Myst Island: Disney’s Forgotten Plans to Create a Puzzle Paradise

In 1999, Disney nearly created the ultimate puzzle adventure: Myst Island.

What’s a Myst?

Myst and its sequel Riven were first person point-and-click adventure puzzle video games that had players exploring an island uncovering its mysteries through puzzles and mechanical contraptions. They were both masterpieces and, without a doubt, make the list of video games that inspired the real life escape game movement.

Image from Myst: A boat floating in a small water-filled urn. Greco-Roman style architecture populates the background.

The concept

Disney planned to produce a massive puzzle attraction on an isolated island in Walt Disney World Orlando.

Disney was going to create an open-world puzzle game based on Myst & Riven.

Each day, a limited number of people would be taken by boat to an 11-acre puzzle paradise, where they could spend all day interacting with the island, exploring its mysteries, and solving challenges.

In short it was planned as the Jurassic Park of puzzles.

Myst box art featuring the island.

How did Myst Island come about?

Prior to the opening of the Animal Kingdom, Disney had an island attraction loaded with exotic animals called Discovery Island. When the Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, Disney shut down Discovery Island, and was looking to replace it with a high-end attraction where lines weren’t a problem, one that could demand a high price of admission.

They settled on Myst because it had a large and active fan base and the game was set on an island.

Disney secured the rights and the Imagineers teamed up with Myst co-creators Rand Miller, Robyn Miller, and Richard Vander Wende.

How did Myst Island die?

Technologically, the plans were too far ahead of their time, even for Disney.

Additionally, the costs and logistics associated with ferrying construction crews, equipment, and materials to construct a mega attraction on an 11-acre island were too risky.

Discovery Island remains abandoned and unused to this day. However, a bold photographer swam to it under cover of darkness in 2009 and shot some spectacular photos.

For a more detailed history of Discovery Island, check out, Jim Hill Media.

If only Myst Island had been completed

We’ll never know what would have happened if Disney had seen their plans through to completion. Perhaps it would have accelerated the creation of the escape room movement… or maybe the bar would have been so high that no one attempted to create puzzle rooms at all.

However, I cannot think about the concept of Myst Island without wishing it were real; it sounds so damn fun.

Images via Wikipedia


  1. Myst and Riven are among the best game I’ve ever played. I also liked Exile, the third game of the series. Myst IV and V are decent, but not as great.

    The story in Myst was so good and the atmosphere so intense that even today, if I mimic the sound the mirrors made when touched, my sister still jumps!

    Great post!

    1. I never played Exile. I’ll have to see if I can find it somewhere.

      I’d love to replay Myst and Riven. I haven’t done it in years.

  2. There does exist a tabletop RPG set in the D’ni world, Unwritten. It might give you some of the effect you seek….

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