There was a recent revelation recently that Horizon: Zero Dawn almost was not a solo affair. Reports came in that working two player co-op had been created, but scrapped to maintain the title’s robust feature set. While there are some who may be mourning this potential loss, we should instead be celebrating it having fallen to the wayside. While co-op would have been novel, Horizon: Zero Dawn is stronger without it. That is because one of the reasons it works so well is due to it being a parallel to The Legend of Zelda.
In Horizon: Zero Dawn, we are a chosen one. Aloy is a young woman with extraordinary capabilities. Only she has a Focus. This is an augmented reality device that enhances her abilities and makes her more capable than others. Who else do we know that is in possession of a magical MacGuffin? Link. In The Legend of Zelda, he is the bearer of the Triforce of Courage. Each situation has someone special, with their own capabilities that are augmented in a way that allows them to become the perfect hero candidate in their particular situation. And each one can be considered an outsider. Aloy is officially outcast from her tribe, due to circumstances, while Link is often an orphan being raised by fairies or a figure displaced in time.
There are also Aloy and Link’s other skills to consider. In each case, the characters act as foils to one another. Both are exceptional archers. They are good at wielding melee weapons as well, with Link using his Master Sword and Aloy favoring spears. Each one can also use additional weapons, with Aloy taking slings or Link boomerangs. Both are exceptional equestrians, with Link usually having an iteration of Epona to ride and Aloy being able to tame the robotic beasts. And both of them come across the knowledge of the ancients on their journey.
But it is not just about them. The comparisons go deeper than that. It is also about their worlds. Both The Legend of Zelda and Horizon: Zero Dawn feature worlds where something has gone wrong in a major way. This has resulted in an invasion of unnatural creatures. In The Legend of Zelda, these are hordes of Ganondorf’s armies. These monsters and minions pervade the land and taint it, with the corruption being tangible in a game like Breath of the Wild. In Horizon: Zero Dawn, we have this world where there are machine animals and monsters that went from commonplace and peaceful to dangerous. In each case, there is a taint upon the world that only Link or Aloy can fix.
There is also the size and scope of the world. In each situation, we have a place that would be rather ideal, if not for the hordes of monstrous opponents roaming around it. These are lush, wooded environments, with quaint villages and tribes inhabiting it. It can feel like a simpler time. But, there is always something lurking underneath. Even though we have an idea of things being more traditional than our modern world, there are ruins and elements that suggest a deeper and mysterious past. Both Horizon: Zero Dawn and The Legend of Zelda have this.
Horizon: Zero Dawn might have been nice with multiplayer support. It could have been hunting machines and completing quests with a friend. But, if you look at it as a The Legend of Zelda-inspired game, you see how it couldn’t possibly work. It is about following a chosen one, someone remarkably skilled, tackle great challenges and save a world on their own.