This entry is trivia, which is cool and all, but not a trope. On a work, it goes on the Trivia tab.

Divorced Installment

To put it simply, this is when a work that is part of a series or franchise is re-tooled into a standalone work, with most or all signs of its heritage completely erased. This is, for all intents and purposes, the exact opposite of a Dolled-Up Installment.

Just to be clear on this, here is what this trope is not about:

  • This trope is not about being a Canon Discontinuity or an Alternate Universe. If an author writes a novel about Sherlock Holmes in a dystopian future, and later declares that novel never happened, it's still a Sherlock Holmes novel. If he rewrites that book so that it no longer has anything to do with the Sherlock Holmes mythos, then it's this trope.
  • This trope is not about having a simple title change or partial omission. If a work is called "Sherlock Holmes Without a Problem," and is later renamed to simply "Without a Problem" (or is simply called that in the first place) but still stars Sherlock Holmes, it's still a Sherlock Holmes story. If Sherlock Holmes and any recognizable characters from his universe are renamed and re-written into completely different characters, then it's this trope.
  • With some exceptions, this trope is not about an idea changing into a completely different idea during the creative process. The only exception is if an idea started out as an installment of a franchise and turned into either something original, or an installment of a completely different franchise. If an author starts out writing a story about cats but it ends up being about cyborgs, it's not this trope. But if an author starts out writing a Sherlock Holmes book and winds up turning it into something original, it is this trope. If he starts out writing Sherlock Holmes and then turns it into a James Bond book, it is also this trope. Yes, this trope can overlap with Dolled-Up Installment, and often does—see the examples.

If you're not sure if an example counts, read on and ask yourself if it fits in with the ones below.

Subtrope of What Could Have Been. Compare Serial Numbers Filed Off, Spiritual Adaptation, Ascended Fanfic. Sometimes overlaps with Market-Based Title. A Sub-Trope of Derivative Differentiation.


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    Anime & Manga 

  • Watchmen: Originally written by Alan Moore to make use of Charlton Comics's superheroes after DC Comics aquired the rights to them, but because they wanted to incorporate said heroes into the mainstream DC Universe, the characters were changed into original characters in a reality of their own, e. g. Captain Atom to Doctor Manhattan, The Question to Rorschach, Blue Beetle to Nite-Owl, Phantom Lady to Silk Spectre etc.
  • Also in the 1980s, Kraven's Last Hunt: Based on a storyline involving Wonder Man and the Grim Reaper that J. M. DeMatteis submitted to Marvel and was rejected. He then reworked it into a Batman vs. The Joker project that got nixed because The Killing Joke was already in production. Next DeMatteis developed the "return from the grave" story into one about Batman and Hugo Strange, but that also was rejected by DC. Finally he reworked and expanded the story for Marvel into the epic we know today featuring Spider-Man, his wife Mary Jane, Kraven the Hunter and Vermin, which was published in 1987.
  • Contest of Champions was originally written and drawn as a tie-in to the 1980 Summer Olympics, following a similar tie-in that featured Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk at the Winter Games. Unexpectedly, Jimmy Carter decided to boycott the Summer Games that year, resulting in the crossover being shelved. It was eventually revived two years later, with the plot heavily ReTooled to omit all references to the Olympics.
  • Astro City: The Dark Age started life as a sequel to Kurt Busiek's Marvels series. It was originally to be called called Cops & Robbers, and then Crime & Punishment. When Marvel ended up not going ahead, Kurt retooled the story to take place in Astro City rather than the Marvel Universe.
  • Rob Liefeld's Youngblood was originally a proposed Teen Titans spin-off, explaining Shaft's "coincidental similarities" to Green Arrow's sidekick Arsenal. In addition to Shaft being an obvious Arsenal stand-in, Diehard was supposed to have been a S.T.A.R. Labs android, and Vogue would have been a new version of the Harlequin. Additionally, the characters Brahma, Photon, Combat, and Cougar were recycled from a rejected Young Avengers pitch Liefeld created with Jim Valentino during the 90's.
  • Liefeld's Fighting American series started off as a way for the artist to reuse some unfinished artwork and plots from his short-lived tenure on the Heroes Reborn Captain America series. This resulted in the Fighting American becoming even more of an Expy of Cap, which in turn led to Marvel taking legal action against Liefeld.
