Posted on April 30 2019 by Andy Spiteri
The surprise announcement last month of the upcoming rhythm dungeon crawler Zelda spinoff Cadence of Hyrule is still something that I’m still fully wrapping my head around. It was almost like a floodgate moment — if we can get a Zelda crossover this out there, we can get anything! And if Nintendo is willing to let a small Canadian developer touch the Zelda IP, all of its different properties are probably on the table for any developer with a great enough idea.
While Cadence of Hyrule looks really fun, and I’m no doubt excited for it, I’m more excited for what it means. Talking about Zelda spinoffs are nothing new (Rabbids anyone?), but now just seems like the perfect time to go back and really dare to dream. Nothing really seems impossible anymore, and even though we’ve had some amazing Zelda spinoffs in the past, it feels like we’re entering a new era where Nintendo might be a little looser and more willing to trust others with creating a unique take on their worlds.
I asked a bunch of the editors over at Zelda Dungeon to pitch their dream Zelda spinoff, and the results are incredibly varied and really exciting. Below is a short description each editor put together for their game to give you an idea of what they’re hoping for — read at your own risk because you’re probably going to be let down these games don’t actually exist… yet. Enjoy!
Rod Lloyd: The New Adventures of Link
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is a game that the Zelda series has — perhaps for all the right reasons — completely left behind. No other game in the series looks or feels like Zelda II, so as we look back at it these days, The Legend of Zelda‘s first sequel looks and feels more like a spin-off title than anything else. I personally want to see the series return to the style and gameplay system of The Adventure of Link, but I freely admit that such a project should be, in every way, presented as a spin-off title, a game free to depart from the conventions of Zelda‘s thirty years of iteration and free to expand on and experiment with the unique template set by Zelda II.
My vision is a Zelda II-inspired spin-off that cribs from modern classics in the action side-scrolling genre and perhaps a few RPG’s (like those in the Souls series) as well. The Adventure of Link did feature experience points, after all. In my opinion, Motion Twin’s Dead Cells and Ska Studios’ Salt and Sanctuary are two stand-outs in the modern 2D action scene that could help shape a modern side-scrolling Zelda game. Both titles center on difficulty and endurance-based gameplay, much like Zelda II did back in the day, so they already seem like a natural progression of the systems established in Link’s second adventure.
By using these games as partial inspirations, retaining the spirit that keeps Zelda II a cult classic, and adding a heavy dose of modern Nintendo charm, I think a spin-off side-scroller in the Zelda series would be a huge success.
Judy Calder: Ganondorf’s Conquest
I propose a multiple-choice, decision-making game in which the best and most strategic decisions earn you power tokens, meaning you can make even more strategic decisions. Different decisions will cost tokens at various prices, therefore you should decide wisely. It’s a spend tokens to make tokens situation.
Based before events before and during Ocarina of Time, you start the game as a young Ganondorf going through training to become leader of the Gerudo. Every decision you make will decide how strong and powerful Ganondorf can become. Eventually, events before Link pulls the Master Sword take place, so the player can go through talks with the King of Hyrule, building allegiances, etc. The player will soon make decisions around the invasion of Hyrule and during the seven-year span in which Link sleeps. This is the interesting part, as the player gets to decide on how that period of time goes. After the seven years, the player can decide on Ganondorf’s moves during the final battle, and if all goes well, win the game that leads to the Downfall Timeline.
Charles Xavier: Sheikah’s Creed
I always thought it’d be cool to see an Assassin’s Creed-like spin-off game centered around the Sheikah Tribe.
It’d be set during the Hyrule Unification War. With Hyrule torn in conflict, there are some morally questionable tasks that need to be done which require stealth. Who better to pull this off than a secret tribe sworn to protect the Royal Family of Hyrule? A Sheikah assassin traverses Hyrule and is designated hits on people who, if assassinated, will speed up the end of the war. I’d like to see interrogation being just as important in such a game, which could possibly play into all the subtle hints in Ocarina of Time that the Sheikah were torturing people for unknown reasons.
John Piland: Hyrule Mirage Session
If Atlus and Nintendo want to grow in their relationship, what better way than fusing (pun intended) the Zelda and Persona franchises? From canon and non-canon Zelda material alike, there are myriad characters and monsters to use as Personas. What monsters and characters are not used as Personas could easily and effectively be turned into menacing Shadows. From returning and new NPC’s, there is a lot to work with in the way of Social Links. For the members of S.E.E.S., Link and Zelda are the obvious choices, and the developers could pull from preexisting characters or create entirely new ones, like Lana and Cia in Hyrule Warriors.
