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Gone but not forgotten: 16 games pulled from the App Store before their time

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iOS
Gone but not forgotten: 16 games pulled from the App Store before their time

Deleted, delisted, pulled, removed, and expired

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Updated July 10, 2020: Original story by Danny Russell, update by Jon Mundy

The App Store is swamped with thousands upon thousands of titles. At any given point you must have a wishlist of at least a dozen or two that you're waiting to go on sale or, better yet, free.

But what if something infinitely worse happens? What if the game you've been holding out for is removed, without warning? Well, you're just plain out of luck.

Games are removed from the App Store for all sorts of reasons. Illegal or immoral content, expired licenses, backdoor hacks - you name it. Some publishers never even reveal why their games are removed.

The worrying part of all this is that some games may not be digitally preserved for future generations to experience.

Generally, if you've bought a title that becomes delisted, you can still download it from the "Purchased" tab in the App Store app, but if you're worried about games disappearing for good you can check our guide on how to back up a removed app here. 

We've chosen some of our most missed games, which we're worried you may have missed out on. Here's our final hurrah to these these lost gems:

Click Here To View The List »

1
Star Wars: Tiny Death Star

Developer: Disney Mobile Studios
Publisher: Disney Mobile Studios
Available on: iOS + Android + Windows Phone + Windows 8
Genre: Casual, Simulation
Find out more about Star Wars: Tiny Death Star
Star Wars: Tiny Death Star

A financially sensible blend of Tiny Tower's gameplay and the Star Wars universe, this one disappeared alongside card battler Star Wars: Assault Team, which had only been out for five months.

The reasoning behind the removal is said to have been due to Disney and Lucasfilm wanting to focus on other Star Wars titles, with developer Nimblebit rather worryingly not alerted to this decision until after the game was gone.

2
Space Invaders Infinity Gene

Publisher: Taito
Available on: iOS + Android
Genre: Retro, Shooter
Find out more about Space Invaders Infinity Gene
Space Invaders Infinity Gene

One of the finest shoot-'em-ups ever to hit the App Store, Space Invaders Infinity Gene was a true App Store original made explicitly for phones.

The genius of the game was how it evolved as you played it, from wireframe blockiness to free-wheeling blaster. A lack of post-iOS 11 updates finally did it in.

3
Kawaii Killer

Developer: Tabemasu Games
Available on: iOS + Android
Genre: Action, Arcade
Find out more about Kawaii Killer
Kawaii Killer

Apple pulled this cute but cartoonishly violent slice 'em up from the App Store just after its general release, giving developer Tabemasu the explanation "Killing adorable animals does not meet the App Store guidelines."

A goreless version of the game titled Kawaii Killer Plushy Edition subsequently surfaced on the App Store, replacing cartoon animals with cartoon plush toys. Humbug!

A similar thing happened to immigration game Smuggle Truck, which was banned until Owlchemy Labs reinvented it as the more wholesome Snuggle Truck.

4
Sword & Poker 2

Developer: Gaia
Available on: iOS
Genre: Card/board game, RPG
Find out more about Sword & Poker 2
Sword & Poker 2

Sword & Poker 2 had aced (ha!) the whole card-battling thing years before Card Crawl, Hearthstone and Slay the Spire.

It had you fighting turn-based RPG battles against angry mushrooms and evil gnomes using nothing but Poker hands. Sadly, the iOS 11 Appocalypse and a now-defunct developer put paid to all that.

5
Weed Firm

Developer: Manitoba Games
Available on: iOS + Android
Genre: Simulation
Find out more about Weed Firm
Weed Firm

This marijuana empire simulator somehow slipped past the App Store approval patrol, despite many similarly-themed games being rejected outright.

Weed Firm's loose morals led to it being hastily removed by Apple, though not before becoming the top free game.

6
DrawRace 2

Developer: Ubisoft RedLynx
Publisher: Chillingo
Available on: iOS + Android
Genre: Line-drawing, Racing
Find out more about DrawRace 2
DrawRace 2

Many years ago, line-drawing games were all the rage. And DrawRace was arguably the pinnacle of the genre.

It was a racing game, but one where you sketched out a racing line for your little rally cars to follow. RedLynx is still around - albeit now owned by Ubisoft - so we retain the faintest hope of a DrawRace 3.

7
Guitar Hero

Publisher: Activision Blizzard
Available on: iOS
Genre: Music/Rhythm
Find out more about Guitar Hero
Guitar Hero

Guitar Hero joined Rock Band in being relegated into the limbo of delisted territory. This is all par for the course when you're dealing with music licenses, but it's a sad fate nonetheless.

