A lot of Arcade Games fall under this, especially older ones. While a good fraction of these games have had ports, some ports range anywhere from being good but not one-to-one to outright Porting Disasters. The only other legal option in these cases is to acquire the original hardware, which is costly and not designed for consumer purchase; 100 USD for a board is considered cheap. Even then you'll still need a way of playing them, whether it be a cabinet (easily available but still expensive) or a "supergun" device to bypass the need for a cabinet. Finally, with the advent of the Japan-exclusive NESiCAxLive digital distribution platform, which is getting popular at arcades, it may become harder if not outright impossible for arcade fans to acquire games through any means even if they have the money, leaving travelling to Japan the only option.
Every Fire Emblem game before the seventh is virtually impossible to get outside of Japan, since the entire franchise before the seventh installment was a case of No Export for You, as was New Mystery of the Emblem, a remake of the third game (likely due to Shadow Dragon's poor reception outside Japan), which made international releases skip to the next game in the series, Fire Emblem Awakening. Unsurprisingly, the series is very frequently pirated and subjected to Fan Translation.
Demon's Crest. The game has made no appearances on the Wii's Virtual Console or any other digital distribution system. Second hand copies are easy enough to find on Ebay...if you're American. PAL copies are considerably rarer.
The Neverhood has been MIA since the mid-Nineties and copies are quite scarce. When it's easier to get the soundtrack CD to a computer game than the game itself, there is no hope for humanity. Or so it seemed, but this statement has mentioned that a rerelease on mobile platforms is in the works... if current rights holder Electronic Arts collaborates, which has not been the case. EA apparently doesn't recognize the profits of releasing the Cult Classic on Steam either.
While EarthBound was rescued from its stint in limbo, its sequel MOTHER 3 still hasn't ever been released internationally. As time passes, it's quickly slipping the same way as EarthBound did, with prices on it hiking ever further up.
MOTHER 1 unfortunately suffers the same fate as MOTHER 3. But unlike MOTHER 3, this game was fully translated but was shelved before its release. Luckily, the prototype appeared on eBay one day and someone bought it and dumped it into a rom under the name EarthBound Zero.
Virtually every Licensed Game, due to the publishers and/or developers either no longer existing or no longer having the licenses. Thankfully, there's been some aversions to this in recent years, in particular when it comes to still-existing major publishers:
Ubisoft rereleased (and in one case, remade) some of Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games on the XBLA and the Virtual Console, despite not having anything to do with them besides currently holding the TMNT video game license. Unfortunately, we're back to square one as of January 26, 2012. The TMNT NES game is no longer available on Virtual Console.
A few other licensed games have been rereleased on the Japanese Virtual Console. The most surprising example: Transformers Convoy No Nazo.
The Lunar games, remakes, and extra Feelies. The first two games were released on the Sega CD, which made them tough to come by in the first place. Lunar: Silver Star Story, is actually not too difficult to find, but Lunar: Eternal Blue certainly is (it doesn't help that Eternal Blue had low sales). The remake of Eternal Blue is also a hard find because it was released during the twilight of the PlayStation era. All remakes of Silver Star Story are not hard to acquire, though.
It helps that the first game has more games/remarks in addition to the PSX one: Lunar Legend on the GBA, The PSP remake. It should he noted that working designs games were made with rather small production runs.
Conker's Bad Fur Day, natch. Given its mature rating in a cutesy setting and barely any promotion (and it was released during the Nintendo64 twilight-in fact, it was released the same year the GameCube would debut), it was hard to get then, and it sure as hell is even harder to get now (except for the Xbox remake, which is extremely easy to find).
Despite releasing Banjo-Kazooie and Perfect Dark on XBLA, Microsoft has not released Conker's Bad Fur Day or Live and Reloaded on XBLA for some reason. To be fair, Rare cited that they didn't want to re-release it because re-releasing it three times would be too much (though that doesn't explain games like Blast Corps that don't have other rights issues or acknowledge that Live and Reloaded was vastly inferior to the original). Plus, Live and Reloaded can be played on a backwards-compatible 360 as it is.
Much of Rare's classic game library was produced for Nintendo consoles, but since they were bought out by Microsoft none of them can appear on the Virtual Console, except for the Donkey Kong Country series, whose characters were always owned by Nintendo. A few of these, including Banjo-Kazooie and Perfect Dark, have been remade for the Xbox LIVE Arcade, but even this appears unlikely for their NES-era games like Battletoads, due to unresolved questions of what rights were held by publishers like Acclaim, Milton-Bradley and Tradewest.
While the inclusion of Jetpak as a playable mini-game (and you have to play it if you want to complete the game, so removing it isn't an option) is the most likely, it could be because Rareware's N64 games need a certain code to run on Virtual Console that Rareware may have access to, but Nintendo may not. This is evident when people have tried to inject Virtual Console files with RO Ms of Rareware's N64 games to no or very little success. Also, if one is porting a game to a new platform, it generally helps to have the source code (many a Porting Disaster results from the original game's source code being lost or incomplete). Since Rare developed the games, only they would have the source code.
As is GoldenEye, due to the unique situation of negotiating royalties between Nintendo (original publisher), Microsoft (Rare's parent company), and Activision (owners of the James Bond game license) - which resulted in Activision just straight-up remaking it.