  • Jack Kirby's character Captain Glory began as an unused Captain America design Marvel had asked him to create in the event that the company lost ownership of the character.
  • Duncan, the main protagonist of Firebreather, was originally created as a member of Marvel's Young Avengers. When that plan fell through, the character was simply Retooled for use at Image Comics. Had he been published at Marvel, the Firebreather would have been the son of Fin Fang Foom.
  • Storm and Nightcrawler from the X-Men were recycled from a pitch Dave Cockrum had for some new Legion Of Superheroes characters. Nightcrawler ended up being pretty much the same, but the Storm prototype had an afro and was called Trio. Silkie from The Futurians was also conceived as a member of the X-Men before rights issues got in the way.
  • Many of the characters and plots from Hardware were originally part of a Luke Cage series Dwayne McDuffie had unsuccessfully pitched to Marvel Comics.
  • Likewise, McDuffie's Deathlok series was originally supposed to be a licensed RoboCop comic book.
  • Frank Miller's graphic novel Holy Terror was originally going to be a Batman story in which Batman fights Islamic terrorists, but Miller decided that it would work better with an original character.
  • DEMO was spawned from unused ideas Brian Wood came up with for NYX back when he was going to be the writer for that book.
  • Alejandro Jodorowsky turned his unproduced script for Dune into The Saga Of The Metabarons: elements such as the Hooker-Nuns Shabda-Oud are a clear Expy forthe Bene Gesserit, with the same kind of genetic agenda.
  • Neil Gaiman originally pitched The Sandman to George R.R. Martin as part of the Wildcards universe. Martin passed because of Gaiman's lack of writing credits, and the idea was eventually revived at Vertigo Comics.
  • Similar to the Watchmen example above, Wanted was originally going to be a reboot of DC's Secret Society of Supervillains, but was converted into a stand-alone work when Mark Millar decided he wanted to go Darker and Edgier.

  • The Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Cyborg was originally going to be a sequel to Masters of the Universe (though as Troubled Production shows, the story is complicated).
    • It also utilized props, sets and costumes from a Spider-Man movie that was almost made before Cannon lost the rights.
  • Die Hard is a weird case: it was based on a novel titled Nothing Lasts Forever. Since the predecessor novel, The Detective, which was already turned into a film (starring Frank Sinatra), it was written as a sequel to The Detective, but when Sinatra turned it down, it was rewritten as a stand-alone film. It was also briefly considered to be used for a Commando sequel. Die Hard with a Vengeance started life as Lethal Weapon 4, making it a Divorced Installment and a Dolled-Up Installment.
  • Tears of the Sun started life as Die Hard 4, but became stand-alone when it was decided it was too different from the other movies. Bruce Willis said John McClane should die at the end of Die Hard 4.
  • The Collector started as a Saw prequel.
  • In what is probably the most bizarre case of this happening in film history, the plot of Who Framed Roger Rabbit was originally meant to be used as a second sequel to Roman Polanski's Chinatown. (which kinda crosses with Dolled-Up Installment, as the film is based on a book)
  • High School Musical was originally written as Grease 3 (which explains a lot), with Sharpay being Rizzo's daughter.
  • Shock Treatment was the final incarnation of a horrendous script titled Rocky Horror Shows His Heels, which would have been a very direct sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In the end, the plot was changed entirely while many of the songs remained, though the final film bears no resemblance and only weak connections to Rocky Horror.
  • Colombiana was originally written as a sequel to The Professional that would have focused on Mathilda. Apparently, Luc Besson couldn't get Natalie Portman interested and it was rewritten into a standalone film.
  • Snow Day was originally written as a Pete & Pete movie, but Nickelodeon took so long to approve the script that by the time they gave the go-ahead to start filming, the actors who played Pete & Pete themselves (Michael Maronna and Danny Tamberelli) were too old for their roles (and as well a good part of the kids cast), resulting in the change of characters.
  • Train (essentially Hostel, on a train) was initially going to be a remake of Terror Train.
  • Camp Fear was originally slated to be a sequel to Cheerleader Camp.
  • The Hong Kong movie The Avenging Fist started out as a Live-Action Adaptation of Tekken. A lot of the source material's influence remains, though.
