August 16, 2018
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a masterpiece that captured the hearts of many, and won Nintendo their very first Game of the Year award. However, being a year and a half old now, many are wondering what the next Zelda title will be, and when it is going to be released. Looking at the history of Nintendo’s actions and the trends that arise, I think we can figure that out before Eiji Aonuma lets us in behind the scenes.
We already know a new Zelda title is in the works; as one of Nintendo’s marquee franchises there’s always something in store in one way or another. In an interview Eiji Aonuma already confirmed there are and will be more Zelda games (plural, more on that later), and that they could take on many forms. BOTW Director Hidemaro Fujibayashi stated in that same interview, “I can’t say at this point if it will be in sequels or in continuations, or what form it will take, but I definitely have lots of ideas and lots of motivation right now.” So what does that mean for us? It’s true that the Zelda team has a strong drive to create another Zelda game utilizing the yet untapped potential of the Nintendo Switch, explaining that the team’s need to pander to the Wii U held them back on Breath of the Wild. Aonuma also told us in a separate interview following the game’s release that they had shelved several ideas as the concept of the game evolved.
With a new platform, more ideas, untapped potential, and a strong drive to create a follow-up in the wake of Breath of the Wild’s success, it’s natural the next title is going to be something big on the Switch. Nintendo has already begun team expansion, conducting hiring for one or more developers for
“Events/Fields/Dungeons/Enemies from design to actual implementation.” All signs point to the next title we see being a Majora’s Mask-like quick release that we are all going to love, right?
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask was a challenge title, purely designed to be pumped out quickly and stands as one of two outliers of its kind: a sequel title created in quick succession (the other being Spirit Tracks to follow up Phantom Hourglass on the Nintendo DS). While it’s certainly true Nintendo could re-use BOTW assets and quickly fire off a new game, I believe this time they’re going to take a bit of time to refine what they have, and generate something to surpass its predecessor in every way. Breath of the Wild is evidence that Nintendo President Shigeru Miyamoto is willing to give the Zelda team more as needed to create another timeless entry.
Looking at Nintendo’s history, they only release the major titles every few years (Majora’s Mask excluded); Ocarina of Time (1998), Wind Waker (2003), Twilight Princess (2006), Skyward Sword (2011), and BOTW (2017). There’s also the thought that a new smaller portable title could be released, be it for the Switch, 3DS, or both, as the last original portable title was Triforce Heroes back in 2015. However, there’s one trend Nintendo loves even more than major titles and handhelds, and we’ve seen far too often to be ignored: ports and HD remakes.
Nintendo has done HD remakes of almost every one of their major home titles; with Ocarina of Time (Gamecube/3DS), Majora’s Mask (GC/3DS), Hyrule Warriors (3DS/Switch), and Twilight Princess (Wii/WiiU) being done so twice. What’s more, they seem to have a habit of releasing them in pairs, with us seeing LoZ: Collector’s Edition pair with Four Swords Adventures, OoT w/ Wind Waker HD (though split a year apart), and Majora w/ Twilight. Hyrule Warriors was the most recent title to get ported, moving to the Nintendo Switch with all of the DLC included, but we haven’t seen a true remake or port to follow up yet (as this does not include Nintendo e-shop and classic systems, being of somewhat different production).
The answer to when is pretty obvious: Nintendo has released a new Zelda game every year since Ocarina of Time, be it in one form or another. Since BOTW is still relatively new, the next title I forsee is a port or remake of an older title to make use of the Nintendo Switch’s hardware. The next question is the “what”. The Zelda team has a habit of branching off smaller teams to work on quicker titles, before re-merging together to finalize their major installment. At this point I can see one of two major titles that Nintendo would want remade, and that would find success on the Switch: Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword, or Legend of Zelda A Link to the Past. I’m going to rule out the first one, as the Zelda team would most likely a) want to rebuild it from the ground up to better use the Switch mechanics, b) need more time for a task that big, and c) want to wait for 2021 to launch it on the game’s 10-year anniversary (as they did with Twilight Princess HD). Not to mention there have already been rumors swirling around a Link to the Past remake, so that gives us a direction to move in.
As seen with the aforementioned Skyward Sword, the Zelda team is not afraid to ask other teams for help (the swordplay was assisted by the Wii Sports Resort team). I’m not sure about any of you, but when I think of a Link to the Past, and look at the other games of similar style (the DS/3DS games), another upcoming title’s graphic and design style comes to mind: Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee and Pikachu. The design style of the graphics, assets, and art look similar to that of the recent Link Between Worlds, who was a successor to a Link to the Past. I wouldn’t be surprised if they took ideas from or asked the help of that team in order to recreate that game’s world in a new, fresh way that works better on the Switch.
Given Nintendo’s history through development, releases, and remakes, along with what we’ve seen and heard from the Zelda team, I think it’s safe to say the Breath of the Wild sequel we are all craving is going to have to wait for another year or two (maybe after that Skyward Sword remake). It’s true that they’re just rumors right now, but a Link to the Past was a massive success for the Zelda franchise, and gave rise to the “Zelda Formula” that helped shape all of the future titles, so it only makes sense.
My apologies for running on so long, and thank you for sticking with me through this endeavor of what might ultimately be a fruitless speculation. I hope you enjoyed what you read, and please let me know what your thoughts are; what do you think is going to be the next Zelda title? Only time will tell, and until then all we can do is log a few hundred more hours into the games we love and cherish so much.