Nintendo truly set the bar high with the Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary Direct in September. As we’re still enjoying some of the pleasant Mario-themed surprises announced in the Direct and eagerly awaiting others, another of Nintendo’s heavy hitters is also very close to hitting the big 35: The Legend of Zelda.
The original Legend of Zelda first launched on the Famicom in Japan on February 21st, 1986. It helped define just what an action-adventure video game could be, and it sparked the imagination of players like no other NES game could at the time. This game alone is worth discussing for another paragraph or two, but of course, it also spawned another three-and-a-half decades of Zelda adventures, filled with beloved characters, riveting stories, unrivaled gameplay innovations, awe-inspiring worlds, and unforgettable memories.
The best part is, there are still so many possibilities for Zelda to explore! So many, in fact, that I have a long list of what we may see during the 35th Anniversary; some obvious, some very unlikely, and some that I couldn’t make a call on without a coin flip (or rupee toss).
To help us out with the likelihood of the following possibilities, we’ve enlisted the help of everyone’s favorite Zelda sidekick, Fi, to give her carefully calculated probability ratings for each idea. Despite her nagging reputation, I have to say it’s been an absolute delight to collaborate with Fi for this article, especially as it means we can all blame her — and not me — when some of these predictions inevitably turn out to be way off the mark. Hooray!
A new Legend of Zelda TV series
Ah, the big Zelda TV series rumor. It caused a huge buzz in the Legend of Zelda community for a while, after the Wall Street Journal, in 2015, claimed that Netflix was producing a show based on The Legend of Zelda. A mere month later, of course, the late Nintendo President Satoru Iwata confirmed that this information was false.
Despite being a no-go, this particular rumor was notable for all of the discussion it generated within the Zelda community. It proved to be a divisive concept, with both excitement and resistance for a potential TV series, depending on who you asked. It is still a popular topic to this day and, if nothing else, it’s possible that the collective online reaction may have since influenced Nintendo to consider partaking in the television industry.
Fi’s Probability Rating: 5%
With The Witcher Netflix series proving to be a hit (enough so that a second season is already on the way), and with shows based on Sonic and Resident Evil in the works, it certainly seems like video game adaptations are gaining popularity among binge watchers. However, as the aforementioned divisive reception to the idea of a Legend of Zelda TV series indicates, adapting Nintendo’s iconic action-adventure franchise isn’t so simple.
A common concern among fans is that, in the transition from game to TV, the silent protagonist Link might be given a voice. This was the case in the 1989 Legend of Zelda cartoon, wherein our hero was “blessed” with an infamous catchphrase — and while I admit I have a strange fondness for the show, it’s certainly not the most celebrated piece of Zelda media outside of meme circles. Placing Link in a more dialogue-driven medium definitely seems like a challenge, though if Nintendo were to opt for animation over live-action, it could possibly work — let’s not forget there were Samurai Jack episodes where its protagonist did not speak, and they still ruled.
Let’s not also forget that there still isn’t even a Netflix app on the Switch, and come the end of June, it will no longer be available on Wii U and 3DS either. Unless Nintendo intends to announce the arrival of Netflix on Switch (and soon), it doesn’t seem as though Nintendo has a major interest in working with the company at this time.
A Legend of Zelda movie
So, we’re pretty much shooting down the prospect of Zelda hitting the small screen any time soon, but what about a movie? Well, honestly, we’re not too confident in that idea either. Still, we do think it has a slightly better chance than a TV series.
Nintendo presumably weren’t too keen on the Zelda movie pitch by Imagi Animation Studios (producers of the 2007 TMNT and 2009 Astro Boy films) in 2007, but the company has since expressed interest in producing similar projects in-house. In 2016, Nintendo CEO Tatsumi Kimishima stated that the company planned to release feature-length films. A couple years later, we learned that Nintendo’s first foray in movie making would be based on Super Mario. With the company officially working to get Mario on the silver screen, and “Zelda” also listed as a potential movie project in a Nintendo job listing in 2016, could we see Zelda in cinemas any time soon?
Fi’s Probability Rating: 10%
I certainly believe a Legend of Zelda movie is possible somewhere down the line. After Mario, the next logical franchise for Nintendo to adapt would be Zelda, and series director Eiji Aonuma and Nintendo Producer Shigeru Miyamoto have at least discussed the idea in the past. In 2013, Aonuma told Kotaku, “If we were to make a Zelda title […] I think really what would be most important to us is to be able to play with the format of a movie, make it more interactive, like you’re able to take your 3DS into the theater and that leads you into participating in it somehow. We wouldn’t want to make it the same as any other movie. We want to somehow change what a movie is.”