  • Chaos was going to be a remake of The Last House on the Left, though the change was so last minute that both films are still extremely similar.
  • Ghosts of Goldfield was originally going to be the fourth Urban Legend film, but was released independently of the series at the last minute.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was originally a Monkey Island film, but the license never worked out. The similarities are obvious, just to start with the plot: An unlikely hero rescues his political love interest (the governor in MI, the governor's daughter in POTC) from an undead pirate. Many of the locations from the games were recycled as well. Examples: the Voodoo Lady and her shack accessible by coffin became the Tia Dalma and hers, and the town cobbled together from various ships was taken directly from LeChuck's Revenge.
    • There's actually a circular dependency here. Monkey Island was originally inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. And then it came full circle when the first POTC movie took elements from Monkey Island.
  • Kull the Conqueror was originally going to be the third Conan the Barbarian movie, but Arnold Schwarzenegger was unavailable at the time. Amusingly, this is the reverse situation of the first Conan story, see under literature for that one.
  • Eurotrip was originally supposed to be a sequel to Road Trip before it was realized that other than the concept, had little to do with the previous film. Road Trip would later get an In-Name-Only sequel in the form of Road Trip: Beer Pong (which is more of an American college version of Beerfest).
  • Prometheus was originally planned as a prequel to the Alien series until Ridley Scott decided to rewrite it as a stand-alone story (it's still set in the Alien universe, but has very little ties to the actual storyline).
    • However, the Alien connection is so obvious that it's nearly impossible to not think of it as a prequel.
  • Minority Report was originally written as a sequel to Total Recall (1990), with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the leading role. Both films are based on short stories by Philip K. Dick, but the original works do not share a protagonist.
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was supposed to be a sequel to Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, but when Gary Cooper was unavailable, Frank Capra rewrote the film as a vehicle for James Stewart.
  • Universal Horror film The Climax was initially written as a sequel to their 1943 version of Phantom of the Opera (1943).
  • When Vince Offer started making another Sketch Comedy Anthology Film, he announced it as Underground Comedy 2010 to be a sequel to his 1999 film The Underground Comedy Movie. When it actually got released in 2013, it was titled In AP Propriate Comedy.
  • The Rescuers was originally going to be sort of a sequel to 101 Dalmatians, with Cruella DeVil as the villain, but they decided to replace Cruella with an original villain.
    • Likewise, Oliver & Company was originally going to have Penny from The Rescuers, but they replaced her with Jenny.
  • The 1955 film serial The Adventures of Captain Africa was intended as a sequel to the 1943 serial The Phantom, but Columbia lost the film rights to the Phantom and had to substitute an "original" masked jungle hero.
  • District 9 was originally going to be a Halo movie, before it became apparent that the final production budget would be in excess of $250 million; Universal had paid $5 million for the option alone, and that was only after Microsoft had asked for $10 million and 15% of the gross; they settled for 10%. 20th Century Fox even came on board as a partner, but eventually the production was cancelled because Jackson and executive producer Peter Schlessel refused to cut their percentage points in the gross, reducing the profit margin for the studios even further. Peter Jackson allocated $40 million to Neill Blomkamp both as way of a good will gesture, and to salvage all the work that had already been done. Many of the props used in the film were repurposed from their original intended use.
  • Vantage Point was a discarded script for a 24 movie.
  • The first Final Destination was originally written as a spec script for an episode of The X-Files.


    Live-Action TV 
  • The third Super Sentai show, Battle Fever J, was originally planned to star a Japanese counterpart of Marvel's Captain America character named "Captain Japan", following up on the success of Toei's live-action Spider-Man series.
  • The Following was based on a discarded screenplay for Scream 3. Both the series and the movie franchise are produced by Kevin Williamson.
  • The LA Complex was split off from the Degrassi franchise, presumably so it could be sold to US networks outside the Viacom group.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Pro Wrestling Zero 1 is named for the fact it was started in 2001. The original concept of the promotion was called "Pro Wrestling Zero", as it was conceived at least a year earlier, and was intended to be an extension of New Japan Pro Wrestling dedicated to a purer strong-style product and commanded by Shinya Hashimoto. However, with bookers Antonio Inoki and Riki Choshu shutting down the idea, and especially after Inoki mistreated Hashimoto's career to build Naoya Ogawa's, Shinya left the company and started the company as an independent promotion, capitalizing on it to rebuild his career.
