This happened to many of us growing up: a parental figure who knows nothing about video games saw us controlling that little, green elf-man on the television and asked us what we were playing. You probably tried to explain that this is not simply Mario or “Poké-man.” This is an epic narrative with endearing personalities and spellbinding music; this is The Legend of Zelda. And, yes, they’re right to immediately assume that you were playing as the titular character because why wouldn’t you be?
Since the first mainline chapter in Nintendo’s acclaimed series was released back in 1986, Link has consistently emerged as the playable protagonist of The Legend of Zelda series. But what about the heroine that the entire franchise is named after? Zelda’s time to shine is long overdue, and as the literal reincarnation of an omniscient goddess, gaming’s favorite princess has always been more than a damsel in distress.
Take, for instance, Zelda’s incredibly significant, yet sidelined, role in Breath of the Wild. Not only did she traverse the entirety of Hyrule with Link and the four champions – which would’ve made for a fantastic open-world story with party members – to prepare for the eventual resurgence of Ganon, Zelda even locked herself in a death pit with the embodiment of evil for over 100 years! I mean, has she really ever needed saving? Why not make the Breath of the Wild sequel a prequel (sorry, Age of Calamity doesn’t count, in my opinion) that chronicles Zelda’s offscreen, coming-of-age journey in a sandbox teeming with side quests and interesting mysteries?
There are other opportunities to slide a Zelda-led experience into the franchise. In A Link to the Past, Zelda and the six other legendary maidens are sent to the Dark World – it’d be pretty interesting to explore the sprawling, corrupted biomes of the Sacred Realm and slay waves of patrolling monsters alongside a crew of Seven Sages descendants. Or how about the tumultuous odyssey of Sheik in Ocarina of Time? The wacky adventures of amnesiac-princess-turned-pirate-captain, Tetra, in The Wind Waker? Almost every iteration of Zelda has the potential to, at the very least, stand toe-to-toe with Link, but for some reason, Nintendo is attached to tired scenarios where she is captured or immobilized.