Weekend Wondering: Which Visual Style Would You Like for the Next 3D Zelda Game?

One of the most controversial topics surrounding any Zelda game is its visual style – debates that date all the way back to the unexpected debut of The Wind Waker. Some have come to expect new visuals with every new game, while others want the series to stick to a single style and call it a day. We all have our favorite styles, and our own opinions on what we’d like to see for the next game – even if that opinion is to let Nintendo decide for themselves.

Which art style would you like to see, however? An update to an older style, perhaps? Or a brand-new art style that pushes the franchise into new ground visually and graphically? Share your thoughts!

Which art style would you like for the next 3D Zelda game?

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Check out our staff responses:

  • guest

    i would have voted for “stunning graphics” but brand-new art style also works

    • Alex Plant

      I think “stunning graphics” is a given.

  • Suriel The Judicator

    Honestly that Wii U art style looks wonderful, though an upgrade to Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess sounds just as awesome.

  • Aaron Laye

    It breaks my heart to see twilight princess winning to be honest. The art style is rather bland, minus the shadows and lighting.

    • Alex Plant

      I voted for it, but I do think it needs a more vibrant color palette a la Ocarina of Time 3D.

      • Aaron Laye

        Exactly. It lacks color. It looks rather dull. I know it was going for a dark feel, but Majora’s Mask acheived that with vibrant colors.

        • zdog

          Agreed, but I think what bugged me most was that Link just looked too much like Ganondorf from OoT. You can really see the likeness in the concept art (see attached). Even though it was toned down for the actual game, I just think he looks like a big mean turd.

          • Gabriel Gomez

            Cannot unsee Ganon’s face on Link’s face now.

          • VitaTempusNexus92

            I don’t see how he can look that much like Ganondorf from OoT. Yeah, he may look similar in certain perspectives but other than that nothing really that much like him. Also, you shouldn’t hate TP’s art style just cause Link looks similar to Ganondorf, it just isn’t a good enough reason. Why? Well basically comparing those two is no different than comparing the model design of Ghirahim from SS to the model design of Shad from TP.

            • zdog

              I can appreciate that he does only share some aspects with Ganondorf, but I also agreed with the other comment which I was replying to that in addition to that likeness it was also the dull gray slate of colors that were used to achieve a “dark” feel that I just found to be unimaginative. .

        • G. hun

          Isn’t that what Nintendo was going for???? A dying world etc etc?

        • Dampf

          Actually, Majoras Mask is less colorful than Twilight Princess.

    • Andrew Engleman

      I could go for Twilight Princess, it’s better than Windwaker anyday. I’ve hated Windwaker just for the bad graphic transition. Twilight princess was like a upgraded N64 version though and i loved it.

  • Mases Hagopian

    I’d like to see a throw back Zelda game all together. Something similar to what Nintendo has done with New Super Mario Bros, Kirbys Return to Dreamland, and Donkey Kong Country Returns. Thus, I’d love a new 2D Zelda game, so I vote for Old-school throwback.

    • Twister27

      If they make another 2D Zelda game, it should be more epic, like A Link to the Past. The Minish Cap somehow seemed short, while also dragging on. I think it was because there was too much exploration-ish stuff to do between dungeons.

      • Invader_Zim342

        A lot of people would argue that the series is in need of more exploration. I agree that a new 2D game should probably go for an aLttP style of gameplay and (improved, of course) visuals. What I think not a lot of people think about is that if they wanted to, a big developer like Nintendo that tends to make 3D games nowadays could make a 2D game that would be incredibly massive in scope. Like, essentially a better-looking aLttP that was several times the size of the original and with more advanced level and enemy design. I think something like that would be phenomenal, but unfortunately no big developer with the resources for a project like that is willing to take the risk of putting that much money into developing a 2D game like that, especially when they can just make cheap stuff like New Super Mario Bros that sells ridiculously well and costs relatively little to make.

        • Farthingale

          And then… that is what happened!

