15 Most Expensive Games of All Time | From Development to Delivery

Date:

Video games have always been a significant part of our recreational lifestyle.

So much so that it has elevated its purpose from being “just enjoyment” to a profession. People now also play games professionally and earn millions via gaming tournaments and live streams.

While the cost of a game at the time of buying it is something we always look at, we don’t always pay heed to behind-the-scenes of what goes into its making, such as the creation and execution phases.

Since gaming is a widely-discussed topic, I thought it would be great to touch upon these factors, particularly the costs behind some of the most popular games that you must have played. Moreover, we’ll circle back to its history and specifics and understand how they come to life.

The gaming fever is so high that some games have been made on budgets more than a company’s annual turnover or that of a Hollywood movie. In this post, we’ll dive into some of the most expensive games in the history of video games and also touch upon several factors surrounding it.

If that sounds interesting, let’s jump into it.

Evolution of Video Games 🎮

While games have always been an area of speculation, the earliest video game dates back to the 1950s, a simple game called Bertie the Brain, which was basically tic-tac-toe on an arcade machine.

bertie-the-brain
Source: CIVIC UK

With time, games evolved into 3D graphics, which were much more immersive than their 2D counterpart. Soon, powerful gaming consoles were introduced, paving the way for the community to create more challenging and realistic video games that gained the attention of all.

If we talk about the present, games can be played on our laptops, computers, smartphones, and even our smartwatch. Needless to say, from arcade to AR, the industry has come a long way.

Challenges of Game Development 👨‍💻

Developing a game from scratch is a technical and challenging process.

game-development

While the end product is beautiful and almost “too good to be true” in most cases, let’s know about the various hurdles developers face while designing a game:

➡️ Storyline

A game’s main USP is the story, so developing an enticing storyline in the right genre and platform integration is crucial for its success.

➡️ Technological Complexities

With the advent of science, the new generation often looks up to various tech integrations, including high-end graphics, AI, complex coding, and optimization.

➡️ Time Constraints

Developers often need to work on tight deadlines in which they have to overperform to deliver beyond expectations. A little delay from one side can push the game’s release date further – which is undoubtedly not what the makers and publishers want.

➡️ Budget Constraints

Makers have to calculate strategies on how they can provide the best in the budget allocated to them. This can be a massive challenge if the budget isn’t up to the game’s requirements.

➡️ Target Audience

Most importantly, satisfying the target audience and meeting their expectations, demands, and recommendations is pivotal.

It’s interesting because these are the major factors that also contribute to the exponential budgets of some of the most critically acclaimed games available in the market.

Additionally, celebrity endorsements, marketing campaigns, game release, and on-ground events related to the game also contributes to the expenses.

All of these positively conclude that the gaming industry is no less than a giant where the sky is the limit.

Now that we know a little about what goes behind the development of each game, let’s look at some of the most expensive games in history.

Cyberpunk 2077

The OG gangster of the action role-playing genre, Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most expensive games in history.

Sources have it that the development of this game suffered massive delays due to budget constraints. The confirmed budget of the game is $174 million for development and an extra $142 million for marketing, making it $316 million in total. That huge budget explains the game’s ambitious open-world design with intricate cityscapes and a compelling narrative.

YouTube video

Developed by CD Projekt Red, this game gained momentum when the makers decided to get the famous Keanu Reeves on board in 2019 to further elevate the gameplay and work towards advanced graphics.

As a player, you are welcomed into the Dark Future of the Punk Universe. You assume the role of V, the protagonist who is a mercenary ready to do what it takes to earn a name, fame, and respect.

Join V on their journey to become a legend in a night city obsessed with power, glamour, crime, corruption, and advanced technology. It doesn’t end here. In this plot, your choices become your destiny and shape the world of the people around you.

Set out on various quests, improve your skills, and lay your hands on power to become the best. The game’s gripping storyline is not here to disappoint you, so grab your copy to become a legend in one of the most expensive games made so far.

Developer: CD Projekt Red

Publisher: CD Projekt

Release Date: December 10, 2020

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

A game that requires no introduction, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a part of the mega-hit Call of Duty franchise. A major reason why this game was so popular than its previous release is its insane budget allowances – totaling $250 million.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeVapCrI1pY&pp=ygUmQ2FsbCBvZiBEdXR5OiBNb2Rlcm4gV2FyZmFyZSAyIHRyYWlsZXI%3D

In 2009, pouring a whopping budget of $250 million into a video game was a first pager news title. Once the word was out, everybody waited to see if it was worth it, and my my, do you think it was here to disappoint us? That’s a big No!

