We’re lucky Tears of the Kingdom is well on the way and didn’t turn out like these canceled The Legend of Zelda games. The hero of Hyrule has led countless revolutions in the video game medium. But with great experimentation comes the possibility of missteps and painful concessions. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind the cancellation of these games and what could have been if they had seen the light of day. While we may never uncover all the projects aiming to reinvent this iconic franchise, we can still mourn the lost adventures of Link and his friends.
Zelda 3: The RPG-SciFi Hybrid That Never Was
The development of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was filled with ambitious ideas that were eventually discarded, ending up on this list of canceled Legend of Zelda games. According to Hyrule Historia, the team wanted to include sci-fi elements and time travel. Still, producer Shigeru Miyamoto also wanted to add two more protagonists and an open gameplay system with multiple resolution methods. Designer Takashi Tezuka also planned a multi-world structure that would have impacted the gameplay. Ultimately, these ideas were left on the cutting room floor, leaving players to wonder what could have been.
The Abandoned 3D Remake of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link
Nintendo sought to continue exploring The Legend of Zelda series after the success of Link’s Awakening. Shigeru Miyamoto‘s fascination with 3D polygonal elements led to experimentation with the franchise. The team even considered creating a 3D polygonal remake of Zelda 2 featuring Link. While the project never came to fruition, the team kept their learnings in mind for the successful 3D transition of the franchise. Zelda 2 is like the middle child of the Zelda franchise — often overlooked and underrated, but still full of surprises and worth getting to know. We would have loved to see this concept come to life.
Zelda’s Game Boy Color Remake
Capcom worked on several Zelda games, including an unreleased remake of The Legend of Zelda for Game Boy Color. But the tiny screen of the handheld console created a big headache. This forced the team to rethink and adjust the game’s scenery and maps to fit everything together.
As a result, map development was more complex. Thus, it was decided not to continue with the project and throw it into this pile of canceled Legend of Zelda games. Nevertheless, Capcom’s love for the Zelda saga was clear with their successful releases of Oracle of Seasons, Oracle of Ages, and Minish Cap.
A Zelda: Wind Waker Sequel Sunk
Nintendo’s original plans for a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker involved a significant change to the gameplay, taking action to land and allowing players to gallop on horseback like in Ocarina of Time.
However, due to setbacks and adjustments, the game was not what its creators had in mind. It led to the decision to continue The Wind Waker on handhelds with two more installments and create a completely original adventure for the adult Link in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
A Sheikah-centric Action RPG from Retro Studios
Retro Studios had plans to create an Action RPG based on Sheikah’s role in forging the iconic Master Sword. This spin-off would have been a departure from the traditional Zelda games and allowed players to control a Sheikah character. Although a prototype was developed for about nine months, the project was ultimately scrapped in 2008 due to Retro Studios’ workload.
But hey, not all hope is lost on this particular canceled Legend of Zelda game. Miyamoto expressed interest in developing a game centered around the enigmatic Sheikah in 2016. With the Sheikah gaining more depth in Breath of the Wild and the Hyrule Warriors spin-offs, it’s possible that we may see a Zelda game that deviates from the traditional formula in the future.
Ura Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s Facelift
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time‘s development was delayed multiple times, but the wait paid off. Nintendo initially planned to release the game with the 64DD disc reader, which would’ve allowed for new possibilities, but it was only released in Japan in 1999 with very little content.
As a result, Ocarina of Time had to cut content created for the 64DDD, so Nintendo decided to create an improved version of the game, Ura Zelda, with the recovered cut. It expanded content, retouched dungeons, and locations, and even used online features. However, most of these ideas were ultimately not included in the final game or its Master Quest version, which was released for GameCube in 2003. Despite this, the Master Quest included some Ura Zelda content, like different dungeons and new treasure locations.
Twilight Princess’ Side Story Sequel
After the success of Twilight Princess, Miyamoto wanted to create a new game using its assets. The Zelda team planned to make a “side story,” but the scope grew too big. Instead, Miyamoto suggested using the Wii Zapper to make Link’s Crossbow Training. The Zelda team was surprised by the decision and thought reusing software was a bad idea. Miyamoto essentially killed their ideas, but at least we got a game out of it.
Zelda Would’ve Gone Social: Nintendo’s Multiplayer Quest
Nintendo has been experimenting with multiplayer Zelda games on handheld consoles since 2004, with various prototypes created for the Nintendo DS and 3DS. However, these efforts were initially halted by series producer Eiji Aonuma, who wanted to focus on other concepts. The second attempt, in 2009, aimed to emphasize player communication, like Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures. But was shot down by Shigeru Miyamoto, sending it right into this list of canceled Legend of Zelda games.
Instead, Miyamoto created The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, which eventually paved the way for developing The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes — a unique multiplayer Zelda game for the 3DS. While some concepts may not always come to fruition, Nintendo remains dedicated to exploring ways to bring the Zelda franchise’s magic to a multiplayer experience.
Tingle’s Horror Game Project
Vanpool, the game developer, had plans to make a horror game with Tingle as the protagonist back in 2010. Unfortunately, the game was scrapped for unclear reasons. The game’s producer was expected to be Kensuke Tanabe, while Jun Tsuda was expected to be the director. However, Vanpool went on to develop Dillon’s Rolling Western and its sequels.
Vanpool’s founder Taro Kudo, who directed Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland, eventually left to become an independent developer. Kudo continued to work with Nintendo on various Paper Mario games, this time as a writer and director. Even if your original idea doesn’t work out, there are still plenty of opportunities to create something great.
A Rolling Zelda Game With a Goron
Vanpool’s idea of a Tingle-focused game was scrapped. So, they rolled with a new idea featuring a Goron that involved slingshotting pachinko balls at enemies. This was a time in which Hugo was widely popular, so we honestly don’t blame them for thinking Nintendo would agree to this idea. Still, Nintendo wasn’t on board, but they recommended using an original character. Inspired by their trips to Texas, producers Kensuke Tanabe and Risa Tabata suggested the idea of an armadillo character. And Vanpool decided to give it a roll. The result was Dillon’s Rolling Western.
That does it for our review of the 10 canceled Zelda that never were. While it’s true that some of these ideas were perhaps better kept in the scrapbook, it’s a shame others never saw the light of day. Still, with The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom only just around the corner we don’t have long to wait before another epic Hyrule adventure.