Nintendo celebrated 35 years of Super Mario Bros. this year with a veritable cornucopia of offerings: an updated re-release of Super Mario 3D World, a limited-edition Game & Watch device, a 35-person competitive version of the original game, and of course Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a high-definition collection of the classic games Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy. With all that coming our way, along with the upcoming Metroid Prime 4, it’s not unreasonable to start to wonder what the big N might have in store for next year’s 35th anniversary of another flagship franchise of theirs: The Legend of Zelda.
Since February 1986 when The Legend of Zelda first graced Nintendo’s Famicom console, the series has ballooned to an impressive 19 games, to say nothing of the myriad spin-offs and remakes. That means plenty of material to bring to the Switch and give the Mario 3D All-Stars treatment – so here are 5 of the most deserving candidates.
1. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Originally released in 2002 for the GameCube, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker caused a bit of a stir among fans with its radical departure from the graphical style of the N64-era games in favour of a colourful, cel-shaded approach, but the game released to widespread critical acclaim with expressive visuals, tight controls, a charming sense of humour and an incredibly memorable soundtrack (I fondly remember visiting Rito Village in Breath of the Wild for the first time and immediately recognising the background music as a reimagining of the Dragon Roost Isle theme from Wind Waker, close to 15 years after last playing the game). Sailing around the flooded world from island to island may have been a little tedious for some, but I always found it a delight with the dynamic and orchestral Great Sea theme accompanying me, and the sense of adventure and exploration inherent in the game once the world opens up and you can travel wherever you want is second to none.
I’ll be the first to admit it – this one’s a bit of a freebie, as Nintendo has actually already released an updated, HD version of Wind Waker. In 2013, the company brought the GameCube classic to the Wii U, with updated graphics and gameplay and several quality-of-life adjustments. There was but one issue: sales of the Wii U proved so erratic and ultimately uninspiring that relatively few people even got to experience this new and improved version of a much-loved game. But we now have a chance for redemption! Bring Wind Waker HD to Switch with all its smoothed-out edges and swifter sails and soon we can all relive the adventure, the music, and that one time they fired Link out of a catapult.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
1998’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time gets a lot of thoroughly deserved love from the gaming community, frequently finding its way to the top of ‘Best Game of All Time’ lists. It’s an obvious choice for re-release on the Switch, but for my money, if you were to bring Ocarina to modern consoles, you’d have to do the same for Majora’s Mask. A rarity in the Zelda series as a direct sequel to a previous game and one in which main series antagonist Ganon doesn’t feature at all, Majora was built in the same engine with many of the same assets as its predecessor, but managed to stand out on its own merits as a unique and beautiful game with its inventive time-loop and transformation mechanics and a darker and more emotional story that never risks getting too ‘edgy’.
Following on from the end of Ocarina’s story (well, one branch of it at least, because – you know what, I’m not going to try and untangle the Zelda timeline here, that’s a Sisyphean task for another day), Link finds himself in the land of Termina, stuck in the body of a Deku Scrub and staring into the maniacally grinning face of the moon, which is set to crash land on top of him in three days’ time. What follows is a surprisingly tender and hopeful story that touches on themes of friendship, love and loss (also time travel). Though there are only four major dungeons in the game – previous games would usually have somewhere around 8 – there is a plethora of extra content to get stuck into, rewarding you with masks, upgrades, new items and sometimes just a satisfying conclusion to a character’s story.
Because that’s one of the real strengths of Majora’s Mask: almost every character has their own personal arc and over the course of the repeating three-day loop you really come to know each and every one. It’s even actively encouraged in the game: one of the items lets you make note and keep track of each character’s schedule, so you can always figure out where to find them if you want to see what they’re up to or have a chat. The depth and substance of so many of these characters is really quite impressive – these are NPCs who are otherwise bit players to the main story but whom the developers felt the desire to really flesh out and make three-dimensional. That care and attention to detail is what makes Majora’s Mask such an enduringly enjoyable and genuinely beautiful game.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
What better way to ring in the 35th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda than by bringing back the game that celebrated the 25th anniversary? The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword released in 2011 on the Nintendo Wii to much acclaim, with much praise given to its lush graphical style, well-designed dungeons and enjoyable story. Many reviewers commented on the fact that much of the combat and other systems used mandatory motion controls, to mixed results; while some found the introduction of 1:1 sword control with the Wii Motion Plus add-on more visceral and exciting, others found it inconsistent and at times unwieldy, not to mention non-ideal for broader accessibility.
