The Legend of Zelda 35th anniversary: what can we expect?

 Zelda, Link and Ganon are turning 35 next year. How might Nintendo celebrate it?

Update: Covid caused Nintendo to cancel the celebration. Read more about in 'Whatever happened to Zelda's 35th anniversary celebration'.

As I'm certain you all know this year was Mario's 35th anniversary. To celebrate Nintendo released a wide variety of Mario related products. From the celebration's linchpin, Super Mario 3D All-Stars, to the online multiplayer game Super Mario 35 to a bunch of merchandise and guest appearances in other games. It's been quite a success up until now, even with the pandemic throwing a wrench in Nintendo's original plan and the companies 'questionable' decision to make both aforementioned titles limited releases. 

With The Legend of Zelda turning 35 in February of next year, February 21st to be exact, many eyes including my own are on Nintendo and what they might do to celebrate it. After all, the franchise has gotten multiple anniversary events in the past so it's a no-brainer that Nintendo will hold another one next year. As such, what I want to do today is take a look at Zelda's upcoming 35th anniversary and see what it might entail. Try to predict the stuff Nintendo will do for it. 

Let's dive in.

Not like Mario's 35th

The first thing that I want to make clear here is that I don't that Zelda 35th will be a carbon copy of Mario 35th. For one, while Zelda is Nintendo's second most popular IP it's still no were near the levels of Mario. When you ask a random person on the street who Mario is, it's a safe bet they know exactly what you're talking about. Ask the same question for Zelda and you're more likely to not get any answer at all. As such, don't expect Zelda to get a celebration with a mass appeal to it like Mario.

Update June 2021
Well, I was half right here. In the Nintendo E3 2021 Direct it was revealed that, just like Mario, Zelda will be getting a special Game & Watch unit. However: this will essentially be the only piece of Zelda 35th merchandise. There are 'no new campaigns or Switch games planned' for Zelda. That's dissapointing!

Aside from that, Zelda's anniversaries have always been different from those of Mario. Nintendo even explicitly stated before Zelda's 25th that it would be a very different celebration then Mario's 25th. I'm hardly the first person to start talking about Zelda 35th, there are many articles like mine floating around on the internet and there's a plethora of fan-art and mock-ups for the anniversary as well. However, many of those articles approach as Zelda 35th as Mario 35th. They assume that because Mario got a collection of three 3D titles Zelda will get the same. Again, for the reasons I just told you, I do not.

How do I see Zelda's 35th anniversary then? Well, like this: Breath of the Wild sequel – Zelda remake/remaster – some digital-only releases – a bunch of small stuff. Let's look at all of these in more detail individually.

'Breath of the Wild 2' is a very likely candidate for a 2021 release. Welp, that aged poorly!

The Breath of the Wild and Skwyard Sword HD

First up is the currently in-development sequel to 2017's Breath of the Wild. Revealed during E3 2019, the stars are aligning for a 2021 release. We don't know how long the game had already been in development at the moment of its announcement. It might have been days, it might have been months, but either way: mid-2021 means that the game had at least been in development for 2 years. That's the average development time for a title and especially considering that the game reuses the engine and assets of Breath of the Wild. It wouldn't even the first time a brand-new 3D Zelda would release in an anniversary year and thus be considered as said anniversaries 'big title'. Skyward Sword first released on the Wii in 2011 at the height of Zelda's 25th. It came as a special edition, a nice golden background with the 25th-anniversary logo and a special CD of the 25th-anniversary concert. A similarity thing could very well happen with the Breath of the Wild sequel.

Lastly, in a few days Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, the prequel/spin-off of Breath of the Wild, will release. A good stepping stone for the sequel, no?

Alright, the second point on my list: Zelda remake/remasters. One of the most persistent rumours is an HD remaster of Skyward Sword. In the last 6, give or take, years or so Nintendo has been remastering all of the 3D Zelda's. Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask on the 3DS and The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess on the Wii U. Skyward Sword is the only 3D game that hasn't gotten the remaster treatment yet. Many consider it just a matter of time. 

