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Stranger Things: The Game Proves a Mobile Zelda Game Could Work

by Dylan Siegler


Some of you may have heard that a retro-style Stranger Things mobile game was recently released. The game is free and received almost no marketing or advertising, so it was easy to overlook and not think much of. But, as a fan of the show, I decided to check it out. Why not? It’s a free game.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the game is actually pretty good. It’s an actual game, not just a cash-grab (which wouldn’t make sense anyway, since it’s a free game with no in-app purchases or anything), and it’s fun. One thing I kept thinking of while playing it, though, was how similar it is to 2D Zelda games. It’s a top-down action/adventure in which you travel from dungeon to dungeon in an overworld and you’ll find a new character with a unique ability in each dungeon who’ll help you solve the puzzles in that and future dungeons. There are also secrets you can find by doing things such as breaking certain walls, you can increase the amount of life you have by collecting “Heart Pieces,” the list goes on and on. The game was clearly very inspired by Zelda. It may seem weird to have a Zelda-esque Stranger Things game, but when you think about it, it kind of makes sense. The game is trying to emulate classic games that the characters in the show would probably be playing in the 80s. So what better game to take inspiration from than The Legend of Zelda, arguably the greatest game to come out of the 80s?

So this got me thinking about the prospect of a mobile Zelda game. Nintendo has somewhat recently entered the mobile market with games such as Super Mario RunMiitomo and Fire Emblem Heroes. Not to mention Pokémon GO, which Nintendo itself wasn’t super involved in the development of, but it’s still important that it’s a Nintendo property and has gone on to become one of the most successful mobile games of all time. So people have been wondering what the next Nintendo franchise to get a mobile game will be.

The thing is, Nintendo has been pretty silent on the mobile market lately. MiitomoPokémon GO and Super Mario Run all came out last year, then Fire Emblem Heroes came out this past February, and we haven’t heard much in terms of mobile games since. There are definitely fans who remember that Nintendo has repeatedly promised an Animal Crossing mobile game that was supposed to come out last year and then supposed to come out this year and now we’re nearing the end of the year and there’s been no update on it. So has Nintendo just given up on mobile games after Super Mario Run didn’t do as well as they were hoping or what?

According to The Wall Street Journal, Nintendo actually has plans to make a Zelda mobile game. But what if it’s destined to suffer the same fate as the Animal Crossing mobile game? Here’s the thing, though: Super Mario Run was an interesting experiment, but I think I can understand why it didn’t do terribly well. For one thing, no one likes being coaxed into a “free-to-play” game, only to discover that they actually have to pay to unlock the vast majority of the game. Just be upfront about the price of the game. But also, maybe platformers aren’t great as mobile games. I have to admit I’m not terribly involved in the mobile game scene, so maybe there are terrific mobile platformer games, but at least in the case of Super Mario Run, the formula was basically reduced to an infinite runner with one-button controls. What I’m saying is, even though it’s technically a Mario game, it probably didn’t feel like one to many people. And it’s possible that there can’t be a real Mario game for mobile devices. Platformers tend to necessitate precise controls and that’s hard to accomplish on a mobile device that utilizes a touch screen rather than a directional pad.

Zelda, however (at least the 2D ones), is a franchise based on a formula that we know will work on mobile devices. How do we know this? Because the Stranger Things game was good. And it’s basically a 2D Zelda game. The point is that there could be a mobile Zelda game that works for mobile and stays true to what Zelda does as a series, which can’t exactly be said for Super Mario Run, which may be why it didn’t do that well. But if Nintendo is able to make A Link to the Past Part 3 (I’m counting A Link Between Worlds as Part 2) in the form of a mobile game, I’d bet a lot of Zelda fans would be happy to pay the ten bucks that Super Mario Run secretly cost. Even if it’s not A Link to the Past Part 3, I’m sure Nintendo could still make a perfectly enjoyable Zelda game that stays true to the series for mobile, even if being a mobile game means it has to be a shorter game. Stranger Things was only six dungeons (and a bunch of collectibles) and only took me six hours to 100% complete, but it was a perfectly enjoyable experience (except for that one stealth section). We know the 2D Zelda formula can work as a mobile game now, so if Nintendo is serious about staying relevant in the mobile market, I think they should get on that.

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