When it comes to setting, the game could be placed in a classic Hyrule or one based on a contemporary Japan, both working to effectiveness.
Kristen Rosario: Cucco’s March
How’s this for interesting? A Zelda game where the core concept is based on Pikmin. Except instead of Pikmin, it’s legions of cuccos you’re having follow you around.
The story could revolve around Link getting trapped without his weapons or shield in a certain part of Hyrule (The Lost Woods, perhaps?), and his only allies are cuccos who, for some reason, are magically popping up all over the place; the story could even see him transporting cuccos through this area as part of a quest. Unique items you find throughout your journey could grant your cuccos certain abilities (angry cuccos grant fire abilities, calm cuccos can give increased flight ability over large gaps, etc.).
Enemy wise, you can have your basic Zelda villain fare like Moblins, Octoroks, and Wizzrobes. Bosses and mini-bosses could be series staples like Darknuts, Iron Knuckles, or Moldorm. Just like with most Zelda games, there’s unique ways you have to use your cuccos to take down each opponent. As for controlling the cuccos, I can see Link acquiring a unique magical item (some kind of musical instrument perhaps) that gives him the ability to control them.
Brandon Schmitz: Midna May Cry
As iconic as Link, Zelda, and Ganon are, the Legend of Zelda mythos is littered with so many other vibrant characters. What’s both beautiful yet heartbreaking about many of these personalities, though, is that they never return past their debut installment. You know, aside from popping up as Assist Trophies in Super Smash Bros. or as one of the chosen Hyrule Warriors.
This world is bigger than the main trio, and it’d be wonderful to see the spotlight put on a few of these other familiar faces. I mean, if Tingle can get his own spinoff series, then surely, a couple of other characters can, too! The first one up on that list? Well, outside of the big three, I can’t think of another Zelda character who has made as much of an impact as the Twilight Princess herself, Midna.
A couple of years ago, Breath of the Wild art director Satoru Takizawa revealed that Midna, or at least someone clearly reminiscent of her, was originally designed for a project that never saw light of day — one that was being developed well ahead of Twilight Princess. I’d say it’s time to revisit that idea.
Admittedly, I’m not sure what kind of game this mysterious project was even going to be, but I’d love to see the mischievous imp star in an action title similar to Devil May Cry or Bayonetta. The Twilight Realm would — if once again corrupted by some evil force — lend itself perfectly to all manner of neat locales and grotesque monsters. The franchise has already dipped its foot in the action pool with Hyrule Warriors, so I’d love to see a developer — whether it be Platinum Games, Capcom, or even Omega Force again — take my all-time favorite video game character and go even further with that.
Almog Rimmer: Link and Zelda at the Olympics
This idea caught me completely by random chance: what if Nintendo made a Zelda Olympics game, similar to the long-running Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games series? It’d be cool to see Link and the gang as competing athletes.
Now, I’m not speaking of a complete 1:1 copy of Mario and Sonic. I was thinking something more along the lines of a triathlon. There will be a couple of different competitions, each comprised of three segments befitting the Hyrulian skills: Horseback, Archery, Sailing, Gliding, Swordplay, etc.
It’d be a nice change of pace with Ganondorf, Vaati, et al not actually trying to get rid of Link, but rather participating in the greatest Olympic event Hyrule has ever seen.
David W. Nystrom: The Era Without A Hero
Anybody who’s looked at the Fan-Fiction Friday section recently would have seen my contribution of The Era Without A Hero. That entire story actually began as my version of an ideal Zelda game from a conversation with a friend following Hyrule Historia’s release.
I designed seven Temples, drew maps of the world, sketched items and characters, and even began developing statistics for the bosses and enemies. I also developed a party system where certain characters would either join or leave your party depending on the location you were going to next. Princess Zelda was almost always an option for your party, as was Fado the Sage of Wind as seen in The Wind Waker.
The biggest influence into the design of the game though came after a friend installed a copy of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on my laptop for me. I immediately began trying to figure out a way to alter your character’s development so that you could work to save Hyrule, or further its eventual demise by helping the villain.
