Back when we were free.

While many of the relics of the original Zelda are still manifest in recent games (puzzle-solving, swordplay, enchanted items, and so on) one key aspect of the early The Legend of Zelda games that really played a big part in the game’s success has been absent in recent iterations for a very long time now: non-linearity.

Some say that in this modern age it is impossible for current videogames to be anything but linear. With a greater emphasis placed on story in each subsequent title it would be nigh impossible to allow the player free reign over exploration; an “open world,” as in days of old, simply wouldn’t do.

Axel the Beast over at Zelda Dungeon begs to differ. In their recent article on the topic, he goes on in detail to explain how even past games such as The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess could have been developed with a greater sense of openness, breaking down some of those linearity barriers, without sacrificing a scrap of story.

It’s certainly worth the read.

We want to know what you think, though: should future Zelda games make a more concerted effort in providing us with non-linearity and an open world? Or should that remain a relic of a bygone era? Would you like to freely explore Hyrule and decide which order you wanted to visit each dungeon? Let us know in the comments below.

Source: Zelda Dungeon
  • ashmic

    I don't really get that whole linear thing but, ill go out on a limb and GUESS it means that like, a directed path vs openess like it says in the pic and article, i like a directed path because i get lost easily, but sidequests can be added too and enhance :]

  • ChainofTermina

    I kinda thought Zelda WAS Non-linear, or it became non-Linear at a point. In WW and TP, once you get the beginning part of the game done, you CAN go out and explore at your own pace and leisure. and I've played plenty of other games where I could explore around and the story waited until I went to a specific place or did a specific thing to pick up again. It's not like a Super Mario bros or something, where you HAD to go to the next level there was no where else to go. Zelda sorta DOES have Non-linearity.

    • Icy

      I agree! How is Zelda linear!?

      I mean, yeah, somewhat, but still… Linear games are good, but I like a good open game. So much more fun.
      And WW and TP are really only "non-linear" in the sense that you can go anywhere after a certain point and do anything, but only really finish side-quests and talk to people. So I think what the guy was talking about was the STORY being linear.

      • ChainofTermina

        ……………………..How on earth could a STORY not be linear???? Even the stories of RPGs are linear!

        • JordanChi

          by allowing the events of a story to be presented in different orders.

          this method of storytelling is what makes video games so special.

  • Jeremy

    My post on there got deleted for some reason. Maybe because I'm a linearity >>> non-linearity guy.

  • Erica

    Pretty much Nintendo can do whatever they want to Zelda, and I trust them- they've been getting it right for decades.


  • Muskiok

    I enjoy the non-linearity when I find it in Zelda games. True, it can be daunting at times, and the story can sometimes suffer a bit from not being present all the time- both in realisticness and in coolness, but I find that I enjoy myself more when I'm out there on my own discovering things, without anyone's help.

    Take the Wind Waker for example: After I went to Hyrule for the first time and came back, instead of going to find the sages, I decided to explore, find all the treasure from my charts, look for Tri-force charts/pieces, do as many sidequests as I could figure out, chase the ghost-ship for fun, and fill out my map to completion. This portion of open-exploration without help (the King of Red Lions just kept telling me to go to the spots on the map… jerk) is why I ended up enjoying the Wind Waker so much. It felt really great to unravel a particular island's secrets and reap the rewards, especially when I'd get a useful item that I didn't know was necessary to the game or not (like the fire/ice arrows, which I assumed would just be bonus like they were in previous games). In fact, when I later found out that I was *supposed* to go out and find those items and look everywhere for the Tri-force, I kind of felt let-down. I thought I had done all this cool stuff, and it turned out that I would've just had to later anyway.

    What I'm trying to say is, true non-linearity can give such an exciting feel to a game. If all the required exploration portions of the Wind Waker weren't required, it would be a prime example of what I mean. Being able to go places and find new items and other loot all without being told to or knowing "I'm supposed to do this" is the feeling I like to get when I put effort into a Zelda game (or any, I suppose).

