Anyone that knows me, knows that I have a large soft spot for an endless story of a little boy and his quest to save a Princess. The Legend of Zelda is the first RPG I played and it concreted my love of games, really.
Since Link’s first Japanese appearance 31 years ago this month on the Family Computer Disk System, there have been numerous stories across every single one of Nintendo’s consoles. From the Family Computer Disk System, all the way up the soon to be released Switch.
Most people first experienced Zelda when it hit the NES at the back end of 1987, but for Japan, they experienced it on the disk-based, Family Computer Disk System. Sure, it wasn’t the most reliable system, but it’s difficult to see where games like Skyrim would be without it.
This is the first game of its kind, which by modern standards, is still tricky to this day. Anyone that’s played Zelda 2 knows where i’m coming from. You start the game with zero instruction and you have to find your way. Unlike games of today, where your hand is held throughout almost every move. This game, was the start of Link and his adventures.
The Legend of Zelda (1986)A year and half later, Link’s first adventure made its over to the West with The Legend of Zelda. This time, not on a disk, but in the form of a gold cartridge and the Nintendo Entertainment System. This made Nintendo far more than just a card game manufacturer, but the grandfather of console gaming as we know it.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1988)The next installment of Link’s story came again on the NES in gold cartridge form. This time the gameplay was a little different. It still kept the no instruction format, and also kept the top down view when you explored Hyrule.
However, in any battles, caves, dungeons or towns, it turned into a side-scroller. The inclusion of the magic system, along with save states, just made this an utter epic. It’s still famed now for how hard the game is to complete.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991)Four years later, one of the best Zelda games ever was released. Nintendo’s next console was the SNES and it started to push boundaries of home entertainment. It was this console that gave The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past its opening.
The game went back to a top down view, but also gave players a helping hand through the world of Hyrule. The storyline is class, the gameplay is second to none, and the open world you wander around is massive. Not only through the world you first see, but the requirement to switch between two dimensions to get to items and certain areas was mind-blowing at the time.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (1993)Link only had to wait a couple of years for his next outing, which arrived on another groundbreaking console for Nintendo – Gameboy. This again kept the top down view, but, this time, there was no Princess Zelda to save, nor was there a Hyrule to explore or Triforce.
The game starts you washed up on a mysterious island that’s protected by the Wind Fish. Link needs to obtain musical instruments in order to awaken the guardian from his slumber. This game did well, considering it was something of an after-hours project for the designers, before they turned it into a full title.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)Now, five years later, the N64 was out and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was here. This game took a different perspective. You found yourself back in Hyrule and saving the princess and the Triforce, but this time, from a 3rd-person perspective.
Just everything about this game is fantastic. The story, the gameplay, the puzzles, the hidden areas. It’s utterly brilliant.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000)Thankfully, there was only 2 years to wait for the next installment of Link’s story. This had the same engine as Ocarina of Time, just with a graphics boost thanks to the N64’s expansion pack. Majora’s Mask is considered a darker story, which is set in Termina, not Hyrule this time.
The focus of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is stopping the Skull Kid from bringing the Moon on the planet. This game involves puzzles, which require different masks to complete, as well as traveling back in time. It brought a new style of tactics to the Zelda franchise, one which was extremely well received.
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons / The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (2001)Zelda fans could rejoice, as the next 2 years saw three more Zelda games. Link went back to the Gameboy, entering on the Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons. Both games had similar stories, and the top down gameplay from Link’s Awakening.
Something new the Oracle games brought was the ability to link via cable or password to transfer items and continue parts of the story between games. The second game was a Gameboy release of the epic a Link to the Past, but this time with a multiplayer element called Four Swords. This stuck to the same graphical system as Link to the Past, but introduced the multiplayer side that had not been seen before in the Zelda Series.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2002)The next home console adventure was The Wind Waker. This stayed with the 3rd-person perspective, but opted for a completely different look. Its cell shaded theme showed off the power of the GameCube extremely well.
The Wind Waker’s gameplay also had a bit of a change of pace. This time, you were exploring islands and your means of travel was via a boat. At first, fans didn’t take to how it looked, but the gameplay showed that it was another great in the series.
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap / The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (2004)A year after The Wind Waker, two more Zelda games were released. Game Boy’s The Minish Cap stuck to the same gameplay as Link to the Past, inspired by the Four Swords multiplayer element. However, it had a slight graphical upgrade, along with a new story.
The other release on the GameCube, The Four Sword Adventures, takes on the same top down, also familiar from Link to the Past. The gameplay stayed around what has made the series great, but given it was on the GameCube and not handheld, it was strange to see it in a non 3rd-person perspective. That been said, it was still a great success commercially and got rave reviews.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)Two years later marked, what some believe to be, the darkest of the Zelda games within in the franchise. Twilight Princess went back to a 3rd person view. The gameplay went back to a type seen in Majoras Mask, as you could switch between playing as Link and also a wolf.
Along with this being acclaimed as the darkest journey Link has been on, its also the best selling title in the series so far.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (2007) / The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (2009)The Phantom Hourglass kept on rolling from where The Wind Waker left off, but arrived on the DS instead of a home console. It kept the cell shading graphical look and brought exactly what you’d expect from from a sequel.
Although the online part of this game got pretty bad reviews, the main game got rave reviews. Further year later, we got The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, again on the DS. This followed on from Phantom Hourglass. Like the previous one, this also did extremely well on the DS and took full advantage of the duel screen set up that the DS provided.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011)Finally, the series went back to home consoles and arrived on the Wii. Skyward Sword made full use of the motion controls and, for the first time, you could feel the swings of the master sword in your hand.
The game also introduced a new traveling method. This time, you took to the skies. It breathed a new age in the series, using the motion controls to make your perform certain movements, to carry out moves in the game. After a few handheld games, this was a fantastic come back to consoles.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (2013) / The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (2015)We got a year on, year off and two more DS games. A Link Between Worlds created a new style of play, where it merged 2D and 3D aspects to life.
The last game of the series that’s on the DS is Triforce Heroes. This one went back to the Four Swords mulitplayer-type gameplay, but got a graphical upgrade.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Release: March 3, 2017)The Nintendo Switch is a hybrid of home console and handheld, which, for me, will seemingly do better than the Wii U did. Breath of the Wild looks like it’s taking Zelda to the next level.
The game is based more around open-world and survival then all the other games you’ve just read through. It looks fantastic and reviews already in, showing that it’s up to the high standards the Hyrulian crest demands.
We’d love to know your favorite Zelda game! Drop a comment below or on social media, or chat with me on Twitter – @steelcitygam3r.