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  Home | Community | Zelda III for the NES - Fact or Fiction?


UPDATE: (See bottom)
Apparently people on the internet believe everything they see. It’s this spreading epidemic that has been plaguing online society for nearly a decade now. An auction for a supposed prototype of “Zelda III” for the NES was listed on eBay (original link here, but was taken down suspiciously right after the end of the listing), and it was simply a grey NES cart with a white sheet of printing paper cut out into a square shape with courier font printed on it. Everybody dismissed this auction as a hoax.

That is, until a site, Joystiq, reported the winner got a picture of the game running on his NES. You can find a link to the report here. The picture can be found here. The winner, named Robert, claimed to have gotten the game to run partially, although it was very buggy. The screenshot is very blurry and so it is difficult to make out anything besides the Triforce image and the word “Zelda”. So, what is the verdict on this? Is this a hoax, or was there really a third NES Zelda game that was never finished?

Zelda III for NES - circa 1991

The answer is both. This auction and this screenshot are both part of an elaborate hoax. You see, NES Beta cartridges were not grey. In fact, you couldn’t run a beta game on your standard NES unit. There is a device, like Game Genie, that goes on the bottom of your cartridge that then connects into the NES unit. Then again, in-house testing units didn’t look like an NES at all. When I beta-tested N64 games from 1997-1999, there was a special “device” used for the games, it’s what beta testers used for cart-based testing. Regardless, there is a more solid answer for why this is a hoax if you don’t believe my explanation above.

There was in fact a Zelda III in development for the NES starting in 1988. However, in 1989, Nintendo green-lighted the development of the successor to the Famicom, the Super Famicom. In 1990, the development of Zelda III was switched from a Famicom project to a Super Famicom project.

This game eventually became Triforce of the Gods in Japan, and A Link to the Past for the rest of the world. So you see, we all own the latest version of “Zelda III for the NES”. There was no finished product for the NES of this game, so hence there is no way to buy this game for NES, even as a beta.

So sadly, this is another chapter in the long history of Zelda fans trying to get fame from stupid hoaxes, and the latest one in a series of people using fake “screens on TV sets” to insist it is impossible to fake. Lesson learned – something this rare and obscure wouldn’t be sold on eBay.
UPDATE: I now have two indepent sources which verify this Zelda III is fake. First is Silicon Knights, which responded to Nintendojo in response to the Joystiq article. You can see there response here. As you can see, Silicon Knights dismisses the claim made by Joystiq. Apparently the "buyer" of the Zelda III cart was an employee of Silicon Knights, but this is simply not true. The second source is Peer Schneider of IGN N64, who wrote a Hyrule Times article 3 years ago which explained the development of A Link to the Past. If you are an IGN Insider, read the article here. As you can see from this article, Zelda III projects for NES were turned into A Link to the Past for the SNES.

For those of you who can't read the Insider article, here's the important quote:

They didn't know it back in 1987, but Zelda 2 was going to be last Zelda game for the Famicom system. Although Sega's Master System posed no threat to the NES dominance in the '80s, Nintendo knew that it had to come up with something new to continue its console gaming reign in the future. With both NEC and Sega nipping at its heels, Nintendo was busy cooking up the Famicom's successor, a powerful console that it claimed would redefine gaming. Not just a puny little Famicom -- a Super Famicom. Whatever concepts were thrown around for a third NES Zelda game, they were quietly converted into an even bigger project for the Super Famicom: a full-fledged sequel to the original Legend of Zelda called The Legend of Zelda: Kamigami no Triforce (The Triforce of the Gods).

So, as you can see...this is fake.