Since it's the 30th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda this week, we thought we'd pose a community question about your most cherished Zelda memory. Perhaps it was playing the original release for the first time - or maybe you fell in love with a later version of the game? Whatever your answer, we're interested in hearing it!
While you think about your response, here's the USgamer team with their favorite Zelda recollections.
Having played a whole heck of a lot of Zelda games (all of them, actually), I have a whole heck of a lot of memories. But I suppose for me the strongest memories relate to the original Legend of Zelda on NES — that game hooked me right from the start. I guess you could pin it on the marketing; between its unique golden box and cartridge (which set it apart from Nintendo's contemporaneous "black box" lineup to say THIS IS SPECIAL) and its weird but compelling commercials….
...all added up to create an air of mystery and fascination about the game. When I finally had the chance to play Zelda, it didn't disappoint. I'd already had my first taste of exploration and open-world design with Metroid, but Zelda offered an experience on an entirely different level. From the very beginning, the game presented you with a vast landscape riddled with hidden secrets, and it sank its hooks into me right away. I actually ended up getting in trouble at home as a result of my first time playing Zelda — I went to a friend's house after school to try it out and became so engrossed I forgot to call home, carelessly leaving my parents to wonder if I'd been kidnapped or something. Eventually, I borrowed Zelda from a classmate and had a terrible habit of becoming so enraptured by the mysteries of Hyrule I would neglect friendships and responsibilities. Games were normally a social experience for me, but Zelda turned me strangely antisocial. Not in a bad way, necessarily… I just had a tendency to obsess over it.
And, to be fair, Zelda definitely did have a social component. I would never have finished the game without advice from friends on how to conquer the Lost Hills or find Level-7, culled from our lengthy and enthusiastic pre-school hangout discussions of how to master Hyrule. All told, I probably only spent a couple of weeks working my way through Zelda, but it seemed like much longer in the amber-like suspension that was childhood summertimes.
My special Zelda memory is skipping school to pick up Ocarina of Time.
I made the call about the status of my pre-order from my high school’s payphones. The clerk answered: “Thank you for calling EB Games. Yes, we have Zelda.”
So I ditched the latter half of my school day to grab Ocarina of Time. Then I played it until I realized I was supposed to put on dinner for my parents, but the kitchen was stone-cold dark and they were due home at any minute.
It was a good day.
I've never been much of a Zelda player. Sure, I've sampled the delights of the early games, but I just didn't get into them in a really big way. Great though they are, there was just a little too much schlepping about for my taste, and given a choice, I much preferred playing the platformers, arcade games, and sports titles of the era. More fool me, I guess.
However, the Zelda game that did turn my head was Ocarina of Time. I remember seeing it for the first time and being really impressed by its looks, and the fact that the game was completely 3D. It was clear that this wasn't a classic Zelda game of yore, so I bought a copy, and started to play it and became totally, obsessively hooked. I loved the way the game was designed, the progression was spot-on, and the visual presentation was simply outstanding.
But what really worked for me is the game's incredible storyline. I was amazed by its epic twists and turns, and I just didn't know what was going to happen next. I played the game over the course of several days, and distinctly remember the feeling of excitement and anticipation I had as I rushed home from work to play it. Indeed, thinking about it now makes me feel very nostalgic. Few other games have ever done that for me.
Honestly, my favorite Zelda memory involves the effort needed to acquire the game in the first place. This was early on in my college career, when I was just getting use to the freedom of being away from home. I'm pretty sure the freedom went to my head a little bit too much.
For the launch of Ocarina of Time, I had already pre-ordered the special edition Gold cartridge from Wal-Mart, which was a few miles away from my school at the time. I couldn't find a ride to go pick up the game, since it's was a school day and most of us didn't have cars at the time anyways. So after my first class of the day, I started walking.
Nearly an hour of walking in the cold - at was November, mind you - I finally reached Wal-Mart, plunked down what little money I had, and obtained my gold cartridge. Then I had to walk all the way back, which was another hour. And I couldn't play the game when I got back, because I had another class to attend!
I don't think I've ever put forth that much effort for any other gaming thing in my life. And hopefully I never will again.
I have a lot of fond memories of Zelda: Trying to take pictures of everyone in Wind Waker, discovering that the Snowpeak Ruins was actually a dungeon, and so on. But I suppose I'll go back to Link's Awakening, which was the first Zelda I ever played seriously.
Up until that point, I had been familiar with Zelda, but I had never played it seriously. Link's Awakening was my opportunity to see what the fuss was all about. I borrowed it from a friend and set out uncovering the secret of the Wind Fish.
Ultimately, I ended up loving the game. I still love it, actually. But when I first started playing Link's Awakening, I realized that I didn't really understand the language of the game, which had been established back in the original Zelda. I didn't know that I was supposed to push a block to open a door, for example, or kill all the enemies in a room to proceed. I mean, some of that is self-evident, but it was kind of a process for me. I spent a lot of time talking to Nintendo Game Counselors getting advice like "push the block" and "bomb the wall."
In the end, I finished Link's Awakening; and like so many other people, I wound up falling in love with the series. Link's Awakening in particular stands out to me because it was so different from the rest of the games. A Link to the Past was an epic adventure, but Link's Awakening had soul. I still get a little choked up thinking about the game's final scenes.
Oh, and the Eagles Tower? Still the best dungeon in Zelda.
I'm not the biggest fan of the whole "Zelda timeline" phenomenon: Sorting through an incongruous pile of lore to build some disappointing and confusing framework never struck me as the best use of anyone's time. But when these inter-game connections are intentional and direct, they can make for some of the most enjoyable moments of any Zelda experience. And one of the best instances of this can be seen in 2003's The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, when Link unexpectedly takes a trip back to a sunken Hyrule.
Seeing as Wind Waker launched in Japan three months before we received it in US, this moment definitely would have been spoiled in our modern age: A combination of YouTube, streamers, and social media wouldn't let The Wind Waker's biggest secret stay secret for long. But back in 2003, I had no idea The Wind Waker would be taking me to this destination, so I could only sit back and get goosebumps over this gloomy depiction of a forsaken Hyrule. And even if I was a little disappointed Link couldn't explore the rolling hills beyond the castle walls, pulling out the Master Sword and seeing the entire environment flood with vibrant colors still stands as my favorite Legend of Zelda moment of all time. But mention to me where it falls in the timeline and I might start screaming.