I love Zelda. The Legend Of Zelda is what truly pushed me over the edge from “I quite like video games” to “I must have this in my life every day” which I still maintain to this day. I’d go so far to say that it’s my favourite Nintendo franchise, even in recent years when I’ve become aware of other brilliant series such as Mother and Fire Emblem and have fallen in love with the Super Mario Galaxy series. There’s always been something that pulls me back to Links great adventures, the settings, the characters, the beauty, the darkness, all of these things just ooze out of every cartridge or disc and take us away to a believable, yet impossible other world with all the strange, strange creatures, from Anuki to Zora, that inhabit it. Nintendo have created a universe so dense and packed with mythology on par with Tolkien or Lucas with a fandom that may not be as obvious as the two figures mentioned, but just as dedicated. There are millions of fan forums filled with discussions of fan fiction, fan reworkings of the games scores*, and the possibility of a connection between all the games, hell, one of my most popular posts here was a de-construction of the brooding themes of Majora’s Mask.
Now, as today is the 25th anniversary of the original games Japanese release, I wondered how best I could show people just how incredible The Legend Of Zelda is and how much this series means to me, but besides playing it for yourself, it’s almost impossible to put into words. So I’m going to post my Top 25 of Zelda, from music, to missions, story plots to side quests. If you’re new to the series, have a read and go out and buy a copy of one of the 15 or so games available in all sorts of formats, but be warned, there’s a good chance of spoilers. If you’ve played any of them years ago, then prepare for a wave of nostalgia. If you play them regularly, I’m sure your favourite moments will appear here somewhere.
*Zelda Re-orchestrated have fantastic re-workings of most of the series music, it’s absolutely amazing and it’s free.
Also, fandom rejoice, this is a CD-I FREE ZONE!!!
25. Hop on board (The Kangaroo) – Oracle Of Ages/Seasons
In the dual Zelda: Oracle Of Ages/Seasons, Link befriends Ricky, who’s not only a Kanagroo, allowing extra jump techniques. He also has boxing gloves. Now you tell me that’s not awesome.
24. Breaking into Arbiters Grounds – Twilight Princess
Twilight Princess, despite probably being the most hyped Zelda to date, failed to deliver for many people. The reveal trailer implied epic all against one battles, similar to those in Lord Of The Rings but most of the game kept a standard 2 or 3 enemies vs you. Except here. Link has to get into Arbiters Grounds, an ancient Hyrule prison (theorised by many to be the Spirit Temple from OoT) which is guarded by…a lot of Bublins, whilst they are fairly easy to defeat, the sheer amount on the ground and firing arrows at you, just keeps you on your toes.
23. E3 2004.
Watch this video, people went hysterical at the reveal of a new Zelda, no other series gets this amount of love when revealed.
22. I AM ERROR – Zelda II
21. Dark Link – Ocarina Of Time
The Water temple is a lot of peoples least favourite Zelda moment, mostly due to the constant rise and fall of the water and the boot switching (which has been promised to be fixed in the upcoming re-make) and this guy. He’s not even the main boss and he infuriates so many. He’s about as skilled as you, knows and uses all your attacks and will even jump on your sword to taunt you. Hammer him to death.
20. The Moon – Majora’s Mask
The moon is probably the second greatest Zelda villain. He’s not even technically a villain, but a very humanized plot device. Big eyes, angry face and HE WILL CONSUME. CONSUME EVERYTHING!!!
19. Hylian Shield
The Hylian Shield that features in many Zelda games is nearly as iconic as the Master Sword to the point where it’s even part of the logo. It’s fire-proof, so it saves Link a few times and reasonably cheap…if you know the right people. A must have for all adventurers…plus there’s also a conspiracy regarding the golden triangle at the bottom in some variants. Is there a 4th piece of the Triforce…?