Strangely, the Donkey Kong Country games were mysteriously delisted from the Virtual Console in November 2012, and Nintendo gave no reason as to why. They own all the rights to the games and new Donkey Kong games continue to be produced for their consoles, so it's certainly not licensing issues. Whatever the reason, it's likely also why the Donkey Kong Land series is a no-show on the 3DS's Virtual Console.
Past-generation Pokémon titles. Finding used copies isn't difficult at all, given Pokémon's status, but Nintendo has unusually never shown any inclination to rerelease any past game. This is probably one of the rare cases where no-one minds this at all - ease of finding secondhand copies notwithstanding, given how more Pokémon are added with each generation, and the constant fixes and revisions to the game mechanics with each new generation, rereleasing the games in their original form would have been somewhat unfeasible. Instead, remakes ensued.
Note that if one does obtain a copy of Gold/Silver/Crystal, there's a good chance that the game will be unable to retain its save data, due to the fact that the backup RAM and the real-time clock share a battery, which the latter eats up within about six years.note (Since they were released in the early 2000s, this means that copies have already started to end up with dead batteries.) This also applies to Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald to a lesser extent, especially if the bug that causes the battery to die prematurely isn't fixed by FireRed/LeafGreen or the GameCube games. The games store their data on flash memory (which doesn't require power to retain its data), so they can still be played without the save feature failing to work properly, but the cartridge still uses a battery to power the real-time clock, so difficulties can ensue (though certainly not insurmountable ones if one has enough patience). Note that the clock problems do not exist in every generation after III, as they can only be played on systems that have a clock built into the system itself, which the games make use of instead. (Of course, the main problem mentioned above will likely be an issue in the future, but at least gameplay will function normally.)
It is possible to replace the batteries in at least Gold and Silver versions without destroying the cartridge, so the playability can be restored... for another six years at a time.
The straightest examples in Pokémon are Pokémon Yellow (unlike Crystal, none of Yellow's differences were incorporated into FireRed/LeafGreen; original copies are also strangely fragile due to rushed production to meet the demand at the height of the series' popularity) and quite a few of the spinoffs, most noticeably Hey You, Pikachu! and the Pokémon Stadium games, the former of which uses a peripheral exclusive to the Nintendo64 and the latter of which have both that problem as well as the gameplay of both games highly depend on connectivity with Game Boy and Game Boy Color games.
This led to a bizarre situation in which Yellow's most famous feature, Pikachu following the player, was added into HeartGold and SoulSilver, along with Crystal's additions to the game's plot. It was expanded - now any Pokémon could follow the player, not just Pikachu.
The full version of Commander Keen 6. The developer went under, so the only way you can get it is to buy it from the secondary market. Good luck with that; the original floppies are impossible to find and the compact disc collection it was packaged with is incredibly expensive and out of print. It seems odd that a company can go bankrupt without signing over the rights to their property to someone else, but there you go.
Technically it seems to be FormGen Corporation -> GT Interactive Software Corporation -> Infogrames Entertainment -> Atari. And it seems they aren't using the game, nor can Apogee/3D Realms buy it back.
FormGen never owned the rights to Commander Keen 6. id Software still owns the rights to the game. Apogee only resold the FormGen boxed copies as an service. id did sell it in their Keen Pack (which contained episodes 1-6), but pulled it from distribution. The Steam version still lacks the last game and Keen Dreams. The only games id doesn't own are the ones they wrote for SoftDisk; the intellectual property rights for their Apogee and FormGen titles revert to them. The running theory is that since the game's manual is missing in the Steam version, Keen 6 is no longer sold via Steam because the copy protection quiz can't be removed.
Overseas fans actually seem to be a contributing factor to a generalized decrease in No Export for You in RPGs, especially in the last few years. Square Enix is a good example; previously, they allowed many of their major releases in Japan in the 1990s, such as Seiken Densetsu 3, Dragon Quest V and VI, Front Mission 1 and others to go unreleased even once ports were made to newer consoles. Around 2003, though, SD3 was translated by fans...and thus played by hundreds of thousands of people. DQV and VI, FM1, and a raft of other "back-catalog" titles then got similar treatment and all exploded all over the Internet. This seems to have led to a number of Updated Rereleases of many of the aforementioned games, which then got translated and sold officially in the US market. SE guys have even acknowledged that fan translation played a part in proving that fans wanted certain games. Of the games listed in this example, only SD3 hasn't gotten a release in the States at this point.
Square's SNES RPGs were subject to this until the rise of emulation and the various ports and remakes ended up adverting this.
Sadly, the DS update of V has become a scarcity due to a limited print run that resulted from disappointing sales of the preceding IV rerelease. The worst part of it is that V is considered the highlight of the series by diehard fans, and is already hard to find and increasing in value on the aftermarket. Neither the overseas success of Dragon Quest IX nor the finally released in the west remake of the sixth game will have much effect; those two were published overseas by Nintendo, while the fifth is still under the grip of SE, which doesn't seem interested in doing non-GH reprints.
Occasionally, though, V will go on sale on Amazon (usually around the holidays).