    • Icy

      Wind Waker pwned. I loved the openness of it.
      So fun…

  • Melly

    I think a non-linear Zelda is very possible in this day and age, and I would be happy to see it explored again! Not to say that I don't like the story-driven Zelda games of today, but I always think it's wise for game developers to explore their options.
    And I feel now would be a good time for Nintendo to try something a little bold and different. I believe we're entering an age where we are starting to explore different ways of playing and story-telling in games. If I may, I offer up recent games like Shadow of the Colossus, and flower, or upcoming games like Journey. I believe Zelda would be a great game to try a bit of non-traditional/non-linear gameplay and story telling!

  • jordonisawesome

    Haven't Zelda games always had a healthy mix of linearity and non-linearity? It's not like it's a walled garden or anything; Nintendo has always given the player quite a bit of wiggle room. But in the sense of the dungeons, it would be nice to choose for myself although it's not that big of an issue.

    So I vote just keep it the way it is.

  • chickenpoop

    If you could choose which dungeon and where to go all the time, what would be the point of each item…they are placed in specific dungeons, so you can progress in certain ways, thus being able to access new things as you continue on your journey. If this wasn't the case then you could just access everything all the time…I can't think, I know my point but am tired. Hope someone gets what I'm saying…the end…

    • ashmic

      thats why they should somehow work in eahc item u have on you to the dungeon u have, like if u have the whip and the slingshot, the dungeon is custom for that, but without the slingshot, the dungeon changes

    • bastian

      In the first LoZ there were certain dungeons you couldn't get through without an item (like needing the Ladder to cross water inside the dungeon and so on). So you'd have to leave and find the Ladder in a different dungeon first.

      I guess this could be frustrating for those who are used to only the more recent Zelda games which hold your hand and force you to go to the dungeons in order, but part of the fun of the "open world" aspect of the old Zelda games was that you COULD go into the "wrong" dungeon and find out you can't get through it without a certain item. It felt more like exploring.

  • TheMaverickk

    I'm not sure who will listen to me, but I think I have some interesting ways non-linearty could be brought back into the Zelda series;

    Nintendo could break up a Zelda game to have sections. Within each section you could choose to do the dungeons in any order you choose. For example, lets say the first leg of a Zelda title features 3 dungeons.

    You are able to complete any of these dungeons without any of the other dungeons items or abilities in mind. This means you are free to explore a certain segment of Hyrule care free and in any way you choose.

    After completing this segment, there would be a scripted event which opens up say the next 4-5 dungeons and the next part of Hyrule. In which you are able to again explore and complete without any of this segments dungeon items (but may involve the use of items found in the dungeons 1-3 from the first segment).

    One you've completed this segment of the game, it would open the last set of dungeons… say dungeons 5 through to 9 or so…. and they again are self contained, and can be completed on the basis of items found within the last two game segments.

    Basically you get the system… it's not completely freedom, but it's enough to allow mixing up the way players choose to complete the game. To further encourage exploration though there should be no hand holding. Simply place dungeon entrances through out segment areas, and allow players to discover them.

    This formula would would work and add a bit of Zelda history as well.

    My other suggestion is a Key Dealer…… a guy you'd find which would copy dungeon keys for the player. Similar to how you could buy keys in the original LoZ if you got stuck. It would allow players to go and buy keys (for a high price of course) if they can't solve puzzles. It would mean puzzles could be harder but still allow the average player who doesn't care for puzzles the ability to progress for a certain price.

  • I'm not really cued in on the meaning of non-linear, but I think I understand what it alludes to. That is, more exploration, an almost unlimited amount of places you can frequent, and the free will to get items early on… I'd like it if they tried this in one game, but that would be it, unless it worked for at least a great majority of the fans. Games like Wind Waker, which, in my opinion, had too much exploration that you didn't know where to go, would not fit into this style. TP, OoT, and MM all had more measured boudaries that restricted you from progressing too far and too fast. Really, I'd prefer to have less exploration if this were the case, and just stick mainly to the story until about the end, which the aforementioned trio allowed.

  • bastian

    It occurs to me now that for those who haven't played the first three Zelda games, they might not understand the difference in the linearity between those games and all the subsequent ones.

    In the original Zelda you could wander almost the ENTIRE overworld as soon as you started the game (there was one section that you needed a Ladder found half way through the game to cross a river to access a section).

