Image: Nintendo Life
Last Monday marked the 35th Anniversary of Metroid’s release in North America for the NES, and we celebrated by compiling our “origins” stories for the franchise. This time, it’s The Legend of Zelda’s turn, with the debut title also celebrating its 35th Anniversary in North America tomorrow (22nd August). It’s kind of crazy to think that Metroid and The Legend of Zelda came out so close to one another!
The Legend of Zelda is arguably Nintendo’s most important franchise, garnering critical acclaim amongst both media and the public for its vast scale, charming cast of characters, and awesome gear-based gameplay. Despite remaining consistently excellent for most of its lifetime, Nintendo gave the franchise an extra boost in 2017 with the launch of Breath of the Wild, undoubtedly one of the most influential games of the last decade – if not all time.
So a few members of the Nintendo Life team have put together how they were introduced to The Legend of Zelda, and we’d love to hear from you, too! What was your first game in the series? How did you find it? Give us all the deets!
Ollie Reynolds, Staff Writer
Having an older brother who was very much into Sega and PlayStation over Nintendo, I didn’t get my hands on a home console from the Big N until the GameCube launched in 2002, so I unfortunately missed the likes of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask when they first came out.
The Wind Waker was undoubtedly my first Zelda game on a home console, but I actually played A Link to the Past beforehand via the GBA port, released just a few months prior to The Wind Waker. Honestly, it wasn’t the best introduction to the series for me at the time. Although I’ve come to appreciate A Link to the Past a lot more in the years since, my first experience with the title was ladened with frustration, because I just wasn’t used to that kind of game, and trying to work out where to go and what to do proved a bit too much for me. It didn’t help, of course, that I tried playing it whilst on a school trip to Spain, so my concentration was severely tested at every turn.
If it weren’t for The Wind Waker, I might not have touched the Zelda series ever again. Nevertheless, the art style and 3D world appealed to me greatly, and it’s one of few GameCube games I actually managed to pick up on day one (by happy chance, I managed to grab the copy that came with Ocarina of Time and Master Quest on a bonus disc!). I fell in love with it and it’s still one of my favourite entries in the franchise to this day, constantly battling it out for the number one spot with a certain game called Breath of the Wild.
Zion Grassl, Video Producer
My cousin will always fight me on this, but I swear the first time I ever donned a green tunic was in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on Nintendo’s first chunky handheld. I remember sitting in my Grandparents living room on their massively comfy couch, wrapped up in blankets watching my cousin Marcel waltz through Koholint in search of the Wind Fish instruments.
I was mesmerized by the world itself, the adventurous music, and the fact so much could happen on that tiny lemon-lime screen! I’m so thankful the game was eventually re-released on Game Boy Color with the DX version, as it was one of the first games I bought with my own money once I had a system of my own!
A fantastic first Zelda and a game I still find myself going back to time and time again.
Alana Hagues, Staff Writer
The Legend of Zelda has been one of the most constant video game presences in my life thanks to having an older brother who played a lot of video games growing up. Like a lot of ‘90s kids, Ocarina of Time was the starting point for me. I’d sit on the floor next to my brother and watch, all eagle-eyed as he strolled across the Hyrule fields and went head-first into dungeons.
But the first time I actually sat down and played it, I was with a friend. We were only about 6 years old, and I vividly remember walking around Kakariko Village as Link, happily bopping away to the music. Eventually, we had to make our way to the Deku Tree – what do you think of when people say Ocarina of Time Is scary? ReDeads? Likelikes? The Shadow Temple? Well, to me and my best friend, it was the Deku Tree. The minute the tree started talking, we screamed and turned the game off!
We got over our fears eventually and revisited the game – separately – in our own time. Well, it took me until the 3DS remake to actually beat the game, but that first viscerally scary moment piqued my interest in the series, and as a result, A Link to the Past and Breath of the Wild stand as two of my favourite Nintendo games ever.
Kate Gray, Staff Writer
I skipped out on the NES and SNES by being a literal baby, so my first Zelda was Ocarina of Time — and, like everyone else, I imagine, it was extremely formative for me. And not always in a good way…
I was pretty young, so most of the game-playing was done by my dad, who had the required motor skills to actually fight the monsters and navigate the world, but he would occasionally let me explore, too. I spent many hours roaming around Hyrule Field and Kakariko Village, memorising their layout and getting to know every single NPC like the back of my hand.
The parts I didn’t like were the parts that had anything to do with Ganondorf. I hated Hyrule Castle Town, with all its horrible, screaming zombie husks. I didn’t like any of the temples, which were all filled with things that would run at me and hit me. But most of all, I was terrified of Ganondorf’s Castle — the huge tower, separated from the land by a lake of lava, set in this strange, desolate wasteland with nothing but the howling wind for company. For whatever reason, that wind sound alone gave me nightmares for years.
But despite the nightmares and my latent lifelong anxiety disorder being awakened by ReDeads, I kept crawling back to that N64 and trying to make peace with it… because I just couldn’t get enough. I wanted more. I wanted a way to be able to stay in that world without fear. I wouldn’t actually complete Ocarina of Time until wayyyyy later in life, when it came out on the 3DS (my dad may have had motor skills, but he’s not actually good at games) and I’m somewhat glad to say that it’s still a REALLY scary game. I was right all along to find it creepy! I’d even say it’s creepier than Majora’s Mask, because at least you know that’s supposed to be scary…
Jim Norman, Staff Writer
Unlike my frankly embarrassing knowledge of Metroid last week, for me, Zelda is where my knowledge lies. I adore this franchise, and I mean adore.
