Will Princess Zelda ever be playable? Nintendo says it would take a "particular" gameplay idea

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Zelda
(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is here, and at this point it's probably no spoiler to say the titular Princess is once again a non-playable character in her own series. Nintendo says it's open to giving Zelda a starring role in a future game, but only if there's a "particular" sort of gameplay that fits her.

"We feel like what takes most priority is this idea of gameplay," producer and series boss Eiji Aonuma tells Vanity Fair. "If it turns out that the particular gameplay we’re trying to bring to fruition would be best served by having Zelda take that role, then it’s possible that that could be a direction we could take. With that said, of course, because we are not sure what the next gameplay experience is going to be, we can’t say what Zelda’s next step is going to be."

Zelda has never been the primary playable protagonist in her own series, though she is briefly playable in certain sequences of the DS game Spirit Tracks. She has been a part of the roster in everything from the grand Nintendo crossover of Super Smash Bros. to Zelda series spin-offs like Hyrule Warriors and Cadence of Hyrule. And, of course, she was the lead in the infamous, semi-official CD-i games.

Players have been begging for Zelda to be a playable part of the main series for years, and there's a new cycle of hope and disappointment every time a new game gets announced and released. Tears of the Kingdom was no exception to those hopes that Zelda would be a playable hero, nor has it been an exception to the disappointment.

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Nintendo has often emphasized that it designs its games with a focus on play above story and characters. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Aonuma said that "Ganondorf is an ingredient that we use to supplement gameplay," for example.

But I'm not sure that argument really has any bearing on the idea of a playable Zelda. Is the mute everyman Link really so special as to be capable of handling game mechanics Zelda isn't? If the series is truly gameplay-first, does it really matter who's in the lead role? We've got a perfect opportunity to both get a woman in the lead role of one of the most influential series in gaming, and fulfill a long-standing wish from fans of that series at the same time.

Of course, as our Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom review breaks down, none of this is stopping the new game from being an absolutely incredible package. Judging by the industry-wide response, it seems Tears of the Kingdom is set to be a proper GotY contender, too. In any case, maybe that next Zelda game will finally prove our hopes to be worthwhile.

Check out the Zelda Tears of the Kingdom tips you'll want to know about before you start your adventure.

Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.