When Ocarina of Time came out in 1998, it blew people away with its revolutionary design, but it also became the mold from which each of the successive 3D Zelda games would be cast. While Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece that I believe meets or exceeds the standard set by Ocarina of Time, I don't think it lends itself to being the new formula for future games; how many times can aimlessly wandering a massive sparsely populated fantasy world remain novel? Here are some of my thoughts new directions Zelda can take:
- Expand the cast. We've seen countless variations on the Link-Zelda-Ganon trinity, but I think Breath of the Wild, and even Skyward Sword and Hyrule Warriors, have shown that there could be other characters outside of the core 3 that could be deserving of the spotlight. I know in BotW, I was definitely hoping to see more of the Champions than the brief glimpses in flashbacks.
- Experiment with the setting. For the most part, every Zelda has been set in a medieval European fantasy world. Why not change this up? Miyamoto's original concept for The Legend of Zelda featured futuristic sci-fi elements in addition to fantasy. Some of these sci-fi elements are referenced in Breath of the Wild, but I'd love to see the series lean into them more heavily. I could also see Zelda gameplay fitting well in a feudal Japan or steampunk setting as well.
- Meaningful side quests or branching paths. While Breath of the Wild introduced structured side quests, most of these were fairly inconsequential fetch-quests. If Zelda is going to stick with a non-linear structure going forward, why not give these side quests a little more weight by offering unique items or a compelling NPC character arc? Another option would be to give the main quest some decision points, thus encouraging replay value to explore each of the branching paths.
- More voice acting. Nintendo dipped their toe in water with Breath of the Wild's limited voice acting, but the overwhelming majority of the game's dialog was still strictly text. After playing games like The Witcher, where even the most minor NPC has a voice, it would be nice to see Nintendo make Hyrule a little less silent.
- Breath of the Wild as a service. The game already has some DLC planned, but what if Nintendo decided to really capitalize on this massive world they've built? With such a large and sparsely populated Hyrule, why not have future DLC packs show the world rebuilding after the defeat of Ganon? Ruined towns could be rebuilt and each could introduce new characters and quest lines. Considering how successful BotW was, I think this could easily be feasible (and lucrative) for Nintendo.