Some of the most famous video game franchises were created by Nintendo. With each new console, they bring in new ways for players to interact with characters like Kirby and Donkey Kong. They even imagine spin-off titles to bring their cast of heroes to different genres. Love them or hate them, Nintendo’s franchises remain some of the most beloved in the entire industry.
As they try to think of new ways to entice consumers into buying consoles and games, Nintendo comes up with several different ideas. How do they make a new 3D Mario game feel fresh and inventive while still fitting alongside prior entries in the series? How can they take the concept of a 2D platformer and throw it into a high-intensity racing game like in Kirby Air Ride? As a company, Nintendo has been extremely creative in thinking of the possibilities with their many characters.
That said, some of their ideas don’t stick. Despite having many plans and goals for what to do with their franchises, plans can fall through, and that’s true even with Nintendo. They’ve come up with sequels, spin-offs, and new franchises that were all canceled before they could be released. Sometimes, it was for the better that these games never came out, other times it was to the disappointment of many.
With that out of the way, we’ll be diving into Nintendo’s lost history as we explore 25 of their games that were canceled for surprising reasons. For this list, we are only considering games featuring Nintendo properties- not games that were supposed to appear on Nintendo consoles.
25 Star Fox 2
After the success of Star Fox on the SNES, Nintendo was hard at work on Star Fox 2, which expanded on the concepts introduced in the original game while adding new mechanics for good measure. However, the industry was changing as Nintendo was working on the N64, and what people wanted out of 3D games were a bit different. Despite being far into development, Star Fox 2 was canceled. No one ever heard from the project until it was finished for a first release on the SNES Classic.
24 Ocarina Of Time Expansion
After The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time became a smashing success, Nintendo decided that it would be a good game to help sell the N64 disc drive. They started work on an expansion for the game titled “Ura Zelda,” and talked about it quite a bit. However, the disc drive was an intense flop, leading the company to cancel many games they had planned for it. “Ura Zelda” was among them, and it was speculated that the assets they created were later re-used for the “Master Quest” version of Ocarina of Time.
23 Return Of Donkey Kong
Nintendo’s first big franchise started with Donkey Kong. The game was such a hit that they developed two sequels. However, they had plans for another entry, titled The Return of Donkey Kong. This game would feature the titular ape as a playable character, though not much else is known. It got to the point where it was even listed in the Official Nintendo Player’s Guide, but there wasn’t a single peep about it after that. Later on, it was confirmed the project was canceled.
22 Star Fox Virtual Boy
Nintendo was trying something new with the Virtual Boy, though the concept proved to be ahead of its time, not having the technology available to properly support the idea. There were a few games considered for the system that quickly went into development, but the failure of the system led to several cancellations. Among them was a Star Fox game that was going to add more depth to the intergalactic combat. Some theorized that it would’ve taken the assets from the unreleased Star Fox 2.
21 Earthbound 64
The success of Earthbound or Mother 2 depending on which corner of the world it’s being discussed prompted Nintendo to work on a sequel. Titled Earthbound 64, the game was planned to be a launch title for the N64 disc drive before being ported to a cartridge solely. However, the developers didn’t feel that they could make an astounding game working with 3D graphics, so the project was canceled. Its assets were later ported onto the GBA to create Mother 3.
20 Fire Emblem 64
The technological constraints of a Fire Emblem game don’t seem all that taxing, though the development of Fire Emblem 64 proves otherwise. While the game was being worked on, the developers found out that what they wanted to do couldn’t properly be achieved using the system’s hardware. After some talk about the difficulties of making the game, it came as no surprise that it was finally canceled. Its assets were reportedly used in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance on the GameCube.
19 3D Kirby Platformer
Kirby has made his way to several genres, though the one he hasn’t properly made the leap to is a 3D platformer. However, the people at HAL Laboratory have expressed interest in bringing the pink puff to this format. They even confirmed that such a game was in development for the GameCube, releasing some images that showed it off. They would later say that they didn’t have the proper ideas to fully make the game a good one, leading to the project’s cancellation years later.