          • Invader_Zim342

            Wow, I forgot all about this comment. Yeah, I guess we are getting pretty much what I described with A Link Between Worlds (although I believe I meant actually 2D, as in, sprite graphics or maybe something like the recent Rayman games), but it remains to be seen if it will achieve the kind of scale that I was talking about, which at the moment still seems a bit unlikely.

  • Tigger

    The one shown in the demo is too pretty to just toss. It would break my heart if they didn’t use such an amazing looking art style.

    • zdog

      You say that now, but remember the spaceword demo of link and ganon for gamecube? Would you rather have had that than twilight princess? IMO the HD demo was nice, but is going to have a lot more style when the actual thing comes out.

      • Harold Teekman

        Wind Waker came before Twilight Princess.

        • zdog

          That is true…but wind waker was never touted as a realistic zelda like the spaceword demo and twilight princess were. I’m comparing apples to apples here.

  • Jake

    It should be a more realistic style of akyward sword with HD graphics :D

  • Emma Inglis

    I think people are voting for Twilight Princess simply because they associate with being the most ‘realistic’ in appearance, and would like to see something similar again. The Wii U demo had me very excited graphically, but I wouldn’t complain seeing the style of the Wind Waker again.

    • zdog

      What bothers me about the HD demo is that even though it is considered “realistic” it is like Dragon Quest X in that everything looks very realistic, but the face is still a big bland cartoon. I wouldn’t mind more detail and realism in the actual character design.

    • fused_shadows

      That, or maybe they liked it the best? I love TP’s style, and not because it is the most realistic. The old west theme was interesting, and the duller colours made the fear of the twilight that much more apparent.

  • Link Thalidus

    skyward sword had amazing graphics, but with the wii u demo of twilight princess, i would have to pick between the brand new style, or the twilight princess one. the twilight princess looks so awesome i cant pick

  • Mister Pom

    I hope Nintendo doesn’t listen to the fans. Twilight Princess has the worst art style. You don’t need to be gray and dull to be “dark”. Majora’s Mask did it without lacking colors. No “Call of Duty” looking Zelda for me, thank you.

    • Dark

      I’m sorry what? How was it “Call of Duty” looking? I really enjoyed TPs art style, I thought it was very beautifully done. :)

    • Vink

      If we get TP style, it will probably look like the Tech Demo which looked nothing like call of duty. I’m sure Nintendo won’t decide an artstyle based on the votes on this site ;)

    • Dampf

      lol, laughed hard.

  • Brandon Militti

    the ne one looks cool but almost anything would work

  • Jono

    the demo’s. Twilight princess’, but a lot more vivid and colorful (and, of course, detailed). For 3DS, I want SS’s art style to return, though OOT3D’s is more likely.

  • ThePurpleKnightmare

    I like Wind Waker style, all three triforce holders look good in there, where as in twilight princess Ganondorf was ugly, and in Skyward sword Link looks a little odd. I’d also like another boss fight with ganon like in wind waker and I;m sure it’d look best with wind waker style, it’s a little old but it looks good. Thought I wouldn’t mind OoT/MM graphics, those games look great, hard to believe they were N64 games,

    • G. hun

      But we’ve had three WW art style games now D:

    • Farthingale

      I disagree that Ganondorf in TP was ugly. I thought he looked like a proud, middle-aged warrior with strong features. It’s all down to preference, but they definitely weren’t going to straight-out ‘ugly’ in his design.

  • G. hun

    That fake MM trailer had an interesting style. Wouldn’t mind that…

    • Vink

      Yes, it did but It’s similar to the tech demo like the color of deku link’s tunic, the mood of the style was like the Tech Demo but more darker. I wouldn’t mind it either.

  • Romani’sCow

    Perhaps I shouldve chosen a new artystyle.