8
Assassin's Creed Recollection

Publisher: Ubisoft
Available on: iOS
Genre: Card/board game
Find out more about Assassin's Creed Recollection
Assassin's Creed Recollection

This polished digital card game with a solid campaign was pulled from the App Store without warning, leaving players unable to buy better booster packs with cold, hard cash.

Anyone who still has the app will have to sink a whole lot of hours in to complete their sets. Everyone else will have to make do with the surprisingly decent Assassin's Creed: Rebellion.

9
Boyfriend Maker

Find out more about

Somehow released with an optimistic 4+ age rating, AI chat sim Boyfriend Maker used a third-party engine that learnt responses based on user input from players worldwide.

As you might expect, this resulted in virtual boyfriends spurting out all manner of filthy remarks to unwitting players. While it proved humourous to many, it probably wasn't quite so much fun for concerned parents. Won't someone please think of the children!?

10
Sweatshop HD

Developer: Littleloud
Publisher: Channel 4
Available on: iOS
Genre: Strategy, Tower defence
Find out more about Sweatshop HD
Sweatshop HD

A Silver Award-winning management simulator and tower defence game that "challenged people to think about the origin of the clothes we buy," according to developer Littleloud.

Despite its obvious intention of being a thought-provoking satire, the nature and setting of the game proved too much for Apple, who was "uncomfortable selling a game based around the theme of running a sweatshop."

11
Marvel vs. Capcom 2

Publisher: Capcom
Available on: iOS
Genre: Fighting
Find out more about Marvel vs. Capcom 2
Marvel vs. Capcom 2

This slightly borked port of the legendary fighting game disappeared, alongside the PSN and XBLA versions of the game, thanks to contracts with Marvel expiring. Disney's acquisition of Marvel was widely rumoured to factor heavily in this.

12
Slingshot Racing

Developer: Snowbolt Interactive
Publisher: Crescent Moon Games
Available on: iOS + Android
Genre: Racing
Find out more about Slingshot Racing
Slingshot Racing

Slingshot Racing was a one-finger racer of uncommon quality. You had to guide a futuristic skidoo around a bunch of tracks by pressing the screen to shoot out a little grappling hook, which then pulled you round.

It was an ingenious system, and one we can't quite believe hasn't been copied more often.

13
X-Men

Publisher: Konami
Available on: iOS
Genre: Action, Arcade, Fighting, Film/TV tie-in, Retro
Find out more about X-Men
X-Men

Another Marvel game, though this time an X-Men focused arcade beat 'em up straight out of the '90s. Sadly, you may never hear the legendary, ever-quotable final boss fight with Magneto on your iPhone again.

Konami's other retro iOS brawler, The Simpsons, was delisted at the same time, making the Disney conspiracy theory slightly less plausible. "Welcome to DIE," indeed Magneto.

14
Gridlee

Developer: David Valdeita
Available on: iOS
Find out more about Gridlee
Gridlee

This retro arcade shooter packed more than Apple bargained for. Gridlee is a prototype arcade game, released to the public as freely distributable for non-commercial purposes by its original developer.

To get this working on an iPhone, it makes use of the open source MAME4iOS emulator. With a little jiggery pokery, any ROM image compatible with the included version of MAME was able to run.

For a brief while, everyone could run arcade games on their iPad. Apple promptly pulled the game from its virtual shelves.

15
Denki Blocks!

Publisher: Denki
Available on: iOS + Android + PSP
Genre: Puzzle
Find out more about Denki Blocks!
Denki Blocks!

Denki Games features some of the team behind the original Grand Theft Auto games. But Denki Blocks was no open-world murder-em-up.

Rather, it was a block-sliding puzzler of uncommon quality and originality.

16
Flappy Bird

Developer: .GEARS Studios
Publisher: .GEARS Studios
Available on: iOS + Android
Genre: Arcade, Casual
Find out more about Flappy Bird
Flappy Bird

The daddy of delisted games. Flappy Bird fever swept the planet, with iPhones still carrying the app supposedly fetching megabucks on eBay the moment creator Dong Nguyen had it taken down.

Many still wonder why such a successful app was removed from the store. Vietnamese tax issues? Nintendo copyright claims? Harassment? Nguyen stated it was down to the game being "an addictive product." He has since released a Fire TV-exclusive multiplayer version.

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