Its cutting-edge graphics, star-studded cast, and unique single-player campaign were major factors that contributed to the enormous number mentioned above.

Unlike other games under the banner, Modern Warfare 2 was released to be a first-person shooter game that was equally capable of giving a similar experience in an immersive multiplayer mode. You can pair up with your friends and still enjoy the war zone from your point of view.

The plot is simple, but the game raised the bar for single-player games with the help of its intense gameplay.

It’s addictive with modern military weapons, a raw environment, and a never-seen-before graphic level. Not to mention, the customizable killstreak rewards in the multiplayer mode that has to be one of the best elements of this game.

Overall, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 lives up to its hype.

Developer: Infinity Ward

Publisher: Activision

Release Date: October 28, 2022

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

A remake of the legendary game Final Fantasy VII initially released in 1997, has been a topic of discussion among the gaming community for quite some time.

One of the main reasons was obviously its combined budget announcement of $144 million. The initial version cost similar figures, so this is a great advancement while keeping the same budget.

YouTube video

While Final Fantasy VII Remake can be called the fantasy land for anime fans, there’s so much more that deserves applause. No one had ever invested so much money to develop a role-playing game. And this was a remake that initially had a few hiccups when it was launched in the past.

This created anticipation among fans regarding what to expect, and they didn’t fail to please us. The narrative, a complete remake, consisted of a beautiful storyline that left us in awe and changed the game for a JRPG forever. It also featured expanded visuals that led to high developmental costs.

The story follows the footsteps of Cloud Strife, who joins an eco-terrorist organization to save the world from a powerful megacorporation that uses the planet’s life source as an energy resource.

You can explore the world in 3 modes – World Map, the Field, and Battle. In your journey, you’ll make friends and explore their stories and worlds as you join hands with them on your quest to save the world.

Developer: Square Enix Business Division 1

Publisher: Square Enix

Release Date: April 10, 2020

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

The Last of Us Part II

This critically acclaimed game developed by Naughty Dog was made with an insane budget of $220 million. That’s much more than a lot of Hollywood movies that are produced to this day.

Unsurprisingly, over 200 people worked on this game for 5 years to make it what it is today. Looking at these facts, it’s a fair question for anyone to ask – is this game even worth it? And my answer would be you have to grab a copy to know it! Its attention to detail and realistic animations is a one-of-a-kind experience and definitely not a miss.

YouTube video

The Last of Us Part II follows the emotional journey of Ellie in a post-apocalyptic world. Just a quick run for those in the dark – Ellie and her friend Joel had to make a dangerous journey across the United States in a post-pandemic world that covered the mountains and lush forests in search of habitable land.

At present, the world in Jackson is plagued but beautiful until a violent event disrupts the peace. The storyline is emotional and will make you desperate as you challenge the notions of good and evil, as even the tiniest of Ellie’s and Abby’s actions will have repercussions you have not thought of.

What happens next? Play the game to find out!

Developer: Naughty Dog

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Release Date: June 19, 2020

Halo 2

Bungie’s Halo 2 is a first-person shooter game that officially established this franchise as the cornerstone of console gaming.

The game was made for about $120 million. And the best part? It made sales worth $125 million in the first 24 hours of its release! This speaks volumes about the game itself, doesn’t it?

halo-2-gameplay
Source: Halopedia

This game was a successful hit, thanks to its graphics and physics, which were impressive and ahead of its time back in 2004. It was considered a benchmark for the upcoming modern multiplayer landscape games.

Picking up from the success of its previous release, Halo 2 introduced an engaging dual-protagonist narrative that popularized online multiplayer for consoles through Xbox Live.

Armed with an arsenal of new and upgraded weapons, exciting modes, vicious enemies, and new vehicles – it’s an insane ride that’ll keep you up day and night.

You’ll have to use tactical skills, strategize every move, and be in sync with your partner in order to move to the next level. You can also choose to play the single-player mode that’s equally thrilling and will give you a first-hand experience of modern tech combat.