    The reality/ high fantasy feel of it was quite a nice break away from the more animated design of the Wind Waker. It’s still a nice contrast to Skyward Sword’s more colorful, yet real approach. And dont get me wrong. I love’d the graphics of the original OOT. Not the 3DS one so much. Theyre all superb games, but I was always a sucker for the more realistic/ high fantasy approach of things. I feel like TP and the original art style of OOT brought it across nicely. I want to see a come-back of both styles. And maybe later, I’d like to see Toon-Link again. Then again. Why wouldnt I want to see a new artstyle? One like the E3 Wii U version (although it was a tech demo). Nintendo, just work your magic as always. I want to see a new style that will stay in my heart, like all your other Zelda games. Make something new. Lean it towards the high-fantasy feeling of TP, yet make it new and fresh again. Create another new, visual materpiece that still lingers in the taste of that old game!

    ~A Raging Zelda Fanatic

  • Kristin Laflin

    Brand new art style, please. I wouldn’t mind the style seen in the HD demo, but I would prefer to see Nintendo get creative. And as much as I love Toon Link, he’s been used too much.

  • Steve Thompson

    Something unexpected. While I’d like to play a zelda game with the graphics in the tech demo, I’d also be interesting in something else I’m not expecting. I’d love to see a zelda with a clayish art style for example.

  • maggiemay2097

    I hope twilight princess wins. I know it lacks color, but it’s something different and I like that about it.

  • Aadaline

    I personally like the dark colors of twilight princess. It adds to the whole image of he’s in danger and saving the world kind of deal.

    • Spencer Tinnin

      I agree. Skyward Sword’s art style was great buy they seemed to happy for a game about trying to find your kidnapped friend

      • Reuben Horst

        Just a note: In Skyward Sword, you’re not trying to rescue a “kidnapped friend” until the very, very end of the game.

        • Conrad

          Did you play the same game as everyone else? as soon as he goes below the clouds, he’s dowsing for Zelda, so I’d say hes looking well before the end of the game

          • Reuben Horst

            That’s true, but she was never kidnapped until the end of the game, and that’s the point that was made.

        • Spencer Tinnin

          Ok, he’s looking for his lost friend

      • Dampf

        The graphics fits the game perfectly. The game was nearly happy everytime.

  • Mariobros618

    I can’t believe I made OoT artstyle go ahead of SS. I feel so accomplished now.

  • The One Who Wrote This

    I would say new style if it means the Wii U tech demo but with richer colors. So, like a mixture or something. It needs to have good detail and good color. I don’t want too bland of a style (i.e. Twilight Princess’ coloring scheme). I want the seriousness and detail of TP and the Tech Demo, but I want the coloring schemes of OoT/MM and the Tech Demo. However, I also want the humor and uniqueness of WW/SS/LA. And maybe have some throwbacks to the classic games (maybe add secrets like ALttP and Z1 had). Basically, I want the next game to get the best of each of the other games, because I want the next Zelda game to be the best of the best.

  • Reuben Horst

    Here are my thoughts:

    Almost every Zelda game has a different art style, and the games that share art styles usually use the same incarnation of Link. The main exception is Spirit Tracks, which is still a direct sequel to Phantom Hourglass and The Wind Waker, even if it’s not the exact same Link.

    I like this; especially with the console games each having a completely different feel to show that each individual game takes place in its OWN time period along the timelines, with its OWN main character.

    On another note, I’d love to have another game, for example, starring the Hero of Time (OoT/MM); and even though Nintendo would probably never do that, IF they did, they should return to something similar to the N64 art style (in HD, of course.)

  • Olamarr

    I’m so torn in this decision, I think they all look great, all are unique and have something special about them. I love the Twilight princess style because its so dark and mysterious, Wind waker for its cheery look and feel, Skyward sword because its the best of both worlds, or Ocarina of time because of its awesome nostalgic feel. I just cant choose.

  • Pit

    Either way…I wouldn’t mind a new style of artwork. I do really like the artwork for the zelda demo on wii u. But I also like the twilight princess artwork because it really created a sense of eeriness and darkness. Which of course…suited the gameplay.
    The skyward sword artwork was really bright and colourful…but a zelda game’s plot…isn’t really…happy when zelda is kidnapped…

    So overall…I would like to see an artwork that will suit the gameplay itself.

