Super Mario Maker is more fun than it has any right to be. I loved the heck out of the game and proudly declared as much in my review. Somehow, Nintendo washed its hands of making a full-fledged Mario adventure, told fans to make one themselves, and has completely gotten away with it. Who could have guessed that being given a box full of all the parts that comprise a Mario game to play with would amount to as much fun as actually getting a finished, polished platformer? I think part of the reason that Mario Maker works so well, beyond the fact that its interface is so darned spot-on, is that the individual components of the Mario franchise are irresistible. Everyone who enjoys these titles has a favorite character (or characters), levels, music, and more, and being able to finally manipulate and arrange them is truly an eye opening experience. As I continue to experiment with everything that Mario Maker has to offer, in the back of my mind I keep thinking the same thing: we need a Zelda Maker.
The Legend of Zelda easily has as devout of a following as Super Mario, and just as many elements to play with. Imagine how much fun it would be arranging block puzzles, setting rooms of Stalfos to combat, picking and choosing which bosses to face Link, and more besides. There are so many different types of puzzles that the Zelda series has seen over the years, and packing a creation game with a large variety of them would mean a virtually boundless array of possibilities for users. As has been seen with the numerous “automatic machine” stages being concocted and uploaded in Mario Maker, fans will find entirely new ways of using these building blocks. For the sake of usability, I assume Nintendo would utilize the classic overhead perspective of the Zelda series. It’s the simplest to render, and its level matrices are also arranged in a grid pattern the way that 2D Mario levels are, so I can see Nintendo being able to design a similarly user-friendly interface once more.
There are also so many Zelda assets and mechanics to play with that would make experimenting with level design a real joy. Keese, Moblins, the Hookshot, dungeon keys, Roc’s Feather, and a ton more would be just as entertaining to fool around with, if not more, as Mario Maker and its assortment. There are also four Zelda games that could serve as styles for players to switch between: The Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past, Oracle of Ages and Seasons, and A Link Between Worlds (throw Minish Cap in there as a wild card). I’d throw Zelda II in there, but like Super Mario Bros. 2, its play style is too different to mesh and thus would likely also be skipped over. As with Mario Maker, each style could have a selection of assets that are exclusive, as well as some that are interchangeable. Also sweetening the deal would be the opportunity to see elements from games appearing in the style of titles that they never originally existed in. The Legend of Zelda is home to some of the most iconic and memorable games ever created, with a veritable gold mine of potential waiting to be realized.
The biggest limitation to a Zelda Maker would be the loss of an open, freely explorable game world. I just can’t see Nintendo being able to allow players to design elaborate overworlds flooded with non-playable characters, dialogue, and so on. There are just too many moving parts to reconcile that I don’t see any way of being able to let players have total reign over producing an entire, full-fledged Zelda adventure. It would frankly be a substantial enough loss that it might almost be worth calling the entire game off, but there is a ray of hope in the form of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. In that game, Nintendo eschewed an open world in favor of a linear experience, with individual stages to tackle. Rather than travel across the entire expanse of a world map to reach Kakariko Village, for instance, players would select a stage on the world map devoted to it, instead. If a Zelda Maker game were to structure itself in a similar fashion, it could allow players to do much the same thing, possibly offering a base scenario for a village environment that players could insert multiple elements into, as well as rearrange. Sure, it’s not the perfect solution, but if Four Swords Adventures is any indication, it can still be very, very fun.
Whether or not Nintendo will or can find a way to make a Zelda Maker game a reality is anyone’s guess, but I think it would be a wonderful complement to Super Mario Maker. Fans have already seen the joy that can come from crafting their own Super Mario levels, and the sheer creativity that has been inspired as a result. The Legend of Zelda is just waiting to experience a similar revolution of fan-made content, to be shared and experienced by countless others. Link has always been something of a cipher, so maybe now is the time to give fans an entire Zelda game to insert themselves into. If Mario Maker could get even someone as uninclined to game design as me making stages, I know I’d find myself hooked on a Zelda version of the same thing, and so would a lot of other people. Who knows, if Nintendo ever does grace fans with a Zelda Maker, maybe a Metroid Maker won’t be far behind!