18. Sea-faring – The Wind Waker/Phantom Hourglass
You may groan at how vast and empty the ocean is, but sailing is a big part of The Wind Waker and it’s sequel. The epic music drives you along and there’s still plenty of treasure hunting and colourful characters on each square. Phantom Hourglass made sailing easier and full control of your cannons, but it still doesn’t beat The King Of Red Lions…
17. Midna’s Lament – Twilight Princess
16. Storming up Hyrule Castle – A Link To The Past/Twilight Princess
There’s something quite epic about running up a tall tower towards the end of games and A Link To The Past does a fantastic job of it (granted it actually occurs halfway through the game) storming past wave after wave of guards to THAT castle theme, determined to reach the top. Twilight Princess does a similar thing at the end, complete with ghosts of dead guards and the bleakest atmosphere you ever saw in a Zelda game.
15. Hero’s Bow
Think about it, The Hero’s Bow is probably one of the most important items you’ll find in a Zelda game. You’ll use it more than most other items and have it permanently assigned to C. That’s not to mention how, especially including upgrades, essential it is to beat Ganon in both A Link To The Past, Ocarina Of Time and The Wind Waker.
14. Song Of Storms
13. 7 Years Later… – Ocarina Of Time
The first half of Ocarina Of Time is quite relaxed, Hyrule is in an age of peace, everyones happy. After you open the door of time however…everything goes a little wrong. Hyrule Castle Town has been taken over by the undead, Ganondorf has taken control and rebuilt Hyrule Castle to his own twisted design, Ingo runs Lon Lon Ranch and Zora’s Domain has frozen over. Suddenly the game adds a sense of urgency as you have to right these wrongs for the good of Hyule.
12. Wild Horses – Various
Whilst I enjoyed sailing, there is nothing quite like owning your own horse and riding it everywhere. Ocarina Of Time was the first, done by winning a race against Ingo and earning her trust and Majora’s Mask also contained horse riding, but because of the smaller layout and the faster goron rolling, it’s not utilized as much. Twilight Princess, thankfully brought it back in force, allowing you to hack and slash, which made for an excellent mini-boss fight and stand-off with Lord Bulbo on many occasions.
11. THIEF! – Links Awakening
Steal an item from a shop in Link’s Awakening. You won’t get arrested and put in jail, you’ll just be referred to as Thief by everyone for the rest of the game, it’s a small little detail, but one that I’m quite fond of…
“Guess what? You got it for free. Are you proud of yourself?”
“I wasn’t kidding when I said pay! Now, you’ll pay the ultimate price!!”
10. Hijacked by Ganon
Whilst this is named from a TV tropes article, which is the term used for when the games villain is swiftly usurped by someone more well known, I’m referring principally to the main antagonist of most of the series. Ganon is a fantastic villain, a power hungry magic wielding King Of Evil, using everyone as pawns in a diabolical game of chess. Obviously, his personality depends on the game in question, but as the series develops, you can see a madness emerging as he is constantly blinded by his power lust.
9. Fairy fountain/main menu
That music that plays on the file select menu, it’s the beautiful melody that’s almost otherworldly and is pretty much as iconic to the series as the main theme. It even cropped up to fantastic effect in my favourite movie, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World.
8. Reunited – Majora’s Mask
Majora’s Mask is chock full of side quests, and the most memorable of these is the Anju/Kafei mission. The story is that Anju and Kafei are too be married, but the Skull Kid has transformed Kafei back to a child and to make things worse, Sakon has stolen the ceremonial mask for their wedding. Through back and forth letters, pendants and a dangerous mission going deep into a thief’s hideout you must help the two of them re-unite. At when they do, they no longer care that they’re about to die from the moon crashing into clock town, as long as their together.
7. The Dark World – A Link To The Past
6. The Master Sword
The Master Sword is one of the items that tie the series together. Also known as the blade of evil’s bane and only wieldable by a true hero, it holds incredible power to vanquish evil, travel in time and to regain one’s true form. Without it, Link would not be able to defeat Ganon. It’s location varies between games, from The Temple Of Time to The Lost Woods and underneath Hyrule Castle itself, but it’s the single most important item in the series that you will receive and it’s origins are to be explained in the upcoming prequel Skyward Sword.
