There have been a few underlying stories running throughout 2020, but one story in particular has major implications for how we understand classic Nintendo games. A Nintendo leak that started earlier this year has revealed a huge number of ancient, unearthed secrets surrounding classics like Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Star Fox 2.
Over the last year, a number of leaks have revealed data and info about various Nintendo projects, released and unreleased. In some cases, even personal information has leaked. We won't be posting any links to the source material here.
The leaks that have gotten out have been gradually trickled down, from forum to forum and eventually onto the broader internet, and they've been genuinely amazing to see. There are unused versions of game characters, long-rumored secrets, and even never-before-seen games.
Things started up earlier this year, when Wii source code made its way onto various forums. Though that's a huge step forward for preservationists, there were also hints dropped of various other projects, like a supposed Pokémon Pink. That was only the start; the most recent dump, dubbed the "Gigaleak" by some, has made a frankly startling amount of info available to those who look for it.
One of the most notable revelations is the confirmation of a long-held rumor: Luigi in Super Mario 64. After digging through files and discovering the Luigi subfolder, it seemed like it was too good to be true. Suffice to say, it's real. Extremely real.
So real, in fact, that hackers have started retro-modding Luigi back into Super Mario 64. They're also making him dab. No, really:
Luigi's missing appearances in games quickly became a highlight of the leak as it spread out over social media. From the 3D Nintendo 64 model, to a version of him flipping the bird, Luigi definitely has some odd history behind him.
Other people scrubbing the leak have found completely unreleased games, like a game called Super Donkey, which stars a character that looks suspiciously like Stanley the Bugman. It seems like it has some Yoshi's Island tinge to it, but is obviously a game that never saw the light of day.
There's also a prototype for a Yoshi's Island with different UI elements, prefixed with "Super Mario Bros. 5." In the same Twitter thread, this user shares an unused build of Mario Kart that had no drifting, which seems terrible, but the unused music in it is an absolute jam.
You can also find various little details, like a sprite breakdown for Super Mario World's Bowser that shows a model with legs. (Congrats to Bowser for having so many Koopa Kids and still getting out to the gym for leg day.) Yoshi also has a weird prototype model, which is oddly lanky and less adorable than the modern version of Super Mario World's dino-horse companion. Still, some fans have found ways of making him a little cuter and more Yoshi-like, so it will hurt all the more when you ditch him into a pit for an extra jump.
Alongside the Mario leaks, the Star Fox series also saw quite a bit of information spill out. New portraits of characters, alongside source code for Star Fox, grabbed the attention of many people, including one of the game's original developers.
Dylan Cuthbert, who led development on four different Star Fox titles, has had a number of odd projects throughout the years. But even he seemed surprised to see just how obscure some of the things that were being dug up were. These don't just show glimpses into what could have been with games like Star Fox 2, which eventually got released on the SNES Classic, but into ideas that never even fully came to fruition.
Risk and Reward
The amount of info that's come out as part of the Gigaleak is absolutely staggering. Helpful users have compiled full lists of all the info found, and there's quite a lot, from source code for games like Link's Awakening DX and the various aforementioned games to BIOS and Boot ROMs for a number of Nintendo consoles. These leaks will probably go a long way for preservationists trying to keep games authentically playable for years to come.
Of course, these leaks carry a certain caveat. Several people in the Nintendo scene online have noted how controversial this Gigaleak has been, and the ramifications for both Nintendo and whoever acquired this information. Nintendo wasn't too shy in punishing the Sword and Shield leakers, and that was only over a forthcoming Switch game. The source code and long-held secrets of many past Nintendo games? Oof.
As Cuthbert noted in a follow-up tweet that source code is a "bit different" than usual leaks. "Is your diary ok [sic] to public release after five years?" he asks. There's content here, like curse words hidden in code, that will be at the very least embarrassing for Nintendo, and that's not counting any personal info unveilved alongside the leaks.
So while it's a huge mine of content, unearthing years of trivia and little-known facts, it's also worth acknowledging that this content was never supposed to see the light of day. Also, it's likely that Nintendo will obliterate whoever leaked it all.