This year marked the 35th anniversary of Super Mario, and we saw Nintendo celebrate the occasion with a host of Super Mario-related announcements including new games and merchandise. With The Legend of Zelda series also hitting its 35th anniversary next year, there’s now the question of what exactly Nintendo will do for the event. Some were disappointed with how Nintendo’s mascot was treated this year, due to the low-effort feeling of Super Mario 3D All-Stars on Nintendo Switch. It’s hard to have confidence that Nintendo will go all-out for the Zelda 35th anniversary, but there’s always hope. To make the 35th anniversary of the Zelda series something really special, here is what we hope Nintendo can do.
Nintendo Switch has a clear lack of legacy Zelda titles, and there would be no better time to rectify this than on the anniversary of the series. Much like Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a similar Zelda collection could bring together three (or more) of the most prominent 3D Zelda titles from past Nintendo generations. Ideally, I’d like to see The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword packaged into a new collection with a host of updates. Of course, both Wind Waker and Twilight Princess already received HD remasters for the Wii U, so how would this be any different from those?
Aside from the obvious benefits of increased graphical fidelity and higher frame rates, there could be more interesting changes. For example, perhaps the slow opening of Twilight Princess could be accelerated with some clever changes. The game could also introduce new modes like a boss rush or Wolf Link challenge arenas to take better advantage of its most interesting and underutilized mechanics, such as its wealth of unlockable sword attacks, the imaginative bosses, and Wolf Link’s combat.
Wind Waker has less to improve upon than Twilight Princess, but hypothetically, what if Nintendo could manage to rework the two dungeons that were missing from its original release? These changes would be going above and beyond for a remaster, but the Zelda 35th anniversary would be the time for such things.
Skyward Sword is an entirely different beast. With the jump to HD, its vibrant watercolor style could shine similarly to that of Breath of the Wild. However, its reliance on motion controls means it would inevitably need the most reworking out of these three titles, to the extent that I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up being sold as an individual remake. Ideally, Nintendo could offer an alternative control scheme that’s less reliant on motion controls for the sake of accessibility. HD Rumble and the motion capabilities of the Joy-Con could be used to update some essential mechanics like specific gadgets and the Master Sword too.
To round things out, improving the pacing of the game with fast travel and the ability to skip cutscenes or dialogue would greatly cut down on backtracking in the latter half. Adding more activities to the somewhat empty Skyloft would make exploration more rewarding too.
Remaking legacy games wasn’t something that Nintendo typically did or allowed in the past, but this seems to be changing in recent years. Games like Metroid: Samus Returns and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening have received complete makeovers that modernize their visuals and gameplay. If we could hope for Nintendo to do this again with next year’s Zelda 35th anniversary, then The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask would be prime candidates. Both of these games received updated remasters for Nintendo 3DS, which brought graphical improvements and quality-of-life changes. However, considering the naturally underpowered 3DS hardware, it’s clear that there is a lot more potential for these games to be brought up to modern standards.
A graphical overhaul (like the fan-made one above) could breathe new life into Ocarina of Time environments that captivated us during its original release. With its visual updates and character models that more closely resembled original artwork for the game, Ocarina of Time 3D was a good half-step towards this. Beyond taking these graphics to the next level, quality-of-life improvements could enhance the experience for new and returning players alike. Twin-stick camera controls and UI options to track quests and collectibles would go a long way to making the game a smoother experience. New side activities or mini-games could make Hyrule Field feel lived in, while options to mix up or alter bosses could help provide stiffer challenges for veteran players.
Majora’s Mask sits in a similar boat to Ocarina of Time but, arguably, has less to update. Vastly improved environments and lighting could make the mysterious world of Termina even more enchanting, but Majora’s Mask was a difficult game for many to approach. Majora’s Mask 3D took a few steps to address this, such as leaner time constraints and easier save options. Building on this, a Switch remake of Majora’s Mask could add more difficulty options to tailor how players want the time and saving mechanics to work for themselves. The Great Bay Temple could benefit from better signposting, akin to what Ocarina of Time 3D did for its Water Temple, and menus could be reworked to simplify the tracking of side characters.
A bright future
The sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was revealed at E3 last year and hasn’t been seen since. Based on the reveal trailer and some updates and rumors, I’d speculate that 2021 might be the year we get this game. As a direct sequel, this game has the chance to be truly unique. Could they alter the map to show how time has passed? Will Zelda herself be playable or involved in some cooperative gameplay? Could we also see the return of traditional dungeons, a new underground area to explore, and Ganon himself? The endless possibilities have made the wait that much harder.
However, despite how excited most of us are for the Breath of the Wild sequel, it’s not the only possibility for next year. It’s been seven years since the release of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, so the time could be right for a new top-down 2D Zelda experience. Recent 2D Zelda titles have been a bit more experimental with their mechanics, so what ideas could Nintendo infuse into a new top-down Zelda experience?
Much like how Breath of the Wild reinvented what a 3D Zelda game could be, I’d love to see a 2D Zelda entry that throws away the formulas that handheld Zelda entries have stuck to over the years. Giving potential access to every gadget at the start and offering multiple paths through the story akin to what A Link Between Worlds did would be a good start. Intricate level design that takes advantage of the top-down view to implement puzzles and secrets wouldn’t go amiss either.
How do you want Nintendo to celebrate the 35th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda?