The Possibilities For Zelda On The 3DS

At Nintendo’s most recent investor’s meeting, Shigeru Miyamoto — the creator of series such as Mario, Star Fox, and Zelda — mentioned that there were still unannounced ideas regarding the Legend of Zelda series for the 3DS. He made two comments to this effect:

At this point, there are a few titles under development in “The Legend of Zelda” series, so please look forward to their completion.

And whilst talking about A Link Between Worlds, he said,

In addition to that, we have ideas for Nintendo 3DS which we have not announced yet, so I hope you will look forward to them.

The most interesting thing here is that, in spite of there already being a main series Zelda game and a spin-off for the Wii U in development, and despite A Link Between Worlds having released recently, he used the plural. Though possibly a slip-up or mis-translation — or probably I am looking too far into a small comment — it does seem that Nintendo has at least a couple of Zelda projects still to come for the 3DS. So what kind of \”ideas\” will we be seeing on the handheld?


Remakes are something of a touchy topic among the Zelda fan-base. For starters, not everyone is on board with the idea of them in the first place and beyond that, everyone has different ideas of what and on which console different games should be remade. Still, Nintendo has not been shy recently about recreating their Zelda titles for a new generation. We had Ocarina of Time 3D in 2011, closely followed by Four Swords Anniversary Edition for the 3DS a couple months later, and just last October, Wind Waker HD came out for the Wii U.


In terms of possible upcoming remakes, there is the obvious: Majora’s Mask 3D. With plenty of assets already done after the last remake, heavy fan support, and the developer of Ocarina 3D (Grezzo) being mysteriously quiet, it seems a no brainer. With several hints from the producer of the series, Eiji Aonuma, indicating that it is a real possibility, Majora’s Mask 3D seems all but guaranteed. That said, its existence has felt this way for some time now, so this isn\’t a done deal. There are other possibilities too, of course. Plenty of the top-down titles could receive remakes, although that would be rather pointless, as top-down games would not benefit much from an upgraded set of visuals, especially with the Virtual Console offering these games for cheap already.

As mentioned already, Wind Waker was just remade for the Wii U, so that’s out of the picture. Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword are both possible, but they seem rather unlikely also, especially the latter with its motion controls. Both games would require massive amounts of work and if a remake is planned regarding one of the games, the Wii U is the obvious choice. It is possible that we could see a remaster of Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks for the 3DS, but that seems very doubtful as well. So, a remake of Majora’s Mask is more than probable while everything else is rather less so.



The Zelda series has never been Nintendo’s biggest spin-off generator. That said, it has had its fair share and with Hyrule Warriors soon to release for the Wii U, we know that Nintendo is currently open to the possibility of such games. Thus far, Zelda spin-offs on handhelds have been limited to the Tingle series, the last of which released in 2009, but that does not mean that they would stick to that in the future. With spin-offs, though, you never know what you\’ll be getting until you get it, as any developer could be be doing any genre, so speculating is rather pointless. That said, I find a spin-off unlikely. Hyrule Warriors is already set for release and it seems doubtful that Nintendo would want to take two risks with the Zelda brand so close together.

Virtual Console

It is very unlikely that Miyamoto was referring to a new Virtual Console release, especially at something as important as an investor’s meeting, but it bears mentioning nonetheless. There are still some older Zelda titles that have yet to make an appearance on the 3DS eShop, like The Minish Cap or A Link to The Past, so it is possible that these are what they are referring to. If they intend to include DS titles on the VC, with Phantom Hourglass or Spirit Tracks among the first to make an appearance, it might be noteworthy enough to count. This is almost definitely not it, however.

A Brand-New Title

At last, we come to the possibility of another brand-new main series title for the 3DS. I must admit that I, for whatever reason, did not really think about this happening, but it makes sense. Handheld titles tend to have smaller development times and costs and we saw the result of that in getting two games for the DS within a small period of time. After the success of A Link Between Worlds, it would not be a surprise if Nintendo attempted to get another Zelda title out for the console before moving on to the next generation.