Developer: Bungie

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Release Date: November 9, 2004

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Horizon Forbidden West

A groundbreaking sequel, Horizon Forbidden West made it to the first page of news articles and became the talk of the town. The reason? It’s because of the never seen before cutting-edge technology and intricate detailing of its vast open world.

The advancement of the sequel was also the reason behind the makers spending about $212 million, and dare I say; it’s worth every penny.

YouTube video

This action role-playing game by Guerrilla Games gives you a captivating experience through the storyline that’ll keep you guessing what will come next until the end.

Mind you; the graphics are so real, you might feel like you’re actually a part of Aloy’s world who’s ready to take the reign of planet Earth back in humankind’s grasp.

One of the unique elements of this game is the protagonist, Aloy herself, a warrior in a lush, post-apocalyptic world ruled by robotic creatures. The story brilliantly picks up from where it was left in its first part and continues her journey as she makes new friends, enters into an alliance with the old ones, and arms up with the help of multiple side quests.

Preview Product Rating Price
Horizon Forbidden West (PS5) Horizon Forbidden West (PS5) No ratings yet $42.94Amazon Prime

You’ll have to explore distant lands and gain as many awe-spiring machines as possible to fight bigger in the far future of Horizon. The Earth’s destiny lies in your hands as it’s on you to uncover secrets, make firm decisions, and restore the worldly order for a peaceful and threat-free future.

Developer: Guerrilla Games

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Release Date: February 18, 2022

Destiny

Developed by Bungie, Destiny’s budget of $140 million was majorly attributed to its ambitious blend of first-person shooting concept and MMO elements, creating a unique online multiplayer experience.

YouTube video

As a player, you get to unravel Destiny’s unique cinematic story, in which you can move your character according to your will. The game upgrades its players with constant updates and improvement fixes, contributing to its mountainous costs. You can play it in two modes – PvP or PvE. Both modes are exciting and have their own set of challenges. 

The plot revolves around you being one of humanity’s last defenders in a solar system ruled by lethal villains. You can choose your character from 3 classes:

  • Titan: They’re disciplined, proud, and good in defense and aggressive attacks. 
  • Warlock: They embody the true power of the light and harness the power of the universe to gain strength and fight their foes. 
  • Hunter: As the name suggests, they are agile, daring, and quick on their feet. 

Each character has its strengths, skillsets, and weapons. So, choose your warrior and become a legend of the stars now!

Developer: Bungie

Publisher: Activision

Release Date: September 9, 2014

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, you join Lara Croft in the final chapter as she takes one last journey on her destiny to become the best tomb raider in the world. The tombs are scarier and mightier this time, and the jungle is denser than ever.

YouTube video

Developed by Eidos Montreal and Crystal Dynamics, this installment combines all the previous games, including seven DLC challenge tombs, downloadable weapons, outfits, and skills.

The developers spent a massive $135 million on the game, but what led to it? The answer is the complex details of the Mayan apocalypse, the addition of lush and dangerous environments, and thrilling action sequences.

Enter into puzzle-solving worlds and dive deep underwater to explore deadly tunnels and aquatic environments to gain points and collectibles. You’ll have to use your presence of mind to attack and take down your enemies swiftly.

As you enter the shoes of Lara, beware as you may be outgunned and outnumbered and will have to become one with the forest to use it to your strength and win the quest.

Moreover, the game requires you to adapt and learn to disappear and run as fast as a jaguar, use mud as camouflage, and instill fear in the enemies’ minds to showcase your power.

The cherry on top is the discovery of the hidden city that will leave you in awe.

Developer: Eidos-Montréal, Crystal Dynamics, Nixxes & Feral Interactive

Publisher: Crystal Dynamics & Feral Interactive

Release Date: September 14, 2018

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Dead Space 2

This $120 million masterpiece is exactly what you need after you’re done playing the above games. Visceral Games’ Dead Space 2 is a spine-chilling survival horror game that takes you on a terrifying journey through a space station overrun by nightmarish creatures known as Necromorphs.

YouTube video

The game emphasizes psychological horror and strategic dismemberment combat, earning it critical acclaim for its atmospheric storytelling and gameplay. Creating a chilling and immersive experience explains the significant investment in design, audio, and gameplay mechanics.

In this game, you step into the shoes of Isaac, who wakes up 3 years after the deadly events of USG Ishimura. He soon unearths a Marker, an unknown artifact that leads him to Sprawl – a space station in Saturn’s orbit.

