* [[https://www.unseen64.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/tetraoriginaldesigng.jpg This is Tetra]] as depicted in her prerelease artwork for ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTheWindWaker''. Even though it was not outright stated, this design seem to indicate that she was originally meant to be an inhabitant of Windfall island, rather than a pirate. It is also questionable if she was already meant [[spoiler: to be Princess Zelda]] in this stage of development.
* Link in ''The Wind Waker'' was supposed to be a [[http://zeldawiki.org/images/d/d9/WW_Link_concept.jpg teenager]] along the lines of ''Ocarina of Time''[='s=] second half, ''Twilight Princess'', or ''Skyward Sword'' once.
* Screenshots of beta ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaOcarinaOfTime'' showed that the game went through plenty of changes. Originally, there were two extra dungeons - Wind and Ice - which were scrapped (the ice temple was turned into the Ice Caverns and the Wind Temple was reused in ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTheWindWaker''). Screenshots show Link with the Medallions equipped to the C buttons, indicating that they were at one point designed to actually serve as weapons. A screenshot of octoroks showed that they were originally designed to look much more like their 2D versions (like largeish tick-things on the ground, rather than being aquatic like their namesake animals). Finally, there's the infamous picture of Link finding the Triforce in a cave, which is a pretty good indicator that at one point the player ''could'' find the Triforce but it was eventually removed. [[UrbanLegendofZelda Not that that's stopped people from still looking]]…
* The 64DD expansion to ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaOcarinaOfTime.'' Some commentators wonder if ''Master Quest'' really represents what the original intention was. An expanded overworld? New dungeons?
** ''Master Quest'' is not the original ''Ura Zelda''. In an old copy of [[http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Legend_of_Zelda:_Ocarina_of_Time_Master_Quest&oldid=162448085 Wikipedia which refers to a dead link]], ''Ura Zelda'' would've had new dungeons (possibly the wind/ice dungeon,) new items, new attacks, magic spells, and custom masks created via ''Mario Artist: Talent Studio'' and the Game Boy Camera.
** ''Majora's Mask'''s origins as another 64DD expansion to ''[=OoT=]'' called ''Zelda Gaiden'', and even ''[=OoT=]'' itself's origins as a 64DD launch title heavily reliant on rewritability for much-hyped persistent world features.
** The Wind Temple in ''Ocarina of Time'' was changed to the Forest Temple. Saria was supposed to have less of a role in the game, or possibly a different role, since she didn't teach you any songs. [[http://www.zeldawiki.org/images/8/8f/Fadooot.png Fado]] was also supposed to be a sage, the wind sage specifically, but her role was replaced by Saria and she was given an almost insignificant role.
** Link's iconic SwordBeam attack from his previous installments was going to be in the game as well, but it was scrapped early on. The concept is revisited in ''Majora's Mask'' where Link can use his magic to shoot sword beams while wearing the [[InfinityPlusOneSword Fierce Deity Mask]].
** Actually, ''Ocarina of Time'' was itself originally supposed to be released on the [=64DD=] as its KillerApp. It was moved to cartridge once it became clear that the [=64DD=] would never see a US release.
* ''[[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTheWindWaker The Wind Waker]]'' had the last two planned dungeons (prior to the final one) scrapped due to time constraints and replaced with the controversial Triforce FetchQuest. The number of dungeons clocked at seven and not nine as intended.
* ''[[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTwilightPrincess Twilight Princess]]'':
** The game originally had a different theme for the Twilight Realm, being in black and white rather than overcontrasted (the final version).
** The game was going to have Gorons piled together to make a ''giant-sized golem.'' They were DummiedOut.
** Sheik (Zelda's disguise from ''[=OoT=]'') was originally going to return in this game, but was scrapped for unknown reasons. This also resulted in a DevelopmentGag in ''[[VideoGame/SuperSmashBros Super Smash Bros. Brawl]]'' where Sheik's return in that game as one of Zelda's abilities was actually based on this abandoned concept. Although [[WordOfGod Hyrule Historia]] suggests that the original artists intentionally left behind a leftover TP-esque Sheik design for ''Brawl''.
