For decades The Legend of Zelda has been one of gaming’s most critically acclaimed and beloved franchises. While it has come in many forms—and across many consoles—we are yet to witness the franchise incorporate online play. Which has left me pondering: will there ever be a Legend of Zelda MMORPG set in the world of Hyrule? Let’s take a look at why a Legend of Zelda MMORPG would be special, and the challenges that the franchise might face in adapting to the genre, in order to understand whether there may ever be an MMORPG incarnation of the franchise.
Fans of any great RPG will often have one complaint—the wish to experience the game with their friends. Skyrim is a great example of this. Soon after release, fans of the game were dying to play with their pals, so the game’s developer listened. And The Elder Scrolls Online was released with great fanfare a number of years later. If you’re an ESO player looking to get ahead, you can buy ESO Gold here!
Fans of The Legend of Zelda often exclaim the wish to play with friends—especially in the game’s more recent open-world incarnations seen in Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom. When playing these games, one can only imagine the additional fun, and chaos, that could be introduced when playing with friends.
The introduction of MMO mechanics would also introduce the idea of a unique player character to the franchise—something that is hugely exciting given the fact that we have only ever played as Link. If players were given the opportunity to customise their own Hylian (or even Rito, Goron and Gerudo) hero, kit them out and improve their skills, the franchise would unlock a whole new style of gameplay to explore—radically deepening the potential for immersing players in the world and lore of Hyrule.
And, given the fact that the franchise already has an extensive amount of lore, regions, characters, items, ideas and enemies to draw from, the developers would have lots to riff of when developing the MMO world.
While the franchise clearly has lots of similarities and foundations for a great MMO, the shift into the genre would also provide a plethora of new opportunities to enhance and alter the Zelda experience. Including multiplayer world events and co-op puzzles to competitive puzzling, deeper combat and vibrant dungeons/raids.
Innovating the series in this way could help to bring in plenty of new players while welcoming back veteran players through novel gameplay, call-backs to previous titles and, ultimately, some good old Zelda style.
If you’ve ever gone questing in Zelda or played through a Zelda dungeon, you’ll know that each and every moment is finely tuned to work as a single player experience. This leaves many fans worried that transitioning to an MMO might destroy the formula that makes Zelda games feel so unique. The franchise is always praised for its rich, emotion-driven storytelling brimming with strong character arcs and carefully tuned player progression. Translating these elements into an MMO would definitely prove a great challenge, especially if players do create their own character instead of playing as the franchise’s go-to protagonist, Link.
Aversion to Online Multiplayer
These concerns go hand-in-hand with Nintendo’s long-term distance from multiplayer experiences. Beyond discrete instances of online play—like the battles in Pokémon GO, races in Mario Kart matches of Splatoon or casual multiplayer in Animal Crossing—Nintendo isn’t a company known for their online multiplayer. Instead, the company has always been pioneers of both single-player and local multiplayer experiences.
While Nintendo is certainly a company capable of producing online experiences, their lack of continuous, iterative experience with multiplayer RPGs might make them less likely to complete such an experiment with one of their most highly prized franchises.
So, Is It Coming?
Well… no. There’s no news or even suggestions that Nintendo is or will work on a Legend of Zelda MMORPG any time in the near future. That said, we shouldn’t rule out the possibility. While we have seen that there are a number of challenges to be overcome in producing a Legend of Zelda MMO, it’s clear that the genre could help to keep the franchise fresh, innovating on the age-old single-player formula that Nintendo has mastered over the decades.
Whether or not we will be able to play Zelda with our friends any time soon, following the success of Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom it’s clear that we will continue to explore the world of Hyrule for many years to come.