  • awsomeMrlink

    I like the Wind Waker’s art style, but that is like a one time thing and I think it would be very interesting to see an HD Twilight Princess. Of course, Nintendo will do something unexpected with the new art style as always, so I don’t have my hopes up.

  • K2L

    A game with different visual settings. Pretty much the only way to please everybody. =/

  • awakened_link37

    Really need options for the HD Tech Demo and Ocarina of Time 3D. They have the most stunning graphics seen thus far in the series, IMO.

  • Spencer Tinnin

    I doubt Nintendo would ever do this, but it would be cool if they just made texture packs for each of the popular art styles and let you choose

    • Never

      Aha… ahahahahaha.

  • Bluecomet

    Brand new art style to celebrate first hd zelda on first hd nintendo console. If not entirely new, then similar to skyward sword. Skyward sword was so cool. Like wind waker and phantom hourglass. I dont like twilight princess. It is so not zelda.

    • Dampf

      God no.

  • Alicia Hawkins

    To be honest, I kind of want a new style. I like that each game has its own style. It’s become somewhat of a trademark of the series. I love it.

  • Paul Lashomb

    Twilight princess? Is this a joke?

  • Paul Lashomb

    Going Ocarina of Time artwise does not mean going back to 64-bit. Just beef up the system. Ocarina of Time 3DS proved that it can still look great at higher resolution. Just amp the visuals and the game still has its charm. Twilight Princess was a completely different breed of Zelda and didn’t have half the amount of character as OoT.

  • Bryanna

    When I selected Twilight Princess, it’s because I appreciated the more realistic detail. It’s true that the color was dull, but when I selected it, I hoped that they would do the same concept, but liven it up. Which is what I would expect they’d do if they took on such a project with or without my opinionated direction. The fake trailer gives proof to that concept. I want to see what Hyrule would look like from a more realistic view point with graphics that will get into the smallest of details. I liked Skyward Sword mostly for the realistic movements and expressions, not really for the cartoon look and feel. If they combined the two, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, I think they could get something beautiful.

  • Philip Kunhardt

    The thing is, neither Twilight Princess or Ocarina Time were particularly realistic. The environments were less stylised than in Skyward Sword or The Wind Waker, but ultimately, Zelda characters are cartoonish and stylised all around. In Skyward Sword, everyone, save Link, Zelda, and Impa, were stylised and cartoonish. In Ocarina of Time, the same is with everyone, save Link, Zelda, Impa, and Ganondorf. In The Wind Waker, everyone was cartoonish, and that’s part of what turned people off – they want more “realistic” main heroes and villains, but it’s okay and actually quite awesome to have cartoonish supporting cast members. Think about Twilight Princess for a moment. Think about the clowns. The Ordonian kids. The fishing family. The people of Kakariko. Again, only Link, Zelda, Illia, and Ganondorf remained “realistic,” though the world was far less “stylised” than in The Wind Waker or Skyward Sword.

    Honestly, I think Skyward Sword did the right thing – giving us a new style of the world, but keeping our major players relate-able, while the supporting cast gets to be goofy or weird. Notice I didn’t consider Navi, Tatl, Linebeck, Midna, Kaepora Gaepora, Skull Kid, King of Red Lions, Fi, Groose, Ghirahim, Zant, or Chancellor Cole or the Cubus Sisters or Helmaroc King in my considerations of major players – these are all major players, but they’re either major companions or underling-foils to the villain, and they get by definition to be as cartoonish and stylistic as the game undertakes with the rest of the cast. These are the characters that get to set the tone by their appearances time and time again. They’re not the PCs (Link, Zelda, and sometimes Impa (and Byrne in the one case he appears) gets that sort of role), nor our big-baddy Ganondorf or Vaati or The Imprisoned’s other form (though interestingly The Imprisoned and Ganon, along with Bellum and Malladus and Majora all get to be as creepy and stylised as the game gets).

    For a future game, I would like to see a new style dabbled in, but not trying to make everything realistic. I don’t want realism, I want romanticism, dammit! I want a style that makes me yearn for it to be a real place with real people, and yet know I can never get there.

