Since it's the 30th Anniversary of The Legend of Zelda series, I've been wondering about a few Zelda-related things.

  • Exhibit A - Imagi Animation Studios pitched CGI Zelda movie that stirred up some excitement among fans.

  • Exhibit B - There was a rumor about a Zelda live-action TV show coming to Netflix that people understandably were super psyched about. It turned out it was actually about Zelda... Fitzgerald.

  • Exhibit C - A fan-made "trailer" for a supposed live-action Zelda film generated loads of excitement before it was finally revealed to be an April Fool's joke.

  • Exhibit D - Not sure if this counts, but we also have the very short-lived animated show:

Each time there's even the slightest rumor of a TV or film adaptation it generates huge amounts of interest. So, given the popularity and demand, why hasn't there been a mainstream TV or movie adaptation of The Legend of Zelda?

  • 3
    The old cartoon sucked, so maybe we shouldn't risk it!
    – user31178
    Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 6:36
  • 6
    Because the last time Nintendo did a mainstream movie adaptation, it nearly killed their most important franchise.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 10:50
  • The live-action Fanfic trailer looked pretty good actually. I would definitely go see a movie like that. Too bad it was an elaborate hoax.
    – iMerchant
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 17:21
  • 1
    Probably because no matter how hard we try we cannot forget the mario brothers movie or the animated series. Couple that with there being about zero game to movie titles that don't end up the object of ridicule, I'd say they're not as insane as one might think. Maybe they're focusing on something better... like a zelda maker like the very successful mario maker game. one can only hope
    – Kai Qing
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 23:18

2 Answers 2


The short answer is "Risk vs. Reward".


Since its inception, the Zelda franchise has earned Nintendo an estimated $4bn in sales (81 million game unit sales, times an average cost of $30 per unit + mangas, merchandising, live shows and tours). Given the relative success of each of the 15 games in the series, it's quite hard to see how a film adaptation would dramatically improve game sales since their core market (14-30 year old males) already own at least one console, meaning that the main aim of a film would be to 1) Make money from the film and 2) Not damage the game franchise.

How much money could a Zelda film make?

Assuming a major studio was willing to put up £100M, they might make back $500M if they were incredibly lucky. More realistically, they could end up making $2-300M if they could find a favourable summer release slot within the next 5-7 years in an incredibly overcrowded marketplace.

Even if the film made a billion dollars, as the license-holders Nintendo would only get about £100M of that back, roughly equivalent to the amount that they make from a single game release.

What would the plot be?

Good question. There have been several Zeldas set in several time periods. The main protagonist is a effeminate young boy who's sent on a question to rescue the titular Zelda, who most non-gamers don't realise is actually the damsel, not the hero. Each game utterly fails the Bechdel test and consists largely of fighting and walking around villages all hung together with a semi-serious mythos about a magic triangle, amnesia and something to do with a time travelling recorder. Confusing.

Once bitten, twice shy

Nintendo's last foray into big-budget filmmaking was a mega flop and something that seems to have soured them on the idea of risking their IP (intellectual properties) on films.

If the Zelda film resulted in their losing 5% of their worldwide sales for 5 years, that would be more than double the potential gain from Zelda: The Movie being the most successful film of all time.

  • 2
    I was close to closing add primarily opinion based but you have proven this to be a good question with a great answer.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 12:30
  • 3
    @AncientSwordRage - I'd be happier if I could find a quote from Nintendo but their usual answer seems to be "we're open to the right project", followed by five years of silence
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 12:34
  • 2
    @Valorum The Super Mario Bros. movie was a masterpiece. Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 15:59
  • 3
    @Parrotmaster - It was certainly memorable.
    – Valorum
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 16:33

When they tried making a Final Fantasy film, the result was an enormously expensive flop. CGI is better and cheaper these days, of course, but FF:TSW demonstrates perfectly that you do actually need some kind of plot to make a film which people will watch. So the obvious question is how to turn gameplay which mostly consists of wandering around collecting stuff into a film plot.

Whilst there clearly is fan interest, film adaptations of games and books generally show that "serious" fans are not very tolerant of the alterations necessary to create a film plot. This creates a real risk that the very people who should support it would actually boycott it, or at least create negative word-of-mouth.

And fan interest alone is not enough to create a profit on a multi-hundred-million-dollar film budget. Unless the film can attract regular cinema-goers, it's unlikely to turn a profit. Potentially they could save money on a direct-to-TV/webcast release, but that would tend to devalue the film.

In short, it would be a high-risk venture, and Nintendo have no need to take that risk.

  • Spirits Within was a financial disaster that bankrupted SquareSoft, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum. Since the first film, the merged company SquareEnix has continued trying to make films; Advent Children and again just this year, Kingsglaive.
    – Kosmos
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 16:24
  • Those films were massive failures on both a critical and a financial level though. They say the definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result; SquareEnix clearly falls into that definition, because it doesn't learn from its mistakes. Luckily other game houses have taken note of its example of unmitigated failure in game-to-film adaptations. Strangely it also owns Eidos who do have a track record of success - but Eidos's method is to license their properties to actual film studios who do know how to make films.
    – Graham
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 16:50

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