Star Trek: Starfleet Command III. Shortly after its release, Activision filed a lawsuit against Viacom claiming that the studio had allowed the Star Trek franchise to "Stagnate And Decay", and that this had negatively affected Activision's stocks (or something of that nature). The debacle ended with Activision splitting, and production of the Starfleet Command III discs (as well as the other Star Trek titles made by Activision) halted, just a short time after the game's release. In fact, there are so few copies of Starfleet Command III that they generally sell online for anything from $85 to $144! Activision should have just held off until the 11th movie then...
Transport Tycoon and its Deluxe version. Designer Chris Sawyer doesn't own the rights. Original publisher Microprose sold the rights to Atari, and they claim not to own the rights and they don't feel like trying to resolve the issue. Chris Sawyer eventually released a spiritual sequel, Locomotion, which didn't do very well. Fortunately, the fan community has rallied around the open-source Open TTD.
Unfortunately, until recently a copy of Transport Tycoon Deluxe was required to play Open TTD. As of Version 1.0.0, open-source replacement graphics/sound sets are supported.
Doujinshi games are exceedingly difficult to find outside of Japan (or even in Japan, unless you know where to go); while doujin manga usually only has a niche market, doujin games are usually quite popular. Pressing CDs, however, is expensive, so not very many copies are made at a time. While the games usually only sell for about 1,000 Yen (a little over $10), the limited print run means it can be difficult to find any copies after the fact. Touhou is by far the biggest example, with enormous popularity worldwide and very few ways of actually buying the games.
Emulators and clones of the classic economics game M.U.L.E. have always been around, but the original game itself has long been out-of-print. Noises are semi-currently being made about a reissue of some sort.
Noise no longer - thanks to hard work by Blue Systems and the Bunten estate, you can now play an updated version of MULE (complete with online multiplayer!) for free at Planet MULE.
The Game BoyMega Man (Rockman World) series, including the well-regarded 5th game. A Game Boy Advance version of Mega Man Anniversary Collection was planned, which was going to include all the Game Boy games, but it was cancelled. Plus, you're out of luck if you don't own a GBASP or earlier (or a Game Boy Player for the GameCube), as Nintendo handhelds from the DS onwards ditched classic Game Boy support.note (Yes, the Game Boy Micro removed it first, but who the hell remembers that?) All five games have been released or will soon be released on the 3DS Virtual Console, though.
The Sega Saturn games aren't a walk-in-the-park to find. They can race anywhere from $40 to $80 at minimum, if you manage to find them.
The 1990s Humongous Entertainment games have started to become more common thanks to the efforts of Nimbus Games, but they still have quite a long way to go. For one, even though Nimbus is trying what they can to get the games back on sale, they're currently mobile only, which has made quite a few people irritated. They were in print for a very long time, but this strategy didn't exactly work so well when Atari refused to update the games for modern computers. Then there was also the Wii port incident, which got Screwed by the Lawyers. more info Majesco outsourced the Wii ports to Mistic Software, who used ScummVM without complying with its license, the GNU General Public license. The GPL requires the source code of the specific version to be released if the software is released at all, which it was in this case, which means the exact source code of the Wii release would have had to be released, and the license, which allows users to do almost anything with the code, has some minor restrictions that require anyone with a copy to be able to do the same — hence the violation on the Wii, since Nintendo's licensing agreement wouldn't allow release of the Wii port of ScummVM and the GPL does not permit releasing software licensed with it without releasing the entirety of the source code. Also, if you're a fan of the foreign dubs at all, just forget it — many of them had limited print runs and are now impossible to find, with the crowner going to Freddi Fish 5 in the UK and Germany. It's rare enough in Germany, but the UK had a fifty copy print run.
System Shock. Considered one of the very best PC games ever created, regularly topping halls of fame. Had mouselook modded in as a fan project in 2009. Not on Steam. Not on Good Old Games. Not for sale anywhere save second-hand copies on eBay if you're rich and lucky. "Portable" abandonware versions drift across the internet; somewhere, a rightsholder is being clueless.
The VHS promotional tapes given out to Nintendo Power subscribers in the mid-1990s. The tapes promoted the Nintendo 64 and games like Donkey Kong Country, Star Fox 64, Diddy Kong Racing, Banjo-Kazooie, and early Pokémon games, as well as gave interesting behind-the-scenes looks at the making of these games. With the advent of DVD, the practice simply stopped after one release advertising the GameCube, and the tapes are now highly valued by collectors and traders. The content on the tapes have even been uploaded to various video sharing sites such as YouTube.
Battle High Team-Up, the initial (now non-canon) installment of the Battle High series, has been lost by the original creators. It's on Yo Yo Games' website, but it's no longer available to download, and the browser plug-in's many updates have rendered in-browser play non-functional. One of the members of Battle High 2 *did* get a copy to work, but only on older computers (Windows XP, specifically), and none of the game's source code remains at all.
The Breath of Fire games are an example of an entire franchise (right down to Comic Book Adaptation treatments and artbooks) that is a victim of this due to a variety of reasons:
The licensing of at least the first Breath of Fire, and potentially the entire series, is complex because of Capcom having farmed out localisation to Square and apparently also granted it North American distribution rights. Square apparently has enough pull in its contract that it may have US distribution rights to not only I but quite possibly residual licensing rights re the franchise as a whole.
