Feature Article

What We'd Like to See in the Next Legend of Zelda

It was a dark and stormy night.

An old man waits in a cave. He offers a sword for your troubles--a wish of good fortune on his lips--and then vanishes forevermore. Link must venture forth alone. The road ahead is filled with dangers, deadlier than anyone but a hero should face. Reptilian beasts lurk in swirling rivers, spindly-legged monsters leap among rocky outcrops, and nameless knights guard desolate paths. Hostility confronts your senses. There are no friends to offer guidance, only roaming creatures that rush toward you with unbridled aggression. Even the trees are against you. Maybe you should burn one; it may be the only way forward.

Questions dangle overhead in The Legend of Zelda, dancing outside of your periphery as you chase after the answers that lie hidden beyond. Those who are chosen to explore cryptic ruins must be brave enough to face whatever beasts reside there, and place faith in the deep-seated knowledge that allows progress through impassable passageways. For the three pieces of the triforce that mark a true hero are composed of not only power and courage, but wisdom as well. A man falls dead because his brain was much slower than his sword.

The Legend of Zelda confounded and amazed, and the series has consistently transformed as the years have flown by. Puzzles have become more concrete, and the dialogue more telling, as Link has matured from a precocious boy to a man worthy of his prodigious demands. Changes have manifested in bombastic ways that are impossible to ignore. Controls were stripped down to their very essence in Phantom Hourglass, only to require more patience and finesse than ever in Skyward Sword. Epona arrived in Ocarina of Time, giving Link his first view from atop a horse, and then disappeared without even a flap of her ears as we entered the floating warmth of the King of Red Lions in Wind Waker. Time even briefly halted. Majora's Mask imitated Groundhog Day for a glorious moment, and then the moon squashed that dream before we were ready to awake.

As the path stretches behind us, we can see the many forms The Legend of Zelda games have taken. What started as a conniving adventure has softened with age. Guidance was absent when Link first set forth on his journey, then became so blaring that mysteries yelled their secrets before you could scrounge for an answer. The circle was completed in A Link Between Worlds as Link once again found himself alone in a threatening world, but does that return to a less-forgiving past herald a new age for The Legend of Zelda? Or is it just one more branch along a path that has twisted and spiraled until we've become so disoriented that we no longer know which direction we're facing?

The road ahead is filled with dangers, deadlier than anyone but a hero should face.

The Legend of Zelda is more varied than it gets credit for. Aside from those three travesties on the CD-i, each of Link's many adventures has offered an enticement for those who have readily taken up the hero's mantle. Some of those rewards have been novelties whose impact was fleeting. Becoming a wolf in Twilight Princess created a stir for only so long, because those canine sections halted the breathless excitement of Link's human struggles. Other rewards were less obvious but more compelling. Mastering the unforgiving combat in The Adventure of Link required so much determination and so much dexterity that only the dedicated few could survive. But those who did triumph hold tightly to those memories.

Because the history of this timeless franchise has taken so many forms, predicting how Link's next journey will turn out is an exercise in madness. Will Nintendo once more rely on flashy features, previously unseen, to differentiate it from its many predecessors? Or will raw craftsmanship take center stage, as the creators unearth the core of what makes The Legend of Zelda tick? And should we voice our opinion loudly to steer Nintendo in one direction or the other? It's tempting to do so, given how much I relish the latter ideology and fear the former, yet I know that my ideas can never live up to the incomparable vision that Nintendo holds.

But if I can dream, I would love to see Nintendo turn its back on the rich legacy we all hold dear. Sacrilegious? Maybe. But sometimes you have to set fire to what you love. The Legend of Zelda now carries with it so much baggage that every iteration is smothered under features before it can even begin to take flight. We expect dungeons and puzzles, a narrative and characters. The weapons we've grown to love, the enemies we've cut to shreds, the heart containers we've sought out, and the music that has filled our ears have to return in every new version. They have to, right? We've defined The Legend of Zelda in such a way that innovation can only extend so far. But if we cut out all the bloat, only its beautiful essence would remain.

Imagine if The Legend of Zelda removed the strict puzzles that have become commonplace since A Link to the Past. Picture a plot that does no more than see you off without stopping your journey with long-winded exposition. What if your sword was your best friend as your inventory was unceremoniously emptied? Would the result still be The Legend of Zelda? Yes, it would, as long as it carried the mystery that has been the foundation upon which this enduring franchise has been built. So jut out your jaw when danger draws near and yell with glee when clever exploration leads you to an unimaginable discovery. The future is bright and clean. Link isn't beholden to the past, and we shouldn't be either.