    • Never

      If it was actually limited to the supporting cast being goofy idiots then a lot of people would have less of a problem with it. But Link was effected majorly and was rarely relate able at all.

      Romanticism was the whole theme of Zelda- so long as it stuck to emphasizing on the players emotions, and left Link as a tabula rasa to transfer that over- which is what I believe was the largest flaw of SS, it didn’t do that. They pushed Link as a character too far, so only the people who agree with every little ridiculous action could think of Link as an extension, or rather, as themselves and wouldn’t feel a disconnect at some point. The magic of Zelda was in its players immersion to the world, and that has always been its charm point- and yet SS came and slapped PLOT revolving around characters onto a game that’s supposed to be more about the world, not the characters. (Even in OoT, you aren’t actually saving the Princess you’re saving your WORLD, that’s a common misconception. Zelda is always shown to be safe until the VERY end) In a Zelda the forced cutscenes of plot should be few and far between and be aimed at increasing the player’s sense of urgency, while have less or nothing to do with developing characters. The characters like Zelda and Ganon etc that you listed should be developed through the side-quests and chatter of the NPCs, or a landscape that was ruined by Ganon, or flourishing because of Zelda, things that allow for a more immersive romanticist-like world. But SS focused on going A to B and messing the the PCs because in reality if they hadn’t the game would have been completely empty and devoid of really any defining characteristics. How often do you hear of someone saying they loved the SS world and the side characters in it? Very, very rarely. It’s nearly always about how cute Zelda was or how weird Ghirahim is, but most of all how AWESOME Groose is! The world itself was severely neglected.

      tl;dr I can’t agree with your point about SS doing much of anything right, considering it’s a Zelda game. I really wish it had just been a new IP or something, then I could write it off as a mediocre but good try and hope for a better next installment; but it bears the title of Zelda with which they’ve done so incredibly better with before so I’m not going to go easy on it especially when they’ve had 25 years of practice only to churn this out.

      You’re right about everything else, though. TP was a branch off of OoT’s
      art style and SS was a branch off of WW’s style, so personally I’d like
      an entirely new “tree” of an art style if they can manage it.

      —Pic: “They’re not the PCs” edition, not idiotically goofy at all.
      EDIT: Didn’t know you’re not allowed to upload gifs, so here’s a link to the actual pic:

  • Krishna Moorthy

    my favourite is the wii u demo style, but if they’re not going to do that, ocarina of time 3D.

  • Zeldacrazy

    The 2011 Zelda demo for the Wii U wasn’t even made by Nintendo.. But I hope they’ll like it as much as all we do and decide to use it in the future. Otherwise either make a new art style or go further with the Skyward sword’s or Twilight princess’s style.

  • Ganondalf

    I can’t believe that TP won, it was too dark. And it wasn’t dark like sad, it was dark like dim and dull colors. Majora’s mask achieved darkness with a wonderful color palette.

  • TheMaverickk

    Why is anyone surprised by which game one? Just look at the video games that sell today.

    There just isn’t as much appreciation for imaginative or colourful games as there used to be. People are obsessed with the dark, gritty realism that over saturates pretty much every form of media out there.

    The funniest thing about Twilight Princess is that the visual style isn’t what Miyamoto or Aonuma wanted…. the reason why they did it was to please Nintendo of America. Who had specifically asked that the next game be the opposite of Wind Waker in order to please western gamers.

    Personally I want a new visual style over all but sadly main stream gamers will likely get their pick this time around.

    • Never

      That’s the western world, not so much everywhere else.

      • TheMaverickk

        The western market is also sadly the largest most profitable market – _ -

        • Never

          Which is clearly why 90% of JRPGs never see the light of day, and a ton of Japanese games stay solely in Japan- because we’re the largest most profitable market!

          Face it, the only thing we’re good for in video games is Shooter #94583 and Sports Game 2013 that isn’t ANY different from Sports Game 2012! (EA Approved!) Everything else outside of established franchises (and even then) are debatably not very profitable at all.

