With the recent release and rave reviews of Super Mario Maker (my full review will come after I get an actual copy of the game), video game fans are abuzz with what else could possibly use the same treatment Nintendo has given their beloved mascot on the 30th anniversary of his landmark series. Metroid? Kid Icarus? Sonic the Hedgehog or Castlevania, even though those two aren’t Nintendo properties? Mega Man, who very nearly had its own first prior to being cancelled?

In truth, there are a lot of great games which could benefit from the treatment, but eyes tend to inevitably rest on Nintendo’s second-biggest name, The Legend of Zelda. However, there are some problems with this — at least, issues which arise from Zelda being so significantly different from Mario, even despite being developed alongside each other and even having certain elements taken from one game and put into the other.

A “Zelda Maker” (which I personally like to think would have a slightly better name like “The Zelda Legend Maker,” but I’m sticking to the simple term for SEO reasons, if nothing else), much like it’s namesake, would require a much greater degree of complexity than its Mario counterpart. Foremost among these is the simple duration of anything you would create; Super Mario Bros. levels tend to be short and snappy, finished in a matter of a minutes as players run from Point A to Point B.


In theory, one could simply shrink it down to labyrinths only. But even then, Zelda levels tend to expect a lot of back-and-forth exploration, having an inventory, and other dynamics that don’t apply to Mario. Even the first labyrinth from the first game, Eagle, can be seen above as something generally more complex than what is to be expected from Super Mario Maker.

Not that it can’t be done, but there is a certain degree of boundary-pushing involved, and even so, it doesn’t quite capture the entire experience.

While this could be done in theory, it would still leave people unhappy. After all, you can’t just have a series of unconnected labyrinths and truly capture the feeling a Zelda Maker would need to accomplish. There’s an overworld to consider, too.


Courtesy of VGMaps.com

It’s a big world out there, and let’s face it: you’re going to need more than one labyrinth to fill it with, as well as making sure all the moving parts interact correctly so no one gets stuck in an impossible situation. The acquisition of items alone elevates this to something more complex than whether you can fly or throw fireballs or not.

By this point, “Zelda Maker” obviously goes well beyond the the point of being a simple level maker and into something of a full-on game maker. And while that’s just fine for some people, one can only imagine that the kind of divide that exists between those who want to make levels and those who simply want to play levels would be far, far sharper here than in the “anyone can do it” sense that Super Mario Maker provides, and the sheer intimidation factor might be more off-putting than Nintendo would be willing to invest in.

There are at least two possibilities I can think of to counteract this, however; to provide a simpler Zelda experience that still hits the right notes without being too overwhelming.


One, of course, is to follow Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Though still complex (and likely requiring checkpoints that aren’t in Super Mario Maker for one reason or another), this iteration is a bit more Mario-like in primarily centering around a core set of abilities for Link to possess.


Courtesy of VGMaps.com

The overworld map is a little less daunting as well. It’s built more around being a way to get from Point A to Point B (with random encounters in-between), rather than being a major part of the adventure itself. That said, there is the option of having certain areas of the map which are specifically constructed for forcing the player into combat.

Plus, we haven’t had a follow-up to Zelda II, and one is well-deserved and long overdue if ever there was a game that needed one.

Still, much as I love Zelda II, I know that this wouldn’t suit everyone. Hence, what I would see as being perhaps the most likely product a “Zelda Maker” could be.


Courtesy of VGMaps.com

The optimal solution for “Zelda Maker,” at least in terms of precedent (it’s always possible Nintendo could come up with something new) may be a format which most closely echoes games such as The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, seen above. That isn’t to suggest that the game needs to be four players, but rather that the concessions made to allow the game to work best with a potential four-player format might also be what works best here.

Four Swords Adventures is a bit more linear than your traditional top-down Zelda game, or at least some of the originals. It follows a level-by-level structure that encompasses different themes within each stage, from lakes, coasts, forests, and foothills to villages, castles, and caves — not unlike the variety of selections available in Super Mario Maker. And, as befits any Zelda map worth its salt, each contains numerous nooks, crannies, tunnels, caves, and secrets to discover.

