When famed storytelling studio Telltale Games fell apart last September, Skybound Entertainment leapt in to finish up the Clementine-led Walking Dead series’ final season. It’s The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman’s company, after all. But some of the studio’s projects — especially its secret ones — weren’t so lucky and had perhaps just as big backers behind them, so their unsung death didn’t even make a ripple for fans.
That’s what happened with not one, but two planned games set in the Stranger Things universe, which were going to bridge the spring break between seasons two and three. Thanks to a story from The Verge, fans now know a little bit about a previously unknown game — and an entry into Stranger Things canon — that will now never come to be.
The sci-fi Netflix show seems like a natural fit for a roleplaying game, since the first season took heavily from Dungeons & Dragons both in its structure and its literal storytelling. It’s being adapted into some retro games, but nothing banking on the show’s natural knack for character-centric storytelling. Telltale’s in-progress game died when the company shuttered. But another project from indie developer Night School Studio (Oxenfree), which was also set to publish at Telltale, also shut down.
Their first-person game was meant to involve both puzzle game mechanics and those of RPGs as players switched between familiar characters over the course of a single night — using Eleven’s psychic powers along the way and chatting with the group via walkie-talkie. But without Telltale’s standalone game, this project had nowhere to go.
The supplementary game, which was called “Kids Next Door” within the studio, began production in January and was meant to be the inciting incident for Telltale’s new addition to the Stranger Things story. Carrying data over via save file, players could influence Telltale’s game through Night School’s. As Kids Next Door kicked things off, Telltale’s game would allow players to experience “the boys’ last chance to be kids again before they’re brought into high school and their adult life begins.”
However, the troubled creation of both games — with little cross-company communication and personnel turmoil on the Telltale side — made its planned July launch alongside Stranger Things’ third season look unlikely. “There was a lot of changing of the guard inside of Telltale in terms of who was leading certain aspects of both the studio and then that game,” said one of The Verge’s sources. “Netflix was just getting into the space and didn’t really have a games group in place yet. So getting approvals or just running ideas past people was very difficult.”
When Telltale closed, Night School’s Stranger Things project died before it was even announced. And even though Night School still lives, fans will likely never see their version of a Stranger Things game. Perhaps, though, they’ll be able to speculate once the new season comes out — while they play the pixilated adaptation that may remain one of the only Stranger Things games for the foreseeable future.
Stranger Things returns to Netflix on July 4.