So, it’s possible. However, it’s very unlikely that we’ll see any such announcement by next month. We didn’t hear anything about the in-development Super Mario movie during Mario’s 35th — despite the last report from Nintendo in 2020 saying it was “moving along smoothly” — so to expect anything on a so-far-unannounced Zelda movie seems a bit unreasonable.
The Legend of Zelda Maker
The Super Mario Maker games have been very successful for Nintendo, with the latest Switch installment boasting over 20 million player-submitted levels as of September 2020. It’s clear that many fans jumped at the chance to play Nintendo’s role in creating levels for the Mario brothers to traverse through, and when it’s this much fun, who could blame them?
Since the first Mario Maker launched on Wii U back in 2015, discussions of a “Legend of Zelda Maker” have been rampant in the Zelda community. The concept has been brought to Nintendo’s attention before, so could they deliver on our desire to create our own Zelda dungeons?
Fi’s Probability Rating: 20%
The concept has actually been discussed before among the Super Mario Maker team, though there are two issues: the conversation took place almost six years ago, and the consensus wasn’t too optimistic even back then. In a 2015 interview with Game Informer, Super Mario Maker producer Takashi Tezuka and director Yosuke Oshino said that the idea of a Zelda Maker might be “a challenge to make” and “a difficult task.”
We did see some semblance of the idea emerge in the 2019 Switch remake of Link’s Awakening with the new addition of Chamber Dungeons. Shortly after the game was announced, Zelda Director Eiji Aonuma told Kotaku that he may consider a Zelda Maker game if people liked the Chamber Dungeons: “I can’t predict the future, but if people do love this idea of arranging dungeons, I’ll keep that in mind going forward.”
Unfortunately, the feature was not exactly widely acclaimed. In our review of the game, we noted that “the execution [of the Chamber Dungeons] ends up fairly limited and doesn’t spark much creativity.” With this in mind, we may already have evidence that an oversimplified approach to custom dungeon creation may not be appealing to players, but an overly complicated system could also risk negating the easy-to-play appeal that the Super Mario Maker games hold. Overall, while a Zelda Maker seems to be something the Zelda community clamors for, in reality it seems like it would be a rather difficult project for Nintendo to get right.
A new Zelda fighter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Outside of its own franchise, there’s one place where Zelda is represented and celebrated like no other, and that’s in the Super Smash Bros. series.
Link has been a popular choice among players since Nintendo’s all-star fighting franchise began back in 1999 on the Nintendo 64. Zelda fighters, stages, music, items, and more only increased with every subsequent installment, and with more content still to come in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, could we expect to see one last offering from the land of Hyrule?
Fi’s Probability Rating: 30%
Well, there may be a chance, but not a great one. There are only three remaining characters left to be revealed as new additions to the Smash roster, and you can bet Masahiro Sakurai will want to make them count.
That’s not to say that a new Zelda character wouldn’t drum up tons of hype, but looking at all of the DLC characters released so far, it’s the third-party fighters like Banjo & Kazooie, Steve, and Sephiroth that have got fans the most excited. We already have six Zelda characters and nine Zelda stages (it’s worth remembering that each DLC character also comes with a themed stage), and there are still many non-Nintendo gaming icons that fans are desperate to see, such as Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Sora, Dante, and Doomguy.
Again, Age of Calamity is still fresh in players’ minds, but it doesn’t seem completely realistic to expect a character to be pulled from the game. Any of the four Champions would make for great Smash fighters, but would it be fair to pick just one? Impa would be fun, but is it likely that we’ll see this specific version of Impa make the cut, given that she only appears in a spinoff title? It’s an issue with many other potential Zelda characters, such as Vaati, Groose, Ghirahim — we’d love to see any of them in Smash, but their limited appearances make them fairly niche compared to the existing Zelda fighters.
With Pokémon GO, Fire Emblem Heroes, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, and many more keeping the Nintendo Wire staff distracted and glued to our phones when we’re supposed to be working; Nintendo has fully embraced the mobile gaming industry with great success so far. We’re fully expecting this trend to continue, and with Zelda blatantly missing from Nintendo’s current mobile lineup, it’s surely just a matter of time before Zelda characters light up our smartphones.
