The Legend of Zelda is one of the oldest and most beloved franchises in gaming. Ever since the original game was released for the NES back in 1986, The Legend of Zelda has consistently been a top-tier series for Nintendo, with individual titles such as Ocarina of Time (1998) and Breath of the Wild (2017) being considered some of the greatest games ever made by both fans and critics alike.
While the overall quality of Zelda games has remained consistent for over 30 years, the games themselves have evolved over time, sometimes with dramatic results. Sure, all Zelda titles share some core ideas—pretty much every mainline entry features some variation on the hero Link having to save Princess Zelda and the land of Hyrule from a powerful villain—but Nintendo has never been afraid to make some pretty substantial changes to the Zelda formula from game-to-game. One of the results of this is that the franchise's narrative timeline is a complete mess but rather than becoming a sticking point for fans, this has led to an obsessive search for clues within the games themselves. More often than not, this has turned up content that, for one reason or another, ended up on the cutting room floor.
Join us as we take a look at 25 items, levels, and other game assets that have been deleted from the Zelda series over the years. While it's sad that these were deleted, at least fans managed to find these in the end!
25 Nintendo 64DD-Exclusive Programming - Ocarina Of Time
Hey, remember the Nintendo 64DD? Its quick demise meant that we never got to see Nintendo's ambitious expansion plans for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time pan out. Based on what we know from interviews with Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma from the 90s, it would have changed a lot.
"Ura Zelda" would have added new dungeons, areas, bosses ... pretty much everything.
There's even code remnants hinting at the expansion in the original N64 game! A dedicated modding community worked on "Project Ura" from 2010 to 2013 in an effort to restore the long-lost expansion. You can read all about their exploits here.
24 Hidden Room At The Top Of Hyrule Castle - Breath Of The Wild
One of the most common discoveries made in Breath of the Wild are unused rooms that exist beyond the game world boundaries. Arguably the most interesting of these findings is the existence of a room behind the locked door at the top of Hyrule Castle. The door can't be opened through normal gameplay, but the fact that there is a room behind it and not just an empty space suggests that the level designers had a plan for this door, but for whatever reason had to scrap it.
23 GameCube Island - The Wind Waker
It's no secret that a lot of content ended up on the cutting room floor for the 2003 GameCube title Wind Waker, some of which would have gone a long way in alleviating the rather sparsely populated game world.
Several islands were cut from Wind Waker, including one modeled after the GameCube.
As revealed in the Hyrule Historia, several islands were cut from Wind Waker, including one modeled after the GameCube. Fortunately, this idea was carried over to 2007's Phantom Hourglass, which fittingly featured a Nintendo DS island.
22 Stovepipe Island - The Wind Waker
Another cut island from The Wind Waker, Stovepipe island had the potential to be one of the game's most interesting locations. As detailed by the YouTube channel Nintendo's Cut Content with Dr. Lava, Stovepipe Island likely would have featured several quests due to the amount of NPCs present, which in turn would have made it one of the most populated islands in the game.
Dr. Lava speculates that the island was cut both due to the time crunch the development team was under, and because the island's inhabitants were tobacco fans, which isn't something Nintendo would have approved of.
21 Fire Rod - The Minish Cap
The Fire Rod ended up being replaced by the Flame Lantern in the 2004 Game Boy Advance title, The Minish Cap. However, it appears that Capcom had originally intended for the Fire Rod to be included.
In the European version, a reference to the Fire Rod can be seen in the figurine description for the Ice Wizzrobes. Using a cheat device reveals that the Fire Rod exists in the game, but as a debug tile editor item. You can actually use the editor to modify The Minish Cap's landscapes, but you can't save any changes and nothing you do will make the Fire Rod usable.
20 Cannon Soldier - A Link To The Past
Sometimes, you really have to wonder why a perfectly good game asset ended up on the cutting room floor. Such is the case with the Cannon Soldier, a fully functional enemy from A Link to the Past that ended up buried in the game's code. If inserted into the game, the Cannon Soldier works fine and doesn't break the game in any way.
In practice, he's a stationary enemy that fires a small red cannon at Link (big surprise right?), doing half a heart of damage. It's widely assumed that if they had been kept, the Cannon Soldier would have appeared within Hyrule Castle or Hyrule Castle Tower.
19 Water Boots - The Wind Waker
Whole islands weren't the only assets cut from The Wind Waker! Game hackers discovered a piece of equipment marked only by Japanese text, which translates to "Water Boots." If you load the item up, there's an actual animation for putting the boots on and off, but no model appears.
