2021 was a helluva year for games. Some of it good, most of it bad, and a handful of it truly disappointing, particularly around preserving older titles. Games deserve to be played in their entirety forever, regardless of when they came out, yet this year saw so many of them unceremoniously delisted by publishers uninterested in keeping up with the maintenance. Here are the games or franchises that were removed, delisted, pulled offline, and/or straight-up murdered throughout the year.
The first entry on the list also happens to be one of the earliest mentions of delisting. Developed by Borderlands maker Gearbox Software and released on May 3, 2016, the hero shooter MOBA Battleborn lived a short life despite having a diehard fanbase. Publisher 2K Games removed it from store shelves in November 2019, then shut down the servers entirely on January 31, 2021. The game is now totally unplayable, so it’s literally dead.
Developed by action game luminaries Ninja Theory, Bleeding Edge oozed cool when it dropped on March 24, 2020. Unfortunately, the game didn’t make it a full year until the studio ceased development on the project on January 28, 2021 to focus on other high-profile games, most notably Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2. It’s still playable on PC and Xbox, but don’t bother waiting for balance changes and/or map updates for this MOBA.
Forza Motorsport 7
As is customary for developer Turn 10 Studios’ Forza, the seventh entry in the simulation racing franchise was pulled from store shelves and Xbox Game Pass on September 15, 2021 because of expiring licenses for cars and tracks. While Forza 7 is supposedly still playable online, it’s a bummer to see a studio dedicated to churning out annual releases kill each previous entry year after year.
It’s ironic. Just when GTA Online receives this big-arse update with more story content, which also includes a new set of bangers, Rockstar Games is shutting down the game’s servers on PS3 and Xbox 360. This happened just yesterday! You can still play the main game’s story mode, but whatever character you might have had on that older console is gone. Because the game uses P2P servers, though, online functionality is still active thanks to a handful of people refusing to leave game lobbies.
Seven Xbox 360 Halo Games
Maybe this doesn’t count because they’re regulated to Xbox 360 only, but it sucks all the same for those who prefer that system or are unable to upgrade to newer hardware. And while it’s not happening until January 13, 2022, developer 343 Industries will either reduce or shut off the online services entirely for Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo 4, Halo: Reach, Halo: Spartan Assault, and Halo Wars. This shuttering doesn’t affect Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which is some consolation.
While I wasn’t the biggest fan of Jump Force, it’s disappointing to see this mega-mashup anime fighter get delisted so soon. Launched on February 15, 2019, Spike Chunsoft’s 3D brawler will no longer be purchasable starting February 7, 2022, while its online services get turned off on August 24, 2022. This sucks, especially considering just how many characters from Weekly Shonen Jump magazine were featured in the crossover fighter.
Three Little Big Planet Games
Media Molecule and Sumo Digital’s Little Big Planet franchise has had a rough 2021, with the 2008 classic being bombarded by heinous comments from hackers. The problem became so tenuous that despite being temporarily turned off and restored, publisher Sony deactivated the servers for the first three mainline Little Big Planet entries on September 13, 2021. The PS4 version of Little Big Planet 3 is apparently still active, but this cold and sudden deactivation is such a shame no matter how you look at it.
Metal Gear Solid 2, 3, and 5
This is an odd entry, as two were “temporarily removed” while one is seeing its servers shut down on older systems. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and 3: Snake Eater, and whatever collections that include them, are no longer purchasable due to issues with Konami’s use of historical archive footage in-game. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, on the other hand, is getting removed from PS3 and Xbox 360 store shelves on March 1, 2022, with Konami turning off the online services on May 31, 2022. With no timeframe for when MGS2 and MGS3 are coming back, it’s going to get even more complicated to understand the already convoluted storyline.
Five Need For Speed Games
Five games is a lot to kill at one time, but publishers don’t seem to bat an eye at the thought of erasing history. Case in point, EA killed Need For Speed: Carbon, Shift, Shift 2: Unleashed, The Run, and Undercover all at once in August. As you can guess, these titles have been removed from store shelves and saw their servers turned off, making them unplayable now.
How dumb is it that just when Xbox adds Skate 2 to its long list of backwards compatible games playable on Xbox Series X/S, here swoops in EA to swat the servers like former NBA pro Dikembe Mutombo going “Not in my house.” I love Skate 3‘s game feel much more, but there’s no denying just how pivotal the second entry was for the franchise. Despite there being a new Skate on the horizon, this still sucks, especially when Skate 2‘s servers were turned off a month after it became playable on newer harder.
Much like Little Big Planet’s hacking fiasco, Respawn Entertainment’s beloved mecha FPS Titanfall was hacked to shit for part of this year. It’s unclear if the hacking debacle is why EA is killing the game, and while the servers will remain active for the foreseeable future, those looking to buy or play it via subscription services will be out of luck starting on March 1, 2022. This bums me out, particularly because Respawn can’t make up its mind on making a Titanfall 3. So far, the answer is a vague “who knows.” Cool.
Super Mario Maker for Wii U
Maybe this was to be expected; the Wii U was a flop, after all. Still, it’s saddening to see Nintendo not only deliberately lock its older games behind subscription service paywalls, but also straight-up remove them from the eShop for inexplicable reasons. Super Mario Maker for Wii U is an example of the latter, with Nintendo pulling the game from store shelves on January 12, 2021 and making it no longer possible to upload courses to its online services as of March 31, 2021. Pour one out for Mario, everyone.
This might seem dramatic. Some of these games are playable in one way or another, whether it be single-player or with online access on another platform. But the problem is most of these games are just…gone. They’ve been removed or scrubbed off storefronts, sometimes rendered unplayable online, thereby becoming inaccessible to those who like older systems or only have access to them. This is not only a capitalistic trap, forcing people to buy new consoles on a regimented cycle. This is also erasure. For anyone to know where they’re going, they need to remember where they’ve been. Games as an artistic medium can’t advance if it doesn’t learn to reflect and honour its past, which is difficult when you retain little of it. It’s why it’s necessary to support grassroots campaigns — like The Made and Video Game History Foundation — dedicated to the task of game preservation.