Canned Zelda RPG by Metroid Prime devs could've been Breath of the Wild as a Final Fantasy Tactics game

Concept art for Heroes of Hyrule, featuring a boy named Kori and an isometric view of a castle landscape
(Image credit: Retro Studios/Nintendo/DidYouKnowGaming)

Metroid Prime developer Retro Studios once pitched Nintendo on a Zelda tactics RPG called Heroes of Hyrule, according to a new report.

Heroes of Hyrule would've been a Nintendo DS game, blending the strategy elements of the then-recent hit Final Fantasy Tactics Advance with the exploration and puzzle solving of a traditional Zelda game. According to an extensive breakdown from DidYouKnowGaming on YouTube, Retro Studios pitched Nintendo on the project shortly before the release of Metroid Prime 2, partly because some members of the development team were getting burned out on Metroid, and the studio wanted to expand its portfolio beyond that single series.

Retro Studios never even built a gameplay prototype, as Nintendo turned down the project after the initial pitch, though the setup will sound pretty familiar to Breath of the Wild fans. 100 years ago, Link teamed up with three heroes to defeat Ganon and seal him away. Those three heroes were a Goron named Dunar, a Rito named Seriph, and a Zora named Krel. All you'd need is a Gerudo hero for a full set of equivalents to BotW's Daruk, Revali, Mipha, and Urbosa.

But instead of playing as an amnesiac Link, you'd take control of a boy named Kori, who's picked up a mysterious book from an old antiques dealer. As Kori, you'd play from a traditional, top-down Zelda perspective, though there'd be no actual combat in this mode. Instead, you'd get into minigames like fishing, scavenger hunts, or kite flying which would reward you with the book's missing pages.

Each of the book's pages would represent an adventure featuring the three heroes, and these quests would play out in the same format as a turn-based strategy RPG, though there would be a much bigger focus on puzzle-solving than would be typical for the genre. Abilities held by each of the three heroes could be used for both attacks and puzzle solving, and progress would be gated by uncovering new abilities in later areas, Metroid-style.

At the end of the game, it would've been revealed that the book was actually the magical item used to seal Ganon away, and the three heroes would appear from the past to help Kori in the final battle. After the battle, you'd meet the three heroes in their elderly forms, plus a century-old Link revealed to be the antiques dealer Kori had gotten the book from in the first place.

"We sent it over to [Nintendo] SPD and got an immediate 'no, you're not doing that,'" former Retro Studios programmer Paul Tozour tells DidYouKnowGaming. "To this day I do not know why. They just didn't seem to have any interest in that gameplay concept, which is too bad. It was a really solid concept and had the potential to be something great."

If the idea of Retro Studios pitching Nintendo on a Zelda game sounds familiar, a later project featuring Sheik was the subject of another recent DidYouKnowGaming report. That game, however, Tozour described as "an experiment gone wrong that happened to be set in the Zelda universe."

Check out our guide to the best Zelda games of all time.

Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.