This presents an opportunity: a Switch remake of Skyward Sword could take full advantage of the Joy-cons’ in-built gyroscope and accelerometer to hone those motion controls, or they could even cut this particular Gordian knot altogether by making them optional and offering a more traditional control scheme as an alternative. It could be a chance for a whole new audience to play the predecessor to Breath of the Wild, and in reducing the importance of the motion controls they might even take the edge off secondary character Fi’s frequent interruptions to the story to boot. It seems a shame to leave what some described as one of the best games of the series languishing in the annals of a discontinued console and the dusty libraries of the Wii U eShop, wouldn’t you agree? And hey – it’d probably be better than some of those motion control shrines in Breath of the Wild.
4. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link has never seemed to get as much as love as the other main games in the Zelda franchise, sandwiched as it was between the groundbreaking original game and the much-vaunted Link to the Past on the SNES. In terms of gameplay it’s a radical departure from pretty much every other game in the series, swapping between a top-down world map and side-scrolling dungeons and towns and adopting an experience-point system that would seem more at home in a traditional RPG like Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest. It’s also got a delightfully bonkers plot about Princess Zelda (but a different one from the first game, but it’s the same Link and – wait, no, I promised no more timeline shenanigans) falling into a magical sleep caused by a wizard who then accidentally kills himself, and Ganon’s minions wanting to sprinkle Link’s blood on their lord’s ashes to revive him.
It’s certainly unusual for a Zelda game but variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Besides that, it’s an important milestone in Zelda history that should be celebrated on its anniversary, and one that has its fingerprints all over future entries: this is the game that introduced the Triforce of Courage, the magic meter, and Dark Link, as well as offering a world full of other characters who all have their own personalities and go about their own business – a far cry from the lonely overworld of the original Legend of Zelda. It’s weird, sometimes baffling, but it’s part of the history of the series and a damn good game in its own right. Let’s bring it to the Switch, give it a fresh coat of paint and a few tweaks here and there, and lose ourselves in a land from a time when risks were taken and laurels went unrested-upon.
5. Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon
OK, I’m just messing with you.
5. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of Ages
If I’d been writing this article a couple of years ago, I would’ve been saving this final spot for The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. It was the first Zelda game I ever played and holds a special place in my heart, but getting a remake of it seemed like a pipe dream: a Game Boy game from 1993, without the universal recognition of your Ocarina of Times and your Link to the Pasts? There was no way. Then, in 2019, Nintendo announced and subsequently released not just a port of the game, but a complete reworking of it with a graphical overhaul and extra features to boot. So where now to direct my fearsome powers of wish fulfilment? Well, if the Zelda team can remake one old and much-loved Game Boy game, why not two for their 35th anniversary?
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages released for the Game Boy Color in 2001, offering players two full and remarkably different games that could be connected via password or Link Cable to expand their content further and even change some plot beats. In the more action-oriented Seasons Link gains the power of the Rod of Seasons to change the landscape around him, and in Ages he jumps through time with the Harp of Ages to solve puzzles and clear dungeons. They’re a truly impressive duo of games with a colourful roster of characters, a staggering amount of side content, interesting mechanics and a novel use of the Game Boy’s connectivity options to enhance both games.
Just imagine how an updated version of each of these games could look, taking cues from the remake of Link’s Awakening or even going in a different artistic direction altogether to bring to life the worlds of verdant Holodrum and volcanic Subrosia in Seasons and the past and present iterations of Labrynna in Ages. Direct downloads and more streamlined and straightforward connectivity options on the Switch could dispense with the cumbersome passwords and make sharing content between the two games much easier. An updated remake could even bring in content left on the cutting room floor from the development team’s original plans of making a trilogy of games rather than a duo. Food for thought, surely?