It’s time to celebrate Zelda’s 35th birthday in style

Today marks the official end of Nintendo’s 35th anniversary celebrations for Super Mario Bros, with the withdrawal of Super Mario Bros 35 and Super Mario 3D All-Stars from their online stores.

It’s a great shame to bid farewell to these titles and, as we’ve seen with the recent Sony situation, depriving people of access to classic games is never the right answer. But it is what it is, and at least we had plenty of advance notice in this case — so hopefully if you wanted Super Mario 3D All-Stars in particular, you’d already grabbed it! (If not, you might want to get on that before the eBay bastards start jacking the prices up.)

One thing a lot of people have been curious about is whether or not Nintendo will give The Legend of Zelda the same treatment as Mario. After all, this year marks the 35th anniversary of the original Famicom Disk System version of The Legend of Zelda, so surely it would make sense to celebrate the series in a similar manner?

We already know that we’re getting a Switch port of Skyward Sword, which is great news. But what else could Nintendo do to celebrate this milestone for the classic series? Here’s a selection of things we’d love to see.

Zelda Master Collection

Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

The 35th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda seems like a prime opportunity to do some sort of premium re-release of all the classic mainline games. Ideally, this would be a single “Master Collection” cart that contained every Zelda game prior to Breath of the Wild, but more realistically I suspect if Nintendo plans to do this, there would be several releases.

Perhaps one cartridge containing the original The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past, Link’s Awakening (in both its original Game Boy and Game Boy Colour DX incarnations) and, ideally, the two Capcom-developed Oracle games; then another containing Ocarina of Time (plus the Master Quest variant), Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess and Switch reimaginings of the two Nintendo DS games and A Link Between Worlds.

I suspect people would even happily pay for standalone Switch ports of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, since those were both released as single titles on the Wii U. However Nintendo chooses to do things, the time is definitely ripe for some form of collector-friendly Zelda reissue.

Official localisations of BS Zelda

BS Zelda

There are two Zelda games that never saw the light of day in the west because they were distributed through the Super Famicom’s satellite modem system. While making these playable to a modern audience would require a certain amount of behind-the-scenes tweaking — most notably because they featured real-time elements that received data broadcast directly through the satellite modem — it would be great to see these localised and rereleased in some form.

The first of these games, simply known as BS Zelda no Densetsu (with the BS standing for “Broadcast Satellite”) cast players in the role of a custom avatar able to enter the land of Hyrule for specific periods of time, usually on a Sunday. During this period of “Zelda Time” you’d take on all the usual Zelda challenges — exploring the land, delving into dungeons and attempting to recover the Triforce. The game unfolded across four distinct episodes that were broadcast at specific times. Each had their own unique, fully-voiced events that occurred at specific points in Zelda Time, and Nintendo ran high-score competitions to encourage participation.

The second game, meanwhile, known as BS Zelda no Densetsu: Inishie no Sekiban (The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets) acts as a follow-up to A Link to the Past. Once again taking on the role of a custom avatar, the player is brought to Hyrule after Link has defeated Ganon and left the country — and, naturally, Ganon appears to be stirring once again. As with its predecessor, the game unfolded in four weekly episodes of “Zelda Time”, with voiced narrative elements and sidequests, and Nintendo once again offered prizes for high scores.

While the “live” nature of these games has made it very difficult to emulate them over the years, it would be really interesting to see them resurrected in some way — whether that’s as fully offline versions that just simulate the “Zelda Time” phenomenon, or going the whole hog and actually “broadcasting” weekly episodes via the Internet for a limited period.

Zelda Four Swords Online

Zelda Four Swords

The various multiplayer Zelda games are an absolute ton of fun, whether it’s the original Game Boy Advance version that was included on the cartridge alongside the excellent port of A Link to the Past, the fabulous standalone Gamecube game, or Triforce Heroes for the Nintendo 3DS. All of them are truly cooperative games that reward players working together rather than attempting to one-up one another.

Triforce Heroes was particularly noteworthy in this regard as an online implementation of the multiplayer Zelda formula; in true Nintendo tradition, it was designed in such a way that direct communication via voice or text chat was completely unnecessary, making it a very safe game to play online for youngsters — and one which players from all over the world could play together without having to worry about language barriers.

It’d be great to see the multiplayer Zelda formula resurrected in some way, whether it’s as online-compatible ports of these earlier games, or perhaps a brand-new Four Swords adventure specifically designed for online.

The Legend of Zelda 35

Zelda 35

If Super Mario Bros can do it, surely it’s possible to do a creative competitive multiplayer take on The Legend of Zelda. Challenge players to battle their way through dungeons as quickly as possible, and throw additional hazards or monsters at those who are lagging behind.

Perhaps this could take the form of a “greatest hits” celebration of the series, with the action zipping back and forth between some of the most memorable encounters, boss fights and dungeon challenges over the course of the series as a whole — either presented in their original form, or all brought together with a consistent aesthetic of some sort.

Nintendo’s shown itself to be quite keen on the “parallel solitaire battle royale” format with Super Mario Bros 35 and Tetris 99, so it would be really interesting to see how they applied this idea to The Legend of Zelda.

Zelda Maker

Zelda: Link's Awakening chamber dungeon maker

Here’s the big one: imagine Super Mario Maker, but Zelda. Offer players the ability to create their own dungeons and upload them online as standalone challenges — and if they’re feeling ambitious, link them all together with a coherent overworld.

The maker tools could include all the tiles and traps from various incarnations of 2D Zelda and offer players the opportunity to devise some truly fiendish challenges in ways the original designers likely never intended. The Super Mario Maker community has shown incredible things are possible with what is at heart a relatively limited toolset, so one can only wonder what a Zelda Maker community would be able to come up with.

As a player, outside of the ability to create a coherent overworld, there could be a “Quest” mode similar to Super Mario Maker’s 99 Mario Challenge. Here, you’d start off as a simple, barely equipped three-heart Link and gradually power yourself up as you successfully complete increasingly challenging player-made dungeons one after another.

The interesting thing is that Nintendo has already dabbled with the possibility of this sort of thing with the recent Switch version of Link’s Awakening. That game features “Chamber Dungeons”, which allow you to create your own custom challenges in response to puzzle prompts, or save them to an amiibo and share them with your friends. That system just needs building on and expanding a bit, and we could have something wonderful on our hands.

What would you like to see from Zelda’s 35th anniversary? Let us know in the comments below, or hit us up on the usual social channels!

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Pete Davison
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