Top Five Zelda: Best and Worst Possible Spinoffs

A couple months ago I wrote a short series of articles called Where to Next, and examined potential ways the series could go in the future, but in retrospect I neglected one possibility. Spinoffs! Like ‘em, hate ‘em? Whatever your stance on the issue, they come to many series in many forms, and they aren’t likely to go anywhere. Today I’ll look at what genres I think could do well for the series if the team decided to go in that direction.

To some of you (probably not many) it may be interesting to note that I wrote about a page and a half of waffling before I finally landed on the idea of doing two top fives, but my thoughts were all over the place, so instead I thought I’d just give you the list going genre by genre. Here are my five favorite and five least favorite ideas, let’s start with the trash!

#5: Platformer

Link is not a jumper. That’s Mario’s thing. Mario jumps and Link does the combat and puzzles. Platforming elements have been used in the series since Zelda II, and they usually do not detract from the game, but to base the core concept of the game on this mechanic would impede all the Zelda-ness. I do not see any benefit the series could find as a platformer, even in a spinoff.

#4: Sport/Racing

Okay so originally when I thought of this idea, I thought of a Zelda racing game where I guess you would go on horseback against other players? This just sounds boring to me, and the same can be said about Link trying his hand at any given sport, or even making up a new sport as video games do from time to time (Anybody up for some blitzball?). I think Link’s cameo in Mario Kart is the closest he should ever come to being a racer. He could make a fun addition to a different Mario sports title as well, but within his own world it would feel forced and awkward.

#3: Real Time Strategy

I really don’t like most RTS games to begin with, and Zelda has no business splashing into this realm. For this to work, you’d need a huge team of guys, and the Zelda cast is better off when each one of them gets their time in the sun. I just don’t think Zelda would mix well with the genre. There is a time and place for grand battles of tons of troops, but this series is jam packed with unique and memorable characters who deserve to be more than just one out of a hundred random guys you send to destroy your opponents base (or get destroyed by thousands of Zerglings).

#2: Rhythm Game

I’m not going to lie, if they made a Rock Band game where you play as the Indigo-Gos, I would pick it up, but I can’t imagine that ever happening, and I don’t think it would sell very well or be all that great. Peripherals (with the exception of arcade hardware) are a thing of the past in my opinion. I’d rather just play a game using the base hardware that came with the system. The rhythm genre is also far too narrow to work. If you take away the combat, puzzles, and/or exploration, you take away what makes it a Zelda game, and to force such a spinoff would likely forego all of these things. It’s not a risk I think the developers should take.

#1: “Mobile” Game

Games on mobile devices are fine, but there is a certain feel that most mobile games have that I don’t want anywhere near my favorite series. Mobile games (with few exceptions) feel like cash grabs that are only interesting for about an hour unless you pay money, and one time is seldom enough. This is the problem I found in Fire Emblem Heroes; I loved the core gameplay, but levels were too similar and you had a miniscule chance of actually acquiring your favorite characters without dropping a pile of cash in Nintendo’s lap. All I want is Hinoka and Hector to be on the same team, is that so bad?

This is the same in nearly every game I’ve ever played on a smartphone or tablet. From Candy Crush to Hearthstone, a game that you can skip 100 hours of grinding for sixty bucks worth of loot boxes is not worth it to me, because even after that these games usually offer static, repetetive gameplay and I would rather play a “real” game.

So there’s my top five worst spinoff ideas. What do you think? Would you love to see a sequel to Donkey Konga starring Link? Should I have noted that the worst possible spinoff already exists and is called Link’s Crossbow Training? Well, if you didn’t like that list, don’t worry, I saved the best for last! That is I literally saved the list of what I think would make the best spinoffs for last….

#5: Turn-Based Strategy

I actually don’t like turn-based strategy much more than real time, but I do at least feel it would complement the series. Being able to control a small team of units like Zelda, Link, Impa, and Darunia to smash your foes would give each character the spotlight they need to work as a Zelda game while retaining that tactical feel. The best of both worlds, so to speak. I think a great way to create this would be to literally make a Fire Emblem game set in Hyrule. Seeing them interact through the trademark support system would breathe new life into even the most detailed of characters.

#4: Fighting Game

Hyrule Warriors, a Zelda spinoff that performed and reviewed quite well, had a lot of elements similar to a fighting game; tons of characters, each one has their own special moves, and the story really doesn’t matter that much. In a way it proved that a fighting game would work for the series without actually being one. I would love to see this idea expanded upon, especially seeing how fantastic Link is as a fighter in Super Smash Bros. and Soul Calibur II. Putting him in his own fighting game against all the other awesome heroes and villains from the series would make for a Smash Bros. killer in my book. It wouldn’t actually put a dent in Smash sales, but I would be one of those cult followers always telling you about how the lesser known title is better. Go team Morrowind!

#3: Metroidvania

Though I cannot stand the sight of Zelda II, I do believe a sidescrolling Zelda could work if done more in this style. Give the character lots of cool abilities along the way, combine light platforming elements with lots of combat, and you should have a good game. I know, I know, Zelda II did all that, but I still hate it. I think there’s a nice middleground that many Metroidvania games achieve where it’s hard but at least it’s fair. Zelda II is only hard because of bad hit-box design, and overpowered enemies. This idea was attempted before, and it turned out awfully, but I think it has the potential worth revisiting if developed well.

#2: Survival Horror

This type of game is possibly the furthest off from the traditional Zelda formula, but it has the potential to work out phenomenally well. Imagining Link fighting his way through a post-apocalyptic Hyrule filled with more monsters than friendly people sounds like… well, Breath of the Wild. I think if this idea was further expanded to include larger hordes of undead type monsters, and more horrific ones in dungeons like Wallmasters and the Dead Hand, something truly unique could come of it. Perhaps they could throw in some stealth elements to avoid making it feel too much like a Zelda game, giving it more of its own unique feel while retaining the original series’ qualities. There are so many ways they could go on this I’m just going to let you imagine rather than keep blabbing your ear off.

#1: Japanese-Style RPG

Did you know that originally Zelda 3 was being developed and was pretty much finished and ready to release as a JRPG? It was going to feature a party of three characters, Link (or an approximation thereof described as a “mix between an elf and a fighter”), a magic user, and a girl. I think this idea could be incredible to see combined with Zelda, though I am more than happy with how A Link to the Past turned out instead.

I would love to see a game similar to Chrono Trigger set one hundred years before Breath of the Wild where you could combine Zelda’s magic powers with Daruk or Link’s martial abilities, Revali and Urbosa could provide ranged support, and Mipha could play a healing role. Beyond incredible gameplay possibilities, the focus that JRPGs place on the story could also add a ton to the series. If a single game could give as much lore behind the history of Hyrule as Xenoblade Chronicles 2 does for its world of Alrest, many of us crazy timeline theorists would eat it up.

Woo hoo, another top five (or two) down! Though I did not mean to make two top five lists in a row, my thoughts could not be persuaded to back down after the idea had entered my brain. So what do you think? Should I have mentioned how great a Zelda MMO would be? Is the series fine without any major spinoffs? As always I would love to continue the conversation through the comments or on Twitter. Let’s keep the conversation hitchhiking!

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