** The game was also supposed to use a magic system similar to the ones used in the previous Zelda games and many preview screenshots and trailers showed a magic meter. During development, Nintendo scrapped the concept of magic, but forgot to cut out the green Chu Chu. Red ones could be used as a red potion when killed and blue ones used as a blue potion. Green Chu Chus would have been used like a green potion to restore magic, but since magic does not exist in the game, drinking a green Chu Chu simply does nothing. Likewise, the screenshots shown at the back of the game's box shows the magic meter, despite the fact that the game does not use a magic system.
** [[http://www.unseen64.net/2008/06/02/zelda-twilight-princess-beta-analysis/ This article]] goes in-depth into many of the differences. A major difference is that Link was supposed to interact with animals much more.
** [[http://www.glitterberri.com/hyrule-historia/page-180/ Ilia]] had many designs, one of which had dark hair and a Navi tattoo on her forehead. Midna had [[http://www.zeldadungeon.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Midna-Concept-Artwork.jpg at least a dozen]] prototypical designs before we got our final Midna.
** The game was originally going to have the cel-shaded graphic style as 'The Wind Waker'' until the developers saw how that game's sales were poor because of the graphic style.
** The games were originally conceived as a VideoGameRemake of [[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaI the original game]] and ''VideoGame/ZeldaIITheAdventureOfLink'', along with a brand new game centering on the Triforce of Courage. This eventually evolved into three new games. However, it became too troublesome to link three games, so it was simplified to two.
** Concept art from ''Hyrule Historia'' suggests that [[http://zeldawiki.org/images/b/bf/Ganondorf_OoX_concept.png human Ganondorf]] was going to be in the games.
** Early on in development, the game used standard button controls for swordplay. As Wii [=MotionPlus=] came into play, motion controls were added in.
** Switching items involved twisting your wrist rather than pointing in a certain direction.
** The character designs were also going to be very different. [[http://www.glitterberri.com/hyrule-historia/page-14/ Ghirahim]], [[http://www.glitterberri.com/hyrule-historia/page-15/ for example]] (CAREFUL: spoilers), went through a load of them, both humanoid and much more demonic. It seems Impa was also at one point [[http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7026/6839583895_1c70902e33_o.jpg imagined as a child]] instead of a young woman.
* ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaI'''s title screen theme was originally going to be Ravel's ''Bolero''.
* Sheik originally had light skin, blue eyes, and a slightly different hairstyle. Her design was probably changed to make it less obvious who she was.
* According to concept art, Link in ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaI'' and ''[[VideoGame/ZeldaIITheAdventureOfLink The Adventure of Link]]'' was meant to be a blond instead of the brunette we know of. In contrast ''A Link to the Past'''s Link was meant to be a brunette instead of a dirty blond, and looked more like ''Adventure'' Link.
* According to [[http://www.gamekult.com/actu/miyamoto-la-wii-u-et-le-secret-de-la-triforce-A105550.html an interview]] given by Miyamoto to a French site, the Triforce fragments were originally computer chips and Link was supposed to travel between medieval and futuristic time periods. The name "Link" was not originally supposed to symbolize the link betwen the player and the character, but the link between the time periods.
* Some evidence exists that suggests ''A Link To The Past'' was supposed to reuse the futuristic idea. There's this very early [[http://www.vgfacts.com/attachments/full/1/108.png concept art]] of Zelda in a scifi get up. This has led some to speculate the Light World/Dark World mechanic was originally going to be a futuristic/medieval world mechanic, as intended in the original game. Why this idea was scrapped twice and never revisited again in Zelda is unknown, though this is probably the inspiration for the time travel mechanic in later entries.
* ''Zelda 3'', planned as a Famicom game, was originally going to be an RPG featuring a party system of multiple playable characters, each with their own stories, such as a fairy party member instead of just Link, [[http://www.zeldainformer.com/news/shigeru_miyamoto_and_yuji_horii_discuss_development_days_of_a_link_to_the_p according to this interview]]. This design was scrapped for unknown reasons.
