Mario is a phenomenon. He’s a plucky hero that originated from Donkey Kong cabinets under the innocuous name “JumpMan” before exploding into popularity with the Super Mario franchise. Today, he’s a common household name all around the world and is usually the first name and face that pops up when someone mentions video games, still being featured and referenced in pop culture.
Unlike his arcade-y contemporaries, he continues to churn out quality and smash-hit games. He has truly earned the mantle of Mr. Video Game and recently celebrated his 35th anniversary.
With a long and rich history of fantastic game installments rivaled by no other, Mario celebrated this momentous occasion by bringing fans a wide array of classic titles to the Switch, with games ranging across many generations. It is a great way to connect fans to the storied legacy that is Super Mario, giving new fans a way to look back at the franchise’s roots and old fans a chance to revisit nostalgic, simpler times, all delivered to the Nintendo Switch.
This move of porting many of Mario’s games to the Switch can be seen as lazy by some, but it is sheer fan service for those who grew up alongside Mario and his adventures. It is also an excellent way to bridge the gap between the many generations that joined Mario on his quests, from the humble beginnings in the Mushroom Kingdom to far-flung galaxies beyond the stars.
On top of this, many games are getting a video and audio glow-up to fit the Switch. Nothing too drastic as to change the aesthetic of each game but enough polish to make each title shine like they had many years ago. Super Mario 3D world is even receiving an expansion to celebrate this occasion with ‘Bowser’s Fury.’
The love Nintendo has for Mario is clear as day; he is their mascot after all. However, Mario isn’t the only one to proudly tout Nintendo to the masses. There’s another franchise with a legacy only second to Mario’s whose 35th anniversary is just around the corner—for which fans are rabidly hyping themselves up.
It’s none other than The Legend of Zelda series.
Let’s be clear. The Legend of Zelda is not as popular or approachable as Super Mario. One could argue that Link is just as iconic and recognizable as Mario, but Mario’s impact on video games and pop culture is far bigger.
Compared to Mario’s platforming adventures, the series is notorious for having a slower pace and being much longer. There are no simple levels or worlds to clear, nor are there always going to be clear-cut objectives, but that isn’t a flaw. It’s one of Zelda’s core strengths.
The series has always boasted an overarching, fantastical sense of grand adventure in every journey on which the player embarks, so much so the trademark “it’s dangerous to go alone! take this” has been firmly supplanted into pop culture and persists today.
The Zelda franchise has continuously pumped out games since its debut on the NES in 1986, capturing the hearts and imaginations of gamers all around the world with its grand overworld, formidable dungeons, and treasure trove of secrets. Each installment delved into new territory, just like Mario, allowing the countless adventures of Link to feel fresh each time across all the consoles he graced. Not many protagonists can boast to have a pedigree such as Link’s.
Unlike Mario’s games, the Zelda franchise placed a big emphasis on the underlying story behind Link’s many quests. Link’s goals aren’t as simple as jumping here and there and toppling a flag at the end of the map. It has always been about besting the big bad Ganondorf, or Ganon, through the many trials Link faces and overcomes. It is these journeys, and all the goodies that come with it, that stick closest to the hearts of gamers even after all these years—and Link has quite a few tales under his belt.
The Zelda series is no stranger to ports, remakes, and remasters. Many of their hit titles received such treatment across Nintendo’s many consoles. The Gameboy Advanced got A Link to the Past, the Gamecube got Ocarina of Time, the Wii U got remasters of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, the 3DS got remasters of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, the Switch received a remake of Link’s Awakening, the list continues.
However, as many remakes as there are, many of these games are locked by console generations and some are even inaccessible without the aid of an emulator, which often isn’t the best way to experience a game.
Judging by how Nintendo celebrated Mario’s anniversary this year, it is likely it will celebrate Zelda’s anniversary in much the same way.
The slew of Zelda titles will be brought to the Switch for fans’ convenience and each receive slight glow-up polishes to deliver cleaner experiences—some games NEED this. The anniversary celebration could bring some of Link’s more recent adventures to the console as well, like how Nintendo did with Super Mario Galaxy and Sunshine. It would be a good way to bring Skyward Sword, Ocarina of Time, and Majora’s Mask to a newer console without the need for a Wii or 3DS on the side. The Switch is more than capable of housing these games and their gimmicks.
It would be great to revisit Termina, Hyrule, and Skyloft with modern polish and give newer fans the opportunity to explore Link’s classic adventures and roots—and if Nintendo is feeling extra generous, it could add bonus content to these games to give fans further reason to revisit them.
All of this hinges on Nintendo’s willingness to celebrate Zelda. Given the series’ smash hit success and popularity on the Switch with Breath of the Wild and its upcoming sequel, Nintendo would be remiss not to capitalize. An anniversary event could be a great way to further announce and advertise Breath of the Wild 2!
If only Nintendo would capitalize on Super Mario Galaxy 2 as well…