Video Games are the biggest entertainment industry in the world, so it’s not surprising to find out that some of the biggest video games made along the years were created with the backing of some massive budgets. In the list of the 30 most expensive video games of all-time, we ranked them by their 2017 adjusted for inflation costs. The list includes games from known series like GTA, Call of Duty and Final Fantasy, but also some surprising standalones, and a couple of games that never made it out of development.
30. Gears of War – Judgment: The 2013 release of the military sci-fi 1st person shooter cost $62 million when adjusted to 2017 inflation numbers. It was the last Gears of War game to be developed by Epic Games before Microsoft bought the franchise. It sold 1 million copies within the first year of release, and was criticized for its lackluster single-player mode.
29. Rift: A MMO released in 2011 by Trion Worlds, which cost somewhere between $64 million to $75 million to make when adjusting to 2017 inflation (Somewhere between $60-70 million in “real time). It is still active today, and won a number of awards upon its release six years ago, earning over $100 million by the time 2012 rolled in.
28. Gran Turismo 5: Released in 2010 for the PlayStation 3, GT5 cost $66 million to make in 2017 dollars, and around $60 million originally. To this date it is the best selling PS3-exclusive game, with over 10 million copies sold. It was the first Gran Turismo game to include Super GT, NASCAR and World Rally Championship.
27. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon – Future Soldier: A futuristic take on the Ghost Recon franchise that came out in 2012, and cost $65 million at the time, which is $68 million after inflation. There have since been two more games in the Ghost Recon series, Phantoms and Wildlands. The console versions were considered superior to the PC one.
26. Crysis 3: A pretty big failure for EA, Crysis 3 cost $66 million to develop ($68 million adjusted for inflation). Released in 2013, this first person shooter set in the year 2047 sold only 206,000 copies by the first month of release. The most disappointing aspect of the game was its story, and Crytek, who developed the game, focused solely on free-to-play titles after the release.
25. Watch Dogs: A highly successful release for Ubisoft back in 2014A, selling over 10 million copies to date and spawning a sequel. However, in terms of critical receptions, Watch Dogs was panned, not that it mattered to those buying the game. It cost $69 million when adjusted for inflation. For many, the third-person shooter in an Open World (Chicago to be exact) environment felt too much like a hacker’s GTA.
24. Halo 3: The 2007 release of Halo cost $60 million to make, which was $69 million when adjusted for inflation. This doesn’t include marketing, which rumors suggest cost around $40 million for Microsoft. The promotion worked, with the game selling over 14 million units to date, making it the best-selling game on the XBox 360 that’s exclusive to the console.
23. Final Fantasy XIII: The Square Enix RPG came out in 2010, costing around $65 million to develop, which would be $73 million in today’s money. By 2014, the company announced the game has sold over 11 million units worldwide. Its console versions were highly praised by most outlets, but the PC one received very low marks across the board.
22. Fable Legends: A massive flop for Microsoft and Lionhead Studios, which shut down after Microsoft announced it won’t be releasing the game. A spin-off to the main series, planned to be a co-op RPG, Legends cost $75 million to develop before the cancellation announcement in 2016.
21. Pokemon Red/Blue: The first in the main series of Pokemon games, it has to be one of the more influential video games in history, not to mention best selling, both as an RPG and as a GameBoy game. It cost at least $50 in marketing alone, which would put it at $75 million when 2017 inflation adjusted.
20. Metal Gear Solid 4 – Guns of the Patriots: Possibly the best game of 2008, MGS4 cost over $70 million to make, which would be $78 million when adjusted for inflation. It is considered by many as one of the most important PS3 games ever (console booster), it made Kojima and Konami very happy, selling over 6 million units.
19. Metal Gear Solid V – The Phantom Pain: Like its predecessor, Metal Gear Solid V has sold over 6 million units, only this game came out in late 2015, costing $81 million to develop when adjusted for inflation. The next story in Snake’s mythology, it was praised for the amount of freedom it gave players when approaching objectives, and the emotional power of its mature themes.
18. The Witcher 3 – Wild Hunt: CD Projekt RED were cool before Witcher 3, but became huge after it, and deservedly so. One of the best Action role-playing games ever made, it took the work of Andrzej Sapkowski into a whole new stratosphere of popularity through a whole new medium. It has sold around 10 million copies since its 2015 release, costing $82 million to make when adjusted for inflation.
17. Defiance: Released in 2013, Defiance is a persistent world MMORPG, which cost $80 million to make, $82 million when adjusted for inflation. It ran alongside the TV show on Syfy until the show’s cancellation. It became a free-to-play game in 2014 and is playable on the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
16. Enter the Matrix: An incredibly successful game (although not a very good one), the 2003 release was an ambitious effort, which included over one hour of exclusive footage, starring the cast of the film’s trilogy and plot-wise, ran alongside Matrix: Reloaded. It cost $67 million to make at the time, around $87 million when adjusted for inflation.
