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It has been twenty five years since gamers were first introduced to one of Nintendo’s biggest and most respected video game franchises of all time: The Legend of Zelda!
Delving into the games that have made up one of the most popular RPG game series of all time, we will look at what made each game unique and what are considered to be the best of this classic series.
Please feel free to leave a comment on what is your best memory, your favorite game or anything related to the series!
The Legend of Zelda – NES – 1986
It started off with this classic 8-bit game from Shigeru Miyamoto, the mastermind behind the previously successful Donkey Kong games on the Nintendo Entertainment System and would later make many landmark games in the industry.
With the iconic music, characters, gameplay and plot line created for new gamers, it was seen by many as being one of the first recognizable games that helped to create the Role Playing Game genre that it would help to develop further over the next twenty five years.
The game was so successful that Nintendo released a gold-colored cartridge when it was finally released in North America and would be the company’s staple when it came to special edition packaging for some of their games. Link, the main character of the games, was featured in his own animated television show and he would also feature in some episodes with Zelda, the princess he tries to save in a majority of the games, in Captain N: The Game Master. It had begun.
Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link – NES – 1987
Following the success of the first game, Nintendo was saved from the management issues that they had and decided to make a sequel.
The gameplay took some new twists and turns, some being accepted by fans that have continued to be used in future games and some that the company decided not to repeat. It featured areas where you played the game on a side-scrolling view and was the biggest new thing that has not been used since in the games, but features such as experience points, learning some new actions for battles and the ability to use magic spells.
Many of the new features have been used in the other games in the series and have been improved from Nintendo’s attempt at adding more variety in this sequel. While it may not be seen by gamers as good as the first game, the new gameplay elements and designs has been seen in many RPG games and even with the first Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games.
A Link to the Past – SNES – 1991
A new console, a new game! The third installment went back to the first game’s perspective and mechanics, as well as improving those qualities with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System’s graphics capabilities.
Being a prequel to the first game, it follows Link as he receives a telepathic message from Zelda and must rescue her from a prison made by the evil wizard Agahnim. After rescuing her though, Agahnim sends her to the Dark World and Link must try to bring the princess back into the Light World. Having the game feature two worlds and having another protagonist to join the cast of characters, this also helped to further develop both the series and the way that the story tries to get gamers involved.
Its success has managed to get the game a re-release on the Game Boy Advance and as well as introducing an older game for a younger generation, it also came with a multiplayer game called Four Swords and was the first Legend of Zelda multiplayer game. Four Swords is due to be re-released on the DSi and 3DS eShop for free this September.
Link’s Awakening – Game Boy – 1993
The first handheld game was well received within the series and is also one of my personal favorite Game Boy games.
Taking a lighter tone to the usual plot lines, the story follows Link as he is found on an island after getting caught in a storm while traveling on the sea. Waking up in the nearby village, Link must wake up the legendary Wind Fish in order to return to Hyrule. With designer Yoshiaki Koizumi responsible for conceiving some of the major points within the plot and has done a good job at making something both lighter and engaging for fans and newcomers.
A Game Boy Colour version of the game was released a few years later that took full advantage of the new handheld system and people who own a 3DS can now purchase the game for their console.
Ocarina of Time – N64 – 1998
This certainly needs no introduction as this is one of the most iconic, most respected video games of all time by critics and gamers alike.
Featuring a new time travel aspect, you started off playing as a young Link before eventually being able to travel in time and become a grown-up, incorporated in a dark and deep story that involves you saving the world from Ganondorf and discovering some secrets that involve the link between the three pieces of the Triforce and Link, Zelda and Ganondorf.
But the cool feature that could let you travel in time was with the titular Ocarina of Time, a musical instrument that can teleport you to various destinations, unlock entrances and get you some special goodies. With this and the fact that you could ride your own horse in a majority of the areas, the game had a massive scope of how much you could explore Hyrule and unlock a massive amount of content.
Since its release on the N64, the game has left a great legacy with the best orchestral music to be featured in a game and having highly collectable merchandise, including The Ocarina of Time instrument, action figures, mangas and CDs.
There was also a harder version of the game that was only released for western gamers on some special edition packages that only a few people have managed to play.
Majora’s Mask – N64 – 2000
Yet again Nintendo made a direct sequel to one of their games and Majora’s Mask was that sequel to Ocarina of Time. But while it was critically and commercially successful, fans didn’t think it was not quite on the same level as it’s predecessor. It was also the only Legend of Zelda game on the N64 to use the system’s new expansion pack.