This is a major topic of recent speculation as to why the Breath of Fire series is the sole Capcom property that has never been subjected to a Capcom vs. Whatever (for Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Word of God is that the series is too cultish for a mainstream game aimed at Westerners; indeed, there are Breath of Fire cards in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3's Heroes and Heralds mode. Outside of that case, fan speculation is that licensing issues in the US, specifically Square's joint licensing, may be holding things up).
There have been recent announcements to the effect that Square will be remaking I and II for the Xbox360 (to be announced at E3), further muddying the situation of the licensing of the series in the US.
The series as a whole has been in Development Hell for seven years running, with Capcom giving little acknowledgement that the series ever existed outside of Japan until very recently and no real formal acknowledgement from 2003-07 within Japan itself.
This is speculated to be due to a veryBroken Base that resulted in North America in particular when the fifth game of the franchise, Dragon Quarter, was released.
The first game of the franchise was subjected to extensive Woolseyisms in its North American release, including names of most characters changed seemingly at random. Worse, the GBA port changed nothing (even though Capcom released it; this may have been due to the licensing situation of I with Square, though). The only way to play the game with the original Japanese names is via Fan Translation of Japanese Super Nintendo ROMs, itself of dubious legality.
The second game of the franchise is, despite Getting Crap Past the Radar to a truly historic degree, considered more than a bit of a translation trainwreck and also neutered multiple abilities of characters. Even worse, the GBA version changed nothing. The only way to play the game with a readable English text is via a Fan Translation of the Japanese Super Nintendo ROM — again, of dubious legality, especially with Square planning a possible re-release and possible re-translation.
The third game was planned to be re-released in North America for the PSP but ran into a serious roadblock — Sony Entertainment US has a rule requiring 20% new content for re-releases, and the re-release of Breath of Fire III was seen to not meet this requirement despite new bonus art and features unlocked in the game. (Of note, Sony Entertainment US is the sole territory where the PSP is sold to have a "New Content Rule". It apparently even hits games never released in the US, as it was one of the factors in Atlus USA not translating the PSP port of Devil Summoner.) The only way to obtain III at this point in North America is either via grey-market imports from Europe for the region free system (where the PSP re-release was sold, with English text!), finding the game on Ebay, or the use of copied IS Os (of extremely dubious legality). The game also has never been re-released on Playstation Network, either.
The fourth game has been rereleased on PSN, but only in North America. The Windows version and all international versions were subject to severe Bowdlerisation (in one case ending up in a frank Aborted Arc); in addition, a character's special ability was neutered from the game. The only way to play the game in un-bowdlerised fashion is to either find someone selling a Japanese version (quite rare now) or use an ISO of dubious legality — and there is no Fan Translation so far. The only way to play the Windows port in North America is via import from Europe (hard to find nowadays) or via downloads of very dubious legality; the only way to find the game as released in the US is to find someone reselling it (Ebay is probably the best bet nowadays, as the game was released in 2001) or to download an ISO of dubious legality.
The fifth game (Dragon Quarter) is out-of-print, has been out-of-print for over seven years, is now (thanks to the Broken Base it caused) apparently not really acknowledged by Capcom as having existed, has never been re-released in any format including Playstation Network, and one's only real hope of obtaining it at this point is via used game stores or (again) IS Os of dubious legality.
Literally all artbooks, with the sole exception of the compilation Breath of Fire Complete Works, are out-of-print and have been for years; the only sources are online import companies selling them at high expense (and of dubious authenticity), or via scans of the artbook done by fans.
All derivative works (including soundtracks and Comic Book Adaptation treatment) with the exception of the recent Comic Blade Avarus Comic Book Adaptation of IV are long out of print and generally only available from extremely-expensive online sellers or through internet downloads of dubious legality. (This is especially the case if you want an English version of any Comic Book Adaptation or spinoff/side-story; literally all save for the Comic Blade Avarus manga are No Export for You outside of Japan.)
Unless one speaks French or Cantonese, even the Avarus manga adaptation of IV counts — the only sources are three online sellers (Amazon Japan, HMV Japan, and Kinokuniya) or the Fan Translation because it's still not licensed in English (and it's not a sure thing it ever will be licensed in English, even with Mag Garden producing it and even with licensed versions in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and France).
The fact the manga is licensed in Hong Kong but not mainland China has led to a particularly interesting case where a Chinese Fan Translation group (in mainland China) is continuing to produce a scanlation of the Avarus manga adaptation of IVdespite the manga being licensed in Hong Kong SAR.
The arcade version of Double Dragon was rereleased on Xbox LIVE Arcade for a while, until Empire Interactive went bankrupt, also erasing hopes of a rerelease of the second game. Good luck finding the arcade machines, or you can illegally play them on MAME. Similarly, all of Midway's XBLA rereleases were delisted when they folded and were purchased by Warner Bros.
Kojima half-admitted that the reason why any version of Snatcher hasn't been released on digital distribution services yet (even though stuff like Metal Gear 2 and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood had been released already) is due to the fact that the game's imagery and its numerous visual nods to Blade Runner and Terminator almost border on copyright infringement, making it hard to re-release without heavy alterations. It's not much of an issue in Japan, where the PC-Engine version is common to find on the second-hand market, but English-speaking players who want to experience the game have no choice but to pay ridiculously-high prices for the game on eBay or illegally download it off the internet.
