In pictures: We celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda

A pictorial tribute to Link, Zelda, and assorted baddies in all the Legend of Zelda video games

  • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening kicked off another Zelda tradition; sound plays a big part in both gameplay and story. To escape from Koholint Island Link must find eight instruments, including the ocarina — a gadget that plays a pivotal role in later titles.
  • And now, the main event: cast your mind back to November 21, 1998. The Nintendo 64 had been top dog amongst gaming consoles for around two years, but it didn't have a Zelda title yet. [[xref:|The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time]] changed all that, bringing Link and Hyrule into glorious over-the-shoulder 3D. Like [[xref:|pretty much everyone else]], Ocarina is our favourite Zelda game: it's gorgeous, long and full of humour and quirkiness. Plus it has the usual excellent repertoire of Zelda tunes.

  • [[xref:|The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask]] is the direct sequel to the earlier half of Ocarina of Time, following Link's travels around the world of Termina. Like previous games, collecting items is a major gameplay mechanic and Link is tasked with retrieving 24 masks — each of which confer different abilities on the player.
  • So, that's pretty much it. If you want to play the games chronologically, we'd suggest starting with Ocarina of Time then moving through Majora's Mask, Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, A Link to the Past, Oracle of Ages, Oracle of Seasons, Link's Awakening, the original Legend of Zelda, then The Adventure of Link. By the way, you might want to set aside some time for this. It's not exactly a quest for the faint-hearted.
    Oh, and there's a 3DS version of Ocarina of Time coming, too.

  • We didn't play much of Wind Waker, but we do remember the excellent art design and novel sailing mechanic. We'll have to get around to re-playing it some time…

  • Let's face it — it's hard to argue that Twilight Princess isn't one of the best games in the Zelda series. We'd go so far as to say it's one of the best games ever. It evolved from the already stellar Ocarina and other Zelda titles in every aspect, adding novelty control, a wonderful stereo soundtrack, and a swathe of gameplay mechanics, side quests and gimmicks, and a stellar storyline that's as good as any blockbuster.

  • It might be simplistic by today's standards, but the first Zelda game was a stand-out in its time. It was non-linear, and allowed players to save their progress at any time — a feature that annoyingly still eludes some console games.

  • The N64 Ocarina release garnered a swag of 10/10 reviews, with praise for everything from graphics to sound. The still-infantile camera control system that debuted in Super Mario 64 was also used to great effect. Ocarina of Time was re-released in 2002 on the GameCube, in a Master Quest bundle that changed dungeons and included the original Zelda as a B-side.

  • Today is an important day, although you might not have realised. It's the 25th anniversary of the Japanese release of the first Legend of Zelda video game on the Famicom. To celebrate, we've pulled together a bit of a retrospective on the series, covering everything from the original to the latest Spirit Tracks and the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

  • The second and last Zelda game to be released on the Game Boy Advance was [[xref:|The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap]]. The tiny Minish race is introduced, and Link's task is to defeat the powerful sorcerer Vaati. This is another Zelda title we missed out on — the hazards of not owning a Game Boy Advance. One day…

  • [[xref:|The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past]] came out in late 1991, a year after the launch of the Super Nintendo it was released for. It's one of our favourite Zelda games — it's more complicated than the first two, and it's the first time that items like the Hookshot and Heart Containers appeared in the series. The Dark World also makes its first appearance, starting the long-running parallel world theme of the later Zelda games.
  • Appropriate to the Nintendo DS's target market, [[xref:|Phantom Hourglass]] had a slightly laid-back, casual gameplay style that didn't reply on button-mashing or long dungeon crawls to finish the game. The game didn't score as highly as previous Zelda epics, but reviewers enjoyed the new touchscreen control system.

  • [[xref:|The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures]] was a GameCube cooperative multiplayer game that saw up to four players continue the story started in Four Swords. Arch-nemesis Ganon is back and causing trouble in Hyrule — do you need to know any more?
  • Nintendo DS title number two was [[xref:|The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks]]. The story of Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass is further expanded upon, but gameplay returns to land with a train the primary form of transport. Tracks, get it?