Unlike the traditional Zelda game, each level is entirely self-contained, with all of the necessary hearts, items, and other assorted miscellaneous pick-ups located within. Nothing carries over, so there’s no need to worry about plotting out each labyrinth and overworld segment so that everything fits nicely as part of a bigger puzzle. These could also be strung together randomly via a generic map, not unlike the one Nintendo used in Super Mario Maker‘s 10 and 100 Mario Challenges.


Of course, there are many other things to consider when assembling a project as ambitious as a “Zelda Maker” would be, including amiibo usage (even if sticking to the same set as in Super Mario Maker, new pixel art would need to be made for the back view of each character), which styles to include (my votes go to the original, A Link to the Past, the Game Boy Color games, and perhaps a high definition version of A Link Between Worlds), and more.

Still, as a foundation of sorts, I humbly believe that this is the ideal way to go for Nintendo’s purposes. But what do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Banner image via Zelda Universe.


  • Tsukoyomi

    beautiful article

    • http://www.nyteworks.net/ LBD “Nytetrayn”


      • Tsukoyomi

        not that there is anything wrong with liking mm only as he is my favorite overall character out of everything life (i suppose one of those things you would call a spirit animal) but i didnt know how diverse you were in taste

        • http://www.nyteworks.net/ LBD “Nytetrayn”

          A little bit, maybe. ;) Mega Man is definitely one of my tops, though — that’s why he has an entire website dedicated to him! =)

          • Tsukoyomi

            2 questions
            1 did you hear japans eshop is getting mmbn4.5 and both 6’s
            2 do you know how to get the hero sword battlechip in chip challenge, i beat the game in wiiU but still dont have it

          • http://www.nyteworks.net/ LBD “Nytetrayn”

            1) Hadn’t heard. I’ll try to look that up later when I have some time.

            2) No clue. I never played the game too very much.

          • Tsukoyomi

            cool thanks, lol see you in tomorrows article

  • Bluerobes

    I can understand your concerns and suggestions, but wouldn’t a potential middle-ground be possible? I mean give users a predetermined set of open worlds for the classic Zelda style, with maybe parameters set for labyrinth sets allowing for modifications that don’t break the designs, and can be mixed and matched. Then provide the necessary aesthetic choices for the tile, character, monster and item sets and their gameplay properties, finish with the ability to add and frame text for the creation of dialog boxes to make up for the compromise in personal input and creativity.

    • http://www.nyteworks.net/ LBD “Nytetrayn”

      It’s possible, but as I think I touched upon, the problem is that the amount of complexity is likely inversely proportionate to how accessible for people to make their own. By its very nature, Zelda is more complex/sophisticated than Mario — enough so that even the developers themselves have made things increasingly more linear over the years until just recently.

      At the same time, you don’t want things to be too simplified in forcing players into too many fixed parameters, or else they might feel too constrained and unable to do as they wish as well.

      In terms of precedent, these are the obstacles and possible solutions I can imagine. Now, a middle-ground could possibly involve an entirely new dynamic as well, in which case one can only imagine what Nintendo were to come up with — and I could only begin to speculate what that might entail. =)

      That said, I still think the FSA method would work pretty well. ;)

      • Bluerobes

        I can see your point, although I’m not as sure on how audiences would react to complexity as you are, but I can definitely see what you’re saying being a likely possibility in that regard.

        • http://www.nyteworks.net/ LBD “Nytetrayn”

          I could be wrong, but there’s a definite risk involved. At the very least, it’s probably safer to start smaller and build towards the more complex stuff in sequels.

  • http://nintendo3dscommunity.com/ CM30

    Well to some degree, a Zelda Maker already exists in the form of Zelda Classic. It’s unofficial, and has a higher learning curve, but it’s a sort of Zelda Maker none the less.