          Regardless of that, Skyward Sword’s launch with its “Non-western” graphics managed to sell more than Twilight Princess did in its launch window.

  • Vink

    I voted old school throwback because It would interesting seeing brown haired link from LOZ and AOL in 3D visuals, Link to the past would be cool too, seeing the intro in oracle of ages showing young link could used as a 3d style.

    • Time’s Champion

      Well, his hair does seem to be darker in TP and SS…

  • Vink

    A fanmade video on youtube called The Legend of Zelda the lost oracle could be a decent artstyle.

  • Jake Vendt

    while I voted for the brand-new art style, I think the graphics should reflect the story line of the game. darker games like Majora’s Mask, or Twilight Princess deserve a more realistic playing experience. They wouldn’t look very good with toony graphics, now would they? Now with games that have a lighter story line, they are fine with cell-shaded graphics, or graphics like ocarina. I think we should see what the story line of the game is first, then decide what the graphics should be like.

  • Melonlord

    why twilight princess graphics?? dont you guys wont to see something new?!?!?!?!?!

  • SquadalaCarpetGuy

    Zelda needs a throwback style. Where everything is detailed yet not anime

  • derp

    Twilight Princess is not actually shown in the images. Do your fucking home work, junior.

  • Thomas Brainz Björksund

    The WiiU Graphic engine test picture, wich category is that? Or do you assume that ppl misstake that for TP style? :>

  • LadyRevan

    I chose OoT, partly because of nostalgia. But not only that, I would love to see two things..

    1. A new Hero of Time game. Awesomeness!

    2. Another “anime” style game. Seriously, I love OoT’s art-style.

    But, it would be nice to have a new art-style, too.

    Oh, and what the heck? TP? Wind Waker AND Skyward had a better art-style than TP! I swear..

    I’m sick of people thinking TP is dark just because the lighting is dark. Wind Waker had a much darker storyline. Wind Waker made you constantly feel the urgency of the burden of the hero, what with the storms, the sea creatures, islands being utterly destroyed, the King sacrificing himself, the fact that the old, dead Hyrule is below the now scattered pockets of left-over civilization.
    Not to mention that the Gods drowned the Hylians. I mean, mass drowning of almost a whole country? Come on! And Wind Waker isn’t even my favorite Zelda..

    And I won’t even mention the dark atmosphere of OoT.

    Oh well, I digress.

    • Dampf

      Nope, TP is best.

  • Julianna Flenniken

    While I disagree with a lot of people that are saying that Twilight Princess’s graphic weren’t Zeldaish, I think it was good. It makes sense that the Western market would want something darker than Wind Waker or Skyward Sword, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was a bad move. So the designers catered to a different area of the fan base, so what? That’s what makes the LoZ series what it is, its connection to its fans. Each games has its own look (unless its a direct sequel like Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks which are within one lifetime of each other) Ocarina of Time (N64) had that exaggerated polygon look that’s resonates with the N64′s style, because that was as good as it could get back then. Yet Miyamoto did extraordinary things with it. Wind Waker was more cartoonish but that’s ok. That was what made it what it is. Sure it’ll appeal more with the younger (or young at heart) fans of the series, because that’s what LoZ does, it doesn’t neglect anyone. If you like the dark tones of danger and fear and a world that is literally under siege from shadows then there’s a game for that. If you prefer to reclaim the world from evil through a child’s eyes, then there’s a game for that. Even if you want to see above the clouds and explore the new and colorful world below, while searching for a lost friend, there’s even a game for that. It’s what LoZ does best. A new art sytle, if it wouldn’t be too much to ask, would suit the series well. Of course, that all depends on the feel of the game and the age/type of Link we would be dealing with.

    I’m really repetative, sorry about that!

  • nmlss

    Only 67 people voted on Old-school Link??? A classic Link, looking like the NES artwork would be awesome for a 3DS game.

  • maggie capra

    i loved twilight princess’s graphics. it was dark and kinda creepy at times, but it was so beautiful when light hit.