15. The Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim: Not just a successful game, but almost a cultural phenomenon, as a game released in 2011 is still going strong more than five years later, with mods playing a huge part in its success. According to Bethesda, the game has sold over 30 million copies up to November 16. It cost $85 million to make, which is $90 million when adjusted for inflation.
14. Halo MMO: The second Halo game on our list, the MMO is also the second cancelled Microsoft item on our list. There was a beta version tested in Russia, later leaked to the enjoyment of some, but the game was cancelled in 2016. It cost $90 million to make, around $100 million when adjusted for inflation. It is the most expensive game ever not to see the light of day.
13. Shenmue: A game developed exclusively for Dreamcast, Shenmue is an open world game, the first in a series of four, with the third one coming out in December 2017. The game did sell 1.2 million copies and was mostly praised by critics, but due to its enormous budget ($70 million in 1999, over $101 million in 2017 money), it was considered a massive commercial failure. The new game was only given the green light after a crowdfunding campaign.
12. Disney Infinity:An interesting project by Disney, which is a toys-come-to-life video game, using figurines that synchronized with the game. It was released in 2013, costing $100 million to make, around $103 million when adjusted for inflation. On May 10, 2016, Disney announced on the Disney Interactive website that they were discontinuing production. They sold over 3 million starter packs before cancellation announcement.
11. Deadpool: Way before the cool Ryan Reynold movie, there was the Deadpool game by Activision, later seeing the license removed, before the game was re-released to coincide with the film’s release. The game didn’t do very well, received terrible reviews, and cost over $100 million to make heading into its 2013 release, over $104 million in today’s money.
10. Max Payne 3: Released 9 years after the previous game in the series, Max Payne 3 cost Rockstar $105 million to make (came out in 2012), over $110 million when adjusted for inflation. Receiving raving reviews for its story and action, the game sold over 4 million copies within a year of its release.
9. Red Dead Redemption: In my opinion, along with Witcher 3, this is the best game ever made. This Open World ode to the Wild West in its dying days, RDD was a massive hit for Rockstar, selling over 15 million copies, and a sequel is scheduled for release in 2017. It cost anywhere between $80 million and $100 million to make, which puts it at $110 million when adjusted for inflation. The game was released in 2010.
8. APB: An open world online game that was developed by Realtime Worlds, later acquired by K2, changing the 2010 release into a free-to-play game, also renaming it to APB: Reloaded. It cost $100 million to make, $110 million when adjusted for inflation. When the game was released it generated plenty of negative buzz due to the review embargo placed.
7. Too Human: This futuristic retelling of Norse mythology was released in 2008 by Microsoft, after years in development hell, originally planned for release in 1999 by Sony. The game sold close to one million copies, but didn’t become the trilogy Silicon Knights were planning for it down the road.
6. GTA IV: A massive hit for Rockstar, who returned to New York, AKA Liberty City in their 2008 release that cost around $100 million to make at the time, which is about $111 million when adjusted for inflation. The story of Niko Bellic was highly praised almost across the board, broke several sales records at the time, and sold over 25 million units as of the summer of 2013.
5. Destiny: The online-only 1st-person shooter by Bungie won a number of ‘Game of the Year’ awards following its 2014 release, and at its peak had 25 million players. One of two Activision-published games in the top 5, it cost an estimated $140 million to make; $142 million when adjusted for inflation.
4. Star Wars – The Old Republic: The most expensive MMORPG on our list, the game was developed by BioWare and published by EA in 2011. It was a pay-only game initially, but turned into free-to-play a year later. It had close to 2 million subscribers at its peak, and its latest expansion pack came out in late 2016. It cost over $200 million to make, adjusted for $213 million in 2017 money.
3. Final Fantasy VII: The 1997 edition of this epic RPG series, it cost $145 million overall, including $100 million in its massive marketing bill. In today’s money, it is $216 million. As of December 2016, the game has sold over 11 million units. Surprisingly, 1.1 million have come through Steam, considering how late it came to that platform.
2. GTA V: The latest Grand Theft Auto release by Rockstar. Also its most expensive one, costing $265 million in total (about 50% going to marketing). Released in 2013, it is about $272 million when adjusted for inflation. As for sales, it blew previous Rockstar games out of the water, so far selling over 75 million copies worldwide. The game featured 3 protagonists, and took place in Los Santos, making a return to the California-like city, previously visiting it in San Andreas.
1. Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 2: Activision’s 1st person shooter (developed by Infinity Ward) is the most expensive video game ever made, costing $250 million before its 2009 release, out of it comes a $200 million bill for marketing. In today’s money, that’s a total of $279 million. The game sold 4.7 million units within 24 hours, and as of late 2013, it has shipped over 22.7 million units worldwide.The game received incredible reviews, especially for its console versions.