    What this meant was that you could find and enter nearly ANY of the dungeons right from the beginning of the game. Sure, in some of them you needed a certain item from earlier in the game to complete, but that was part of the fun. A huge part of what made the original Legend of Zelda so exciting to me when I was a kid was that it was true exploration. I could go ANYWHERE and attempt any dungeon in any order I found it. It might not always work due to needing this or that item, but it made it feel like I was the one making all the choices.

    Not the game making all the choices for me.

    It would be nice if Nintendo could implement a bit more of that.

    • EDracon

      that's still linear as it's forcing you to go to other dungeons to get the items. 9_9

      • bastian

        But that's only the case in a few dungeons. Many of them you can complete in any order.

      • JordanChi

        if you completely did away with linearity in its entirety, you would have a mess of a game left.

  • Aeolus

    Wouldn't making a Zelda game where dungeon order doesn't matter mean the dungeons would have to be more… bland? This means there couldn't be puzzles in dungeons requiring a certain item… anywhere… because then you couldn't complete it until you GOT the item, which is in another dungeon somewhere else… see what I mean? Complete freedom in dungeon order means every dungeon has to be beatable with no items… that's just stupid………..

    • TheMaverickk

      Actually it wouldn't make a dungeon more bland. Right now as it stands, the puzzles are so basic…. you get dungeon item and you know it's used to solve basically every puzzle in that dungeon (after specific points).

      Really what it would mean is the puzzles rely more on ingenuity and creativity as opposed to dungeon items.

      Using your sword to solve a puzzle, block puzzles, switch puzzles, more complex dungeon maps where you need to find your way through a maze of halls or something. As of right now puzzles are far too easy… you know you usually have to use your dungeon item to solve them… much the same way you know that you need to use the dungeon item to beat the boss.

      Also if they followed a segmented system, then you could still have dungeons that make use of items in your inventory, but say only from previous segments.

  • LuX

    I think for the most part a game being linear is upto the player, especially in Zelda. I mean sure the stroyline is unchangable you have to go from dungeon 1 to dungeon 2 ro dungeon 3 and so on, but this can be broken up with sidequests, but recent Zelda titles have been lacking in this area, with TP offering not much more than catching glittering insects (Of course it was kinda fun to find the Postman in different places :P).

    WW offered not much more in the sidequest area apart from exploration, you could play just the story of WW and go to only say 30% of the overworld map, which at first seems like wow this has alot to do, but the other 70% was almost empty of anything to do.

    And then going back yet again we have MM the closest a Zelda game has been to non-linear since good old LoZ, I mean you could pretty much play this game how you wanted, with so many sidequests, that seemed to weave into a grand main quest it did feel like when looking at the bombers notebook, 'right, what can I do next?' not 'right, what do I HAVE to do next?'. But, I felt MM was lacking in the 'main quest' so to speak I thought the dungeon bosses were easy to say the least, and I would of liked a final dungeon inside the moon, as a sort of Ganon's Tower type thing.

    Anyway, what i'm saying is that a linear game can be made to feel like a non-linear game, if you pack in a bunch of stuff to do and whole lot of exploration, (Of course lets keep it fun and not tedious, I'm looking at you triforce shards) Then I think like Majoras Mask we can experience both the story telling of linear games and the free roaming exploration of past games.

  • matt17

    Well, every game should be non-linear, or else they would get boring to play.
    final fantasy 13 was way too linear

  • Victor George

    It looks like people are waiting for the Legend of Zelda series to eventually be a sandbox game with Oblivion-style elements added to the basic gameplay. Fable-style elements in regards to character interaction with NPCs would be nice as well.

  • Joshua

    Vote yes for non-linearity. Majora's Mask had an almost perfect feel because the plot was available at any time, but there was so much you could do that you could avoid it for quite a while if you felt like it.

    • EDracon

      Majora's Mask was non-linear. Sidequests and all of those things are just that, SIDE QUESTS! The game was still very linear.

  • ILiekZelda

    WW wasnt all that linear though, you could sail around and explore some islands anytime you want, some you would need items some you wouldnt, also the most recent Zelda game, Spirt Tracks it was pretty non-linear besides the fact you cant access most of the world in the begining, you could hunt bunnies, get force gems, heart containers, and all the minigames too like the monster dungeon, and the whip game, but it gets less linear the farther you excell.

  • Majin Kai

    I do not want linearity at all.