If you're a fan of old-style text adventures (from Infocom and other companies), you're pretty much limited to downloading it from the internet these days, as most games (especially less-popular ones) haven't been available for sale for at least 10-15 years. Worse yet, many of Infocom's games (such as Zork Zero) included "feelies" to prevent piracy (extra material, such as a guidebook, that was needed to solve the game's puzzles) — even if you could find a rare used copy, it's doubtful you could find the "feelies" (although we suggest looking around eBay). Hence, internet downloads. The legality of this is questionable (it depends on whether you accept "abandonware" as a valid excuse), but it's pretty much the only way to get them anymore. This goes double for even older games. Luckily, most new games are released for free, as there really aren't any companies commercially producing text adventures anymore.
Now that Sega has released Thunder Force VI, it's exceedingly hard to find the opening movie from Tecnosoft's original Dreamcast version, or the promotional movie from Factory Noise + AG's doujin attempt Broken Thunder. There's only one site on the Internet that still has the Tecnosoft TF6 intro (scroll down to the teaser video link). As for the Broken Thunder opening video, it used to be available for download on Factory Noise's website, but their site is dead now. Segagaga Domain has a low-quality version of the video on Google Video, but there is absolutely no place to download the original high-quality version of the video anymore. It's a real shame, because both videos — the Broken Thunder video especially — are well-done pieces of CG.
Even with the GBA OG games, they are not terribly common.
Harvest Moon 64 is this as of now. It is a Cult Classic and considered the best Harvest Moon game by many however it has yet to have a Virtual Console release, an enhanced remake (a la the PS1 games to GBA), or a port release (like the PS1 games). Only the original SNES game has had a Virtual Console release. It's an expensive game, too — compared to other games from the same time period, you'll usually find it for $35 at cheapest.
An interview with a Natsume executive reveals that problems with the source code has prevented any possible remake or port, even sadder by the fact that this game was supposedly one of the first they planned for a Virtual Console release. Which makes no sense, as the VC is simply an emulator, so they'd just need a game ROM.
Tell that to SEGA. Sonic CD was originally supposed to be on Sonic Mega Collection, but due to emulation problems (I.E. tossing out the original schematics and design documents for the Mega CD/Sega CD as well as somehow losing the original game's source code) ultimately, it was not included. The version on Gems Collection is a hack of the PC version, made to run on consoles under a PC emulator (This is noticeable in how the debug menu works, and the water in Tidal Tempest being clear; PCs of the era had issues emulating the water effects, so it was scrapped.), and the 2011 re-release was completely recoded from scratch.
All Harvest Moon games before Friends of Mineral Town generally count as this, especially the Game Boy and Color ones. As said the original SNES game is one of the rarest titles for the console (it rivals Earthbound), but has gotten a Virtual Console release.
Pretty much the entire Commodore 64 software library falls into this category. Other than a handful of games released for various virtual consoles, the entire rest of the catalog is available almost exclusively on the internet as disk images that can be played using a C64 emulator. Thankfully, rights holders are either nonexistent, having disappeared decades ago, or simply don't care that the images are available, so they're very easy to find.
The entire library of indie dev CC & SH from the mid-2000's. They were all available for free from the official website, until the webhost threw on traffic and upload restrictions. Then, some of the most popular titles were put on a CD-ROM on Cafepress - which sold horribly. And then Cafepress removed CD printing from their options. They're getting some of the games re-released for free, for play in browsers and on the Amazon.com Android app store, but most of them are still unavailable.
The entire Shadow Hearts series. You can probably find From the New World, and maybe Covenant somewhere in a used game store, but the first Shadow Hearts game, as well as Koudelka? Good luck!
Albion is a good example of this as well, given that copies show up on Ebay only rarely and in small numbers. When they do appear, they fetch prices of $100, at the very least.
Ever heard of the game Oddballz by P.F. Magic? It's a virtual pet game with weird and wacky pets, and it's fun. REALLY fun. Good luck finding it! Okay, there's a demo out there, but you can't use all the toys or turn out the lights. What? Someone found out how to turn the demo into the full game? Well, you still don't get the Web Fun Pack... what? Someone posted that online? Oh, but...you still can't get the full version legally!
There was a LEGAL reprint of the game, BUT it comes without a serial number. FAIL! Granted, you could Google the game and find one, but still, it would save people a lot of work if they bothered to include the serial number.
After Data East went bankrupt in 2003, their back catalog of games was divided up between several companies; while some of their old games were rereleased on Data East Arcade Classics and various download services, others, including Midnight Resistance, Karnov and Vapor Trail, are currently unavailable, as are all of Data East's games for the TurboGrafx-16/PC-Engine, which were pulled from the Virtual Console in March 2012. The situation is worse for games like Night Slashers, The Great Ragtime Show and Thunder Zone (aka Desert Assault, the spiritual successor to Bloody Wolf) that weren't ported to consoles either, so they can only be played through illegal emulation.