Due to the identical animation, the belief is that the Water Boots would have basically been Iron Boots with a different function, such as allowing Link to sink under water. Funnily enough, that would tie into another major piece of gameplay cut from The Wind Waker covered later in this article.
18 Darkhammer Miniboss Test Room -Twilight Princess
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess features a single test room buried in its code: an early version of the Darkhammer miniboss room, which is located in the Snowpeak Ruins. The room is actually quite different from the one found in the final game, with the most significant change being that the test room is much larger and features a hexagonal layout. In contrast, the final version is much narrower and was likely changed so as to increase the fight's difficulty.
17 Link Mask - Majora’s Mask
Majora's Mask features a ton of different masks for Link to swap on and off (including masks based on the Star Fox cast!), but did you know that Link almost got to wear one based on his own face?
It's speculated that the mask would have returned Link to his adult form.
There's an unused texture in the game that resemble's Young Link's face and this is supported by concept art in Hyrule Historia that shows Deku Link wearing this mask. It's unclear what function this mask would have performed, but it's speculated that it would have returned Link to his adult, Hylian form.
16 The Black Stone - Skyward Sword
If you played through Skyward Sword, you'll recall the Sealing Spike, a sacred lock meant to keep The Imprisoned, a massive, villainous beast, at bay. In the game files, the Sealing Spike is referred to as the White Stone. There is also a named "Black Stone" consisting of an unused model that looks a lot like the Sealing Spike or White Stone. The Black Stone was likely intended as a counterpart to the White Stone, though what its specific function would have been is unclear.
15 Greatfish Isle Dungeon - The Wind Waker
If we look at Greatfish Isle as an unused asset, than it is arguably one of the biggest pieces of cut content in the Zelda series; not because it isn't in the game (it is) but because it could have been so much more.
Time and tech constraints forced Nintendo to cut the Greatfish Isle Quest.
The Wind Waker dev team had originally planned for Greatfish Isle to have its own dungeon quest, but time and tech constraints (Wind Waker's solid blue water would have made a water-focused dungeon a massive undertaking) forced Nintendo to cut it. This is why Jabun simply gives Link the third Goddess Pearl.
14 Fishing Hole Supporting Cast- Majora’s Mask 3D
Majora's Mask may be a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, but it really has little connection for a narrative standpoint. This means that you don't see major characters like Sheik, Ganondorf, or Impa in the land of Termina. That being said, all three of these characters can be found in Majora's Mask 3D for the Nintendo 3DS... if you know where to look.
Models for all three characters can be found in the game files, under a file name that makes reference to a fisher man. It's been speculated, but never confirmed that these characters were supposed to appear inside one of the game's two Fishing Holes.
13 Chris Houlihan Room - A Link To The Past
Named after a kid who participated in a Nintendo Power event and won the honor of having his name immortalized in a Zelda game, the Chris Houlihan room functions as an error handler in A Link to the Past.
The room itself is just a simple cave containing 225 rupees and a telegraphic tile containing a message from Chris himself: "My name is Chris Houlihan. This is my top secret room. Keep it between us, OK?" Exiting the room takes you to Link's House. If you're looking for a way to trigger the specific bug that will take you to the room, instructions can be found here.
12 Yawning Link - Tri Force Heroes
The multiplayer-focused 3DS game Tri Force Heroes features a number communication icons for players to use in lieu of voice chat, including one that, for whatever reason, was cut. An icon showing Link yawning still exists in the game's data and interestingly, features a noticeably different art style from the other available icons.
We know that the yawn icon was meant to be used in the game's Multiplayer Lobby because of the number in its file name. Apparently, Nintendo just didn't feel it was all that important for players to let each other know they were sleepy!
11 Zora And Tingle Sails - The Wind Waker
It's a bit of an understatement to say that sailing makes up a substantial portion of The Wind Waker's gameplay. With as much time as you spend navigating the high seas, you'd think that Nintendo would have included a few more options for customizing Link's boat. Two placeholder sail icons found in the game code called the Zora Sail and Tingle Sail suggest that there were plans to allow Link to change up his ship's cosmetics.
It's unclear why these sails weren't implemented. Director Eiji Aonuma has stated that boat speed was limited in the original game, which is why we saw the Swift Sail added in The Wind Waker HD.
10 Goron Megazord - Twilight Princess
The Gorons, Hyrule's favorite volcano-dwelling rock eaters, have gotten up to some pretty crazy shenanigans over the course of the Zelda series, including a Power Rangers-like boss battle. Well ...almost.
Link was supposed to battle a giant monster made up entirely of rolled up Gorons.
