I’m sure everyone who played Breath of the Wild remembers the first time they encountered their first Guardian. You’re running through the fields minding your own business in search of materials, looking for a shrine, or trying your best to figure out how to scale a mountain. Suddenly, you hear those familiar and fast piano notes as a red laser perfectly aims itself at Link. You see a giant machine with tons of legs walking quickly towards you, the sound coming from the Guardian getting higher and higher pitched. You try fleeing or even attacking but nothing seems to work. Finally, it lets out one final ping before a laser beam hits you and, assuming you’re early on in the game, most likely Link is felled by the laser.
On their own, the Guardian enemies are already intimidating as is. But did you know their designs were originally supposed to be much more frightening?
As found in the Breath of the Wild Master Works 30th Anniversary book, we can see that the Guardians were to be a lot more organic and, frankly, way more terrifying as a result. The art looks like something designed by H. R. Giger or H. P. Lovecraft. I find this art especially fascinating because it just doesn’t fit with the aesthetics of both the completed product and the series as a whole. A part of me wonders what it’d be like if these designs ended up in the game but at the same time I’m glad they’re not since they’d definitely give me nightmares.
Some other facets I find interesting is how the top-right, spider-like design seems to exhibit a lot of traits of the final Guardian design with its multitude of legs and rounder shape. I’d hate to run around and have that thing pop up around the corner! I also have to wonder what it would be like to fight these designs too. The bottom-right tower-like design would perhaps involve attacking its leg until it falls over and you’d attack the main part of it. Its gangly arms are really unsettling, and it would most likely swipe or grab at Link to attack. The upper part of its body seems like something you’d be able to climb on as well.
It’s also interesting to see the scale of these enemies. You can see a very tiny Link in the images which is there to show their heights and it shows that even early on Breath of the Wild was intended to be grand and huge in many different aspects. This is interesting to think about considering the Guardian designs we ended up with aren’t anywhere near as tall or wide as the designs shown here.
Personally, I’m happy with the finalized design of the Guardian we got. Making them mechanical and metal makes more sense within the given story and their final functions. As I stated above, I think they decided against going with these designs simply because it just doesn’t make sense within a Zelda game. Sure, we have Gohma in its many different incarnations, but those designs aren’t nearly as dark as these ones. Still, it’s always fascinating to see what might have been, and we’ll always have these designs to look at in the Master Works book where hopefully they’ll stay there for many years to come.