It's nigh impossible to get a physical copy of LSD Dream Emulator as it was only released in Japan and even there a copy goes for the Yen equivalent of about $500. It did get released as a PS One Classic on the Japanese PlayStation Network in August 2010, but it's unlikely it'll ever get released on the American store since it wasn't released in America the first time around — considering that the PSone Imports section of the American PlayStation Network has a much smaller library than the sections for North American releases (and even then, the imports tend to be by companies with American divisions such as Capcom). Even so, it's still possible for those outside Japan to make a Japanese PSN account, purchase a Japanese PSN card online, and download it that way.
The dream journal the game was based on (Lovely Sweet Dream) and the soundtrack (LSD & Remixes) that came with the special edition of the game are even harder to get since only about 50 copies were made. There was another CD, Lucy in the Sky with Dynamites, which was basically like supplemental soundtrack featuring different mixes of the songs that was also released only in Japan.
Of course, as you can guess, you can download the game's ISO, both CDs, and scans of the dream journal online for free. The developer, Asmik Ace, doesn't seem to care about it since the game isn't even listed on their website.
Are you sure it's not gonna get released due to the last of a first production...or due to the name? Think about it for a second.
Osamu Sato, the creator of the LSD game and writer of the dream journal it's based on, had created an even more obscure game called Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong-Nou. That game had an even more obscure sequel entitled Chu-Teng. There's info on and footage of Eastern Mind, but there's literally nothing known about Chu-Teng aside from the fact that it existed.
Virtually every Starfy game except for the fourth one (known as The Legendary Starfy outside of Japan) - none of these games have been released in Europe or the U.S.
On the topic of cutesy Nintendo franchises that have never made it out of Japan, Kuru Kuru Kururin. The first game was the only one to be released outside of Japan, but only for Europe. America hasn't gotten a single game from this series, so needless to say, most Americans were confused when they saw the main character's vehicle appearing in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Games from consoles outside of the 'main' four, and the consoles themselves. If it isn't on a Sega, Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony console expect it to be near impossible to find. Even Atari games are hard to find, and they were the king of gaming.
The first Gubble game has seen a few re-releases, but looking for the second game? Good luck.
An extreme case among video game instances of this trope is anything distributed via the Super Famicom's Satellaview broadcast system. Even if you manage to track down ROMs of the broadcasted games, they're almost certainly incomplete - the streamed audio and voice acting was not saved with the rest of the game, so a very sizable portion of the games' contents are quite possibly Lost Forever. To date, the only Satallaview games which have been officially remade or rereleased in any form are the Fire Emblem ones, remade and included as bonus missions in New Mystery of the Emblem.
Panzer Dragoon Saga was not only released in limited quantities during its short life on the Sega Saturn, Team Andromeda merged with Smilebit (who is now defunct), and the original source code is lost.
Nintendo also seems to have no interest in recreating their Zapper games on the Virtual Console or any other platform.
They stopped producing Rune Factory Frontier games in America after a year or so, so this is the only way to buy a title.
Want to find the Eyewitness series of educational video games from the '90s and early '00s? Well, you can't go to the store and buy it. You can order them from places like Amazon and eBay, or find a torrent. Otherwise, you're doomed.
This seems to be the case with various Nintendo games that use the Tetris branding but aren't actually Tetris games (such as Tetris Attack), due to the stricter trademark licensing from The Tetris Company, because so far the only Nintendo game with "Tetris" in the title to be released on the Virtual Console service is the Game Boy installment (and for some reason, unlike Link's Awakening, it's the original version and not the DX release for the Game Boy Color), released on the Nintendo 3DS. It got this treatment when the Wii was very late in its life, and there never was a VC release for Tetris Attack. (Note that the Japanese release does not have this issue; the Japanese release doesn't hide the series it's in and calls it Yoshi's Panepon.) Fortunately, in the case of the Tetris Attack/Puzzle League series, sequels dropped the Tetris branding and Pokémon Puzzle League did not have this problem and got a VC release, which means there wouldn't be a problem doing the same with the portable Pokémon-based game in the series, Pokémon Puzzle Challenge.
Speaking of which, don't expect to see any ports of the Tetris: The Grand Master series, ever. Games carrying the Tetris name are required to adhere to the Tetris Guideline, a series of rules for Tetris games—i.e. pieces must spawn a certain way and be a certain color, level up has to be done by line clears and not pieces dropped, randomizer must be implemented a certain way. The TGM series clearly violates many of these guidelines, so, barring emulation and clones, the series is stuck in arcades for as long as the TTC holds the rights to Tetris. (Tetris: The Grand Master ACE did come out on 360, but it's been twisted so much for the sake of complying with the Guideline that most players do not consider it a proper TGM game.)
PC games in general fall into this, especially pre-2000s games. Games are known to quickly become incompatible with newer systems and can be rare to find. GOG.com is attempting to avert this, but even they can only do so much as they don't have the source code for the games they are "upgrading," meaning all compatibility fixes must be done by reverse engineering. The only exception is if the game is a DOS game, in which case DOSBox is used instead.