18 Metroid 64
During the heyday of the N64, Nintendo had several ideas to bring the Metroid series to 3D. However, the series developers didn’t feel that that Samus could properly work in that style. Nintendo later went to other studios, who turned down the project as well. Some felt that Samus would only properly work in 2D and that the N64 controller wasn’t suited for her movement. It wouldn’t be until the GameCube that Metroid Prime would bring Samus into a 3D space.
17 Animal Crossing 2
The Animal Crossing series debuted on the GameCube years ago and proved to be a rousing success. As a result, they started work on a sequel titled Animal Crossing 2 for the same system. Despite releasing a screenshot, the project ended up being cancelled. It was never revealed why Nintendo canceled it, but many believe it was because they wanted to give the newly-launched Nintendo DS more steam by releasing an Animal Crossing game for it. This possibly led to the creation of Animal Crossing: Wild World.
16 Donkey Kong Racing
After the success of Diddy Kong Racing, Rare was hard at work on a follow-up for the GameCube. Titled Donkey Kong Racing, the game was going to include characters from Donkey Kong Country as well as Diddy Kong Racing. However, Microsoft bought out Rare in 2002, which forced the company back to the drawing board, no longer allowed to use Nintendo characters. They would later use the assets to create a racing game for the Xbox 360 that also ended up canceled.
15 Kirby Tilt N Tumble 2
Kirby Tilt N Tumble was released on the Game Boy and made use of a motion sensor placed in the cartridge. Showing off the new connectivity between the Game Boy Advance and GameCube, Nintendo announced a follow-up for Tilt N Tumble. The game would have players using the GBA to control Kirby through each course and featured an updated graphics engine. Later, Nintendo took Kirby out of the game before canceling it altogether. It even got to the point where Nintendo was showing off footage too.
14 Peach’s Castle
When Nintendo was showing off the hardware of the GameCube, they came up with a tech demo that had players control a red arrow through a newly-rendered version of Peach’s Castle from Super Mario 64. Complete with all sorts of rooms, assets, and animations, many people believed that this led to another game in the Mario series, perhaps even a sequel to Super Mario 64. However, the game never got past that and wasn’t turned into a real project for the system.
13 Yoshi GameCube
Yoshi never had his own game on the GameCube, though Nintendo had plans to change that. The company wanted to create a game that made use of the GameCube’s newer hardware that evolved into a puzzle platformer where Yoshi had to protect Baby Mario. However, the game was canceled for the system because Nintendo thought it would be more impressive with the DS’s touchscreen technology. They created a tech demo called Balloon Trip that evolved into Yoshi Touch and Go.
12 Super Mario Spikers
Next Level Games did an excellent job creating Super Mario Strikers on the GameCube. They decided that the next step was to have a better sports title for the Wii. This time, they imagined Mario and his friends playing an intense game of volleyball that incorporated wrestling elements. Titled Super Mario Spikers, the game had an interesting blend of styles. However, Nintendo rejected their pitch for the game, as they felt the violence was too realistic for their cartoonish characters.
11 Kid Icarus Wii
Factor 5, the developer of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, started work on a new entry in the Kid Icarus series for the Wii. It was planned to highlight 3D flight mechanics and have a redemption story for Pit. Considering Super Smash Bros Brawl was slated to bring the character back, Nintendo sent them the character model. However, Factor 5’s vision for the game was going to much more mature, so they ignored the model entirely. As a result, Nintendo wasn’t on board with the project and rejected it.
10 Project Giant Robot
There were several original ideas Nintendo had for games that made use of the Wii U’s new technology. Among them was “Project Giant Robot,” which had players take control of a robot with the GamePad and use it to destroy cities. After being delayed and talked about less and less, the project was inevitably canceled and never made an appearance on the Wii U. However, Nintendo’s robot kit for Labo seems to make use of the project’s ideas, breathing new life into the dead concept.
9 Pokémon Picross
Picross is an old yet fun series that combines several puzzle games to create a relaxing experience. To bring their branding along the way, Nintendo had Pokémon Picross planned on the Game Boy Color that was said to have compatibility with the Game Boy Printer. However, development suddenly fell through, despite seeming far in development. It would be 16 years later when the game was finally released on the 3DS eShop, complete with new graphics, Pokémon, and character art. It was also a free download.
8 The Legend Of Zelda: Mystical Seed Of Courage
When The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages were in development, Nintendo was going to take an extra page from Game Freak’s book and later release a sequel to both in the form of The Legend of Zelda: Mystical Seed of Courage. The game was to incorporate the last of the three gods that appeared in the previous games and incorporate time travel into its design. However, the project was canceled, and time travel was thrown into Oracle of Ages.
7 Diddy Kong Pilot
After Nintendo moved with the production of the GBA, Rare had an idea to bring the Diddy Kong Racing series to it. Instead of having all sorts of vehicles, the game was going to have flying as the only method of transportation. The proposed game was titled Diddy Kong Pilot. However, Nintendo hated the idea, criticizing its gameplay elements, which led to the cancellation of the project. After Rare was bought by Microsoft, they went forward with the idea, instead, using Banjo as the star.
6 Metroid Dread
After Metroid Fusion brought the franchise to handheld systems, Nintendo went to work on developing a sequel, titled Metroid Dread. It was set to follow the events of the previous game while incorporating new mechanics. However, despite moving fast toward completion, Nintendo canceled the game. It was also going to appear on the DS, placing the map on the bottom screen, making exploration a snap. Unfortunately, the project was never finished. Metroid: Samus Returns is also not related to it in any way.
5 Donkey Kong Plus
The expanded Donkey Kong game on the Game Boy inspired Nintendo to continue the series. Donkey Kong Plus was planned for the Game Boy Advance and added level creation into its design. Players could create levels on the GameCube and then play them on the GBA. However, the project fell through, though it seems that its assets were later repurposed to create the Mario Vs. Donkey Kong series. Level creation was even added to the game with its sequel, March of the Minis.
4 Pilotwings 2
Despite being a confusing game by today’s standards, Pilotwings sold extremely well when it was finally released. This prompted Nintendo to quickly work on Pilotwings 2 for the SNES. There isn’t much known about the project other than it was started and then it was canceled. The reason for this is that Nintendo wanted to capitalize on their newer hardware with the N64, so they released the untitled Pilotwings sequel for that system, instead, in the form of Pilotwings 64.
3 Super Mario 128
When showing off the GameCube’s hardware, Nintendo created a demo where 128 Marios were running around on-screen at once. While it was a cute demo at first, the project became known as Super Mario 128, a successor to Super Mario 64. The game was to incorporate using multiple Marios and was confirmed to be separate from Super Mario Sunshine. However, the project was canceled, as techniques from the demo were later in used in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Pikmin.
2 Tingle's Spooky Game
Tingle is one of the weirdest characters in The Legend of Zelda. However, Nintendo once considered giving him more of a spotlight. There were plans to create a horror game starring the character with Vanpool, the developers of Dillon’s Rolling Western. However, Nintendo canceled the project for numerous reasons. It might’ve been redundant to create a horror game starring a quirky green character so soon after Luigi’s Mansion was released on the GameCube anyway. It likely would’ve felt like retreading old territory.
1 Super Kid Icarus
While Kid Icarus had middling success on the NES, Nintendo still planned to continue the franchise. When teasing a “big SNES game,” fans were excited to hear that the title was Super Kid Icarus. A sequel to the first game in a 16-bit style was on the way. However, that was the only time Nintendo said anything about the project. It wasn’t long after that everyone believed that it was canceled. Some fans have remade the original in a 16-bit art style, though, keeping the legacy of the project alive.