  • Pro Wrestling El Dorado was born under the Toryumon flag, very much like its antecessor Dragondoor, but before its debut show they declared the promotion as independent from Toryumon or any of its marks.
  • Perros Del Mal Producciones was drawn up as an idea to make a Perros Del Mal angle in CMLL more believable to audiences by having the Power Stable run their own promotion. Disputes lead to PDM started up a year late and having nothing to do with CMLL however.


    Video Games 
  • The Turbo-Grafx 16 platformer Keith Courage In Alpha Zones was originally one of many games based on then-popular anime series Mashin Eiyuuden Wataru (Spirit Hero Wataru). The story went from being about a kid pulled into a spirit realm to battle demons, to being about an adult who is part of a military organization that fights aliens. However, the game's title screen still shows a Sunrise copyright, perhaps because only the Excuse Plot was actually altered.
  • One of the most successful examples: Devil May Cry started as a sequel to Resident Evil 2 (it was one of the 4 initial versions of Resident Evil 4). Capcom turned it into an original game after realizing it was straining credibility to have an action-packed hack-and-slash as the next entry in what was then still a Survival Horror franchise. Onimusha also started as a prototype of Resident Evil 4. Only 1 prototype was abandoned.
  • The Wonder Boy games were developed by Westone and published by Sega. While Westone owned the rights to the programming of each game, Sega owned the rights to the title and character designs, and as a result Hudson Soft was forced to graphically modify and rename each game when they got the license to work on ports for non-Sega platforms. The only exception was Wonder Boy III Monster Lair, which remained unchanged when it was ported to the TurboGrafx-CD, though "Wonder Boy" was dropped from the title in the US.
    • The original Wonder Boy itself was remade for the NES as Adventure Island (with Hudson's spokesman/gaming expert Toshiyuki Takahashi serving as the model for the new protagonist Takahashi Meijin, also known as Master Higgins), which inspired its own series of sequels independently developed by Hudson for the NES, Super NES, Game Boy, and the TG16.
    • Wonder Boy In Monster Land was remade for the Japanese PC Engine as Bikkuriman World, a licensed game based on the Bikkuriman series of trading stickers.
      • There was also a Famicom version of Monster Land by Jaleco titled Saiyuki World. This version inspired its own sequel (Saiyuki World II), which was localized for the NES under the name of Whomp 'Em and had its Journey to the West motif replaced with a Native American one.
    • Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap was remade as Dragon's Curse for the TurboGrafx 16. The PC Engine version of said game was curiously enough released under the name of Adventure Island, the same name that Hudson's own Takahashi Meijin no Bōken Jima series is known as outside Japan.
    • Wonder Boy in Monster World became Dynastic Hero on the TurboGrafx CD and had all the original characters replaced with bug people.
    • Outside the Wonder Boy series, Hudson Soft also ported the Sega/Westone arcade Beat 'em Up Riot City to the Turbo CD under the name of Riot Zone (or Crest of Wolf in Japan) with different player characters, while Blood Gear (a mecha-themed action game) was originally planned as a sequel to Aurail.
  • Decap Attack was originally a tie-in to the anime Magical Hat in its Japanese version. The localization team didn't feel like paying the licensing fees for an obscure and unimported anime series, so the graphics and story were redone from scratch.
  • Several games released by Bandai for the Nintendo Entertainment System were anime Licensed Games in Japan that were released overseas in disguised form:
    • Dragon Power was originally a Dragon Ball game. At the time, Dragon Ball was not well-known in the United States. (However, the game was also translated to French with the Dragon Ball license intact.) Bandai tried to change it into a more generic Journey to the West game and while Journey to the West itself is not well known in America, unlike Dragon Ball, it is public domain. (They didn't do a very good job at it, incidentally; Bulma, Oolong, and Yamcha, among other characters, all kept their original designs, while Puar became pink but was otherwise unchanged.)
    • Chubby Cherub was originally a game based on the anime Obake no Q-Taro. Few changes were made to the game aside from replacing Q-Taro with a cherub.
    • Ninja Kid (not to be confused with the UPL Arcade Game) was a similar alteration of GeGeGe no Kitaro: Youkai Dai Makyou.
