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Classic NES game ‘Legend of Zelda’ has a secret level that’s just as big as the original game

This level was never intended to be playable, with no actual end condition.

legend of zelda minus world
Image: Nintendo / YouTube

The Legend of Zelda for the NES is a seminal work of open-world role-playing and puzzle solving. It’s also huge, with the overworld consisting of a grid with 16 x 8 rooms (each room is one screen).

That’s a lot of information for the small amount of storage on NES-era cartridges, but it could have been bigger. Thanks to some dedicated code manipulation from YouTuber SKELUX, we now know that the map code for Legend of Zelda is really a 16 x 16 grid.

The bottom half of the grid is known as the “minus world,” a term coined from a glitch in the NES game Super Mario World which warped you to a world that had -1 as the numbering. This level was never intended to be playable, with no actual end condition.

Watch it here

Just like in SMB, the minus world in Legend of Zelda is an unplayable area that was used to test code before addition to the playable half of the game. Things don’t work as intended here, with enemies warping into existence, jumbled text and weird versions of areas you’re probably familiar from the game.

I love that a new part of a game can be discovered after over 30 years. The minus world is an important part of video game history, showing just how much other stuff goes on behind the scenes during development. I also love seeing what the game engine does to try and make sense of negative values for x,y positions.

While these are the only two known minus worlds in NES titles to date, SKELUX has made it his mission to explore and find the rest of the hidden data worlds in other NES titles.

Will we see a minus world in Metroid? How about a glitched version of Excitebike or even a Battletoads level where you can glitch past that horrible jetbike section. Fingers crossed, folks.

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