By the way, this is exactly the reason why I think there won't be a 'Zelda 3D All-stars'. We've already gotten nearly all 3D Zelda in a re-released in the last few years. The anniversary would be a logical moment for it to drop. I have my reservations with this way of thinking. The first is the control scheme. Skyward Sword heavily relies on the Wii's motion controls. While Super Mario Galaxy in Super Mario 3D All-Stars proves that the gyro within the Joy-cons can simulate the Wii motion controls, though it is not ideal. As Skyward Sword already had some problems when it came to the responsiveness and fidelity of it controls I just don't see it working out. They could always rework the controls, but that's going to be a difficult, timely and costly process. I also just don't think Nintendo would make Skyward Sword an anniversary twice. Plain and simple. It's a possibility, but I don't really see it happen.

Update February, 2021
Well, I was completly wrong here. Skyward Sword HD for the Nintendo Switch was just announced for July of this year. With new Zelda-themed Joy-Cons to boot!

Another 2D Zelda remake?

If there is going to be a Zelda remake/remaster I feel it's more likely to be a 2D Zelda. We've gotten Link's Awakening on the Switch just last year and that game's engine and assets could be used for a Oracles of Ages/Seasons remaster, just as the originals were. It would also mean that both types of Zelda game would be represented. You'd have the 3D Zelda's with the Breath of the Wild sequel and the 2D Zelda's with this proposed Oracles of Ages & Seasons game. This proposed remaster would also come with its own challenges. The dual nature release of its originals is the big challenge here, but this is easily solved by simply allowing the player to choose. Give them a 'red' and 'blue' portal to go through at the beginning of the game symbolizing the version. Once the player has finished the game, they get the option to enter the portal originally not chosen, the 'other version'. It would also solve one of the problems of the Switch version of Link's Awakening. It would lengthen the game as well as add replay value.

Even if Nintendo would choose to remaster Skyward Sword, or not have any remasters at all, there could always be more games to celebrate the 35th anniversary with. They just won't come in a physical package. They could always release either some smaller new titles on the EShop (not that I think Zelda will get a battle royal game but Super Mario 35 is an example) or re-release older titles like Super Mario All-Stars. The NES and SNES Zelda titles are already available through Nintendo Switch Online but there are still plenty of other games to choose from. The slew of Gameboy games for example. There's currently no 'Gameboy online' service but this might just come? Who knows? Even if it doesn't, as the English version of the original Fire Emblem shows us, an individual release on the EShop is still a possibility.

A 3D Zelda collection is not something I can see happening. This on the other hand? Art: @GifZelda

This might also be a way to get The Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD on the Switch. These games have also been heavily rumoured/requested to drop on the Switch. These games came from the Wii U, where many ports have come from. Re-releasing a re-release for an even higher price (Switch games are more expensive then Wii U titles due to the cartridge) isn't really something that would go over well with fans. Putting them on the Eshop for a few bucks with a Zelda 35th sticker? Yeah, that's better.

Lastly, and I'll keep this one short because there really isn't much to it, a bunch of small stuff. Think all of the tie-ins, brand deals and merchandise. Zelda stuff popping up in Animal Crossing or Splatoon, Zelda themed shirts and whatnot and Nintendo produced posters, keychains etc. You know, all of those small things that neither breaks nor makes the anniversary, but it's still part of the whole thing. It's inevitable.


So yeah, that's how I see the Legend of Zelda 35th anniversary shaping up. The Breath of the Wild Sequel, a remaster/remake, maybe some digital-only releases and a tidal wave of merchandising. A Zelda concert, as they've done before, is also something that's on my mind. With the pandemic, however, I don't think such an event is going to happen. I don't know if anything I just talked about is going to happen, they are all at the end of the day just guesses and assumptions. Educated guesses and assumptions, but still. Whatever form it takes though, if we're going to get the Breath of the Wild sequel (that's the big one for me) Skyward Sword remaster or a plethora of other things, I'll be there for it. 

Just don't have any of those limited releases like Nintendo has done with Mario. That's just not something that should have existed, to begin with. With how strong the sales of Super Mario 3D All-Stars have been, very likely due to the fear of missing out, I'm afraid that's exactly what's going to happen but I digress. That's a discussion of another day.