  • Black Belt, a side-scrolling beat-'em-up for the Sega Master System, is a localization of a Hokuto no Ken game for the Mark III in which the graphics were altered to remove all traces of the original license. Kenshiro was renamed Riki and his blue vest and jeans outfit was replaced by a white karate gi, while all of the other characters and backgrounds were modified as well, changing the game's locations from post-apocalyptic deserts and towns to modern day temples and cities.
    • The Japanese Mega Drive sequel, Hokuto no Ken: Shin Seikimatsu Kyūseishu Densetsu, was released overseas as Last Battle: Legend of the Final Hero, but the changes made during the localization were lazier by comparison to the first game. All the sprites were recolored and the names were changed, but the character designs remained almost identical and the seemingly nonsensical script (which consisted mainly of out-of-context dialogue transcribed verbatim from the manga) was a word-to-word translation of the original, aside for a few minor changes. Gore was also removed for the overseas release.
  • Sega also made two video games based on the manga Kujaku-Oh (Peacock King, also known as Spirit Warrior): one for the Sega Master System and a sequel for the Sega Genesis. The Master System original came out in America as Spellcaster and the Genesis sequel came out as Mystic Defender, in both cases having all the Peacock King elements replaced with wholly new storylines and characters.
  • Street Combat for the Super NES was originally a Ranma ½ game in which you played as either male or female Ranma and battled the rest of the anime cast. The U.S. version turned Ranma into a mulleted soldier named Steven (female Ranma was Steven in street clothes, while male Ranma was Steven in Powered Armor), and the Ranma cast with all sorts of things (Kodachi, for example, became a clown). This was averted with the sequel, which was brought to the U.S. as Ranma ½: Hard Battle.
  • Thunder Force IV for the Sega Genesis was released in America was Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar. Not only the spelling of this was odd, as two previous games in the series had been released internationally under the Thunder Force title, and Thunder Force IV came out under its actual title in Europe.
  • One of the original concept for Fighting Force was to make it a 3D sequel to the Streets of Rage series (and indeed, the leaked Saturn prototype has much more overt similarities to SOR, such as Hawk looking like Axel), but Sega pulled the deal for an unknown reason and the game became its own thing.
  • The Working Title of Final Fight was Street Fighter '89. According to producer Yoshiki Okamoto, he was originally commissioned to work on a sequel to the first Street Fighter, but he wanted to make a side-scrolling beat-'em-up after being inspired by the success of Double Dragon. When it was obvious that the resulting product resembled nothing like the original Street Fighter, the game was renamed Final Fight. Despite this, many of the characters from Final Fight later crossed their way into the Street Fighter series and other Capcom fighting games (including a spin-off of its own titled Final Fight Revenge).
  • Metal Black was originally envisioned as a sequel to the Darius series, with the plot being that the heroes return to Darius only to find it devastated by the activities of Belser. But Taito executives thought the plot was depressing and it was retooled into being a separate game. Its heritage can be seen in the many fish-likes enemies, and the whole beam-dueling gimmick would be picked up and expanded in G-Darius. Metal Black was then re-wed to Taito's earlier Shoot 'em Up Gun Frontier (even being referred to as Gun Frontier 2 in the opening), despite having nothing to do with it.
  • An inversion: Natsume's side-scrolling action game Shatterhand for the NES was first released in Japan as a Licensed Game for the Famicom based on the Metal Heroes series Tokkyuu Shirei Solbrain. However, the Solbrain version, despite being released first, is actually the modified version, not Shatterhand. Angel, a subsidiary of Bandai, agreed to cover the publishing costs for Natsume under the condition that they could modify the game to promote one of Toei's superheroes.
  • Red Faction was originally conceived as the cancelled Descent 4. Some elements were carried over, such as the textures, the protagonist's name (Parker) and the jet fighter combat level.
  • Journey To Silius started development as a game based on The Terminator, but was reworked into a stand-alone title when Sunsoft's license expired.
  • Sunsoft also started work on a Superman game for the NES (following their success with the Batman games), but was later re-tooled into a Captain Ersatz called Sunman for some reason or other (they did release a Superman game for the Sega Genesis). It ultimately ended up not being released in any form.
