THE LEGEND OF ZELDA
THE LEGACY OF
By Lee Parham
With the release of the HD remaster of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, we take a look back on what makes this video game series well, legendary.
The series began with the release of the original The Legend of Zelda in 1986 for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
The Legend of Zelda kicked off the franchise with a bang and introduced gamers to the Kingdom of Hyrule and our Hero of Time, Link, on a quest to save Princess Zelda from the evil clutches of Ganondorf.
The game proved to be a humongous hit for Nintendo, selling over 6.5 million copies, launching a massive video game series, and often being lauded as one of the greatest video games ever created.
The following decade saw a string of 8-bit sequels and spinoffs from The Legend of Zelda, including the sidescrolling The Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past, and Link's Awakening.
With the release of the Nintendo 64 in 1996 at the dawn of 3D gaming, it was inevitable that Zelda would make the transition into the third dimension, thus Ocarina of Time was born.
Widely considered as the potential peak of the franchise, Ocarina of Time both literally and figuratively added new dimensions to the Zelda universe with an expansive world and enthralling narrative.
Ocarina of Time received a direct sequel in Majora’s Mask, a unique adventure that pitted Link in a race against time to save Termina, a parallel world of Hyrule, from the moon crashing into it.
The 64 was succeeded by the Nintendo GameCube in 2002 and with it a new Zelda game. The time was Wind Waker, a cel-shaded quest that introduced Toon Link, a fan-favorite variation of the hero.
Not only did Wind Waker mix up the graphics, it changed the setting and story significantly, trading in the sweeping fields of Hyrule for a vast ocean with a plethora of small islands to explore.
The popularity of Toon Link led to him being added to the Super Smash Bros. roster and generating two handheld spinoff games, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks for the Nintendo DS.
2006 witnessed the release of Nintendo’s most experimental console yet, the Wii. Known for its motion controls, the Wii launched with a Zelda title attached, Twilight Princess, also on the GameCube.
Set hundreds of years after Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess features Hyrule slowly being taken over by a Realm of Twilight that turns Link into a Wolf being ridden by the mysterious Midna.
The next Wii Zelda game, Skyward Sword, a prequel to the rest of the series in which Link and Zelda ride on large birds called loftwings in the flying city Skyloft floating over the clouds and Hyrule.
Nintendo’s most recent console, the Switch, has a Zelda game of its own. Breath of the Wild leaves the narrative storytelling of the franchise behind and sees Link exploring a massive open world.
Breath of the Wild was a critical and commercial success, selling more copies than any Zelda game before it and was cited as one of the best games of all time. An untitled sequel releases in 2022.
Finally, aforementioned Zelda titles such as A Link to the Past, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and now Skyward Sword have received remasters in high definition for modern Nintendo consoles.
From 8-bit side scrollers to high flying adventurers and huge open worlds, The Legend of Zelda series has enchanted gamers for nearly 4 decades and shows no signs of slowing down.