Sonic Shuffle is among one of the only Sonic games to never be rereleased. Knuckles Chaotix received only one rerelease on the online video game service GameTap, but it is no longer available there. As well, SegaSonic the Hedgehog (A.K.A. Sonic Arcade) has never received a home port nor an official release outside of Japan; according to an interview with Yuji Naka, problems emulating the trackball controls prevented it from appearing on Sonic Gems Collection.
Not technically a video game example, but Mario Golf's official soundtrack only consists of half of the tracks from the game, and some of the ones that are included have background noises. Good luck trying to find recordings of tracks missing from the soundtrack, as well as recordings with the background noises removed.
The first Mario Party will likely never be re-released, even on the Virtual Console, due to its infamous control stick-spinning minigames and their tendency to mutilate palms.
The Guardian Legend for the NES is a Cult Classic, but it has never been rereleased or remade, no doubt in part to its ownership being split between Compile and Irem. Compile no longer exists, but its successors seem interested in distributing its games; Irem, however, has been going through financial difficulties and pulled many of its games from the Play Station Network in 2011 and the Virtual Console in early 2012.
Little Samson was released late in the NES's lifespan, and is one of the rarest cartridges for the system. It has never been rereleased.
This may have happened to Tekken 3. While the first two Tekken games are available as PSone Classics on the Playstation Store, 3 is noticeably absent. It is very likely that the inclusion of Guest FighterGon is the culprit; Namco has cited licensing issues as an explanation for why he hasn't reappeared in the series, plus producer Katsuhiro Harada mentioned non-technical difficulties as the reason for its absence. The arcade version is playable as a bonus in the PS2 version of Tekken 5, but not only does it lack the extra features of the Playstation port (including Gon, Dr. Boskonovitch, and the two minigame modes), but that version of 5 is now 7 years old and out of print.
Pro Wrestling actually received an ESRB rating for the Virtual Console, which it then somehow failed to appear on.
The only rerelease of Crystalis was the 2000 port to the Game Boy Color. This was one of the few games SNK originally created for the Nintendo Entertainment System rather than for arcades, and their Virtual Console support seems to be limited to Neo Geo games. (SNK's pre-Neo Geo arcade games, however, are well represented on the PSN.)
LucasArts's old Adventure Games have been suffering from this for quite a bit. The fact that the company is now in the hands of Disney has not helped at all.
Grim Fandango is currently notoriously hard to obtain, as there have been exactly zero re-releases, and the game suffered from extremely low sales (it was released during the same time as the more anticipated titles of '98).
The real rarities in the Lucasarts series are Zak McKracken, which was only released on floppy, and Labyrinth, Lucasarts' first Adventure Game, which is so rare that many did not know of its existence until it became possible to look it up online, although this game is more of a text adventure with graphics.
Alisia Dragoon has never been rereleased, and copies are somewhat rare nowadays because it didn't receive much distribution in any territory.
Due to a lack of advertising and low sales from the get-go, the cult hit Gotcha Force was pulled from the shelves rather quickly and is now one of the hardest GameCube games to find. This may change soon, though, as emulations of the game exist, a re-release is in the works, and Japanese fans are clamoring for a sequel. This is all ironic in hindsight because Capcom stated that this was one of their favorite games.
Most of Toaplan's games are hard to find nowadays, because what happened to the rights to their back catalog after they went bankrupt is a total mystery. This is why Zero Wing didn't get a rerelease or sequel after the intro became a famous Memetic Mutation.
While abandonware technically is a general software term, the vast majority of cases where people actually care are video games. The basic premise of the concept is (as the name implies) this trope: software that is 'abandoned' (unsupported and undistributed by the right-owners, if who owns the rights is even known) isn't morally wrong to put up for download (the modern day equivalent of circulating the tapes, so to speak).
The first two Quake games are a straight and inverted example of this. The games are available for purchase on Steam, however none of the music for either is provided. They were originally provided in the retail versions via Redbook CD audio, yet there were a variety of options for them to be digitally distributed, of which not even the laziest option—burnable ISOs of the retail CDs themselves, were provided. id simply did not care. And, sadly, neither do the vast majority of online uploaders, who provide similarly butchered versions of the games, even in ISO format. You'll actually have better luck buying the games used at a brick-and-mortal store, which shouldn't be too hard since the games were extremely popular and remained in print for quite a while.
A more minor case involves a key alteration id made when converting Quake from DOS to Windows. Both Quake and the two DOOM games had funny quit messages written by John Romero, who left the company after Quake was finished. The quit messages were replaced with a generic staff roll box when the Windows version was added in subsequent releases, however many pressings still contained the DOS executable. It was eventually discontinued, however, so there's a good chance that the copy of Quake you find won't contain "Press 'Y' to quit and I will summon Satan all over your hard drive!" or "Press 'Y' to quit like a big loser in life. Press 'N' to stay proud and successful!" anywhere on the disc.note This, of course, includes the aformentionedly butchered Steam release of the game.
The Good Old Games rerelease of Descent II does not include the Vertigo Seriesexpansion pack or its additional Redbook music tracks, so the only way to obtain that is to pay out the nose for a hard copy of Descent II: The Infinite Abyss or Descent I and II: The Definitive Collection, or illegally torrent it.