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Discussion

384 comments
caitseith
caitseith

I'm fine with Nintendo trying new ideas and exploring other options. But then people begin to ask for Zelda to be like Dark Souls, Shadow of the Colossus, Diablo or God of War. *facepalm* That's not new! You are asking for other old games, but with Zelda skin! That's as original as changing a franchise to be like CoD, and the result is usually very painful for the eyes.

Guys, there are hundreds of dark M rated games out there, and in this generation there are going to be more than ever. Now games like Zelda seem like a breath of fresh air, because there aren't many like it in the next-gen consoles.

Darth_Aloysius
Darth_Aloysius

Wow, I just released this article dates back to April 6... your dream is coming true Tom!

gouldjw
gouldjw

What I'd love to see is an epic story arc with the length and breadth of Final Fantasy 6, which would meld the three timelines together.  You would play multiple characters from each of the three timelines (not necessarily just Link), and see the end result of each of the three OoT possibilities play out to their inevitable conclusions.  One world would be a fairly happy, light version of Hyrule, one would be a dark and depressing version and one would be the world in which Hyrule was sunk beneath the sea and would take place primarily in the land where Spirit Tracks took place (whatever that was called).  But all 3 would begin to collapse due to the space/time fracturing of the 3 timelines and all 3 would end up having to gradually merge in order to save the 3-world multiverse.  That could be a fantastic, epic storyline, and would bring the timelines back into one.

sundfeld
sundfeld

I wish Nintendo went bankrupt, so only maybe we could have the hope that some day we would see an M rated Zelda...



Or at least rated T.

jjleshko90
jjleshko90

No sailing, no transforming into wolves, no motionplus.

burticusb
burticusb

I see a lot of requests to play as Zelda, but what if they turned the tables and you play as a young version of Ganondorf. And you play through trying to work your way through to dominate dungeons to create obsticles against the prophesied being that is said to try and kill you. All the while trying to gain enough power to protect yourself from this attack, in the end you know that only the Triforce can change your destiny... just saying it would be pretty awesome to turn those tables...

ershellfrank
ershellfrank

I would love to see it with the art style that they teased at that e3. I would love an exp system to coincide with the heart containers and other items(ex: to reach or obtain this heart container you must be level ???). Link will always be hero but allow for sections of the game to be played with other characters central to the story. Let puzzles stay. Allow for some kind of growth as a character and give attack skills to be learned through aforementioned exp system or finding the skill in game(side quest or search). Oh and bring the Zoras back.

PS. I really hope they do not restrict the game to the game pad. That would be depressing.

tribeofasher
tribeofasher

OMFG, 5 more weeks until we see some Zelda-U.

jark888
jark888

I want to see genuine HD, innovative experience break away from traditional Zelda games.

naymleswon
naymleswon

They should make some boss fights like Dragon's Dogma, where you can climb on and bring them down! About the Puzzles, I don't know I'm a little torn, I do like them but of course if they change the gameplay and it blows my mind then hell yes I'm up for some change. Would putting a voice to Link be a good idea? perhaps, and a levelling up system would be awesome cause I love the sword play. Link is too cool to just have a rinse and repeat kind of game like CoD.

POMEGRENADE451
POMEGRENADE451

Did you wanna play Shadow of the Colossus? That can be arranged, you know.

raydawg2000
raydawg2000

I have loved zelda games since the original, but i always thought it would be nice to have some sort of exp point based system.  Given the RPG type elements it has, sometimes i wish there was a reason to fight enemies instead of just ignoring them most of the time unless i need rubies or hearts.  Leveling doesn't need to replace the beloved heart containers, but may level up skills or weapons.

BadMrSnake
BadMrSnake

Hows about the Legend of Link where you play as Zelda & have to save Link from his drunk Gannon daddy!

POMEGRENADE451
POMEGRENADE451

No puzzles? Minimalist plot? Relying only on your sword to help you through? 

So, you want the next game to be The Legend of Dark Souls?

gamebuyer22
gamebuyer22

First make the graphics look like a Wii U game and not a HD wii game like Donkey Kong, Mario 3D world, NSMBU, Pikmin 3. I would like to see a jump comparable to going from God of War 2 to 3. Make no resemblance to previous games. Completely overhaul the combat. I agree get rid of the painfully frequent and slow un skippable cinemas. Make them quick and to the point. Voice acting. No fetch quests between dungeons. Just exploration. Darksiders 2 did it right.  Oh and bring back some difficulty please. When my ex GF can beat all modern Zeldas you know there's a problem.

kingfish1984
kingfish1984

All I can say is... Wind Waker art style!  If they go with that I am sold.

