This past weekend marked the 35th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda landing on NES. Fans have anticipated the milestone for a good year thanks to last year’s Mario birthday blowout which brought players plenty of exciting releases including Super Mario 3D All-Stars and Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. If Nintendo went that hard for the plumber’s 35th birthday, imagine what it would do for the most influential franchise in all of gaming.
Well, not much, as it turns out. Rather than giving Zelda the same red carpet treatment, this year’s celebration is far more modest. An HD re-release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is coming alongside some flashy new joy-cons, but that’s all for now.
That’s left Zelda fans disappointed and a little confused. Does that mean that we won’t get a big Zelda party this year? Perhaps the more important question is: How come Mario gets to have all the fun?
Last year’s Mario 35 livestream was arguably a bigger deal than Nintendo’s recent 50-minute Direct, which laid out the company’s wider 2021 plans. The 16-minute presentation was loaded with exciting announcements, from new games to niche collectibles like a special edition Game & Watch system.
It’s not the first time Nintendo has made a big spectacle for the plumber’s birthday. Back in 2016, the company famously rolled out its Year of Luigi campaign to celebrate the franchise’s 30th anniversary. The second banana got four new games bearing his name, his own special edition Nintendo 3DS, and a truly weird YouTube documentary about his parkour exploits.
Considering Nintendo’s knack for birthday parties, fans treated a Zelda 35th anniversary stream less like speculation and more like a foregone conclusion. It didn’t matter that 35 years is a bizarrely arbitrary anniversary milestone; if Mario got a party, then Link should get one too. Hell, Nintendo even booked Katy Perry and Post Malone to show up to Pokemon’s super sweet 25.
And yet, here we are days after Zelda’s 35th-anniversary date without so much as a “happy birthday” tweet from Nintendo. How rude!
Now, it would appear that Nintendo has inadvertently sparked a sort of sibling rivalry between its most beloved franchises. Mario plays the role of the big brother who gets all the attention while franchises like Zelda sit in his shadow, just as Luigi did for 30 years. Even the fan response to Nintendo skipping Zelda’s birthday is reminiscent of childhood bickering.
“Not even ‘hey it’s LOZ 35 anniversary tweet?’ You guys stink,” tweets one unhappy fan at Nintendo.
It’s hard to blame these fans for feeling salty, though a quick dive through the series’ anniversary history might have prepared them for disappointment. While Luigi got an entire year in 2016, Zelda fans got a few amiibo, a Breath of the Wild E3 trailer, and, fittingly, a Skyward Sword re-release on the Wii U eShop — not exactly the big bash you might expect for a 30-year milestone.
Nintendo diehards can be gluttons for disappointment. The community has a way of setting up the loftiest expectations possible and then getting upset when those predictions don’t come true. Just look back at this most recent Nintendo Direct, which had fans anticipating games like Mario Kart 9 despite no evidence to support that claim. The Zelda anniversary no-show is yet another chapter in that long, storied history of self-induced letdowns.
Not all hope is lost for a proper Zelda party though. While the official date has passed, that doesn’t mean we won’t get more Zelda announcements this year. After all, Mario’s birthday party isn’t set to officially end until March 31, when games like Super Mario 35 and Super Mario 3D All-Stars disappear from the eShop entirely. The prevailing fan theory floating around is that Nintendo is simply waiting for that date to pass before shifting its focus over to Zelda.
There are plenty of rumors to support that theory too. There are rumblings of Twilight Princess and Wind Waker coming to Switch in the back half of the year, which would explain why they weren’t shown in Nintendo’s Direct focused on the first half of 2021. There’s also speculation that Phantom Hourglass might be coming to Switch after Nintendo filed a new trademark for the Nintendo DS game. On top of that, it’s not out of the question that Breath of the Wild 2 could still launch this holiday season, considering that we know nothing about Nintendo’s autumn plans right now.
Perhaps all those rumors are just another way to set ourselves up for disappointment. The hard truth is that, yes, Nintendo has always played favorites with Mario. He’s the golden child and Link will always be number two as long as he’s around. Is it fair? Maybe not, but at least we know who the real prodigy of Nintendo’s family is deep down.
Just don’t ask Metroid fans how they’re feeling right about now.
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