With The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, Nintendo opened up Hyrule and made one of the most sprawling and open Zelda games we’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. It was a significant step in the direction of making Zelda a fully-fledged open world RPG and judging from sales and review scores, this is a move fans seem to love. It’d make no sense, then, to scale right back and release a Zelda mobile game, right?
So far, though they’ve not been utter flops, Nintendo’s mobile games haven’t had the greatest success in terms of generating money. But Nintendo is undoubtedly hoping that the recent rush of love for the Nintendo franchise on Switch will spill over into mobile. If there’s one thing we learned from the 1, 2 Switch mini games it’s that Nintendo is not averse to milking.
At the moment, very little is known about the game. We don’t know whether it will take the free-to-play approach of Fire Emblem Heroes or follow the larger one off charge route of Super Mario Run. It’d be easier to guess which monetization path made sense if we knew any plans with regards to gameplay but, well, that’s a bit of a mystery too.
One benefit to this dearth of details, though, is that it leaves us open to hope and speculate about what we’d like Zelda on mobile to look like because, if it has to happen, we might as well look on the bright side.
There are so many ways Nintendo could approach Zelda on mobile – it’s safe to say we’re not likely to see a direct Breath of the Wild port. But Fire Emblem Heroes proved there are ways to keep the core elements of a big game without stripping it back too much. Then again, Super Mario Run proved that stripping a game right back to its most simple form isn’t necessarily a bad approach either.
So, what could Nintendo do? Well, here are some ideas.
The Zelda franchise is known for its dungeon-based exploration puzzles, and block brain teasers puzzles in particular have traditionally featured heavily. This element of Zelda’s gameplay would actually translate very easily to mobile and has the potential to work extremely well. We’re imagining something along the lines of fun mobile title Ittle Dew wherein you explore various dungeons, solving block-pushing puzzles to find items that will help you solve future, more complex puzzles and defeat enemies.
With this kind of game Nintendo would be more than able to do the one-off charge with no need for microtransactions.
One of the most unexpectedly popular parts of Breath of the Wild has been cooking and a mobile game would be the perfect way for Nintendo to explore this further. Players could find, prepare and experiment with ingredients in what we’re imagining as some kind of cross between Cooking Mama and Fruit Ninja.
Perhaps we’re reaching here, but as well as making the game stand alone, Nintendo could also perhaps create a way for players to transfer their culinary creations into their Breath of the Wild play.
Here there are opportunities for a free-to-play structure where microtransactions take the form of cooking aids or extremely rare ingredients.
Following the success of the mini NES, it’s safe to say that fans are still interested in its games and their aesthetic. In fact, throwbacks and nostalgia are incredibly popular not just in gaming right now, but in mobile phones and cinema too.
Combine the demand for the mini NES now that it’s no longer on sale with the Zelda love generated by Breath of the Wild and we’d say you have a recipe for a highly successful mobile game.
The top-down view with relatively simplistic graphics and gameplay could translate well to mobile screens and controls could easily be a simple swipe-to-slash affair.
With each dungeon as a level, there’s potential here to follow the Super Mario Run route of monetisation by making one dungeon level free to play before charging more to unlock the rest of the game. Or it could also be a free-to-play title where weapon and item improvements could be purchased separately.
Our initial reaction to the idea of a mobile Zelda game was “touch screen Zelda? Get out of here!” But actually it’s worth remembering that we’ve already seen a couple of touch screen titles such as Phantom Hourglass for Nintendo DS. These games really creatively used the DS touchscreen for combat and puzzle solving and we could absolutely see them being a hit on mobile.
Thinking about this also made us wonder if this could be Nintendo’s chance to create a great multiplayer title for mobile by drawing on elements of games like Phantom Hourglass and Tri-Force Heroes where players could join up online and work together to solve puzzles or battle against one another in Coliseum matches.
Got some ideas of your own for a mobile Zelda game? We’d love to hear them so let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.