    But your ideas for how an official one could work are definitely interesting. Zelda 2 is a good style to make a simple editor like this based on, but then you get into the issues of art styles and stuff. I mean, Mario was easy; all the games are 2D platformers viewed from a side perspective. But we’ve had exactly one Zelda 2 style game, which means we’d need to draw whole new graphics sets to make it match say, A Link to the Past, Zelda 1, Link Between Worlds, etc. There’s also the fact it’s already a difficult game by default, and would only become even more over the top once the Youtube levels and kaizo levels start coming in. Mario’s gameplay is simple, and its difficulty curve is well thought out. Zelda 2’s? Not so much.

    The Four Swords style Zelda Maker idea is better, though trying to design levels around the items and mechanics could be tricky. Even the Four Swords esque ‘one item at a time, found in level’ concept means your standard level needs to be built around a good ten or so different mechanics.

    And Amiibo characters…yeah, those would be hard to implement. Remember, SMB 1 Mario… does not have many animation frames. He doesn’t do much, and the Amiibo characters don’t ever need power ups like the Fire Flower. Basically, you have about 20 frames per costume form in Mario Maker.

    You’d need quite a bit more than that for Zelda Maker. Zelda 1 alone has about that for Link without the rings or items, Zelda with lots of items and item frames? Yeah, Link to the Past has about 200 frames for Link. A stripped down version would mean each Amiibo form would need about 50 animation frames, and then you’d have to duplicate that effort by… about the 100 forms in Mario Maker. Not sure Nintendo wants to draw 5000 new character sprites on top of the new enemy, tileset, background, item and basic Link sprites needed.

    • http://www.nyteworks.net/ LBD “Nytetrayn”

      True, but Zelda Classic is sort of exempt, similar to the Mario maker(s) out there, since those are kind of set up for a much more dedicated person and, if I’m not mistaken, are free. This is strictly about something that fits into Nintendo’s $60 strategy. ;)

      You do raise a good point on Zelda II, which would probably have all of two styles: Classic and something new, which makes it limited and a less likely candidate. As for difficulty, it’s not too bad, particularly if you were to just tweak some design choices — allow for stocking lives, retaining experience points, etc.

      What you say of the Four Swords items is true, but far simpler than trying to fit in some eight or more levels’ worth of items and making sure it all clicks. In theory, one could probably design levels without any items as well.

      As for amiibo, Nintendo only used it for the NES style in Super Mario Maker; I don’t see why this would need to be any different, and a lot of those would carry over to the 8-bit form here.

      • http://nintendo3dscommunity.com/ CM30

        Well to be honest, a lot of the Amiibo sprites wouldn’t carry over. Remember, Super Mario Bros and Zelda have very different requirements for player graphics. In Zelda, you need walking sprites in every decoration and a few miscallenous ones, in Mario you need running, jumping, swimming and flagpole sprites. They’d best be able to salvage maybe two to four frames from the Mario Maker versions (the left and right walking ones).

        You’d need to draw entirely new sprites for grabbing items, using the sword in all directions, etc.

        Zelda 2 could potentially also get sprites based on the Game Boy games and Four Swords Adventures, since both had side scrolling sections. That said, you’d need a ton of new graphics for each, especially since the latter had maybe three tilesets total in that style. Either way, it doesn’t matter; any combination of Zelda styles will result in needing a few hundred or so more sprites and tiles to fill in the gaps. Regardless of whether it’s top down, side view or otherwise.

        A Zelda Maker with no items? People would consider that a disappointment compared to Mario Maker. They’d at least expect a bow and bombs.

        • http://www.nyteworks.net/ LBD “Nytetrayn”

          I just meant one could make a Zelda level with no items in the same way one can make a Mario level with no items.

          On the amiibo, it’s hard to say, but if they did it before, they can do it again… especially with how the figures make money hand over fist.

          As for Zelda II, the issue with using side-scrolling from other games would be the different proportions, which would affect the gameplay.