Would you believe Raiden II, the face of arcade Shoot Em Ups, falls under this? There's a Compilation Re-release that includes it...but was released back in 1995. The arcade version is infamous for having all kinds of encryption that as of 2013 has remained unbroken, preventing a working emulation of it. The same emulation problems apply to the lesser-known Raiden DX.
There is a PC port being circulated on the web, however.
The 1995 CD-Rom game Legends And Myths. It was released by a rather obscure company, and is nearly impossible to find now. The best chance is searching ebay and hoping for the best of luck. Though there is good news - it runs just fine on a Windows XP at least.
Burning Rangers, a game released toward the very end of the Saturn's lifespan in America and Europe. Japanese copies can be found for cheap (usually $20-30), but American and European copies.........not so much. (they usually sell for $75-80 at the least) It may be possible for Sega to bring it to the Heritage Collection, but rumor has it that they lost the source code for it (and Panzer Dragoon Saga, as listed above) years ago, so don't hold your breath. Then again, couldn't they just re-create the source code from scratch like what they did with Sonic CD, and the Saturn version of Ni GHTS Into Dreams included with NiGHTS HD?
The reason the first House of the Dead has never gotten another re-release since its 1998 Saturn and PC port is because of the same reasons as Burning Rangers and Panzer Dragoon Orta: They lost the source code.
Bubble Bobble's original arcade version suffered from lost source code too; most subsequent rehashes were done from the designer's memory and very few were particularly faithful (the Master System version was generally reckoned to be the closest). MAME relied on a bootlegged ROM for a long time, until they were able to track down an original board, pour some liquid nitrogen on it, and stick it under an electron microscope.
Killer7 is one of the most sought-after games on the Gamecube, thanks to positive word-of-mouth from the very few who had played it, and thanks to SUDA51's later games. However, Capcom and SUDA51 seem to have no plans on re-releasing it anytime soon.
Pretty much the entire point of ROM and emulators. Old games that are no longer in print (usually anything from Playstation 2/Gamecube/Xbox era) are uploaded onto the internet for everyone to play. The big game companies did force a cease and desist order on various web sites that were caught distributing the games, but many others still host them. This caused the creation of services from the major game companies that lets people download old games at a price, such as Nintendo's Virtual Console, Sony's Playstation Network, and Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade.
Too Human and X-Men: Destiny, since Silicon Knights was ordered to seize all physical, unsold copies of the games, and destroy their game code (under the ruling in the Silicon Knights vs. Epic Games lawsuit that use of the Unreal Engine was unauthorized). Too Human was removed from Games on Demand though both used and new copies of both games are extremely common and cheap online. This same lawsuit lead to three cancelled games, including the long awaitedEternal Darkness sequel.
Silicon Knights did not have the power to seize and destroy unsold copies of the games(SK was pretty much defunct at the time of the ruling, Dennis Dyack was more or less the only employee left)so ultimately it was left to the stores to decide what to do with them.
Mega Man Legends 2 is a cult classic among the fanbase. The first game isn't too difficult to find- a good near-mint copy will usually run in the $10-30 range on Ebay. This includes the disc, instruction manual, and jewel case in immaculate condition. The same quality for a copy of Legends 2 will run you no less than $50, with most copies being over $100. Ebay is pretty much the best hope of finding the game at this point.
Almost all the LEGO PC titles of the 90s and early 2000s, such as LEGO Island and LEGO Racers have gone out of print and never been re-released, despite it being theoretically possible (as LEGO still owns the rights to all of them). They're not hard to find copies of on eBay or Amazon, but even if you can, there's still several that refuse to run on modern computers.
Xenoblade for the Wii is now out of print, and it sold out really quickly due to a combination of being a GameStop exclusive and due to its very good word-of-mouth advertising. It's now only circulated on eBay and other used distributors, and for very high prices, too, making it possibly the new EarthBound in terms of rarity and value.
The Tomb of the TaskMaker, a 1998 sequel to the Macintosh RPG TaskMaker. Although it appeared on a MacAddict disc, the game was rush-released in a somewhat compromised format by a small software company that went under almost immediately afterward. One of the game's authors put a slightly updated version out on his website in July 2008.
Metroid Prime Trilogy. When Nintendo and Retro Studios hawked this compilation of all three Prime games as a "Limited Edition release", for once, they weren't kidding. It's cheap enough (and easy, due to the Wii's backwards compatibility, but... not for those with a Wii U, as Trilogy is the only way to play the first two Prime games on that system) to get all three games by themselves, but for those looking for this triple-pack including all three games on one disk with Wii Remote controls and bonus features, be warned: the disk by itself has been known to go for over $100, with new, shrinkwrapped copies going for over twice that, placing it along with Xenoblade as the console's most valuable titles.
The Persona 2 duology has experienced its own twisted version. When the two games came out on the original Playstation, only the second game made it out of Japan. Eventually a fan translation of the first game started making the rounds (and even people at Atlus complimented its quality). Finally the games got remade for the PSP... except only the first remake has made it out of Japan. The original version of the second game is now available on the Playstation Network, but downloads and emulation still seem rather more common, out of habit as much as anything else.
The leaked 0.05 release of Rockman 4 Minus Infinity (containing the Bonus Boss fight with Shadow Man) has been taken down at the request of PureSabe, dooming it to this fate.