5. The Split Timeline Theory
Ok, so technically this isn’t in the game, but it’s been said by Miyamoto and Anouma to exist. The chronology of the games is a heavily debated subject that often divides many fans. The idea is that at the end of Ocarina Of Time, the story splits in two. One half follows on from the defeat of Ganondorf following the imprisoning war, as evidenced through The Wind Waker and another follows Young Link telling Zelda about the Imprisoning War before it happens, leading to Ganondorfs arrest, which is shown in Twilight Princess. Of course, where the other games fit in is a mystery, as at least from a personal point of view, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess finish off their respective timelines (excluding WW’s sequels) More information can be found here;
4. The Triforce
The triforce is important. It’s the central religious belief that’s a constant throughout the entire series, left by the goddesses, it’s said whoever touches it gets their desire, which ultimately is Ganondorfs aim and what people have fought great wars over, as shown through A Link To The Past and Ocarina Of Time. It’s symbol of three triangles appears everywhere in every game (even Majora’s Mask) and is associatated pre-dominantely by Power, Wisdom, and Courage, all of which are personified by our main characters, Ganon, Zelda and Link, respectively. Whilst ultimately, it gives most games a sense of familiarity, the way it’s reacted to in every game, from a Holy Grail style conquest in ALTTP, to an item to be feared in Twilight Princess, makes every appearance, unique and even more powerful.
3. Inside Of The Moon – Majora’s Mask
It’s funny how the most emptiest of rooms can be the most frightening. It’s just a field. A field with mask wearing children. There’s something really creepy and worrying about how calm and collected it is, like an afterlife…It can’t be said enough, but Majora’s Mask is really a messed up game…
2. The Main Theme/Overworld
It’s just fantastic. I dare you to disagree. This is it through the ages.
1. The End – The Wind Waker
I’ve said several times that The Wind Waker is not just my favourite Zelda game, but my all time favourite game and the ending is just as epic and beautiful as the rest of the game. Link, Zelda and Ganondorf, the holders of the mythical Tri-force do battle on the tallest tower underneath the deepest ocean, which is poetic in itself. The bubble keeping the mythical land of Hyrule, the land that YOU, the player have fought for through so many games for so many years, has burst. It will be swept underneath the sea and forgotten forever. Ganondorf gives a speech that reminds me of Roy’s speech in Blade Runner,
My country lay within a vast desert, when the sun rose into the sky a burning wind punished my lands, searing the world. And when the moon climbed into the dark of night, a frigid gale pierced our homes. No matter when it came the wind carried the same thing… Death. But the winds that blew across the green fields of Hyrule brought something other than suffering and ruin. I… Coveted that wind, I suppose.
It can only be called fate… That here, I would again gather the three with the crests… That I should lay my hand on that which grants the wishes of the beholder… That when power, wisdom, and courage come together, the gods would have no choice but to come down… The power of the gods… The Triforce! He who touches it will have whatever he desires granted! Already the crest of wisdom is mine…(looking at Tetra/Zelda) All that remains…(looks at Link, and attacks him until Link is lying on the ground) Do not fear. I will not kill you… I merely have need of the power that dwells within you (picks up Link by wrist). Now! Let us put an end to that which binds us together! (Triforce pieces leave them, merging together)
After the battle, leaving behind the king of Hyrule in a moment that can only be described as heartbreaking, Link and Zelda float back to the surface and are re-united with all their loved ones and the credits roll. The most beautiful credit roll ever, to the point where I have gone on record to say I would like it played at my funeral in the case of my death because it’s both a celebration of life and death. A track that’s so beautiful and sad, but upbeat. We’re celebrating of vanquishing evil. But we’re mourning the end, not just the end of the game, but the end of Hyrule and maybe the end of the series. It sounds absurd, but if you follow the split time line theory, as discussed earlier, you know that Wind Waker is the end of that timeline. Sure, Phantom Hourglass followed directly after, but it feels like a spin-off than a follow-up and this is the finale for the series and the perfect way to end this.