Sixteen years prior to the recent announcement of Diablo Immortal, the iconic franchise’s move to smartphones, a Game Boy version of Diablo was actually in the works.
Making things even more interesting, this Game Boy take on Diablo series was Pokémon-inspired, according to Variety’s recent feature on the unreleased game.
That said, due to the Game Boy’s technical limitations, as well as other factors discussed in the story, the project ultimately never saw the light of day. Variety also cites a “changing of the guard” at Blizzard as the main reason for the Game Boy version of Diablo getting cancelled.
Following the completion of Diablo II, Blizzard North programmer Johnathan Morin considered the idea of porting the original Diablo to ‘Pocket PCs.’ This concept eventually morphed into the series making a move to Nintendo’s Game Boy given how popular Pokémon Red and Blue were in the late 90s.
The overarching concept, according to Morin, was to develop a ‘Diablo Junior.’-like game designed with younger players in mind.
“Pokémon was really big at the time. We could do something similar where you could fight these monsters and get this whole different genre, age group, because Diablo was for adults. That was the genesis of it,” said Morin in an interview with Variety.
During the game’s roughly four to six months of development, Morin says there was an internal debate at Blizzard regarding whether ‘Diablo Junior’ should be a turn-based RPG or a hack-and-slack title similar to its PC counterpart.
The project was ultimately cancelled following Blizzard North and Blizzard South merging operations. Though a rudimentary prototype port of the original Diablo for the Game Boy leaked in the early 2000s, Morin says this wasn’t the game his team was working on.
Imagine an alternate universe where core Diablo titles still exist, but that there is also an offshoot version of the franchise designed for a significantly younger audience. Given the blood-filled, ultra-violent tone of the Diablo franchise, I find this ‘upside-down world’ scenario challenging to fathom.
Be sure to check out Variety’s full feature on the cancelled Game Boy version of Diablo given that it includes a number of interesting facts about the unreleased title.