When the Wall Street Journal broke the news that Netflix MAY be developing a live-action series based off The Legend of Zelda franchise, gaming culture collectively lost their minds, for better and for worse. For some it was a dream-come-true. The world of Hyrule would finally be fleshed out, brought to life through the magic that only the warming glow of television can deliver. To others, the only response was “Excuuuuuuse me, princess?”; as many a gamer are still haunted by the previous failed attempts to bring Nintendo properties to life outside of their console based existence.
While the announcement itself has not been officially confirmed yet, the initial report stated that Netflix intends to use HBO’s insanely popular Game of Thrones as a model for the Zelda series, while obviously making an effort to keep it more family friendly than HBO’s bloody, sexy fantasy epic (which means we sadly won’t be seeing any Goron’s popping people’s heads with their bare hands).
But even with Game of Thrones as a template, can any of The Legend of Zelda’s many narratives be successfully adapted into a mold suitable for a television narrative?
Looking back over the now expansive Legend of Zelda collection, it’s obvious that Netflix has quite a few options available to them; especially if they were to incorporate other popular TV structures.
Here are Mech Riot’s Top 5 Ideal Netflix Zelda Storylines:
5.) Ocarina of Time as a Game of Thrones-esque Drama with Back to the Future-Style Time Traveling:
Jumping right into the Game of Thrones mold, the Zelda title most fitting for this kind of adaptation would be the N64 classic Ocarina of Time. The battle for the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros could easily be mirrored in the conflict for the Triforce and with it; the land of Hyrule. Rival Kingdoms; The Gerudo and The Hylians seek to destroy one another at any cost over the sacred relic and the power it possesses. Meanwhile, the kingdoms of Gorons and Zoras do their best to stay out of the quarrel with varying results.
The end to all the bloodshed emerges in the unlikeliest of forms: of a young Kokiri named Link. Operating behind the scenes as an agent of the Princess Zelda, Link seeks to unite the Goron, Zora, and Hylian kingdoms before the evil Gerudo King Ganondorf can solve the mystery of the Triforce and reign supreme.
Sounds pretty epic right? Well, what if you threw in time travel as well?
Players familiar know that once Link discovers the Master Sword mid-game, he gain the ability to travel back and forth in time across a seven year period, witnessing the consequences of past events in the future, and using this knowledge to bounce between eras, fighting Ganondorf’s minions in the past AND future.
Imagine an epic multi-layered conflict that ALSO manages to play out across time, as Link uses the power of the Master Sword to travel between time periods. As a green-clad Marty McFly, Link could use his temporal wisdom to help turn the odds towards the forces of good.
4.) Majora’s Mask as Twin Peaks-style Mystery Drama Structured Like 24:
The boldest and darkest of all Zelda games, Majora’s Mask is best remembered for its ominous tone and original, time-based game mechanics that kept players locked into a tight, tense 3-day cycle. Transported to the mysterious land of Termina, Link must race against the clock to stop the mysterious Skull Kid, who plans to use the power of Majora’s Mask to bring the moon crashing down to Earth.
The loophole to this restricted window of time in the game was of course, time travel; but it could be wiser for adaptation purposes to cut this plot device. Instead, what this screams out for is a 24 style treatment, where Link’s adventures in Termina could play out in bursts of several hours at once. Compacting the show down to this format could crank the tension up to eleven, as Link spends every precious hour possible trying to stop the impending apocalypse.
But where does the Twin Peaks part come in? Think about it. Link is a stranger is a new world, thrown into an eerie, surreal environment full of mystery and sinister intentions; much like Agent Dale Cooper found himself in the eerie, odd mountain town of Twin Peaks. Furthermore, Clock Town itself is populated by a cast of colorful and eccentric characters, each with their own distinct storylines that unfold over the course of Link’s journey. Like Termina, Twin Peaks was a nightmare-fueled menagerie of quirky weirdos, each involved in storylines that connected them all in ways they couldn’t imagine.
If adapted properly, Link’s interactions with the residents of Clock Town and their various problems could turn Link into a Dale Cooper like figure; by solving the mysteries of its inhabitants, Link could get closer and closer to solving the mysteries of of Majora’s Mask, preventing the destruction of Termina. The rich character history was always a highlight of the game, and using it as material for a show would create an opportunity for a memorable drama acted, as well as the potential for a terrific acting ensemble.
