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Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom devs on why we likely won’t get a Zelda Mario Maker game

Eiji Aonuma explains why the Mario Maker formula might not work for Zelda

Bright colorful illustration of Nintendo logo Illustration: Inkee Wang for Polygon
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

In The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, players didn’t just play through another story set in Hyrule. The sequel to Breath of the Wild took the previous game’s sandbox elements several steps further, allowing players to use a new set of powers to construct machines, weapons, and tools using items in the world. By introducing this, Tears of the Kingdom encouraged players to be truly creative and push the limits of building in the game.

Fans responded to this new level of freedom by devising awe-inspiring creations and sharing them online. In the time since Nintendo released the game, fans have made nifty items like skateboards to intricate machines like a mechanized kaiju that looks like Godzilla. Given the game’s emphasis on creativity, Polygon asked Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma and game director Hidemaro Fujibayashi about the possibility that fans would ever get a Zelda game that purely focused on building their own creations, like Super Mario Maker. From the sounds of their answers, it seems unlikely Nintendo will release a Zelda game that’s purely about creating levels or dungeons.

“When we’re creating games like Tears of the Kingdom, I think it’s important that we don’t make creativity a requirement. Instead, we put things into the game that encourage people to be creative, and give them the opportunity to be creative, without forcing them to,” Aonuma told Polygon through an interpreter in an in-person interview.

an image of link riding a boat turned into a hover craft in the legend of zelda tears of the kingdom Image: Nintendo/Nintendo EDP

In Super Mario Maker and Super Mario Maker 2, players can design their own Mario levels from scratch using an in-game editor. This has allowed players to create custom levels of all sorts in Mario. Players can make ultra-difficult levels that challenge the most seasoned Mario players or zany creations where a Mario level becomes an homage to Splatoon. No matter the approach, a huge aspect of the Super Mario Maker games is that they rely on player creativity.

Now, it’s no secret that the developers of Tears of the Kingdom were inspired by fan responses to Breath of the Wild. Developers saw players stretch the creative limits of Breath of the Wild, and they later created a game that doubled down on these sandbox elements. Given this, Zelda fans have long wondered if a version of Zelda that works like Mario Maker — where players could create or design dungeons or worlds — could ever come out. But when asked directly about a Mario Maker-style game for Zelda, Aonuma had an interesting answer about the nature of Zelda games and what they offer to players.

an image showing a goofy level created in mario maker 2 Image: Nintendo

“There are people who want the ability to create from scratch, but that’s not everyone,” Aonuma said. “I think everyone delights in the discovery of finding your own way through a game, and that is something we tried to make sure was included in Tears of the Kingdom; there isn’t one right way to play. If you are a creative person, you have the ability to go down that path. But that’s not what you have to do; you’re also able to proceed to the game in many other different ways. And so I don’t think that it would be a good fit for The Legend of Zelda to necessarily require people to build things from scratch and force them to be creative.”

Given Aonuma’s response, it seems unlikely that Zelda will ever get its Mario Maker equivalent. If we did get more creative elements, it seems they would have to be nestled into a larger game where players could proceed in multiple ways. So those holding out hope for a Zelda builder might be better off finding other games that currently offer similar options — which, luckily for us, already exist.

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