Metal Force (Duke Nukem)
Back in the late 80s, programmer Todd Replogle was working on his fourth title for Apogee Software, a side-scrolling action game called Metal Force. The hero’s name? Duke Nukem.
Apogee boss and producer Scott Miller was the one who suggested the character’s name as the title for the game and a legend was born.
Ninja Ryukenden & Shadow Warriors (Ninja Gaiden)
Ninja Gaiden‘s title story is a true mess:
The Tecmo series starring Ryu Hayabusa was originally known as Ninja Ryukenden (literally, Legend of the Ninja Dragon Sword) in its home country. The word “gaiden” in the North American -and worldwide- title means “side-story” in Japanese… yes, even though the Ninja Gaiden series is not a spinoff of any series. Oh, well.
The funny thing is that the original arcade version, the first two NES games and the Game Boy one were released, as PAL-region game owners will recall, as Shadow Warriors (not to be confused with the excellent Shadow Warrior).
Heroes (No More Heroes)
Suda51’s cult classic was going to be called simply Heroes (when it was in development, it was known as Project Heroes). The game was released in 2007 so the success of the TV series of the same name (first episode released in September 2006) might have had something to do with it.
Biohazard Gaiden & more (Resident Evil)
Every Resident Evil fan knows that the original name of the game (the way it’s known in Japan) is Biohazard. But there’s a lot more to be told.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was originally intended as a side-story or spin-off and had several working titles such as Biohazard Gaiden (not to be confused with the Game Boy Color game of the same name, released later on and which can be seen on the video), Biohazard 1.9/2.1, and Biohazard: Last Escape. The number 3 was added to the last title as Capcom wanted to release a final numbered RE game before moving on to the next-generation platforms.
Resident Evil – Code: Veronica was the one originally titled Biohazard 3! This was until Capcom decided to keep the numbered installments on the PlayStation. Still, RE 4 ended up being made for and released on the GameCube.
Street Fighter ’89 (Final Fight)
Final Fight, a “cousin” of the classic Street Fighter and set in the same universe, was apparently going to be called Street Fighter ’89 (the year it was released) but was allegedly changed after play testers criticized the game for using the name just for marketing purposes.
However, several Final Fight characters re-emerged as playable characters in later Street Fighter games, as well as in other competitive fighting games by Capcom. The original game is also included in Capcom Classics Collection.
Real Bout (Fatal Fury: King of Fighters)
Yes, you may not remember that the full title of the first game is Fatal Fury: King of Fighters.
But it also had the working title of Real Bout, which had several title drops through the backgrounds of the game’s stages. It would eventually be used as the title for a later sub-series as Real Bout Fatal Fury (video).
Covenant & more (Halo: Combat Evolved)
The first game in the acclaimed Halo series had many working titles, including Covenant and Red Shift and Monkey Nuts (?)
It’s also said that when Bungie co-founder Jason Jones wanted to tell his mother about the new game they were working on, it was changed to Blam!.
But legend has it that an anonymous Bungie employee wrote the magic word on the whiteboard for names and Halo it was from then on.
Nightmare in Derceto (Alone in the Dark)
The first game in the classic horror game series, released back in 1992, went through many working titles, including Nightmare in Derceto (the name of the mansion), Doom in Derceto (maybe too similar to another classic) and simply In the Dark.
Guess they chose the coolest one, huh?
Mortal Kombat 2 (Mortal Kombat X)
Mortal Kombat X was originally called Mortal Kombat 2? It was going to be done to keep in line with the previous installment (which was like a reboot and was simply titled Mortal Kombat). But guess it was going to be a mess, right?
Also, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was going to be called Mortal Kombat: Vengeance according to the game’s Concept Art Gallery.
Fighting Fantasy (Final Fantasy)
FF: Final Fantasy or Fighting Fantasy? Maybe both.
The classic RPG was originally going to be called Fighting Fantasy, but due to concerns over trademark conflicts with the role-playing game-book series of the same name, they had to change it a bit.
As the English word “final” was pretty famous in Japan, creator Hironobu Sakaguchi settled on that. According to him, any title that created the “FF” abbreviation would have suffice.
Intruder (Metal Gear)
The first ever Metal Gear had the working title Intruder. In fact, in the MSX2 version, pausing the game and typing “intruder” and then resuming play will increase the ammo capacity of every weapon to 999!
Also regarding the series:
Metal Gear Solid was originally titled, yes, Metal Gear 3 (back when it was being developed for the 3DO) until Hideo Kojima figured that not many people had played the original MSX2 games and thus, wanted to appeal to a larger audience.
It’s also said that during the early development of MGS2: Sons of Liberty, the game was actually titled MGS III (why skip a number?).
Peace Walker was going to be Metal Gear Solid 5. Unlike the previous PSP game in the series (Portable Ops), Peace Walker was directed by Kojima, who considers it to be just as important as the numbered console entries.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was first announced at E3 2009 as Metal Gear Solid: Rising.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was being developed under the codename Project Ogre, a reference to the shrapnel impale on Big Boss’s forehead, similar to the horn of an oni (supernatural ogre or troll in Japanese folklore).
Monsters (Zombies Ate My Neighbors)
Zombies Ate My Neighbors reached the beta stage with the title much-less original title Monsters but LucasArts demanded a more trademarkable title.
You’ll find some websites claiming that the manual includes a long list of rejected alternate titles for the game, which would be really cool. However, scans of the manual for both SNES and Sega Genesis show no list… Truth or myth?