    WW pulled it off nice. You can see and try to get to places, but you can't without a specific item, but you don't need that item to even SEE that place.

    • EDracon

      every single zelda game was Linear. You're talking about Open World and Side Quests. Even with those its still linear. To complete the game and go through the story you still have to go to the dungeons in a certain order.

  • EDracon

    I beleive this post has made everyone retarted for some reason. Every single zelda game was linear, even the first. Open World != Non- Linear
    In the first zelda you could go into any dungeon you wanted, but you couldnt complete them in any order you wanted as you had to get items from other dungeons, the game forces you to go through them in a certain order or there is a high chance you'll get stuck or just die. OoT allowed you to enter some dungeons before you were supposed to, and the same thing happened (volcano). So I vote for Linear, with Open World, as thats how zelda always was.

    • TheMaverickk

      Have you ever played the original Legend of Zelda? It really doesn't matter which dungeons you choose to complete. The dungeon items in the original Legend of Zelda were often not required to complete a dungeon or to progress. The one exception is dungeon 4, where you need to have gotten the raft in order to access.

      Other wise though you can complete the dungeons as you see fit. You can skip the first dungeon and go straight to dungeon 2. The only thing you are doing for the most part is upping the challenge as you may not have as much health, or a helpful item like the boomerang.

      Still you can complete it without too much difficulty. The whole "need a dungeon item" to complete a dungeon or progress, really started in Link to the Past. Where it's now been a staple of every Zelda game formula for a while.

  • Jabu Jabu

    Well I remember you could complete certain dungeons out of order in OoT, which was fun, but it wasn't as non-linear as i wanted. I'm not really sure if that non-linearity was intentional or not, but it was still quite the challenge nontheless. Also, i see people on here saying that all the dungeons would have to not be item centered, thats not true because you can progress through a dungeon, find that you need an item, and come back once you have it.

  • Loaf

    Main 3 dislikes of TP:

    1. Linearity
    2. Transforming into a wolf
    3. Too easy

    I feel like in that game, they hold your hand and walk you through it. Theres not enough freedom and exploration to be had. They control when you are a wolf for half of the game, and most of the time, the only place you can go is the place you have to go.

    In my opinion, since OoT, the 3D games get worse and worse. MM is really good. Time limit is kind of annoying. WW sailing pisses me off and the bosses aren’t memoriable. TP has the flaws I mentioned. SS sounds like it could beat all 3 of those games. No time limit + no sailing + no transforming. Hopefully it’s non-linear too. The new dungeon flow makes it sound like the game is going in that direction.

    I can imagine them doing the same thing with the sky, as they did with the twilight. What I mean is: you have to go back and forth, to and from the twilight in-between temples. That’s too linear and too forced.

  • Loaf

    People don’t understand what linear means. An example is TP, between the Forest and Fire temples. Only one place to go, or back to the woods.

    If by linear, you mean dungeons in specific order, then I agree with that. Dungeons should go in an order, but there needs to be stuff to do inbrtween, like sidequests, and freedom.

  • Twiliwolf

    The past games where on a time line, you cant get into Zoras domain until you have been to death mountain. as for newer games….i would prefer to go in an order. each dungeon has its own level of hardness, and you are going to need some weapons that you had not gotten yet because you decided to skip one. but i guess it really matters on what everybody wants

  • I think every dungeon should be tiered, so you can start in any of them, but you can't get through the whole thing without getting past a different one and securing that item. That way, you're not only solving one dungeon, but you're really solving two or three at a time because they build off each other. But the order is still pretty open.

  • Hassus

    Spirit Tracks is my favorite Zelda-game. It is incredibly linear for a Zelda game in some ways(tracks..), but there is so much else going on that even though you always know exactly where to go next to advance the story, you are given complete freedom to do whatever you feel like with a ton of diverse activities around you, ranging from the simple to the challenging to the super hardcore(900 hits in the sword minigame!). Having the luxury of knowing where to go next doesn't have to diminish the freedom of exploration.. at all.. and I think this philosophy might very well shape the future of Zelda for now.

  • Ozl

    Im fine with the way zelda games have been lately, but yes, i wish it had a bigger and open world but still with key weapons or armor to kill a boss and get extra missions xD