Brittany Lindstrom: Farore Emblem
Okay, hear me out. Way back in 2012, Nintendo released this gem of a game called Pokemon Conquest for the DS, a turned-based strategy game that paired up feudal Japanese warlords with Pokemon. It was turn-based, it was strategic, Oda Nobunaga had a black and gold Rayquaza, and, lo, it was good.
Depending on the day, Fire Emblem is probably my second favorite franchise. I would love to see a turn-based strategy game that meshed the Fire Emblem universe with The Legend of Zelda. I mean, both games have a Warriors spin-off title, so it can’t be that difficult to convince Koei Tecmo to make all my dreams come true — right?
Euan Crombie: Ocarina Hero
Alright, hear me out. Of course I’d love a meaty RPG or adventure spin off as much as anyone else, but the one genre I love above everything else? A Rhythm Zelda game.
There’s a few ways to approach this (or retreat away from it as quickly as possible, if you’re so inclined). We could go down the Voez or Squidbeatz 2 line (Google them) and have a simple Rhythm game with a Zelda skin. This would involve a series of mechanics such as button pressing or screen tapping in time with various Zelda tracks, such as “Gerudo Valley” or “Hyrule Castle”.
Alternatively, how about something like a Zelda x Rhythm Heaven (might have to look that one up too) crossover. This would be a collection of mini-games, each with their own individual mechanics to keep the player in time. The frogs in Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask would be an example of one mini-game. Then, once you’ve completed a certain portion, a remix of multiple tracks appears, and you have to deal with multiple mini-games at once! (It’s less complicated than it sounds, I promise!)
Matt Pederberg: The Hylian Knight
I always wanted a grittier, rated-M Legend of Zelda game, much like the Batman: Arkham series or Shadow of Mordor. The style of combat would be really engaging and would add a new spin on things. The many different weapons at Link’s disposal is already reminiscent of Batman’s arsenal. The Legend of Zelda may not have a big focus on stealth, but that aspect can be explored in this type of game. The story could follow an outcast Link, making his way through an enormous Hyrule Castle.
The landscapes can thusly vary from wide open courtyards filled with minor enemies to slaughter, to tight dining halls with more difficult sentinels to find alternate means of avoiding. Link’s battles would be a combination of hack ‘n’ slash, quick thinking in a brutal explosion of various items and the all-powerful Master Sword (eventually!), and finding the perfect time to sneak out of a bush to stab the foe in the back for a stealthy kill. The side character possibilities are also endless, allowing for DLC characters/side-quests or even alternate main stories!
Simon Rayner: Cabin in the Lost Woods
A bit strange, but I think some of my favorite environments in all of Zelda are the likes of the Lost Woods and The Sacred Grove, so I’d love to see some kind of survival game in the heart of some seemingly desolate forest. I could imagine elements of Breath of the Wild furthered: hunger and heat driving forces for exploration, crafting arrows and weapons, and setting up bonfires to cook and survive the night. A really stripped back Zelda title, drawing from the some of the trials in Breath of the Wild where Link loses his belongings and has to adapt on the fly.
Skull Kids and Stalfos could haunt segments, Deku Scrubs could make a triumphant return in place of Koroks, and maybe we could meet the Kokiri again. Finding the Lost Woods and getting to the Master Sword was a standout moment for me in Breath of the Wild, an experience that I could easily see fleshed out in another title.
Sean Gadus: Knights of the Old Tribe
As a huge dork, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic has always been one of my favorite games of all time. I love creating my own distinct character, leveling up my different stats, and choosing my distinct party of characters to go into battle with. I’d love to play a Zelda game with DNA of KOTOR. This would include morality-based choices with which you could choose to be a hero or a villain (with special magic powers and skills for both paths), a variety of nuanced party characters who have subplots and storylines to explore. The game would have instant variety and replay value due to its party and choice-based system. This kind of old school RPG would also gives player a chance to explore the people and locations of Hyrule in complex and nuanced way. Hey, Nintendo, could you buy Bioware from EA? Please…..
Heather Beard: The Legend of Linkle
Hyrule Warriors opened a small door and introduced us to Linkle, and I would love to see a larger spin-off that features her in the lead! I can see the game being an RPG that loosely follows the story and personality that we see in Hyrule Warriors. The story would start with our heroine receiving the compass from her grandmother and setting out on her grand adventure! Donned in a familiar green tunic, Linkle travels from place to place often getting lost in the process. She meets a variety of new friends on her adventures in Hyrule and eventually learns of a plot against Princess Zelda and the Kingdom. It’s up to Linkle to figure out her way to Hyrule Castle by using her trusty crossbows and compass to lead the way!
