Perhaps producing one of the most iconic box art layouts in Nintendo history, the NES Black Box titles have grown to become synonymous with at-home arcade gaming and all that is retro. Released between 1985 and 1987, the series consists of 30 games including certified classics such as Duck Hunt, Excitebike and Donkey Kong Jr.; however, having seen a late 80s Nintendo CES kit from @martinlindell on Twitter, it looks like some of the console’s most famous titles were also originally planned to be added to the series.
Lindell’s image shows a page of the CES kit which advertises five upcoming games from the NES: ‘Introducing four new sports and a princess named Zelda.’ The games to which the title alludes are Volleyball, Slalom, Pro Wrestling, ‘Punch-Out’ (pre-Tyson) and ‘Legend of Zelda’ (pre-the), all of which are presented with the classic NES Black Box covers.
You might recognise the covers for Volleyball, Slalom and Pro Wrestling as those which the games ended up receiving as a part of their 1987 Black Box release, but the other two titles were not included as a part of the series and received different cover art to match.
Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! (or indeed, Punch Out!!, following the rebrand) would add, you guessed it, a picture of Mike Tyson to the cover instead of the Glass Joe portrait that can be seen in the original design – a pretty huge overhaul, we might add. Even after Tyson’s contract with Nintendo was out, the game’s cover would have a similar boxer-centric cover (sorry, Glass Joe).
The Legend of Zelda, also changing its title, would undergo a similar glow-up to the classic gold cover art that we know and love today. This being said, the Black Box design certainly goes further to give an idea of what the game involved, and the inclusion of the Gibdos and Keese make it all look suitably spooky. Well, we say ‘spooky’, but Link doesn’t seem too bothered – look, he’s even cracking a smile! Perhaps the original design would make a good poster release (hint hint, Nintendo).
Interestingly, the CES kit is also quick to state that The Legend of Zelda will be the first entry in a series of adventure games – what ever happened to those plans, we wonder?? It certainly goes to show that you know when you are onto something special.
What do you make of these original Black Box designs? Let is know in the comments below!