McGregor
McGregor

I'm thinking they need the visuals that were teased when the GameCube launched. I'd like to see those visuals incorporated with a top down, link to the past view. Then after that release the aaa 3d version. Nintendo went back to a side scroller Mario, why not a top down link to hold us over?

deviant74
deviant74

Diablo 3,  D.A. Origins, Skyrim, GTA 5.  Now let's make damn sure it is rated E.  

geezerdaman
geezerdaman

What does it need? How about a full game? The last few installments have overly rehashed their dungeons or boss fights where you end up revisiting every dungeon twice if not more or end up fighting the same boss 4 different times.


Make a full game for once and ppl will come back.

zillaman101
zillaman101

What I would love to see would be stunning realistic visuals and some Dark Souls level bosses that are really challenging. An epic story, great music and something totally new to the series would be amazing.

btroof
btroof

I remember playing OOT for the first time and being amazed at that graphics. Can't wait to get that feeling again.

RoachRush
RoachRush

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Learn from Square Enix's mistake(s) with Final Fantasy.

Stick with the premise that defined the series (exploration, puzzles, combat) and expand upon that foundation. Veer too far away from what made Zelda what it is and it just won't be Zelda anymore.

New idea to add for a future Zelda game to add a new flavor to the formula: Make ZELDA the playable character! While link uses various gadgets to explore and a huge arsenal of weapons for combat, Zelda uses magic and the abilities she learned as a Sheikah!

FlawlessGoBot
FlawlessGoBot

Quite frankly, I would rather not see another Legend of Zelda for a while. 


Nintendo has largely been leaning on LoZ and Mario for a while now and it is getting kinda old, and its not like they don't have other franchises or series to use or revisit.


There is Metroid, F-Zero, Star Fox, and many more that Nintendo could use! It would just be nice it they would give us something other then Mario or Zelda for a while.


And yes, they do have other games that have come out recently other the aforementioned titles, but I don't remember hearing anything about them anywhere else besides gaming sites. And lack of advertising presence seems to be a recurring problem for new Nintendo IP.


And now to contradict myself a bit for this article's sake, if there is going to be another Zelda title can we at least get a genuine continuation or sequel to Majora's mask please?

blainose
blainose

if you think about it the first zelda on the nes was kinda like dark souls. no monologue, no choosen path. would 

be cool to see a zelda dark souls hybride. hell there making a zelda/ dinasty warriror.

Darth_Aloysius
Darth_Aloysius

I'd like to see a sequel to Spirit Tracks, or at least something in a similar vein.

ceaseless
ceaseless

I would, just for one game at least, see Zelda go in the direction they showed with the Spaceworld 2000 demo


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBtAvX4Pkyk


just once. I was a fan of Zelda up to the Gamecube era because I had to skip that system for obvious reasons, but I still wish for that dark, real time shadowed Zelda. Wind Waker may have been a good Zelda game, but it stuck a dagger in my heart after showing that Spaceworld demo first.

onionking108
onionking108

I would be happy to see them really change up the Zelda formula.  Don't get me wrong, I love hearing the familiar tunes and there's a certain comfort in those classic Zelda features we always see, but I think it's more nostalgia talking than anything. 

But to contradict myself...Link Between Worlds was fantastic.

caitseith
caitseith

@sundfeld Twilight Princess was rated T. And personally I think somebody in the ESRB f*ck it up at rating Ocarina of Time (let alone Majora's Mask). Dead Hand (the boss at the bottom of the well) doesn't belong to an E rated game (that's the kind of monsters that give nightmares to little kids). Showing people transforming into mindless deformed undead creatures or being tortured by submerging them in boiling water is NOT for everyone either.

byzantine_chant
byzantine_chant

@jjleshko90 Agreed. Just Link, perhaps a horse and a wide open-world Hyrule with lots of dungeons and hidden places to find.

MacroManJr
MacroManJr

@kingfish1984 No offense, but as much as I adored the visual style of Wind Waker, that'd be a bad move.  I mean, they just had Wind Waker HD.

Instead, I'm going to say that, for once, this would be the time to go for a more realistic route with Zelda, one very similar to the style we saw with the Zelda tech demo with at the Wii U's debut appearance in E3 2011.

I'm not always the biggest fan of realism, but there are indeed times where it can fit quite in nicely as refreshing, esp. when done masterfully.  The way that tech demo looked was just what I was hoping to see the series going for in a new direction.  It was pretty much on-target and had me all male-moist as a longtime fan.

