The Legend of Zelda Artwork Reveals Canceled Retro Studios Project

The studio behind the Metroid Prime series once worked on a Legend of Zelda game that would have taken the series in a dark direction.

Zelda Art
Photo: Sammy Hall

Recently released artwork reveals that Retro Studios (developers of the Metroid Prime series) once worked on a now-canceled Legend of Zelda game.

The artwork was shared by Sammy Hall, a contract artist who worked with Retro Studios, and showcases a fascinating glimpse at what could have been. While we’ve heard rumors that Retro Studios was working on a Zelda project at one point, this is the first time that we’ve seen anything associated with the project that is more substantial than loose talk.

According to Hall, the project in question was seemingly in development between 2005 and 2008. It’s not clear how far along the project was (or why it was never finished and released), but it’s certainly worth noting that this game would have been in development around the time that Nintendo released Twilight Princess in 2006.

Why is that so notable? Well, you may recall that part of what made Twilight Princess such a big deal upon its reveal was the fact that it featured a darker tone that some fans welcomed after the much more cartoonish visuals of The Wind Waker. The general consensus at that time seemed to be that fans were ready for a darker more “mature” take on the Zelda series.

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That’s certainly what this Retro Studios game would have delivered. The project’s storyline would have assumed that the bad ending of Ocarina of Time (in which Link failed to defeat Ganon) had come to pass. As you can imagine, the world hasn’t exactly turned into a bright and colorful place after such a catastrophic event. Much of Hall’s artwork showcases burned, twisted, and downright weird corners of the Zelda universe. Yet, there are some images (such as a re-imagined version of the Clock Town from Majora’s Mask) that suggest it wouldn’t have been all doom and gloom).

Zelda Artwork
Zelda Artwork
Zelda Artwork

What’s most interesting of all is Hall’s implications that the game would not have starred Link but rather would have focused on “the last male Sheik’s journey transforming into the Master Sword.” While the project’s exact timeline and finer plot points remain a bit of a mystery at this time, it does seem that the overall narrative would have served as a kind of origin story for the Master Sword.

If that idea rings a bell, that’s likely because the controversial Skyward Sword featured a plot point involving a person transforming into the Master Sword. That would either suggest that Nintendo offered that plot point to Retro Studios or that they later borrowed the idea from this canceled project.

We’d be curious to hear exactly why this project never saw the light of day as a Retro Studios Zelda title sounds like exactly the thing that we would have loved to have played in 2006 and honestly would still love to play in 2020. Then again, we don’t want Retro to be distracted from their work on Metroid Prime 4.