It should come as no surprise that Nintendo’s Super Mario Maker 2, an improved iteration of the groundwork laid by the 2015 Wii U version has sold extremely well. With the game shifting well over two million copies in just three days, it’s garnered to sort of reputation only achievable by Nintendo’s other first-party releases.
But where do we go from here? This concept has clearly taken off, and the Big N, though they haven’t exactly shown an incredible amount of business sense lately, would be foolish to let the user-generated content trend end here. But could they come up with enough new ideas to justify a third entry in this quasi-series, or is it time to move these mechanics to a different IP?
While it may not immediately sound like a great idea given the absolutely mind-boggling scale and scope of some of these titles, some sort of custom content toolset featuring The Legend of Zelda would probably fly off of store shelves—both physical and virtual—faster than Breath of the Wild. Though the community’s exposure to custom Zelda content has mostly come in the form of slightly-dodgy NES ROM hacks, this could be a huge deal if Nintendo goes about it the right way.
Massive Content Library
First and foremost, rather than ask players to replicate the breathtaking depth and detail of a fully-fledged LoZ adventure, it would be best to have players focus on simply creating dungeons. With the amount of unique puzzle elements, weapons, enemies, and visual variations the series has seen over the years, it seems like fans could come up with some truly memorable content without being fettered to the series’ complex storytelling elements. And, while Mario Maker 2 focuses primarily on platforming ingenuity and insane tests of skill, a theoretical Zelda maker could be something of the opposite, opting to challenge players minds rather than their reflexes.
3D Or 2D?
Yet, what form would this take? The Zelda games are so varied at this point that it’s tough to point at one single entry in the franchise and proclaim it to be the series’ quintessential title. In all likelihood, Nintendo would do what they did with the Mario Maker games and allow players to borrow the aesthetic presentation from multiple points in the franchise. Dungeons could be 8-bit ala the 1986 debut, 16-bit in the style of A Link To The Past, or perhaps even the cutesy chibi presentation seen in the upcoming Link’s Awakening remake.
That said, should the levels be entirely consigned to the series classic top-down 2D format, or could players be trusted with an extra third dimension? 1998’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was perhaps one of the first titles to truly nail the feeling of gaming on three separate axes simultaneously, but would a level creator on that same scale be a bit too much for the average user?
Perhaps the best option would be to make this title a spin-off of Breath of the Wild in which fans can develop and share their own shrine puzzles. The 120 present in 2017’s Zelda release were, on the whole, fairly robust and varied despite sticking to the same few rulesets and art assets. It may be that cobbling together even the most simple 3D puzzles could be vastly more complicated than working in 2D, it still seems like something in which most players would be interested. In fact, given the series long history, it seems strange that nothing like this has thus far been attempted. Though they aren’t exactly analogous, people are still going wild for the user-generated content present in Portal 2, and that game is nearly a decade old at this point.
The Switch Needs More Zelda
Plus, the Switch is desperate for Zelda content at the moment; while seemingly every Mario game under the sun has either been developed for or ported to the handheld-home console hybrid, LoZ hasn’t seen near that same level of attention. In fact, Breath of the Wild is, at the time of writing, the only original Zelda game available for the system not counting the Hyrule Warriors and Cadence of Hyrule spin-offs. A game like this would seriously help to lessen the burden of waiting for the BotW sequel.
Honestly, this sounds like it could be yet another home run for Nintendo. Dungeons, shrines, and temples are some of the most iconic locations in the franchise, and it only makes sense that, following the success of Mario Maker 2, Nintendo would take what they’ve learned and apply it to Zelda.