One of the key features to note is that you can tear through the space with 360-degree movements, which will give you chills down the spine (take my word for it!)

If you’re a science geek, you’re in for a treat, as this game has some mind-mending physics-based puzzles to solve as you enter space.

Witnessing weightless combat in a dark sprawl as you fire up Issac’s spacesuit with the zero-gravity feature is fascinating.

Developer: Visceral Games

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Release Date: January 25, 2011

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Grand Theft Auto IV

Grand Theft Auto – a megastar franchise in itself, this post is too short to define its specifics and sing its praises. A part of the famous GTA family, Grand Theft Auto IV was one of the most expensive games released, at a jaw-dropping amount of over $100 million.

YouTube video

The most glaring area where money was spent the most was its award-winning soundtrack and a workforce of over 1000 people who tirelessly put their minds for almost 3 and a half years to bring this masterpiece to life.

You’ve heard of the American dream, and now it’s time for you to live it via the breathtaking Grand Theft Auto IV.

Join Niko Bellic, who’s just escaped on a boat from Europe and arrived in the city, emotionally running away from his past. He plans to meet his cousin Roman in Liberty City, and they both hatch a plan to find a fortune and live a lavish life.

Practically licensed to be bad, you’ll often find yourself in the middle of gang wars and thefts as this city worships only money, fame, and crime. These two also cross paths with Luis, who’s struggling to pay loyalties to his friends and family in a world where everything has a price.

Race through the city roads to escape from the police, and handle stellar weapons as you write victory with your journey.

Developer: Rockstar North & Rockstar Toronto

Publisher: Rockstar Games

Release Date: April 29, 2008

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Shenmue

Released in 1999, Shenmue will surely take you on a wonder ride. It’s an action-adventure game that follows the story of a teenage martial arts artist – Ryo Hazuki, who’s out on revenge for his father’s death.

shenmue-gameplay
Source: Fandom

The feature that made this game popular was its usage of quick-time events that added to the extended thrill in this Japanese anime featuring beautiful characters and storylines. It had an expense of roughly $47-70 million, which broke the barriers at that time. It was a bold launch with a narrative not explored before.

It brilliantly features a richly detailed world and innovative features, such as real-time day and night cycles and dynamic weather, further adding to the mystical experience the game aims to offer.

Ryo continues his martial arts journey while trying to have a showdown with the villain Lan Di. But he is no ordinary guy. Lan Di is responsible for the stolen mirror to restart the ancient Qing Dynasty. Ryo will have to work odd jobs across Japan and China as he plots to fail Lan Di. Will he be successful? Well, that’s entirely up to you!

Developer: SEGA AM2

Publisher: SEGA

Release Date: December 29, 1999

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Battlefield 4

Renowned for its dynamic large-scale multiplayer battles and dramatic graphics, Battlefield 4’s budget of $100 million was largely influenced due to its technological advancements. It was released with a character-driven campaign that helped players resonate with the game’s characters.

battlefield-4-gameplay
Source: EA

The plot follows an evacuation of American VIPs from Shanghai and the struggle to find one’s way back home. Get ready to give all it takes as you’ll soon be in a glorious war on the Battlefield that’s not for the weak-hearted. It’s your place to dominate an intense single-player campaign where saving lives is at the cost of your own life.

You’ll have to play at your strengths across 64 varied battlefields as you demolish buildings protecting your enemies, lead an assault from the back of a gunboat, and immerse yourself in tactical challenges.

Exercise your expertise in various modes and maps in real-time action. You can also utilize additional features, such as expansion packs that include:

  • 20 new maps
  • 48 exclusive assignments
  • New modes
  • Personalization options
  • 12 bonus battle packs
  • Priority access in the server queue.

If you fancy a realistic shootout game this weekend, Battlefield 4 should be the one.

Developer: DICE

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Release Date: October 29, 2013

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Genshin Impact

Developed by miHoYo, Genshin Impact is an action role-playing game that captured the audience’s attention with its expansive open world and anime-inspired visuals.

The game features 4 distinct and powerful characters – Klee, Eula, Wanderer, and Sangonomiya Kokomi that’ll make you fall in love at first sight. The critics approved the justified budget of over $100 million spent in making this game which enchanted the players with elemental magic and character switching.

