Developing video game systems, accessories, or even the games themselves can go from peaceful to chaotic at a moment’s notice and, due to the obscured nature of the gaming industry, we rarely get a chance to fully understand what’s going on behind the scenes.
That said, we occasionally get a peak at the behind-the-scenes antics thanks to teaser footage or foolishly boisterous announcements that end up being far more premature than intended.
Nintendo is guilty of all of the above, and we’ve gotten decent looks at beta content, in-development builds, prototype hardware, and so much more… but the most intriguing part is how many times an earlier build of something, be it software or hardware, is so much cooler than the final product.
It’s those instances in particular that we’ll be tackling with our list of 20 Nintendo Concept Designs Better Than What We Got, so let’s get started!
20 The “Nintendo PlayStation”
Back in the day, Sony and Nintendo were not the bitter rivals that they were during the height of the console wars. They were allies, in fact, and were working together to create a brand new console.
The “Super NES CD-ROM,” otherwise known colloquially as the “Nintendo PlayStation,” was exactly what it sounds like: a SNES with a disc drive, co-developed by Nintendo and Sony.
Such a combination would have been a ground breaker, but we would never want to risk losing the limit-shattering games developed by both companies competing against each other.
19 GameCube's Unused Motion Controls
The Wii may have brought motion controls into the mainstream, but the GameCube was poised to do it years before… well, kind of.
During the Wii’s development, these original “Wiimote” prototypes were made to interface with the GameCube so that it could be used as part of a devkit for those looking to develop games for the upcoming system.
18 The Brutal World Of Pokémon
The original Pokémon games drew players into their cute (but very cool) world of catching and battling unique monsters.
That said, original design documents paint a far darker and vastly crueler picture of the Pokémon world.
Some show the player character wielding a whip, others shows the far more monstrous creature designs, and the series’ original writer had an upsettingly bleak take on world and its stories… and it was awesome.
17 BOTW’s Alien Invasion
Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece, and its story is a wonderfully intriguing, meta take on the franchise and its relationship with tradition.
That’s cool and all, but, like… we could have had a game about aliens invading Hyrule, while some future, steampunk Link stood in defiance of their brazen assault.
These unused scenarios are found in concept art for BOTW and they honestly seem pretty awesome… but we’re still happy we got the intimate tale that we did.
16 The Red Steel Trailer
The Wii was a game-changer when it released. While it’s hip to make fun of its motion control “gimmicks” and “waggles,” the system’s potential tore open the minds of those who witnessed it.
The perfect example of this was the jaw-dropping (at the time) trailer for Red Steel, a first-person game featuring both gun and swordplay.
The trailer was absolutely stunning… but the final product failed to live up to its incredible promise.
15 “Ultra-64’s” Arcade Power
Before the release of the Nintendo 64, the system’s power was being hyped to a truly ridiculously level.
One such claim was that the system was equal to the power of arcade hardware.
This would obviously change by the time the N64 released, but former IBM employees have claimed (without proof) that the prototypes lived up to the hype, but weren’t cost effective.
14 A True Digital Service
We live in an era of digital distribution and “mini-consoles” loaded with classic games, and while both of these concepts have some fantastic elements, they’ve also got their problems.
Bizarrely, Nintendo had kind of perfected the best way to incorporate the best aspects of both those concepts, and it was… quite unexpectedly… in the form of consoles in hotel rooms. Stocked with a large library of first and third-party games, these systems were a joy to play. Yes, they had their limitations, but they’re surprisingly minuscule, even by today’s standards.
13 The Pure Dinosaur Planet
Rare is the undisputed champion of non-Nintendo produced games on the N64, with a library stocked with all-time classics such as Banjo-Kazooie and Jet Force Gemini. Their final N64 projects was Dinosaur Planet, a game that looked truly stunning.
Nintendo would eventually have Rare turn the game into Starfox Adventures and, while it was certainly good in its own right, we can’t help but admit how much better its original incarnation seemed to be.
12 Wind Waker’s Expansive Hyrule
After spending so many hours sailing across the seas in Wind Waker, it was a shock to reach the underwater remnants of old Hyrule, including the iconic castle.
Alas, an invisible barrier prevents players from doing anything but observing the mysterious and intriguing lands beyond the castle… but things weren’t always this way.
It’s been heavily rumored that you were originally able to explore a relatively vast Hyrule in the latter portion of the game, but this feature was cut, and only a few clues of its one-time existence yet remain.
11 Star Fox Arcade
The Star Fox series has hit something of a rough patch, failing to gain much critical (or commercial) traction in recent years.
This is a total shame, but so is the fact that there was an announced arcade game that slowly faded from existence.
Powered by the “TriForce” arcade board, Star Fox’s arcade endeavor would have likely been as impressive as F-Zero AX, if not moreso, and it’s truly upsetting to know that we’ll never know a darn thing about it.
