Lately there’s been a lot of talk about the role of Princess Zelda in the franchise that bears her name. For decades she has generally served the role of the stereotypical damsel in distress, wasting away in Ganon’s castle and waiting for her hero to show up. A lot of fans are tired of Zelda’s limited role, and thousands have signed a petition to give Zelda more importance in the future.
On the other hand, Link has become one of the most iconic figures in gaming history, and playing as the green-clad courageous hero is a huge part of the Zelda experience. A lot of gamers oppose giving Zelda a bigger role, because they don’t want to lose Link as the main character.
So what should Nintendo do? Is it finally time to let players take control of the fabled princess, or should they stick with the tried-and-true style where Link takes center stage? To that question I ask, “Why not both?” Looking at past Nintendo games and concepts, there’s plenty of room to incorporate both characters in a way that spices up the traditional Zelda formula and satisfies everyone. Read on to see how.
The biggest concern that most gamers who oppose a playable Zelda put forth is the loss of Link. Zelda games just wouldn’t be Zelda games if you didn’t get to play as Link, but who says you have to choose one or the other?
If Nintendo wants ideas for giving Zelda a bigger role, they don’t have to look any further than one of their own franchises. The Paper Mario series does a good job of giving Princess Peach some much-needed love without pushing Mario off to the side.
For many gamers, the Peach segments of the Paper Mario games are some of the most memorable parts of the whole experience. Playing as Peach was a nice little treat for gamers, and her sections offered a chance to deviate from the normal gameplay, providing a nice change of pace.
The next Zelda game could easily take that concept and expand on it. We’ve seen how spunky Princess Zelda can be, so why should she take being kidnapped sitting down? Much like Peach in Paper Mario, Zelda should be doing everything she can from inside Ganon’s (or whatever villain’s) dungeon. Players could take control of Zelda from time to time in order to gather information about the enemy, aiding Link in his quest by telepathically communicating vital information. As the bearer of the Triforce of Wisdom, Zelda’s sections could feature more puzzle elements, while Link’s quest would focus more on action.
We can even take this a step further. We’ve seen from Ocarina of Time that Zelda is quite capable of holding her own when she needs to. Throughout the N64 adventure, Zelda aids Link from time to time under the false identity of a Sheikah Tribe survivor named Sheik. At one point, there were rumors that Nintendo was considering a Zelda spin-off game in which players would take control of Sheik.
Nintendo may have decided against it as a concept for a full game, but it could work extremely well as a series of sidequests within a Zelda game. Again, Link’s quest could focus on the traditional style while sequences in which Zelda/Sheik is a playable character could introduce new elements, such as stealth. Zelda as a Sheikah could even have her own arsenal of unique weapons and items, perhaps with a greater focus on magic.
Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto is always talking about how he aims to create new gameplay experiences within existing franchises, and it’s about time that the Zelda series got some of that action. Zelda fans are ready for some new experiences, and many of them are ready to see their favorite princess buck the ‘damsel in distress’ trope and take on a bigger role. Letting Zelda and Link share the spotlight is the perfect way to meet those needs without sacrificing the Zelda experience that we all know and love.