Hackers managed to discover game files in Twilight Princess that indicate Link was supposed to battle a giant monster made up entirely of rolled up Gorons. Dubbed the Goron Megazord due to its similarity to the Power Rangers' powerful battle robot. Unfortunately, this enemy encounter ended up being cut, for unknown reasons.
9 Wind And Ice Medallions - Ocarina Of Time
Ocarina of Time's Medallions were originally supposed to function quite differently and there are even a few that got cut along the way. In a November 1997 interview with Famimaga 64, Shigeru Miyamoto explained that Medallions would have been used to give Link's Bow and Arrow different functions.
Six types of these Magic Medallions existed in all, but the Wind and Ice ones were changed to the Forest and Water Medallions we see in the final game. Two icons representing these original names and designs still exist in the game's code.
8 Butter - The Minish Cap
Link has been able to equip some strange items over the years, but butter? What possible gameplay function could butter have? Well, the delicious dairy product can be found in the code for The Minish Cap and would have been an in-game item.
What possible gameplay function could butter have?
It's unclear where Link would have gotten it in-game, but the text description indicates that Link was originally able to turn Lon Lon Milk into Butter, and eating it would have restored all of his hearts.
7 Ordon Shield - Twilight Princess
Yes, the Ordon Shield is the first shield Link gets in Twilight Princess, but there's another variation that ended up going unused. An icon and design of a different looking Ordon Shield can be found in the game files, but it also appears in-game as the model used by Colin and Talo. And no, before you ask, this isn't the model that Link can grab in the shop if his original shield gets burned up, as that is just a plain old wooden one.
6 Phantom Hourglass Boss Theme - Spirit Tracks
Unused music files are quite common in not just the Zelda franchise, but video games in general. One of the more notable excised bits of music can be found in Spirit Tracks, which contains the boss theme from its direct predecessor, Phantom Hourglass. The "Protect Zelda from Possessed Cole" battle music is also present in Spirit Tracks and it's speculated that it was originally meant to be used during the final boss encounter. You can listen to both tracks here.
5 Dynamic Shadows - Ocarina Of Time
For its era, Ocarina of Time was a pretty impressive looking game that put the Nintendo 64 hardware through its paces. However, there are certain sections that admittedly look much better than others and that's because they use dynamic shadows. Dynamic shadows were actually used in a lot of promotional screenshots, but are only used in a few cutscenes and on a few objects in the game because of how taxing they were to run on the N64.
If you're looking for specific sections where dynamic shadows are used, check out the Light Medallion cutscene where Navi casts light on Link, and the Ganon fight where the Master Sword is knocked away.
4 Underwater Exploration Mechanic - The Wind Waker
While Link does travel underwater to the ruins of Hyrule Castle, it's revealed in Hyrule Historia that The Wind Waker was originally supposed to have a lot more areas to explore under the sea. Link would have been able to explore specific areas and then tub on a fisherman's hook to return to the surface. It's a neat mechanic that would have helped flesh out Wind Waker's flooded Hyrule Kingdom but given how much content needed to be cut in order for the game to hit its release date, it's understandable why this was jettisoned.
3 Great Fairy Outfit - Tri Force Heroes
Tri Force Heroes nearly gave Link the ability to put on fairy wings but unfortunately, the Great Fairy Outfit didn't make it into the final build. Luckily, we at least know there was a plan to have Link be able to put on the Great Fairy Outfit, as there are unfinished assets in the game's data. It's speculated that the costume would have given Link three extra heart containers, judging by the outfit's icon being a duplicate of the Queen of Hearts.
2 Zelda Singing Clip - Hyrule Warriors
Let's just get this out of the way: yes, Hyrule Warriors deserves to be considered a canonical Zelda game because it is awesome, plain and simple. Now that that's cleared up, did you know there's a glitch that causes Zelda to sing her theme, "Zelda's Lullaby"? By triggering the Skin Swap Glitch (instructions can be found here) as Zelda at the Summoning Gate, you can treat your ears to a ditty sung by none other than Hyrule's favorite magic-wielding princess.
1 Star Fox Arwing - Ocarina Of Time
Star Fox 64's flying mechanics were so well executed that one Ocarina of Time animator actually repurposed the flight patterns of the Arwing fighter for one of the game's boss battles. When it came time to do the dragon Volvagia's flying animations, Kazuaki Morita had the idea of modeling it after an Arwing asset from Star Fox 64. We know this is true because a fully functional AI Arwing still exists in the game files and if accessed, Link can actually fight it! We're still waiting for a proper Star Fox-Zelda crossover, but this is still a pretty cool bit of N64 game development trivia!