmental gimmicks, such a carnival wheel which would introduce random effects into play based upon where it landed.

Ultimately, Super Mario Spikers was never greenlit by publisher, Nintendo. The project was pitched to the company’s higher ups, but was declined because it was felt that certain aspects of its premise clashed with the company’s code of honour. This information comes to us from a trusted source, who was intimately involved with the project.

“It was a Japanese honor thing”

Work on Spikers ceased altogether in 2007 and Next Level Games instead went on to develop other Nintendo projects, including Punch-Out!! and a Metroid 3DS prototype. It is possible that a very early, playable prototype of the game was created for Next Level’s pitch, although any images of one have yet to be found.





DOAX: Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball [Beta – Xbox]

DOAX is a title most people don’t take very seriously, and I guess that’s fair in a way. Regardless of the nature/content of the game, I was curious to find out if there had been any interesting changes during the course of its development. While browsing the image archives of such sites as, I stumbled across a few screenshots that depict early versions of certain items, etc.

Anyone who is familiar with the interface of the retail version of DOAX should instantly notice slight differences in the look of these early menus. It isn’t incredibly unlike the ones we have now, but the icons for the items/bikinis appear to be 2D as opposed to the 3D rotating models that appear in both the icon view and the main window of the final. The names for most of the items are quite different from what we see in the final game as well, not to mention sold at a drastically reduced rate than we are used to now (the devs must’ve had a VIP membership at Zack Island). For example, the “camisole” bikini is shown in one screenshot, and is listed at $900. Certainly a more realistic price than the released version (in a twisted way), as this same bikini is sold as “Ariel” in the final at a whopping $80,000… although, assuming that the Zack Island currency is based on yen, then the former price would have been a bit silly.

Anyway, it seems like at this stage of the game the developers were simply labeling the bikinis by type or style. Maybe they were cheaper just to make testing easier, or maybe there really wasn’t much of a reason at all. An entirely unused item can be seen in one screenshot, labeled as “cat ears.” Interesting that this was intended to be a separate accessory, because ultimately the devs instead included them as additional pieces to specific bikinis. In other words, they cannot be worn unless the player equips their character with a bikini like the “raccoon.” Regardless of this fact, the original cat ears accessory still remains unused because the color and exact texture is not found for ears as an addition on any bikini.

So, it’s safe to say we got shafted with the released version of DOAX, right?! Nah, just joking… it really isn’t much different.

Article by Trebla Yevrah



Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater [Beta – Playstation]

This is the beta for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. There were very big differences from the beta to the final game. Some levels are heavily edited from their final versions, and some levels didn’t make it at all. In the character select screen, the characters (save for Bucky Lasek) are very unchanged from their final versions. Chad Muska is used as placeholder for some of the characters.

The School is the first level in the beta. There are some differences, like the fact that the rooftop is blocked by fans, and that the pool area is also very changed. Instead of collecting 1 secret tape for each level, there are multiple secret tapes to be found in each level. The “Bonus 500” and the “Bonus 200” point symbols are now just plain rings.

Thanks to Christopher Mauro for the contribution!

Some more details about the early prototype version of Tony Hawks were shared with us by Teetha Mundo:

“Based on the information from the source, a forum post from 1998, these screenshots are from a Pre-Tony build, or a build that was shown to Tony Hawk.

This build features one of the first original skateboarders in the game, being built a month or two after the Apocalypse-Build.  There’s actually a hologram of Bruce Willis in one of the levels, it’s the same model from the Apocalypse game.  In some of the screenshots you can see early versions of existing levels or even levels that didn’t make it to the final release. The skater and skateboard model still exists in the games files up to Tony Hawk‘s Pro Skater 2.”

Here is footage of some levels that didn’t make it:

Downhill: This level didn’t make the final cut because it looked too similar to a level in the arcade game, “Top Skater”.

Classic Concrete: This level didn’t make it because it was just a physics test, to see how the skater model reacted to terrain like grass, dirt, etc.

Suburbia: It’s unclear why this level didn’t make it. Some say that it was an early version of the San Francisco level, And I definitely see similarities. But for the most part, it doesn’t look anything like it.

Freeway: This was probably taken out because it was boring and didn’t have many things to trick off of. I think some of the level was used in the second level of Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX, like the grindable steel girder and the porta-potties.

Chris also recorded many videos from beta and test levels:

Recently rewatched the didyouknowgaming video about the tony hawk pro skater series and they really skimmed over a lot of the content that was cut. Such things like the (inaccessible) test level, freeway map, downhill map and more. I decided to play the betas myself and see what I could do to try and get into the test level without a cheat device. Well I succeeded. I took the betas, mixed certain build files together and rebuilt the rom (and can play it on hardware as of yesterday so yay for this) and realized I had forced the test level to be a selectable stage.

Heres the levels (excluding Suburbia) that I recorded for Tony Hawk’s beta. The title says “MIXED BETA” because it’s not the original build. The 2 betas that are online I mixed together in some ways so it’s not truly the original rom, but all the stages are in tact and all stages are from the original builds (again except Suburbia which was overwritten by the test level).