How an ‘Adventure Mario’ project evolved to become The Legend Of Zelda

It was the morning of February 1, 1985, and Nintendo needed a hit. Shigeru Miyamoto, Takashi Tezuka, and Toshihiko Nakago were working on the first Mario game for the Famicom, and Super Mario Bros would be finished and released by September of that year. But one killer game was not enough for the Famicom, and its upcoming Famicom Disk System, to be a success: one style of game was not enough. This new title would be different. Work on what would become The Legend Of Zelda had begun. 

Throughout February, Miyamoto and Tezuka sketched out a design for a new kind of game: where Mario was not linear and all-action, in this new project you could explore and mull over puzzles. Miyamoto and Tezuka worked together, sometimes on the same long piece of graph paper, drawing dungeons, an overworld and a fearsome menagerie of enemies: all of which were bound up in a folder labeled ‘Adventure Mario’. Though Tezuka’s role shouldn’t be underestimated, the origins of The Legend Of Zelda are inextricably bound to Shigeru Miyamoto, and more specifically to the experiences of his childhood. Miyamoto was born and raised in the small town of Sonobe, in Kyoto – also the home of Nintendo – and by all accounts he was a curious child: poking into cupboards in the family home, rambling over Sonobe’s fields and, very occasionally, finding something that he never expected.