The Legend of Zelda isn’t just one of the most iconic games on the original Nintendo Entertainment System, it’s also one of the best looking, finished with a shiny, golden cartridge and a special box that let you peek at the gleaming treasure within. But an early mock-up of the game’s packaging was much less remarkable. Embracer Group’s gaming preservationist just came across the old design in all of its blockiness.
“Nice seeing these old early versions of pack fronts for Zelda and Punch Out,” tweeted Martin Lindell, a gaming historian, and advisor for the Swedish mega-publisher’s preservation project. It was accompanied by a photo of a page from an old Consumer Electronics Show kit showing some of the games Nintendo was plugging for its incredibly successful ‘80s console.
Nice seeing these old early versions of packfronts for Zelda and Punch Out. pic.twitter.com/TUBWYHc0bi
— Martin Lindell (@martinlindell) October 8, 2022
Unlike the now-famous silver shield atop a gold background, the marketing mock-up for Zelda at the time come with blown-up pixel art of a smiling Link fighting Gibdo mummies in a dungeon next to a key and curiously shows the game’s title as Legend of Zelda, no The. It’s in line with the “black box” style of all of Nintendo’s early first-party NES games, including the now-iconic cover art for the original Super Mario Bros. Somehow, the blocky sprites against a black background look much less flattering for the genesis of Nintendo’s hit adventure series.
The cover of Zelda in Japan was much more awesome, with detailed and colorful art showing an illustrated version of Link kneeling with the world of Hyrule behind him. The Famicom cartridge was also green. In fact, Famicom and Super Famicom cartridge art on the whole looked way cooler than almost everything NES owners ended up within the U.S., Nintendo still opted to do something more special for Zelda by the time it was released in 1987. After three decades and many many games later, it’s earned it.