There was Twilight Princess, but I'd hope for a little more emphasis on realism than even TP had.  A stylized realism that still heavily reflects the Zelda style, but does it with beauty and top-notch designs.  The gameplay would have to be just as well-crafted, to prove that the game's much more than a pretty coat.

As a guy working in the game industry myself (a humble environment artist), I've seen firsthand what we can do with visual design nowadays.  I'm convinced it's time to see the Zelda series, my favorite series of all time, put on the Ritz.  If anyone can deliver beautiful realism that's well-designed, it's Nintendo.

I hope they go for large, beautiful, haunting, detailed, lively worlds.  I want to spend an hour just roaming the town, admiring the sheer volume of detail.  Put in visual cues from the past.  Maybe I can walk into a shop and spot a secret Skull Kid mask cameo in the background.  Maybe a guy in town walks around with a giant Majora's Mask moon tattooed to his arm.

I want to get lost by taking a wrong turn.  I want to journey by dawn and watch the sunlight rise while I'm traveling through the foggy morning in a huge dark forest, where enemies can lie in wait in shadows and jump out at me.  I want to see Link's eyes focusing on his enemies' weak spots (a la Wind Waker), and visibly see expressions on his face and bodily disposition as to how his health is going (might be a nice change of pace away from heart meters).

This is what would breath new life into Zelda, the Wii U, and even Nintendo themselves.  Only Nintendo can deliver such class to gaming to such high caliber.  This would be one for the ages.

willjohnboy
willjohnboy

@Darth_Aloysius Wow I hope not, don't want to be stuck traveling the Overworld map on a train or a boat or any other vehicle, I'm sure the majority of Zelda fans would agree with me on that point it was fine on handheld Zelda's not on the console Zelda's , the next Zelda should be like all the great Zelda's of the past, an open world filled with monsters traps and secrets like the original Zelda, a link to the past and Ocarina of Time, also no stupid time limit (that was the only thing i hated about Majora's Mask) imagine a world the size of Skyrim (maybe bigger given the extra power of the Wii U over the PS3 and Xbox 360) but in the Zelda universe, with everything i mentioned earlier that would be epic, also voice acting for everyone except for link.

Darth_Aloysius
Darth_Aloysius

@byzantine_chant @jjleshko90 Don't forget Zelda.

MacroManJr
MacroManJr

@byzantine_chant @jjleshko90 What we need is a Zelda game where you can finally play as Link or Sheik, even as a duo together on the journey for some tag-teaming awesomeness. Seriously.  We need Sheik as a playable character.  Because Sheik.

Darth_Aloysius
Darth_Aloysius

@willjohnboy @Darth_Aloysius  Well of course it would have to be handheld, but anyway the absence or presence of the train/boat thing isn't really something that concerns me, I'm more interested in the art style, the characters, the story, the humor, the game mechanics etc.

That's what made those games great.

A Skyrim/Zelda might be funish I guess. But I've already played Skyrim lol.

willjohnboy
willjohnboy

@Darth_Aloysius although if i were to pick one feature for the next Zelda it would be the original Zelda's formula were you could practically go anywhere and do any dungeon in any order.

willjohnboy
willjohnboy

edit- the original zelda is what was supposed to be in their before links awakening, I only noticed when it was to late and the missing comma lol.
 (edit in reference to my comment 2 Posts up)

willjohnboy
willjohnboy

@Darth_Aloysius now that would be a good game, although the vehicle should only be in there to take link to places you can't get to by foot of by hookshot.

Darth_Aloysius
Darth_Aloysius

@willjohnboy @Darth_Aloysius  This is a good point, all I can say is that I'd like a sequel to Spirit Tracks with exploration included :D

willjohnboy
willjohnboy

@Darth_Aloysius i agree they were good games however when ever the subject of Zelda comes up exploration is one of the things that comes to mind first, there's a reason a link to the past, ocarina of time, the original links awakening, a link between worlds (the best handheld zelda), links awakening, Majoras mask,minish cap, oracle of seasons and ages are regarded as classics, the only Zelda game that has a vehicle that's considered as a classic is Wind Waker and at least you can leave to explore everywhere, unlike phantom hourglass and spirit tracks which only allowed you to leave the boat once you arrived at the towns and dungeons due to the limitations, and the only thing like skyrim i'd want in a zelda game is the map size everything else will be all Zelda location,looks, gameplay, enemies etc, and i think tom wants a console zelda over a handheld zelda.