Like most people, my introduction to the series came in the form of Ocarina of Time – a stupidly good first game and one which formed my life-long love. However (with everyone having an Ocarina story to tell) I want to briefly flag my experience with the first Zelda game I played enough to beat: The Minish Cap.
You would struggle to find two more different entries in the Zelda series than the iconic time travelling epic and the one where Link shrinks and wears a silly talking hat, however, it is the latter that provided my most formative gaming experience. I purchased my (definitely bootlegged) version from a dodgy second-hand shop, but with a non-corrupted save file it was a big win for me.
I distinctly remember the first time I shrank down in the Minish Woods and saw everything enlarged around me, how each location could be rediscovered from this smaller perspective, how much my heart leapt for joy when finally discovering the Roc’s Cape (seriously, jumping in a Zelda game is a privilege). It was the first franchise entry that I ever bought for myself, the first I ever beat and, depending on the mood I’m in when you ask me, my favourite game of all time.
Gavin Lane, Editor
It was N64 Magazine and its coverage of Zelda 64 that turned me on to the adventures of Link. Not The Adventure of Link – it would be a couple of decades before I was brave enough to tick Zelda II off my backlog. No, Ocarina of Time was the one.
And what an introduction! The traditional Zelda template fully realised in 3D before it began to feel a little stale through repetition. Following months of devouring details in the aforementioned mag of mags, the 98% that Jes Bickham awarded it in his epic review confirmed that, yes, I was right to have this game top of my list for Christmas ’98.
I specifically remember leaping around Kokiri Forest on Christmas morning watching the fairy dust float on the breeze, and the morning mist over Lake Hylia. Yes, I’ve written at length about all this before, but give me another blessed moment to reminisce…
Okay, I’m done. Yep, Ocarina. Good game, that.
Gemma Smith, Community Manager
The Legend of Zelda is such a special series to me. It all started one fateful day when my older sister decided to buy a copy of Ocarina of Time, I was only young so I’d never played a video game before.
Nothing will ever come close to the feeling of running into Hyrule Field for the first time, the sense of freedom and exploration was beyond belief. Every character, dungeon, side quest & boss just felt so memorable. The game had me in total awe the entire time. Six year old me even wrote my name on the front of my original cartridge, which I still have in my collection to this day!
Fast forward all these years later and The Legend of Zelda is still my favourite game series of all time. Zelda really opened my eyes to a whole new world of gaming, and I don’t think I’d be the same person I am today without it!
Felix Sanchez, Video Producer
I was first introduced to The Legend of Zelda when I was 15 years old. I had just bought a Nintendo Switch initially just to play Mario Kart, but a friend of mine said that they had just released this new game that had crazy good reviews. So we both looked into it and decided to split the price 50/50 to get The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
I knew NOTHING about Zelda, and I remember specifically running around and thinking “what on earth are these shrines I have to find”, but I just couldn’t put it down. The game had so much to do in it and it was really easy to get lost completely in the game. Some evenings when I was playing in bed, I had to put the game down since the guardians were too scary. When I got my switch I remember I thought that I wasn’t going to get the BOTW since it just didn’t look like something to me, fast forward to now and it’s still my favourite game I’ve ever played.
Nothing tops the first play-through of riding across the massive Hyrule, and perhaps nothing ever will. I’m just grateful my friend convinced me to try the game out, and I can’t wait to embark on another amazing adventure when the sequel comes out.
Gonçalo Lopes, Reviewer
Excusing Super Mario Brothers Super Show aside, my proper introduction to the princess of Hyrule, the Hero of time, and the stronger version of Captain Falcon in Super Smash Bros. came in the form of my fifth Super Nintendo game.
It was the exciting year of 1992, all my mates were getting Mega Drives to replace their Commodore Amigas but I held out a little longer to grab that life changing PAL SNES. Chrismas was upon us and my best childhood friend also wanted a SNES but did not have the cash for the system. Instead he bought two games to play on mine. We played TMNT IV Turtles in Time exhaustion while eagerly awaiting Street Fighter II to arrive.
The other game however was something neither of us had ever encounter before: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The concept of “action rpg” was alien to us during our times with the ZX Spectrum and Commodore Amiga. We were mesmerized as Hyrule just kept expanding day after day. After three puzzle-riddled dungeons we faced the Wizard Agahnim to conclude our quest, but alas… we ended up in the Dark World turned into a bunny instead (yeah, we forgot to get the pearl from the third dungeon) with five new dungeons on the map.
There was nothing like Link to the Past on the Amiga or Mega Drive, as far as value for money went. I spent over a month grabbing every heart piece and uncovering any hint of secrets within that version of Hyrule. Growing up along with this series has been an amazing experience and I cherish memories of every entry in the series since (CDi!? Never heard of it). My mate never did end getting a SNES so I traded him both games for my Amiga external DF1 disk drive few months later. A fair trade price wise at the time, but three decades later I’m quite certain I got the better end of that deal… but at least the memories we shared over the game are priceless.
So there you have it! We hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek into how each of us was introduced to the Legend of Zelda franchise.
Anyway, now we want to know how you were introduced. Cast your vote in the poll below and let us know which game you played first, then give us a bit of context with a comment!