No matter how far away a new Zelda game is, or how little we know about the next entry in the series, thoughts and theories are always swirling in our minds. What will the next game be like? Will it be top-down or 3D? Will it be set in Hyrule or somewhere else? How in the world can we possibly know what will come next in the series?
Welcome to a new set of articles designed to do just that: extrapolate on past
Zelda games to inform us about potential future entries. To do this, I’m taking a close look at the Zelda timeline; in particular, each of the three eras: the Era of Decline, the Child Era, and the Adult Era.
Author’s Note: This is not focused on the upcoming Zelda U. It’s looking primarily at the future of the franchise beyond Zelda U, in terms of what may come after it.
Why only look at those eras, and not the Unified Timeline from
Skyward Sword to Ocarina of Time? That’s because the Zelda series hasn’t done much to move the timeline forward. The two most recent entries in the series – Skyward Sword and A Link Between Worlds – served as a prequel to the entire series and a sequel to an SNES game, respectively. While they expanded on the lore of the series in different ways, I think it’s time to move the timeline forward and explore the future of the three different eras brought about by the events of Ocarina of Time. Today, it’s time to look at the Child Era.
Setting the Stage
The Child Era includes Majora’s Mask, Twilight Princess, and Four Swords Adventures. These three games offer some very interesting possibilities for what is to come in the future of Zelda, and each game is remarkably different in story, structure, and gameplay.
What stands out to me the most in this era are the villains. We are introduced to two new villains: Majora’s Mask (a villain in its own right, even if most of the game it was possessing Skull Kid) and Zant. We also see the return of Vaati, and the first – and so far only – reincarnation of Ganondorf. That’s right, every other game in the Zelda series with Ganon or Ganondorf as the villain has been featuring the exact same character. Weird, huh?
This section in
Hyrule Historia concludes like so:
I don’t know about you, but to me, that small passage is loaded with intriguing implications for the future of the
Zelda series in the Child Era.
Whatever Doesn’t Kill You Makes You… Stranger
Majora’s Mask introduced a concept that has yet to be explored in any other Zelda game: parallel worlds.
Koholint, Holodrum, Labrynna, and New Hyrule, Termina isn’t a continent or distant land, but an entirely separate world in a whole different universe from Hyrule. Termina serves as an eerie counterpart to Hyrule, similar yet different.
Link sees many of the same faces as in Hyrule, but they belong to different people, have different lives, different stories to tell. The same races are present –
Goron, Zora, Deku – but these are also very different from what Link experienced in Hyrule.
Majora’s Mask also took this opportunity to present a completely different experience, one that delved into dark themes, dealt with the end of the world and normal people’s reactions to it. Speaking of those normal people, much of the game is focused on side quests, on helping out ordinary people, so much so that the game feels incomplete if you play it solely for the main narrative.
What would another Zelda in a parallel world be like? I could see it flipping Zelda veterans’ expectations upside down, much like Majora’s Mask did. Maybe there are less dungeons than normal, or even no dungeons at all. Perhaps the gameplay is less about adventure or action, and is more of a mystery (Professor Layton X Legend of Zelda, anyone?). Maybe the entire gameplay genre is changed, to a platformer or beat-em-up or visual novel or rogue-like.
There’s also the opportunity to see the familiar characters, races, areas, and icons flipped completely on their heads. The Triforce could be an evil weapon that needs to be destroyed, the Zoras or Gorons could be the dominant race of the world, heck
Kaepora Gaebora could be reimagined as an evil tyrant who serves as the final boss of the game (a guy can dream, right?).
The opportunity for a
Zelda game to be completely crazy, zany, and twisted, juxtaposing familiar elements in unfamiliar ways, and even jumping ship to a different genre entirely is incredibly enticing. It would be a strange game, hopefully even stranger than Majora’s Mask, offering Zelda fans something completely new, exciting, and unexpected.
A World Less Traveled
Twilight Princess introduced Zelda fans to a whole new world, and not one that was shining, shimmering, or splendid. Instead, it was the Twilight Realm, and, well…
We honestly don’t see much of it.
The only step Link takes into the actual Twilight Realm is near the end of the game when he has to storm the Palace of Twilight to finally defeat Zant once and for all. And while he meets a few Twili (the native inhabitants of the Twilight Realm), they’re practically mute, offering very little information on their world or culture.
One thing it makes me wonder is, how did Midna and Zant get so much personality? Every other Twili we meet barely says a word, nor shows much of any personality or emotion in their body language. Zelda games do a great job at world-building, but not when it comes to the Twilight Realm and the Twili.
Hyrule Historia offers little else, aside from calling the Twilight Realm a “beautiful place, enveloped in the calm of a falling dusk,” and describing the Twili as “gentle, pure-hearted creatures.”
Not much to go on, which is why a future game exploring the Twilight Realm in detail would be so fascinating. Even with Midna shattering the Mirror of Twilight at the end of Twilight Princess, that isn’t final. There are always other ways to get there, and if some form of crisis arose, blurring the lines between the Light World and Twilight Realm once again, the opportunity for world-building and proper interacting with the Twili should not be missed.
The bookending quote of this era says “the evil sorcerer Vaati had become caught up in the cycle of Ganondorf the Thief.”
This intrigues me so much because it offers a possibility of a future
Zelda title where two of the biggest, baddest villains of Zelda history team up to take over the world. And with a new, reincarnated Ganondorf, there’s an exciting clean slate on which to write a new personality, new powers, new motivations for the classic villain.
The Minish Cap gave a vast level of insight into the backstory of the villainous wind sorcerer Vaati. Outside of that game, he’s mostly just been a big blob of premium-grade final boss material. But imagine pairing Vaati in his humanoid, talkative, scheming form with Ganondorf the King of Thieves (wait… that title belongs to Aladdin’s dad…). Talk about a dual shock (sorry, Playstation) of cunning villainy and incredible power. Speaking of power, who would hold the Triforce of Power between the two?.
Personally, I fervently hope that the quote from Hyrule Historia isn’t just flavor text, but a true sign of things to come. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love seeing Ganondorf and Vaati team up in a big way. And think of the final boss fight! It’s the stuff dreams are made of. It may even see the return of the Four Sword, as one Link alone may not be enough to conquer his two greatest villains.
There’s also the possibility of the
Gerudo coming back, which I’ve longed for ever since Ocarina of Time. Sure, they appeared in the parallel Termina, and pirates are always cool, but being purely antagonists (you can’t befriend them like in Ocarina of Time) just lessened the excitement for me. And their appearance in Four Swords Adventures, while different, was far too brief.
So, let’s see the Gerudo come back, please?
There are some very exciting possibilities for a game continuing the Child Era of the Zelda timeline. From parallel worlds to villainous team-ups to a proper look at a beloved section of Zelda lore, there’s a lot of opportunity for world-building.
Not just world-building, but true game-changing possibilities. I don’t know about you, but I get truly excited thinking about what could come in the future of
I’ll be back soon (really, it’s not going to be a month-long gap this time, I promise!) with a look at the Adult Era of the Zelda timeline, and what a new
Zelda game continuing that era could look like. Until then, let me know in the comments below what type of game and scenario you envision for a Zelda game continuing the timeline beyond Four Swords Adventures.
- “Clock Town Carnival” image by
- Banner art by marcobaruco
- Professor Layton-Zelda image by swordxdolphin
- Gerudo image by Nonro