Adam Barham: Kass Icarus
It could be interesting to have a sort of role-shift game tied to Breath of the Wild, playing as Kass instead of Link. It could involve Kass flying around the ruins of Hyrule, seeking out the locations of his teacher’s songs, eventually aiding the hero from those songs along the way. Besides, as seen in Breath of the Wild, Hyrule isn’t dangerous to Link alone. Kass had to deal with dangers in his travels, too. It’d be interesting to see that world from a different perspective.
Alasyn Eletha: A Return to Skyloft
I’m not very original when it comes to thinking of other games that might mesh well with the Zelda series in a spin-off game. However, I’ve always wanted to see certain games played from the perspectives of characters other than our main man, Link. We get to see a little bit of detail as to what Zelda went through when she fell to The Surface at the beginning of Skyward Sword, but I’ve always wanted to experience the trials Hylia had set for her myself, much like we did for Link.
Also, I would love to get a chance to establish Hyrule post Skyward Sword and Breath of the Wild. In one game, the kingdom is so new, a whole surface world waiting for Link and Zelda to mold it into something great. In the other, Hyrule was near the brink of ruin, starved of rule and peace for a hundred years. I’d be eager to see how you could build the kingdom up again in a game that’s more peaceful, and less about saving the world from evil.
Michaela El-Ters: The Sacred Wolf Among Us
This spin-off idea is a bit of a pipe dream now in light of the sad, tragic fall that has been TellTale Games, but I always thought a Zelda-inspired TellTale Game could have been really fun and fascinating. I always appreciated the characteristic graphics of TellTale Games, and story-wise, they could have gone pretty much anywhere with it and it could have been awesome. A detective-style mystery like The Wolf Among Us inspired by Majora’s Mask, in which Link has to solve the mystery of the falling moon and stop it in three days time and turn back the clock? Or a survival-based game like The Walking Dead, but based on Breath of the Wild where the players have to navigate Link and his allies through perilous situations after Calamity Ganon lay waste to the world? The limited combat and gameplay would make it a completely different experience, but I always enjoyed the Zelda games for their stories and puzzles first and foremost, so a TellTale spin-off of Zelda wouldn’t have felt too far off for me. It’s a shame about TellTale Games though…
Andy Spiteri: The Sages Come Back
I’ve always wanted to see a classic, Final–Fantasy-esque, turn-based RPG with Princess Zelda as the main character. I wrote about it long form once actually! This story would be set in the Ocarina of Time world, maybe in the seven-year span Link is sleeping, and would feature Zelda finding and recruiting all of the different sages as playable party members in order to weaken Ganondorf’s grasp on Hyrule. Each would have their classic roles — Zelda as a Black Mage using holy magic; Saria as a White Mage using the powers of the Forest to heal; Darunia as the Knight, using his heavy stature to bring punishing pain; Ruto as a Blue Mage, balancing both attack power and the ability to copy other enemies moves; Impa as a Dragoon, using grace and magic to damage foes and inflict status ailments; Nabooru as the Thief, quick with both daggers and hands, as she steals enemy items; and Rauru, the Summoner, who can conjure up owls, horses, dragons, and more to help you in your quest.
I just remember how incredible playing Super Mario RPG was for the first time (and still to this day), and I think Zelda fits in even better to that world. We have the right cast of characters with the right abilities in the right setting to make this be potentially the greatest Zelda spinoff to ever exist, and hey — they’re still making Mario RPG’s to this day, so it could be the beginning of something beautiful!
So there you have it — some pretty cool stuff in here or what? Makes you wish that some of these would happen sooner rather than later? Let us know what you think of our concepts, and feel free to flesh out your favorite ones even more! Don’t like what we have? Let us know what your dream spinoff title would be? One thing’s for sure — the future of The Legend of Zelda seems to be headed into new, uncharted waters and we’re all incredibly excited!
Andy Spiteri is the Editor-In-Chief of Zelda Dungeon. What he really really wants in a Zelda x Avengers spinoff. Follow him and the rest of the Zelda Dungeon Team on Twitter to pitch us your own ideas there!