The esteemed Legend of Zelda series is making its way to the big screen in a groundbreaking live-action adaptation. Produced by Nintendo’s visionary Shigeru Miyamoto and Avi Arad of Spider-Man fame, the project is now officially in development at Sony. Wes Ball (The Maze Runner, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes) has been enlisted as the director, promising a journey into the depths of Hyrule like never before.
There were few other details behind the announcement, leading to some crucial questions about Nintendo’s cinematic approach. Notably, how does one translate the legendary 37-year-old franchise and Zelda gaming experience into an epic movie-worthy journey?
Typically renowned for its atmospheric vibes and captivating gameplay rather than a straightforward storyline, Zelda seldom relies on traditional narratives to charm its audience. Nevertheless, the franchise provides a treasure trove of material for skilled screenwriters to craft into a cinematic masterpiece. There is one thing newcomers need to know though — the famed character you see in posters, normally dressed in green, with a sword, is Link, the heroic lead of the elf-like Hylian race and the bearer of the Triforce of Courage. Zelda actually refers to Princess Zelda, the titular character.
Over a span of 37 years, the Zelda series has given us around 20 games, from the inaugural 1986 release, The Legend of Zelda, to the recent 2023 installment, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. From complex crafting to seafaring adventures, time travel to parallel worlds, each entry in the franchise offers something wholly unique. And The Legend of Zelda has three distinct Timelines that each game belongs to, so if you want a multiverse of events, it’s here as well.
Which begs the question — which Zelda game stands out as the prime source material for a movie adaptation?
Join us as we propose some top contenders that could serve as the foundation for the franchise’s transition to the silver screen!
1) Skyward Sword
Across the franchise’s steep history, 2011’s The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword currently stands as the saga’s earliest chapter. Therefore, it would make sense for the film to adapt the origins of the enduring Zelda mythos to provide a captivating entry point for movie-going audiences.
Here, we discover that Zelda is the reincarnated goddess Hylia, the original guardian of the Triforce. The tale unfolds with our hero Link triumphantly defeating the formidable antagonist Demise, who unexpectedly transforms into a precursor of the notorious Ganon, the franchise’s overarching villain.
2) Ocarina of Time
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a pivotal entry in both the video game franchise and its narrative timeline. It includes Lord of the Rings-esque fantasy elements, the first meeting of Ganondorf, as well as several recurring motifs in the franchise, such as the Triforce, the Master Sword, the Seven Sages, and more.
In addition, the conclusion of Ocarina of Time sparks a number of branching timelines:
The Fallen Hero timeline: Link succumbs to defeat, granting Ganon triumph
The Child timeline: Link emerges victorious and journeys back to his childhood to forewarn Zelda of Ganondorf’s impending threat
The Adult timeline: Link triumphs and revisits his youth, only to vanish from the annals of history
This set-up paves the way for various storytelling opportunities in sequels and spin-offs, making it a solid choice to adapt for the first movie. What’s more, Navi, Link’s fairy companion in Ocarina of Time, could serve as a chirpy, fun ally that will appeal to kids, similar to the animal sidekicks featured in Disney movies.
3) A Link to the Past
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is the first game in the Fallen Hero timeline, and is also a formative game for many older players since its release in 1991. This enables a film based on A Link to the Past to draw in audiences with the power of nostalgia.
Moreover, since it takes place in the Fallen Hero timeline, it sets up Ganondorf as an imposing figure with an army of monsters, as a new incarnation of Link rises up to take him on. Everyone loves a good underdog story!
4) Majora’s Mask
Following Ganondorf’s defeat in Ocarina of Time, Princess Zelda transports Link back to his childhood, armed with foreknowledge of Ganondorf’s treachery. In the Child timeline, Link forewarns the Hyrulean rulers, averting Ganondorf’s ascent to power. He then embarks on a solo adventure, eventually finding himself in Termina, a parallel realm to Hyrule, unfolding in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.
Majora’s Mask is an unconventional entry in the Zelda franchise, with bizarre characters and a dark story about grief, loneliness, and regret revolving around the fast-approaching end of the world. Furthermore, the time-loop nature of its narrative is rife with storytelling potential for cinema, recalling films like Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Palm Springs, and Happy Death Day.
5) The Wind Waker
Starting in the Adult timeline, The Wind Waker sees Ganon and Hyrule submerged beneath the ocean. The Wind Waker boasts a profoundly emotional premise that diverges from the typical Zelda narrative. Rather than embarking on a quest to rescue Zelda, Link sets sail with a group of pirates to rescue his kidnapped sister.
Amidst rich visual elements and beautiful vistas, The Wind Waker has many amazing set pieces fit for the silver screen. Plus, its boisterous characters and a story focused on familial relationships offer ideal material for a family-friendly movie adaptation.
6) Breath of the Wild
The success of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (along with its sequel Tears of the Kingdom) make it the game that’s most familiar to modern audiences, and therefore the most recognisable to adapt. That said, there is a lack of both urgency and narrative twists to its story, which may complement the game’s open-world gameplay, but make for a poor movie-viewing experience.
However, there are ways that it can be invigorated for the big screen. Picture an amnesiac hero navigating Hyrule’s diverse cultures, assembling a team of fantastical allies to unlock forgotten technology, all in a quest to rescue a princess and vanquish an ancient evil. The ingredients for a compelling cinematic journey are there.
Zelda fans — what game do you want Nintendo to adapt, or would you prefer a brand new story?
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