  • A brace of Zelda games were released for the Game Boy Colour in February 2001. [[xref:|The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons]] and [[xref:|The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages]] could be played in any order, but players would have to complete both (with a password unlocking additional content) to finish the overall game.

  • Some time in 2011 — hopefully — we'll see [[xref:|The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword]] released for the Nintendo Wii. It's purported to use the Nintendo Wii's MotionPlus controller for accurate swordfighting, and should be an evolutionary advancement from Twilight Princess.

  • The other half of Ocarina of Time, following Link's adult life, continues on into [[xref:|The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker]]. It's a significant departure from earlier games in terms of both setting and visuals, with a distinctly cartoony look and feel and a setting that abandons Hyrule fields for an island-filled sea.

  • On February 21st 1986, the original [[xref:|The Legend of Zelda]] was released alongside the [[xref:|Famicom]] as a launch title. It was received exceptionally well — selling over 6.5 million copies during its life — and is a common sight on 'best games of all time' lists.

  • A slight diversion from Zelda canon came in the form of [[xref:|The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening]]. It was the first handheld Zelda game, and the first not to take place in Hyrule. It's a Game Boy title (with later Game Boy Color action), and sees Link on Koholint Island with the mystical Wind Fish. That may be a bit of a simplistic explanation, but you get the idea.

  • In between Majora's Mask and Wind Waker, A Link to the Past was re-released on the Game Boy Advance. We wouldn't mention this, except the cartridge came with a multiplayer-only permutation of the game called [[xref:|Four Swords]]. If you had a couple of friends with GBAs, it was a great way to pass some time.

  • Eleven months later, [[xref:|Zelda II: The Adventure of Link]] hit shelves in the Famicom format. It was roughly around this time that the original Zelda game hit North America on the NES, but Japanese gamers were already cutting their teeth on the second instalment. It's a direct sequel to the original game — Zelda's back, as is the Triforce, archetypal baddie Ganon and other Zelda stalwarts.

  • 2006 saw what was, in our humble opinion, the most ground-breaking Zelda title after Ocarina of Time. The [[artnid:171518|Nintendo Wii]]-released, wave-your-arms-like-a-maniac [[xref:|The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess]] was one of the Wii's launch titles and made excellent use of the brand new Wiimote controller. You could buy the game on GameCube — and it might have been a more authentic Zelda experience — but sales figures were far higher for the next-generation console.

  • Zelda II expanded the game dynamic of the original with magic spells, experience and extra lives — the first two were a nice touch, but we weren't fans of the lazy extra life inclusion. We're just too hardcore, obviously.
  • Link made the transition back to portable gaming in 2007 when [[artnid:220577|The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass]] was released for the [[artnid:146691|Nintendo DS]]. It's a continuation of the Wind Waker storyline, and sees Link and buddy Tetra in more water-borne combat.

  • A Link to the Past was a prequel to the first two Zelda games, and made full use of the SNES's graphical power with a brightly coloured top-down perspective. It has some of the best music in the entire series, composed by Nintendo lifer [[xref:|Koji Kondo]] — if you want a nostalgia trip, jump on YouTube and listen to [[xref:|the Hyrule Overture]].
  • A groundhog-day style of play sees Link stuck in a three-day cycle, taking just under an hour in play time to complete. Each time the game resets to the start of the cycle — with Link playing the Ocarina of Time to wind back the clock before the wayward moon crashes down on Termina — the player is required to complete previously finished minor quests before advancing. This unique style of gameplay impressed critics at the time.

  • Critics thought the game was very similar to Phantom Hourglass, but enjoyed it nonetheless. It may have not changed the world like earlier releases, but it was another Zelda game and we're grateful for that.

  • Skyward Sword is a prequel to Ocarina, and sees Link in the floating land of Skyloft travelling between sky and ground worlds. We don't know too much more, but we'll be first in line come launch day.
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