10 BOTW’s Original, Horrifying Guardians
Being chased by the octopus-like Guardians in Breath of the Wild is a terrifying experience, especially when you lack the skill, power and arsenal to stand a chance against them.
While many players have experienced this fear, none have seen what TRUE horror is: this concept art of a ghastly, skeletal wraith.
This giant nightmare was one of the ideas for what Guardians could look like, and we love it…. but we’re also glad its otherworldly horror is not present in the final game.
9 Perfect Dark’s Custom Faces
While GoldenEye may be the most beloved and revolutionary shooter on the N64, its spiritual successor, Perfect Dark, is its technical superior on a multitude of levels, particularly the insane depth and customization of its multiplayer.
During production, Rare experimented with a way for players to scan their faces and paste them onto characters in the game (much like how Shigeru Miyamoto himself makes an appearance), but later decided that it might be a little taboo to have kids pasting the faces of their peers onto living targets and then filling them with bullets.
Still seemed cool, though.
8 Star Fox Assault’s Original Form
Prepare for controversy: Star Fox Zero is an immensely superior game than the weightless, hokey Star Fox Assault.
While hardly anyone agrees with that statement, few would disagree with the fact that Star Fox Assault’s original form (known as “Armada”) was an exponentially greater product than what we actually received, mostly due to its inclusion of co-operative gameplay.
7 Ocarina of Time’s Immersive, First-Person Quest
Ocarina of Time is a beloved classic and is considered to be one of the greatest games of all time, but if its original (and arguably more intriguing) vision was maintained, things might have turned out differently.
Ocarina of Time would have taken place solely in the first-person view, and would have featured extremely realistic and weighty sword duels.
That sounds awesome to us, but we admit we can barely picture it due to how iconic the final version already is.
6 Donkey Kong Racing
Teased on the back of the GameCube box and in a few seconds of footage, this would-be sequel to Diddy Kong Racing looked like it was going to take the franchise to the next level.
Alas, with Microsoft’s acquisition of Rare, the flailing developers were forced to alter the game into one based on their Sabreman franchise before it was ultimately cancelled.
The most painful realization about this lost project is that it looked truly unique and fun… words that aren’t exactly associated with Rare any more.
5 That Weird BOTW Prototype
The Mario Maker series is a total delight, but man, we’d love to get our hands on a “Zelda Legend Maker.”
When developing Breath of the Wild, Nintendo conjured up a prototype in the style of the original Legend of Zelda game, but featuring all the concepts of BOTW. It not only looks awesome, but it looks suspiciously like it was made with a similar engine to that of Mario Maker.
Considering that the Mario Maker series is essentially an internal development tool made public, let’s hope the same can happen with whatever made the BOTW prototype.
It’s true that the only (supposed) footage of Banjo-Threeie that the public has witnessed is a seconds-long clip of a 2006 tech demo, but we can basically guarantee that, tech demo or not, it would have been a better product than Nuts & Bolts or, at the very least, much better received.
We actually don’t despise Nuts & Bolts; its build system and attached physics are impressive, as are the challenges associated with both. Alas, it simply wasn’t the Banjo game people wanted, and Banjo-Threeie almost certainly was.
3 GameCube's Secret 3D Capabilities
The “glasses-free” 3D of the 3DS is an impressive novelty, but it seems that the taste for 3D anything has long-since faded (at least until the next cycle.) Regardless of one’s thoughts on 3D, the technology behind the 3DS is actually found in the GameCube.
While we love the system as-is, the purple cube contains untapped potential in the form of a chip designed to render three-dimensional graphics to be displayed through a glasses-free screen, years ahead of the 3DS.
2 Mario With Much More Variety (And Violence)
The simple gameplay of Super Mario Bros. is an elegant example of intuitive design and excellent iteration, but there was a time when the game was so much more than running and jumping.
In early stages of development, the level of variety (and violence) was exponentially greater than what’s found in the final product, including Mario using a jet pack and having access to a multitude of attacks, including unlimited fireballs.
While we think it was best to simplify and refine the core gameplay, we’d love to see what would have happened if Nintendo had gone all in, as intended.
1 The “Revolution”
Yes, we’re about to complain about a name and, no, we don’t care how petty that is.
As we mentioned earlier, the Nintendo Wii legitimately revolutionized the gaming industry, even if only in proving that there was still a ton of untapped potential left to uncover.
The most fitting name for such a ground-breaking console is, without a doubt, “Revolution,” but Nintendo opted to change it to Wii.
While “Wii” certainly grew on us (and entered the cultural lexicon), we can’t help but think Nintendo missed on an opportunity to seem like ultra-cool pioneers.
Sources: tcrf.org, Eurogamer, Bulbapedia