  • Power Punch II was originally developed as a sequel to Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, with the original title Mike Tyson's Intergalactic Power Punch. (A beta version of Mike Tyson's Intergalactic Power Punch has since leaked out.) And no, just in case you were wondering, there is no Power Punch I.
  • Nuclear Strike had a trailer for a new installment called Future Strike, which ended up being turned into the unrelated game Future Cop LAPD.
  • The sequel to Need for Speed: Shift dropped the NFS from the title and was titled Shift 2: Unleashed (not to be confused with the other Shift 2.
  • The first BattleTanx started out as a N64 port of BattleSport.
  • Agent Under Fire was originally a PS2 version of The World Is Not Enough, before it was turned into an original Bond story.
  • Renegade, Super Dodge Ball, River City Ransom (aka Street Gangs), Nintendo World Cup, and Crash 'n the Boys: Street Challenge were all localizations of different games in the Japanese Kunio-kun series that were westernized (or in the case of Nintendo World Cup, globalized) in order to make them more marketable overseas. The Neo Geo version of Super Dodge Ball, along with the Nintendo DS games localized by Aksys Games, are the only games in the series where Kunio and Riki retained their Japanese identities in the overseas versions.
    • The original Double Dragon was planned as a sequel to the original Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun (aka Renegade). The change in title, setting and characters was precisely done to appeal to the western market from the get-go without the need of making a separate overseas version.
    • The Super Famicom game Super Mad Champ was originally planned as a Kunio bike-racing game. Developer Almanic was the same team that worked on Kunio-tachi no Banka for Technos.
  • The NES game Destiny of an Emperor, along with the arcade games Dynasty Wars and Warriors of Fate, were all games by Capcom based on Hiroshi Motomiya's manga series Tenchi o Kurau, which was loosely based on the Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. While the former two kept the characters and plot mostly intact which isn't really hard to do, Warriors of Fate removes even that and replaces everyone's names with Mongolian names.
  • Battalion Wars is a borderline example. The Working Title was Advance Wars: Under Fire, but Nintendo decided to change the name due to the fact that it was a very different game from the original Advance Wars and it wouldn't have made much sense to release a game named after the Game Boy Advance on the GameCube (it's still part of the Wars series though). In Japan, the game was released as Totsugeki! Famicom Wars.
  • Lunar Knights for the Nintendo DS is actually the overseas version of the fourth Boktai game (Boktai DS). The first two games sold poorly outside Japan due to its solar sensing gimmick and as a result, the third game didn't get an international release and Konami took out the solar sensor in the fourth game. The localization team attempted everything to distance the fourth game from the franchise by changing the title and renaming the main characters Django and Sabata into Aaron and Lucian.
  • Mega Man was originally meant to be a licensed game based on Astroboy, but they lost the license, so Capcom tried something different.
  • The NES game Tecmo World Cup Soccer is actually a Captain Tsubasa-themed soccer sim with Westernized character designs, likely changed because Captain Tsubasa is not licensed in the United States.
  • Mortal Kombat 1 was originally going to be a Bloodsport video game, but ended up as an original property. This can be seen in Johnny Cage, a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Jean-Claude Van Damme.
  • Project: Snowblind was originally going to be Deus Ex: Clan Wars. It was changed to be a Spiritual Successor to Deus Ex when that game's own sequel Invisible War sold poorly.
  • A persistent rumor has it that Lady Stalker was originally going to be a Dragon Quest Gaiden Game based around Alena from Dragon Quest IV, but was quickly made into an unrelated game when the license was lost partway through development. The rumor has strong supporting evidence, including: the party being near carbon-copies of the party from Alena's chapter in DQIV; a series of tomato enemies that are suspiciously similar to the Dragon Quest slimes in appearance and near-identical in mechanics, right down to having a "rotten tomato" that can inflict poison equivalent to the Babble/Bubble Slime; and some items being identical between the two games, down to their price.
  • The PS2 shooter Dragon Rage was planned to be a Might and Magic spinoff.
  • After the developement of Duke Nukem 3D, 3D Realms planned to make another side-scrolling Duke Nukem titled Duke Nukem Forever (no, not that one.). The project was cancelled and sold to another developer, which finished and released it as Alien Rampage.
  • The Jaguar shooter Hover Strike was originally meant to be a remake of BattleZone.
  • Beetle Adventure Racing for the N64 started development as a Need for Speed game, and used the same engine as the NFS games of the time.