After Link defeated Ganondorf and restored peace to Hyrule, he travels to find a long-lost friend and along the way he sees a Skull Kid possessed by the Majora’s Mask. The Skull Kid then steals the Ocarina of Time and transforms Link into a Deku Shrub. What follows is an adventure to try and retrieve the powerful instrument and the mysterious mask within three days before the Skull Kid sends the moon towards the world and destroys it.
Masks play a big role as each mask can transform Link into a different character and this mainly includes creatures such as a Zora, Deku Shrub and a Goron, taking advantage of their individual abilities to get through obstacles and progress into the next area.
But while many people prefer Ocarina of Time to this game, many gamers voted this as being within the top five games within the series on various online polls.
Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of Ages – Game Boy Color – 2001
While Nintendo had already made the first handheld title within this series, this time Capcom were involved and they decided to introduce two versions of the same game to match with the amazing results that Pokemon were doing at the time.
Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of Ages focuses on a similar world that defers in terms of the story and the version. Both of the stories focus on Link finding a young woman who is either the Oracle of Seasons or the Oracle of Ages and must try to bring them back to their land when Onox, General of Darkness (Oracle of Seasons) or Veran, Sorceress of Shadows (Oracle of Ages) steals them to gain their powers.
While a majority of the towns and dungeons are pretty much the same, each version can have slightly different features. For example, Oracle of Seasons has environmental changes to match with the four seasons, while Oracle of Ages has darker or brighter colours of numerous locations to reflect on what you changed in the past to the present.
These two games could link together through the old fashioned link cable and you could access and trade for numerous content and items, even having the mechanic to have both games with the same story rather than two separate ones.
The Wind Waker – GameCube – 2003
At the Space World 2000 event, the new Legend of Zelda game was revealed in its early stage and took many gamer’s breath away with what looked at the time to be the most realistic depiction of their beloved Link. But when Nintendo decided to change the look from a realistic standpoint to a cartoony appearance, many fans were surprised, shocked and even disappointed with this change. Nonetheless, it managed to sell really well and is one of the few games to be given 40 out of 40 from the world renowned Famitsu magazine.
With the game mainly being based on the ocean and traveling to islands, the game introduces a whole new cast of characters and creatures as you explore the oceans to find your lost sister and team up with the pirate Tetra. You travel around by a talking boat and using the Wind Waker, a magical conductor’s baton, to change the direction of the wind and use tornados to teleport you to different areas of the ocean.
The game also allows you to link with the Game Boy Advance to find hidden objects and interact with some of the areas within the map. Since its initial release, the designs used within this game is seen on the Nintendo DS and the Four Swords games that have appeared on the Link to the Past port on the Game Boy Advance, GameCube and the DSi/3DS.
Four Swords Adventures – GameCube – 2005
After being seen as part of a package with the re-release of A Link to the Past on the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo decided to release Four Swords onto the Game Cube as its own stand alone game.
Taking advantage of the Game Cube and Game Boy Advance connectivity, it allowed up to four people to play a four-man band of Links taking down enemies and bosses in various dungeons and stages. Playing on the Game Boy Advance would control your Link to find items and enemies that don’t appear in the Game Cube game and the game was packed with goodies and puzzles that heavily relied on teamwork that could give one or more players a different play through each time they play.
The Minish Cap – Game Boy Advance – 2005
Capcom once again worked alongside Nintendo to make another handheld title and this time they made the mechanics for this installment to focus on being small and being big.
Link finds Ezlo, a magical, talking hat, after traveling to the Minish Woods and gets shrunk to a miniature size and encounters the Picori people, promising to help them find four elemental powers.
Much like the first collaboration Capcom and Nintendo done on the Legend of Zelda series on the Game Boy Colour, they both made something different, yet familiar for fans.
Twilight Princess – GameCube/Wii – 2006
The last Game Cube game was also a launch title for the Wii and gamers were finally treated to a hardcore Legend of Zelda game, being the darkest and most cinematic within the series.
It was a great introduction to those who brought the Wii at launch and as it showed off the graphics that was available for the then new system, as well as finally being able to control Link’s movements with the Wii remote and nunchuk combination. It also proved to be a good end to the run of titles on the Game Cube, pushing the hardware and offering those who may not have had the Wii at the time a great game.
After encountering some Shadow Beasts and being placed into their prison, Link has found himself turned into a wolf and also befriends Midna, a mysterious being from the Twilight Realm. You then set off together as you try to find out who is behind the Shadow Beasts, where Princess Zelda is hidden and the secrets that are placed within the mysterious realm.