3.) A Link To The Past as a Lord of the Rings-style Hero’s Journey:
The SNES classic is often regarded as the pinnacle of the Zelda series, and with good reason. The adventure between the Light and Dark worlds of Hyrule is so epic that Twilight Princess even wanted to rip it off. But beyond its strengths as a game, A Link to The Past was also adapted into a popular series of graphic novels that gave Link a voice while also expanding the world of the game.
So with one of the greatest games of all time up for adaptation, why not use one of the greatest work of fantasy as a guideline? The story of a young, common boy who takes up after his uncle on a quest to save the world from the threat of a dark lord? Frodo and Link are easily swappable, and Link’s journey could play out on a much grander scale as he rises from his humble beginning towards his destiny as the Hero of Hyrule. An evil wizard starting a war to help revive his long dormant master? Agahnim and Ganon’s relationship isn’t a far cry from Saruman and Sauron, the big bads in The Lord of The Rings trilogy. The Triforce is even as important a McGuffin as the One Ring. The land of Hyrule is begging for the kind of sweeping, live-action treatment that Peter Jackson achieved for Middle Earth. All Netflix needs to do is line these pieces up the right way, and an epic quest across the many regions of Hyrule and the Dark World is guaranteed to shine. In the right hands, a retelling of A Link to the Past could become the fantasy standard to a whole new generation.
2.) Skyward Sword With More Emphasis on Zelda’s Journey
Skyward Sword introduced us to what is arguably the best cast of Zelda character’s ever. The inhabitants of Skyloft are some of the most memorable in the series history, from the arrogant Groose, the strange Batreaux, all the way down to the adorably inquisitive likes of Skipper and his robot brethren. But where this game truly succeeds in character development department is with the deepest bond between Link and Zelda fans have ever seen. The chemistry between the two childhood friends drives the narrative, and gives more depth to Link’s quest than saving Zelda just because he’s destined to.
A key part of Link’s journey throughout Skyward Sword was the fact that on many occasions he would reach a milestone, such as the end of a temple, only to find that Zelda; accompanied by her mysterious bodyguard Impa, was a step ahead of him. This process was repeated throughout the game, making it clear that while the player was guiding Link on one adventure, Zelda and Impa were experiencing many trials of their own. It would be interesting then, if a Skyward Sword adaptation actually showed Zelda’s story. Multiple narratives are a hallmark on Game of Thrones, so it’s not an impossible task.
With Impa by her side, Zelda could spearhead a parallel narrative to Link’s that would allow never-before-seen insight into her character, while also giving the audience double the narrative, guaranteeing more thrills along the way. The best possible benefit? A well developed dual narrative would make the end of the journey all the sweeter, as the payoff of seeing Link and Zelda reunite to face an exciting future would feel more uplifting than it already is.
1.) Something NEW!
Yeah it’s a cop-out. And yeah, the last time Nintendo trusted someone to create something fresh for them the result was The Super Mario Bros. Movie. The odds of an original Zelda don’t sound great on paper, and a lot of fans would potentially gripe about not seeing any of the great stories of Hyrule get their chance to shine.
But consider this: the promise of something new is different this time considering the rumors that Nintendo would be directly involved this time around. Shigeru Miyamoto and the Zelda team would surely want to deliver a narrative worthy of the medium; and many would jump to see what new stories they may have in mind to introduce Link to a new platform.
In addition, going in an all-new direction would alleviate the fan pressure to adhere closely to the details of a particular adaptation. Many a movie and TV show have tried to follow their source material verbatim, only to find that they were overstuffing the project and sacrificing quality in other areas as a result. It’s unlikely that anyone would want to see a Zelda show end up a lackluster effort just to squeeze in every single detail.
The risks are high but so is the potential for reward. Bottom line: Nintendo and Netflix would be smart to try out something new, as it gives Hyrule much more breathing room.
As of this writing, neither Netflix or Nintendo have publicly commented on the rumors about the existence of this production. The whole thing could be a disappointing hoax. But, if it does come to pass, the potential this show has is off the charts. The structure of the Legend of Zelda series uses tropes and guidelines from centuries of classic fantasy narratives. It’s core elements are sound, and should easily weather an adaptation into the television narrative. Building on that, the success of this show could be a benchmark for an entire new generation of video game related media. Alongside the upcoming Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell movies, a Zelda show that works could establish video game movies as a viable genre in the entertainment landscape.
It’s an exciting time for a journey like this, but hopefully, we’ll be on that quest with Link and company very soon.
We’ve had our bit of wild speculation, but what would you see adapted? Would other games in the Zelda canon work better? Would some of our suggestions be better in other says? Sound off in the comments below with pitches for your ideal Legend of Zelda adaptation!!