  • The Commodore 64 game Astérix and the Magic Cauldron was released in the United States as Ardok the Barbarian, likely because Astérix was not popular enough there to be worth licensing.
  • Tower of Doom for the Intellivision was to have been the third Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Cartridge for the system, but it was released without the license after Mattel abandoned the game and the console midway through development; most gamers couldn't tell the difference, of course. (The later Capcom Arcade Game Dungeons & Dragons :Tower of Doom is completely unrelated.)
  • The unreleased NES game Time Diver Eon Man by Taito started development as a sequel to Wrath of the Black Manta.
  • The original Donkey Kong was reportedly a Popeye game initially, but changed due to licensing issues.
  • Secret Weapons Over Normandy was apparently born out of a cancelled Medal of Honor spin-off called Fighter Command.
  • Magical Doropie was originally going to be based on The Wizard of Oz. To add insult to injury, it was macekred further into The Krion Conquest for the US market.
  • Heavenly Guardian for the PlayStation 2 and Wii was originally announced in Japan as Kiki Kai World. Apparently the Kiki Kai Kai characters were replaced with original ones because the developer somehow lost the license.
  • Fallout was supposed to be Wasteland 2, but Interplay lost the rights. It's almost the same story and very close to the same setting, and it went on to become much more popular than its predecessor. It wasn't until late 2014 that Wasteland got an actual sequel.
  • Rise of the Triad was to have been a sequel to Wolfenstein 3D; its working title was "Wolfenstein 3D Part II: Rise of the Triad".
  • Rage Of The Dragons, a Neo Geo fighting game by Evoga and Noise Factory, was originally intended to be a sequel to the Neo Geo version of Double Dragon, but the developers were unable to get a hold of the rights. Thus, all the characters were turned into ersatzes of the Double Dragon cast: the Lee brothers became the Lewis brothers, while Abobo became Abubo.
  • After Rare was bought out by Microsoft, Donkey Kong Country characters were removed from two of their upcoming games for the Game Boy Advance: Diddy Kong Pilot became Banjo-Pilot, and Donkey Kong Coconut Crackers became It's Mr Pants.
  • The Jetsons: Invasion of the Planet Pirates for the SNES was retooled for its Japanese release as Yōkai Buster: Ruka no Daibōken, starring the mascot character of Marukatsu Super Famicom magazine.
  • Pax Corpus, a 1997 PlayStation action game by Cryo Interactive, was retooled from a canceled Æon Flux game.
  • Zig zagged with Sleeping Dogs: started out as an original game, was later incorporated into the True Crime franchise by Activision who later cancelled it, then it was revived by Square Enix who turned it into an original game again.
  • Early design documents have revealed the first Legend Of Zelda was conceptualized as a Mario Bros. game.
  • Wii Sports was going to be a Mario sports game and the Miis were just going to be placeholders. People liked the Miis though so they were kept in the final version. A Mario Sports Mix did get made later despite.
  • Pikmin was planned to be a Mario game at one point in its development, its idea being in part born thanks to the Super Mario 128 tech demo for the Nintendo GameCube.
  • Splatoon was born as the gameplay concept, and amongst the possibilities its developers considered was to make it a Mario spin-off game. They eventually settled with making it a new IP with the shapeshifting Inklings as the protagonists instead.
  • Coming full circle, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was originally envisioned as a Zelda puzzle title starring Link, thanks in part to one of the main elements in the game being not having the ability to jump obstacles, which at first appeared to be out of place for a Mario title.
  • Obscure Mega Drive shooter CrossFire was originally released in Japan as Super Airwolf, based off the Airwolf TV series. The former edited the theme song to a suspiciously similar version and the rest of the references to the show were removed.
  • Trapt suffers this twice over. Not only is it a game that would have been previously localized as a Deception game, but by Japanese reckoning, it's the first genuine Numbered Sequel, being Kagero 2. It was instead marketed and released as a standalone title, and since it was a Non-Linear Sequel in the first place, this removes all franchise ties.
  • Xenogears was apparently planned to be either Final Fantasy VII or Chrono Cross during its development, but it was retooled into an original title because it was too dark for either franchise.
  • Doom was originally a Licensed Game based on Aliens, but it spawned into its own franchise due to lack of creative freedom.
