During a recent interview with Polygon, the game’s director Shinya Hiratake reiterated how the title was originally going to star Link from The Legend of Zelda. The idea was still essentially the same - with Link exploring diorama-like levels. Much like Toad, Link also couldn’t jump, making him an ideal choice for such a title. He was also in favour because of his love of spelunking.
Other inspirations drawn from the Zelda games were the boss battles. These elements obviously remain in Captain Toad, with encounters against giant creatures including dragons and birds. Hiratake also elaborated on the character swap, explaining how Link was too courageous, so the development team opted with Toad in the end:
We thought Link would be a little too courageous and he would want to fight enemies with his weapons… Captain Toad is still courageous, but maybe a little bit weaker, and by having a character like that we thought we could have the player focus on the geography and turning the camera, that kind of gameplay. In the end I think it worked out really well.
This isn't the first time Hiratake has discussed how Captain Toad was was created. In 2014 he also spoke about the original concept. Tell us in the comments if you would have preferred the iconic hero, or if you feel the time was right for Toad's own game series.