35 years at the top (fig.: Nintendo)
On Zelda’s birthday, readers pay tribute to their favorite video game series and try to explain why it’s so special.
That day, in 1986, Legend of Zelda, an expansion for the Japanese version of the Nintendo Entertainment System, was released for the Famicom Disk System. The game didn’t come out in Europe until a year later, but I admit I didn’t play it then. I don’t think I knew what an NES was at the time, and I certainly didn’t know anyone who had one. But I got the SNES and I played Zelda: A link to the past. The game that introduced me to the best game franchise in history.
I will go on and say that Zelda is one of the best things out there. I certainly enjoyed it more than any movie, book or music album, and I don’t consider myself a philistine when it comes to those things. But video games are my one true love (apart from my one true love), and instead of just tickling headphones or teasing eyes, their interactivity allows them to stimulate the imagination in a way that nothing else can. Zelda is particularly good at this, having emphasized exploration and freedom from the start – allowing you to play the game at your own pace and in your own way.
I’ve heard some people complain that Zelda should have more complex plots – that the plots are too simple – but to me, this is one of the mysteries of why games are so special. You’re given a minimum of context and what you need to do, and then you go and fill in the blanks yourself in a much more fun and exciting way than watching endless, non-interactive cutscenes. Too many people don’t seem to understand him, but he is called Link because he is your link to the game, you are Link, and Link is you. Nintendo has no interest in telling you a story about an adventure you want to live yourself.
Anyone can discover what makes Zelda great: expansive alien worlds, infinitely inventive dungeons, cleverly versatile weapons and items, intriguing characters, and memorable enemies. The puzzles in particular offer a level of difficulty that no other mainstream game would dare achieve in this day and age, where the idea of making something difficult for the player has long gone out of fashion. But if that matters, the greatness of Zelda is not due to a single element, but to the combination of so many elements, each good enough to be called a game of its own with ease.
Ocarina Of Time was essentially the inventor of 3D combat, but it was only a small part of a game that even now, over 20 years later, is still one of the best ever made. Just like the original Zelda back then. And a link to the past. And the breath of nature. No other franchise can lay claim to so many games being considered the best of all time – not in a niche of fans, but as a generally accepted fact that almost no one will dispute. When games like Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask are considered second-rate games, it gives you an idea of how great Zelda is.
Of course, they’re not all classics, and it’s a shame Nintendo couldn’t do something for the 35th anniversary, and July’s remastering of Skyward Sword is the closest thing to it. The current remasters of The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess will probably trigger the Switch sooner or later, which is a shame because they’re the three weakest entries in the series. Even the worst, Twilight Princess, is still good by other standards, but Link Between Worlds and several other portable games all excel in the modern era.
Zelda has never been called a single game, and I’m sure on its 40th anniversary Nintendo will be able to celebrate the entire franchise as it deserves. No series has given me the same sense of excitement and wonder as Zelda, and if all the other video game franchises dried up tomorrow, I wouldn’t care as long as Zelda remained. Since Nintendo hasn’t offered anything, I suggest everyone play their favorite game today to celebrate. And if you’ve never played before, well… there’s no better time than now. I assure you it’s even better than what you’ve heard so far.
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MORE: Why Zelda: Reference to the past is always the best game in the world –
MORE: Zelda: Twilight Princess and The Wind Waker HD are still coming for Nintendo Switch Insiders.
MORE: Zelda: Skyward Sword HD with button controls is coming to Nintendo Switch in July.
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frequently asked questions
What is the most popular Zelda game?
The best Zelda games ranked from best to worst | Digital Trends
What is the date of Zelda’s 35th birthday?
The legend of Zelda was celebrated on the 21st. February 2021 marked its 35th anniversary and many people around the world shared incredible and comforting memories of this beloved franchise. Nintendo themselves, however, were surprisingly cool about Link’s last birthday.
IsZelda a better series?
The Legend of Zelda is the best video game series of all time. In its 34 years of existence, it has covered 19 games (not counting remakes) and, as of this year, three of the 25 best games of all time according to the IGN.
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