Happy Birthday Zelda, 25 Today

Is it really 25 years since the first Legend of Zelda hit the NES? It only seems like yesterday I was exploring Hyrule for the very first time, taking this little green elf-like chap on a fantastical adventure; Shigeru Miyamoto’s epic quest indeed looks dated now, but it still plays magnificently, even if it’s a little difficult compared to today’s vastly easier experiences.

It was a delight to play through the first Zelda back in 1986 and it still is today, although I, like most Zelda fans, prefer to think of a couple of the later games as the series’ highlights.

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I’m not going to do down the route of listing and detailing every last game in the series, there are Zelda fansites out there that would do that infinitely better than I could ever hope to, but it’s worth picking up the history of the games even if it’s just in passing.  From the top-down simplicity of the first NES game 25 years ago through to the stunning, rich and expansive SNES version, the pixel perfect portable versions and the simply astounding three-dimensional console versions, Nintendo rarely put a foot wrong with this, one of their truly flagship IPs.

Even the much derided Wind Waker turned out to be brilliant (an assumption I always held true to), the unique visual style meaning that, even today, it looks as fresh as the day it was released.  And yes, whilst Nintendo often try to shoehorn in as many features of the host platform as possible (I’m looking at you, DS duo and Wii title Skyward Sword) for fans it never really seems to matter – the endless retelling of the same story comes with its own expectations and charm, and never fails to win the hearts of its followers from start to finish, whatever the console.

But whilst later games expand on the core principles and flesh out the characters, it’s in the level design and puzzle structure that any Zelda game remains true to the original, and looking back at some of the elements: the Triforce, Ganon, underground temples and a huge overworld, it’s surprising how many of them still remain present and unchanged.  Of course, the exemplary level design still shines through, but these games are always more than the sum of their parts, a consistent, enriching tale that never grows old, even as its players sadly do.

I still have my gold Ocarina of Time; I still have my sea chart; I still remember the distinct melodies of Koholint island.  I always will.

Happy birthday.

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16 Comments

  1. Wow. Now I feel old

  2. Just the other day I bought a magazine for the free Zelda belt. I love these games with a passion, and play through Wind Waker at least once a year, it just never gets old.
    Happy Birthday!

  3. My first Zelda game was for the SNES (I think it was A Link to the Past?) but from then I have only played the Phantom Hourglass. A great series, I just haven’t had the time or effort in me to go back and play the ones I missed. Will probably get Ocarina of Time for the 3DS.

    • A Link to the Past is still my all time favourite Zelda game. Damn, now I want to play it again…

  4. Good read, now for the shock…. I Dont like Zelda. Any of them, not one, i’m not saying they are crap, they just arent my cup of tea. *Ducks*

    • I loved Zelda on the Snes in the golden box. Great game, but I too lost interest after that.

      *ducks with SpikeyMikey23*

  5. Never played a Zelda game. Maybe I should.

    • you are missing out my friend. you really really are missing out

  6. Happy Birthday to one of the best gaming series out there (in my opinion of course).

    My first was Link’s Awakening and it’s an adventure I’ll never forget. I was so upset with myself when I stole the Bow and everyone called me Thief, I started it again. :D
    It’s probably my favourite of the series though my console favourite is definitely Wind Waker. Don’t get me wrong, the N64 pair are incredible but Wind Waker just has a charm that’ll probably be just as strong 20 years from now.

  7. I have a confession to make. I have never ever played a Zelda game. Please put down the torches and pitch forks.

    I’m surpised that it is still selling well and has not declined in quailty from what i heard. I think Nintendo should make the first 3 Zelda games free for just 1 day.:)

  8. OoT was my first Zelda game… and my favourite game ever.

  9. Happy Birthday Link! A superb series that manages to rekindle my childhood glee every time a new one is released. Here’s to another 25 years!

  10. Ocarina of Time had one of those generation defining moments for me.

    It was when you first went out onto Hyrule field for the first time. I was blown away by the detail, distance and freedom of the 3D game world.

    For the PS2 era I had the same feeling when I first played GTA3 or my most recent equivalent would be emerging from the sewer in Oblivion. It’s just one of those gaming moments where I think “this couldn’t have been done before”.

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