Once again, this is yet another rumor that lit Zelda communities ablaze with excitement and speculation, but does it fare any better than the previously explored pieces of Zelda-based gossip?
Fi’s Probability Rating: 35%
This rumor was another doozy from The Wall Street Journal which, as we already discussed, was way off when reporting on a Zelda Netflix series. Should we trust them this time? Probably not, as we’ve heard nothing about the project in the four years since.
However, while WSJ’s report in particular may have been false at the time, there’s no obvious reason why Nintendo wouldn’t pursue such a project. Unlike a TV series or a movie, a Zelda mobile game would be much more viable in terms of creative direction and engaging consumer interest. Puzzles are a key component in Zelda games, and with the puzzle genre absolutely thriving on mobile platforms, it seems like it could be a very natural transition. Plus, DS titles Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks proved that a full-fledged Zelda experience could be achieved through touchscreen controls well over a decade ago.
We could easily see Nintendo announce that its bringing Link and pals to our addictive pocket machines one of these days, though we have no reason to believe that the 35th anniversary will be the time.
A Zelda-themed Switch Online title
None of us saw Super Mario Bros. 35 coming. A 35-player battle royale twist on the original Super Mario Bros. game, it’s an insane blend of old and new — an old game revamped by a modern genre — that is just crazy enough to work. Could we possibly see something similar for Zelda’s 35th?
Fi’s Probability Rating: 40%
My immediate idea for a Zelda-inspired take on Super Mario Bros. 35 — or “Zelda 35,” if you will — would be to have 35 players race to complete a series of original Legend of Zelda dungeons. While we can see a definite appeal to this as veteran Zelda fans, the original Zelda title is a rather punishing game in the modern era. The beauty of Super Mario Bros. 35 is in its simplicity; anyone with the most fleeting of experiences picking up a controller can handle running and jumping in a 2D platformer. The Legend of Zelda’s dangerous combat, reliance on various items, and demanding puzzles may not hold up in a hectic multiplayer environment, unless Nintendo simplifies the formula. And hey, with the popularity of randomizers on the rise, there could be some potential in Nintendo tweaking the classic game for a new experience.
Even if this particular idea doesn’t emerge, that of course doesn’t rule out some other limited-time, Zelda-themed game being offered to Nintendo Switch Online members. After all, Super Mario Bros. 35 will only run until the end of March, and Nintendo will need new content to keep subscribers satisfied at some point.
A new remake
Following the Link’s Awakening remake in 2019 and its bold new graphical direction, we’d love to see that same art style applied to remakes of Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons. The Oracle games were Game Boy Color titles that shared the same art style and sprites of the original Link’s Awakening that came before them, so to have a similar borrowing of assets in this modern age of Zelda would make so much sense. It’d also mean a bulk of the graphical work is already done, making it much less of a daunting project for Nintendo!
Let’s not also forget that the 3DS remakes of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask sold like crazy. It has been almost ten years since Ocarina of Time 3D launched, and with it still commonly hailed as the greatest game of all-time, you can bet that it won’t be the last time the classic will be remade — and perhaps the time is now.
Fi’s Probability Rating: 45%
As you’ll see later on in this list, I do think that a new Zelda remaster (or even a collection of remasters) is much more likely than a full-on remake, given that prettying up an old game and porting it to a new system is much easier than creating all-new assets. Still, here’s hoping that the release and success of the Link’s Awakening remake may just set a precedent.
35th anniversary concert
Nintendo is no stranger to celebrating The Legend of Zelda’s birthday through the power of music. Previous milestone anniversaries gave us both the 25th Anniversary Symphony and the 30th Anniversary Concert, which let fans attend beautiful performances of their favorite Zelda tracks.
In normal times, it would seem crazy for Nintendo to ditch this trend, but sadly, things aren’t quite so simple in 2021.
Fi’s Probability Rating: 50%
As we remain in a post-COVID world, large gatherings are still not possible, which makes a project like this very challenging to pull off.
While touring is off the table for a potential group of Legend of Zelda composers, it’s worth remembering that we saw many high-profile live events go fully digital last year, including many music concerts. Nintendo could still possibly provide Zelda fans with a livestream of a 35th-anniversary symphony, though whether or not it will determine whether such a project would be worth the time, money, and effort to accomplish remains to be seen.
This wraps up the first half of our Zelda 35th anniversary hopes and predictions list! Check out Part 2 for even more of our biggest wishes!
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