Taking advantage of the use of this dark element within the game, director Eiji Aonuma really pushed the storytelling and presentation to create something cinematic, emotionally driven and engaging that has made this my favorite game within the series so far.
Link’s Crossbow Training – Wii – 2007
Accompanied with the Wii Zapper, Link’s Crossbow Training was an introduction to the new controller peripheral that was being sold as a new way to play shoot em up games.
The game was never sold seperately and could only be brought with the Wii Zapper, but then that isn’t such a bad deal when you pay for a new peripheral as we managed to get a game featuring Link shooting enemies rather than using the Master Sword.
Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland – DS – 2007
Taking the series’ equilavent of Jar Jar Binks, Tingle starred in his very own game after being introduced in Majora’s Mask and starring in The Wind Waker.
Much like the character, the plot in this game is obscure from the get-go. Tingle hears a voice from an old man named Uncle Repee who tells him that if he collects enough rupees and put them into a mysterious tower, he can go inside the paradise that is Rupeeland. You then must try and collect different rupees, mixing the gameplay with the traditional dungeon and puzzle adventuring that has been seen in the 2D games.
The game managed to get imported for Western audiences, but the sequel was never released outside Japan.
Phantom Hourglass – DS – 2007
A direct sequel to The Wind Waker, Nintendo decided to make it for their unique and commercially successful handheld to give the casual gamers and fans a game that they can both enjoy.
Following Link and Tetra’s adventure on the sea, she gets kidnapped by the Ghost Ship and Link falls into the ocean after failing to rescue her. He then wakes up on an island with and finds the Phantom Hourglass, an item that contains the Sands of Hours. Link teams up with the comedic Captain Linebeck to travel acorss the ocean to find more Sands of Hours to fill the Phantom Hourglass and to find Tetra as soon as he can before anything happens to her.
Taking up the same designs and taking advantage of the functions of the DS, the game was considered a success after many new gamers enjoyed the accessible layout and with existing gamers enjoying the same experience with some touchscreen tweaks.
Spirit Tracks – DS – 2009
Two years followed the hit release of Phantom Hourglass and the company once again made another DS game in the form of Spirit Tracks, using some of the main mechanics seen in the previous DS outing with some new features to keep things fresh.
100 years have passed and Link is graduating from becoming an apprentice to an engineer of the train that travels on the legendary Spirit Tracks. After graduating, Link is instructed by Princess Zelda to take her to the Tower of Spirits as she believes that it has something to do with the disapperance of the Spirit Track and they are attacked by villains Cole and Byrne, taking Zelda’s body and leaving her soul with Link. The duo must restore the Spirit Tracks back onto the land and retrieve Zelda’s body.
Replacing a train with a boat made the traveling aspect of the game much more easier and straightforward, getting right into the dungeon exploring and fights. It was also great to work alongside Zelda to solve some of the various puzzles, including sections where she could posses a suit of armor to block fire attacks and push objects too heavy for Link.
Ocarina of Time 3D – 3DS – 2011
One of the many games on release to celebrate its anniversary, a remake on Ocarina of Time is due to be released today.
Updating the graphics for the 3DS, the developers have promised to stick with the roots of the original game as well as adding a couple of new options to appeal to people who have already played the original version of the game. This includes a made that allows you to replay the bosses you’ve encountered on different sets of difficulties and using the motion camera built into the handheld console to shoot at enemies with your slingshot and bow.
With Nintendo themselves only made three games for their 3DS (Nintendogs + Cats, Pilot Wings Resort and Steel Diver), this latest title of theirs has gotten many gamers interested and we hope that it lives up to the original.
Skyward Sword – Wii – 2011
Scheduled to be released at the end of the year, Skyward Sword will be the last game in the series to be made on the Wii as Nintendo have recently announced that they are releasing the Wii U next year.
The game is a prequel to Ocarina of Time and sees Link discovering the ancient Skyward Sword, a weapon that takes the player from floating islands to the land that is covered with many evil creatures.
But what makes this title more interesting is that it will support the use of the Wii MotionPlus, a peripheral that makes motion control more accurate and realistic to perform your character’s actions.
With four titles due for release this year, the celebration of The Legend of Zelda’s 25th Anniversary is going to be a big year. What’s more, the next game was revealed to be released on the Wii U as it was used as a tech demo to show off the hardware.
Are you excited about Link celebrating twenty five years of adventures and what is your best memory of the games? Feel free to leave a comment below!