The 35th anniversary of Zelda is happening in 2021. Fans of the classic franchise can look forward to a year of exciting video game announcements and celebrations if last year’s Mario festivities are any indication. While remakes or rereleases are always fun, there’s one particularly bold thing Nintendo could do to make this year especially memorable.
Nintendo should kill Link in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2.
Okay, of course that sounds ridiculous and perhaps a bit sadistic. Why on Earth would anyone actually want that to happen? As far as game heroes go, Link is about as inoffensive as they come. He’s a silent protagonist who always does what’s right; a perpetual good boy that’s just here to adventure.
That’s kind of the point. Link is iconic thanks to his signature look, but it’s hard to say that he’s had much character development over the years. As protagonists like Kratos become more fleshed out with time, Link looks more and more like a theme park mascot paid to wordlessly take photos with tourists. Do we love Link because he’s a good character or simply because he’s a gamer’s version of Mickey Mouse?
Don’t get me wrong; I love Link. As someone who grew up playing Zelda, I’m not itching for Ganon to impale the little guy. But recent Zelda games have made me hungry for bolder, more substantial changes to the franchise. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild completely upended everything players knew about the series. It wasn’t a safe move, but it resulted in a bold reinvention that’s already influencing major games like Immortals Fenyx Rising three years later.
Then there’s Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, a Dynasty Warriors-style spin-off that placed the focus more on the series’ side characters. Age of Calamity may have ruffled some feathers with its timeline shenanigans, but it offers some of the most effective character work the series has ever seen. Zelda herself is a highlight, getting a full arc that actually explains why she’s so special in this universe. Those moments get obscured when Link is in the driver’s seat, breathlessly huffing around like a glorified errand boy.
Nintendo is currently in a perfect position to make more, bold creative leaps with Breath of the Wild’s upcoming sequel. At the moment, we know next to nothing about the game other than the fact that it’s creepy. There’s a genuine air of mystery around the game’s teaser trailer, which has fans hoping that Nintendo is going to drastically switch the formula up like it did with Majora’s Mask back in the day.
So, I once again hypothetically ask, what if Nintendo just straight up killed Link in the sequel? Imagine the game opening with Link failing to save the day and Zelda having to take the reigns. Hell, he can step on a stray octorok or fall off a steep incline. Pick your poison! It wouldn’t just be a shocking moment, but one that signals that Breath of the Wild 2 is going to be a special experience that continues to rethink the most basic elements of the series.
The best part about this is that it’s incredibly low stakes. The Zelda series has a bizarre timeline, in which there are multiple Links throughout history. Ending Breath of the Wild Link’s lineage isn’t an end for the character. He’d still exist in whatever adventure Nintendo spins up next. Even if it opts to make a third game in the current universe, Link can always reemerge from some vague chamber and reveal that he was alive this whole time.
Nintendo is on top of the world right now thanks to the Switch’s excellent sales, so this is a period where it could stand to flex its creative muscles. What might a Zelda game feel like with the Princess herself, or an entirely new hero, at the wheel? Would a sudden shift to the game’s core swordplay liven things up? There’s really only one way to find out how much more Nintendo can push the decades-old franchise forward: by sending Link to an early grave.
The sequel to Breath of the Wild is currently in development.