Of course, if this is the case, the scheduling may be a bit odd. Handheld Zelda games historically take around two years to make and judging by Miyamoto’s comments, they have already begun work on these \”ideas.\” With Zelda U on track for a holiday 2015 release, it seems that they might be finished too close together for Nintendo’s comfort. That said, we don\’t really know enough to comment much on this, so instead, let us look at a more interesting topic: if a new 3DS Zelda is in fact in the works, what kind of game will it be?

By now, there are two basic forms for Zelda games to take: 3D and top-down. Of course, they have a tendency to mix and match quite a bit. Much of the more linear, puzzle-solving focus of the 3D games has found its way into the traditionally more exploration-based top-down games. Additionally, the more recent top-down titles like Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, and A Link Between Worlds have had segments that play out from a 3D perspective, but by and large, 3D and top-down are fundamentally different entities when it comes to the franchise.

Since the N64, the 3D games have stuck to home consoles while the 2D games have been on handhelds and it is not hard to see why. The significantly superior hardware of home consoles allows for bigger, more detailed worlds, stories, and games in general, so the more traditional, less ambitious experiences stick to devices that can only deliver so much technical prowess. Here’s the thing, though: while the current home consoles are still miles ahead of the current handhelds, the gap is growing smaller and for the first time, handhelds are capable of delivering experiences not unlike those of modern consoles. The 3DS managed to run an improved version of Ocarina of Time flawlessly, so theoretically, the device could easily run a brand new 3D title. The question is: would that be a better choice than another top-down experience?


I mean, we are already receiving a 3D game — it is on the way next year, coming to the Wii U, and everything we have heard about it looks fantastic. So the question is, why would we want a similar experience, only smaller and less impressive, when we could instead have something fundamentally different? It’s the curse and brilliance of the handheld industry. The games ultimately cannot do what console games can when they both attempt a similar experience; but in that way, it allows the developers to step back and attempt those smaller \”AA\” experiences that would not be a good fit for either a home console retail or downloadable release.

Do not get me wrong — if we were to get a 3D, home console-esque Zelda on the 3DS, I would jump for joy. We are already getting a game like that for Wii U, though, and so, I believe it would be in both Nintendo’s and the fans\’ best interest for it to be 2D, instead. It is more likely that they will go down that path. What kind of top-down game might we find, then? Since The Minish Cap, they have all been very unpredictable. Phantom Hourglass (2007) was a sequel to Wind Waker, but employed a touch-based control style. Spirit Tracks (2009) followed this up in an attempt to fix some of what Hourglass did wrong to varied results. For the 3DS, we received something very different: A Link Between Worlds (2013,) a sequel to the SNES classic A Link To The Past.

The obvious assumption for what is next, when looking at recent release history, would be a sequel to A Link Between Worlds and I think this a distinct possibility. It would need to take place in a different world, of course; they would not be able to get away with using the same overworld three times. With a surprisingly great art style, near perfect mechanics, and a revamped style of game design that found a great reception, I would not be surprised if Nintendo uses their already existing engine and assets in an attempt to capitalize on the success and creation of ALBW, trying to fix the common criticisms of the original — that the world was the same and it was lacking difficulty — by crafting an entirely new adventure. Yes, it’s a sequel already, but it makes sense.


There are other possibilities: another game with the art style of Wind Waker, with or without the touch controls, or something completely unexpected, as we should really expect from Nintendo by now. And there is still the possibility of a fully 3D game, even if it seems unlikely; but a Worlds sequel is definitely my bet.

So what Zelda projects do you expect to see on the 3DS in the future? Do you predict nothing more than remakes and a virtual console release or two, or do you suspect a full new title is in the works? If so, what kind of game will it be? There are plenty of possibilities and while I suspect a new top down ALBW-style game and Majora’s Mask remake, you may think something very different. So let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Jonathan Harrington