YouTube video

Simple and easy to follow, it also gained popularity due to its fresh take on storytelling and combat system.

The game takes place in the fantasy land of Teyvat – an unknown world full of life and elemental magic. You enter this world with your sibling having no powers and skills, stuck in a deep slumber as you set to unravel its mysteries and figure a way out.

To navigate, for starters, you’ll set out on a quest to find and interact with The Seven – the supernatural God of each element who will point you towards your destiny. On your way, you explore wonderful vast lands with beautiful music playing in the background and build a dream team with their unique personalities, stories, and skill sets. Overall, the game is one of the best multiplayer games for Android today!

Developer: miHoYo

Publisher: miHoYo

Release Date: September 28, 2020

➡️ Check it out on Google Play.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Another marvel from the house of CD Projekt Red, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was conceptualized, executed, and released on a combined budget of $81 million.

Its 40 marketing campaigns helped boost its publicity and proved it’s a good investment as the sales blew off the charts. It’s widely regarded as one of the greatest role-playing games ever.

YouTube video

The game was later made available in 15 languages – of which 7 had full-fledged voice acting. Around 500 voice artists contributed to bringing the game to life. Sounds insane, right? The game is now enhanced for the new generation ready to reckon with the world.

Makers also paid heed to community recommendations, faster loading time, and a complex level of detail while breathing life into this dark fantasy world of the continent waiting to be saved from monsters.

In this game, you don the role of Geralt of Rivia – a renowned monster slayer on a quest to track down a child of prophecy – Ciri, who can alter the current world’s shape.

You’ll be awed at the weapons, armor, outfits, and the built-in photo mode. Use your tactical skills and exercise your reflexes are you slay monsters and amp up your skills on side quests. Set out on a hunt today by playing this game!

Developer: CD Projekt Red

Publisher: CD Projekt Red

Release Date: May 18, 2015

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Rift

Here’s your chance to become the hero of your dreams! Rift allows you to customize your character in the game with the help of its perfect class system. You can form a basic sketch, and as you go on quests, you can collect, develop, and customize your gear with each level you cross.

YouTube video

This game is intriguing, with a gripping storyline that can be explored in a single-player or multiplayer mode. You’ll have to alert your senses as you raid dungeons in a dynamic, open world full of challenges and never-ending tasks to accomplish because the world of Telara only understands the language of victory.

It’s heart-pounding when enemies emerge from rifts asking for a gruesome battle with you in order to exert power. The key to this game lies in meeting your elemental dragon force for inspiration to save the world.

This great game by Trion Worlds came to life with a lavish budget of over $70 million, and earned $100 million within the first week of its release.

The creators also went to the extent of constantly developing and maintaining an ever-evolving world which adds to its unique experience.

Developer: Trion Worlds & Gamigo US Inc.

Publisher: Trion Worlds & Gamigo US Inc.

Release Date: March 1, 2011

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Closing Thoughts

The games in this list are truly at the pinnacle of creativity, ambition, and technology in the gaming industry. And with newer technology coming into the limelight, these budgets will be considered benchmarks for times to come.

While these expensive games left a lasting impact on the gaming community, it’s exciting to see what the future holds for us!

On the other end, you can check out our list of the best Flash games for free and casual entertainment!

Adnan Rehan
Adnan Rehan
Adnan is a BMS graduate and a senior games writer at Sparkian. He's a gaming enthusiast with plenty of knowledge of the gaming world, including the latest games, strategies, and epic adventures. Besides gaming, he loves to write about tech over at Geekflare.

Related articles

7 Best Simulation Games for Nintendo Switch to Experience Life-Like Adventures

Escape into fantastic virtual realms with best simulation games for the Nintendo Switch!

13 Best Free FPS Games on Steam: No Bucks, Just Bullets

You don't have to invest any money to play decent FPS games. Explore these free FPS games on Steam that deserve a spot in your collection!

Elden Ring: All 5 Godslayer Incantations Locations (Complete Walkthrough)

Godslayer incantations conjure black fire & inflict percentage-based damage. Here’s how you can find all 5 Godslayer Incantations.

How to Get the Gold Jointed Bracelet in Red Dead Redemption 2?

You need a Gold Jointed Bracelet to craft an Alligator Tooth Talisman; it reduces Dead Eye core drainage by 10%. Let’s see how to find one in the RDR2 world.