* Imagi, the studio behind the 2007 ''TMNT'' and the 2009 ''Astro Boy'' films, apparently wanted to try their hand at an adaptation. It never got past the initial [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTmK1pu4ZjU pitch]].
* Early concept art for ''[[https://web.archive.org/web/20130401154934/http://www.zeldauniverse.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/alternatice_character_designs-441x600.jpg Ocarina of Time]]'' show the Zora as looking more malicious, Navi not being her normal blue self but resembling the older fairies, and a very early version of Sheik with blue hair and no mask.
* Link's [[http://zeldawiki.org/images/f/f7/Early_Oot_Link_concept.jpg hair]] in ''Ocarina of Time'' originally had bangs similar to [=ALTTP's=] Link. Similarly that Link [[http://zeldawiki.org/images/9/97/ALttP_Link_concept_3.jpg originally]] looked much more like the NES Link.
* ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaALinkBetweenWorlds'': In an [[http://iwataasks.nintendo.com/interviews/#/3ds/a-link-between-worlds/0/1 Iwata Asks]], the game was originally going feature Toon Link and be in playable 3D instead of 2.5D. It wasn't until Miyamoto suggested to base it off ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaALinkToThePast'' that production started.
* Characters in ''Spirit Tracks'' went, like all Zelda characters before them, through a ''truckload'' of different designs. [[http://www.glitterberri.com/hyrule-historia/page-209/ Byrne in particular]] ran the whole gamut of ranges: from a small, elderly henchman to a wild gentleman, a DumbMuscle brute, and a ''mole'', all the way up to the badass warrior of the final game. The FinalBoss was also envisioned as humanoid, rather than four-legged, and concept images of him [[http://www.glitterberri.com/hyrule-historia/page-211/ crying out in agony after his defeat]] (CAREFUL: spoilers and mild NightmareFuel) were left scrapped, possibly to avoid a feeling of AlasPoorVillain.
* ''Ocarina of Time 3D'' was going to have fully orchestrated background music at one point in development, as ''VideoGame/StarFox64 3D'' later would, but this was vetoed in favor of a straight remaster. One new piece of music did end up in the game, however, as a second end credits theme.
* ''Link's Awakening'' was planned to have a two-player mode which would work similarly to the later ''Four Swords'' and ''Tri Force Heroes'' games, including a boss that required one player to throw their partner on top of it, where they could pound a stake with a hammer (another feature not found in the final game). The storyboard (seen in ''Hyrule Historia'') that illustrated this has a note indicating that they couldn't figure out how this boss would work with only one player, so when the two-player mode was cut, the boss went with it. Another storyboard indicates that the Southern Face Shrine was originally going to include a pillar that the player had to ram with the Pegasus Boots to get the key- the pillar would then collapse, revealing the inscription seen in the final game.
* ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTriForceHeroes'' was originally going to have the ability to fuse two players together with the characters only being able to move if both players agreed on the direction in which to travel. It was scrapped after it was decided it would make the game too hard.
* ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaBreathOfTheWild'' had a few very different ideas preceding it; one involving Link fighting against an AlienInvasion, and another involving a modern-day-style Link with a motorcycle and electric guitar in addition to his Master Sword. Likewise, there were plans to have [=NPCs=] that were tiny and could be visited if Link shrunk down to their size, similar to the Picori in ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTheMinishCap''. It was ultimately scrapped since it didn't fit in with the other ideas and designs. When the game was shown at E3 2015, there was a magic meter on the screen. The magic meter was scrapped probably due to the abilities the devs made for Link's Sheikah Slate. Likewise, the developers planned for the Hookshot and Beetle to be abilities Link could use with the Sheikah Slate, but they were scrapped.
* Ganon in the ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZelda'' was originally going to have a vampire motif, which would explain why he shields his face from the light when you encounter him and why he dies to the Silver Arrows.
* Series creator ''Creator/ShigeruMiyamoto'' revealed in 2016 that Nintendo had shown interest in a Zelda spin-off starring Sheik. Whether it would take place before or after the events of Ocarina of Time has never been discussed as no gameplay prototypes or ideas were ever developed. There is still a desire to make it a reality though.