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Legend of Doom: a stunning mash-up mod that actually works as a game

The full Legend of Zelda on NES has been somehow modded into the original Doom engine.

The Legend of Zelda and Doom are both legendary, genre-defining titles from decades ago, but with vastly different gameplay, technical makeup and release platforms it's hard to find too many similarities between them. That is until late 2021, when solo indie developer DeTwelve released a Doom mod set in the original NES version of Hyrule called The Legend of Doom. It's a stunning mash-up that's well worth playing, as Digital Foundry's John Linneman and My Life in Gaming's Marc 'Try4ce' Duddleson discovered when they synced up to play version 1.1.0 of the mod alongside the original Legend of Zelda on original NES hardware.

That video is embedded below, but what really struck me watching the playthrough was how well the combined game really works - and how completely the Hyrule environments and gameplay from The Legend of Zelda have been transplanted into the world of Doom.

The original sprites work surprisingly well in a 3D environment, with only minor changes to some room layouts or the colour palette (which may be influenced by the RGB mod Marc is using with his hardware). You get a lovely sense of scale compared to the top-down perspective found in the original game, and being a first-person shooter it's perhaps a bit easier to side-step enemy attacks. Of course, having infinite arrows helps a lot too.

John Linneman and Marc Duddleson from MyLifeinGaming play through The Legend of Doom and the original The Legend of Zelda on NES to see how the two versions compare.

The new perspective also allows for improved navigation, as instead of each area being loaded separately, you can see from one room into the next - handy if you're looking for a boss or a bit of a breather. You also get the classic Doom map overlay, showing the layout in greater detail than the minimap of the NES originals.

I love the interface touches in the mod too. Doomguy is given Link's traditional green cap, complete with bloodied nose if you lose hearts, while the weapons are shown on-screen with movement animations in that classic Doom style. The UI is limited to a small portion of the bottom of the screen, so the whole experience feels much more immersive as a result.

Here's a 2016 project to convert The Legend of Zelda on NES to 3D - to mixed but interesting results.

The Legend of Doom really holds up to scrutiny, and it's clear that this is a much more in-depth project than most Doom mods that bring in other game franchises - the game is surprisingly faithful to its source material, despite the huge gulfs in gameplay. It still feels like Zelda, and it's exciting to see how areas that you might remember from the NES original have been interpreted into 3D.

The whole project reminds me somewhat of Tom Murphy VII's 2016 work to automatically transform 2D NES games into 3D (embedded above), which gets bonus points for relying on excellent knowledge of the original NES hardware, and working for a ton of other games, but gets minus several million for not being really good or playable in the traditional sense of the word. Still, it's another fascinating approach that's well worth checking out.

If you'd like to play The Legend of Doom mod yourself, you can download it from its ModDB page and pick up ZDoom, a port of the original for modern operating systems. You can even play it in VR using the QuestZDoom mod - perhaps something we'll explore with another DF Retro Play in the future!

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About the Author
Will Judd avatar

Will Judd

Deputy Editor, Digital Foundry

A bizarre British-American hybrid, Will turns caffeine into technology articles through a little-known process called 'writing'. His favourite games are Counter-Strike, StarCraft and Fallout 2. Will also tweets the latest tech deals at @DigitalFoundry.