  • Both the little-known RPG Divine Divinity by Larian Studios and the somewhat better known first installment of the Hack and Slash franchise Sacred by Ascaron were originally supposed to be set in the The Dark Eye universe (having no connection whatsoever otherwise). The Larian game had the title The Lady, the Mage and the Knight, abbreviated as LMK, which, in the German title, would have stood for Legenden der Magierkriege, i.e. "legends of the Mage Wars" (the Mage Wars being a period in the history of Aventuria in the TDE setting). The precursor of Sacred was called Armalion (a powerful artefact in the TDE universe). In both cases, problems with the license prevented the projects from leaving the pre-alpha stage, but the existing code and parts of the art were used as building blocks for Divine Divinity and Sacred, respectively.
  • The SNES racing game Cyber Spin was originally a game based on Future GPX Cyber Formula, it was brought overseas with references of the series removed, and in the American version, the setting was changed to a futuristic Formula One setting.
  • In its very earliest stages, The Last of Us was actually a Continuity Reboot of Jak and Daxter. Naughty Dog decided to make it a new IP instead when they realized the ideas they liked best had nothing to do with Jak and Daxter.
  • The 2½D Hack and Slash Final Exam began life as an interquel in the ObsCure series of Survival Horror games. It was retooled into a separate game after the original developer, Hydravision Entertainment, closed its doors and reformed into Mighty Rocket Studios. However, it still has many Shout Outs to the ObsCure games, to the point where fans of that series consider it all but an unofficial sequel.
  • Family Pinball was originally a Namcot game in Japan, but a different publisher brought it to the U.S. as Rock 'n' Ball. The Namco characters were replaced with generic equivalents, and the Pac-Man table was not only genericized but slightly altered in layout.
  • Young Merlin developed out of a canceled SNES version of Fables & Fiends.
  • Bombshell was originally conceived as Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction, but a legal dispute arose over use of the Duke Nukem intellectual property. (Specifically, Gearbox Software said that their deal with Apogee Software - the one which resulted in Duke Nukem Forever finally coming out - precluded Apogee from publishing any more Duke Nukem games.) As such, Duke was replaced by Shelly "Bombshell" Harrison as as the game's protagonist.
  • Them's Fightin' Herds started out as My Little Pony: Fighting Is Magic , a Friendship is Magic fangame. While still early in development, Fighting is Magic got so much attention that Hasbro sent them a Cease and Desist order. Lauren Faust liked the game, however, so she helped Re Tool it into an original game about several different kinds of quadrupedal animals.
  • The planned third installment of the Amiga hack-n-slash series Switchblade was completely retooled into the Sonic the Hedgehog-style platform game Zool. Much later, after Zool 3's second cancellation, shovelware developer Data Design Interactive picked up the pieces and assembled the infamously horrible Ninjabread Man.
  • Codemasters distributed the Spanish ZX Spectrum game Phantomas under its original title, but distanced its sequel from it by retitling it Vampire. Interestingly, Phantomas and Phantomas 2 began development as unrelated but similar games, but Dinamic convinced the coders of both games to use the same main character.
  • Similar to the Them's Fighting Herds example, Freedom Planet started as a Sonic fangame, but later became its own thing for commercial release. In this case, it switched over before getting a C&D.
  • Super Mario Bros. 2 is more famous for the opposite trope, but Doki Doki Panic actually started life as a Mario game from the beginning, only to be divorced from Mario when Fuji TV wanted a Licensed Game of their Yume Koujou promotional event. The event was a bit of a flop, and Nintendo of America needed a new Mario game since the original sequel had been given a no-go for being a Mission-Pack Sequel, so they reversed the process, divorcing it from Yume Koujou and dolling it back up into a Mario game.
  • Mickey Mouse III: Yume Fuusen was being localized as Mickey Mouse: Dream Balloon, but licensing difficulties apparently intervened because Kemco ended up editing in their own character and releasing the game in the US as Kid Klown in Night Mayor World. Indeed, every Mickey Mouse game from Kemco that wasn't published overseas by Capcom or Nintendo was modified into something else outside Japan.
  • There was once a sequel to the original The Great Giana Sisters in development. Due to the controversy of the original game it was cancelled and retooled into Hard 'N' Heavy.