Portal: The Legend of Zelda

From Gamehiker Wiki

Legend of Zelda
Developer Nintendo
Games List of all games
Debut The Legend of Zelda (1986)
Gallery GH Gallery

The Legend of Zelda is the second most popular of Nintendo's internal game franchises. Despite being one of Nintendo's flagship series, there have been relatively few games released over the years, especially when compared to the Mario series. This is probably due in part to the care Nintendo puts into each game, and the series has been kept much more reserved in the area of spin-offs.



The franchise was among the various Nintendo franchises to originate as the brainchild of Shigeru Miyamoto. The game was inspired by the summers he spent exploring the countryside around his home as a child. Especially influential was a series of caves he found. The original game of the series, The Legend of Zelda, was based heavily on this concept and was released for the NES in 1986.

The game was an overhead adventure in which the player controlled Link in navigating eight dungeons to assemble the Triforce of Wisdom to save Princess Zelda from Ganon. This game introduced various staples of the Zelda series such as the three principal characters, the Triforce (although only two pieces were present in the first game) and the basic gameplay with most of the weapons that would be used throughout the series. It was followed up in 1987 by Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, which was known for being a dramatic gameplay departure in that it featured side-scrolling gameplay matched with an RPG-like system where Link could level up in order to gain more hearts, magic power or strength. These changes as well as the game's infamous difficulty alienated gamers, so Nintendo returned to the formula of the original for the next game. Zelda II still did have some impact on the series, as it was the first appearance of the full Triforce and setting up some gameplay details that would be used in later games such as the magic meter and the emphasis on swordfighting.

This was followed by The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past in 1992, which was released for the Super NES. This installment expanded on the gameplay of the original and added much more detail to the mythology of Hyrule and the Triforce. It also introduced the concept of exploring dual worlds that would be used in various future installments. A Link to the Past was the most popular game of the series for some time and is known for being an influential Zelda game with its more in-depth dungeons, monstrous bosses and improved item system. The first handheld Zelda, Link's Awakening, was released not long afterwards. It mostly followed the gameplay of A Link to the Past but in a new setting. It is known for being a classic handheld game as well as for its surprisingly bittersweet ending. This set the precedent of sidequest games that were not connected to the Triforce or Ganon (as well as in this case Zelda) and were released for the handheld.

A new Zelda was then developed for the Nintendo 64. It went through various changes and delays until it was finally released in 1998 as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This game told a story that seemed to be intended as Link and Zelda's first battle against Ganon. It is most notable for bringing Zelda into the 3-D world with a new gameplay style that put more emphasis on sword combat. This new style also made way for various new gameplay features such as horse riding and aiming arrows, and the storyline was also able to progress with in-game cutscenes that were produced with a cinematic feel. In addition to becoming the most influential game of the series since its inception, it has also remained one of the best-selling games of all time and has often been acclaimed as the best video game. There were attempts to make an expanded version called Ura Zelda for the Nintendo 64DD, but these fell through with the DD's cancellation. Instead, a new game was made using the Ocarina engine, which became the Nintendo 64 sidequest game The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. This game featured Link exploring a different world and infamously featured a time limit that was a challenge to some players while putting off others. Capcom's Flagship division also began working on several Zelda games for the Game Boy Color that would be interconnected. The original plan was for three games that could link up together, one of which would be a remake of The Legend of Zelda, but the remake was eventually scrapped in favor of making only two games, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages, which had some influence from the original The Legend of Zelda.

Nintendo itself worked on a new Zelda with the launch of the Nintendo Gamecube, with Eiji Aonuma taking control of the Zelda franchise. An Gamecube tech demo teased a new realistic Zelda game, but the next game wound up going in the opposite direction by featuring cel-shaded graphics. Unlike the last big Zelda game, which was known for its various delays, Nintendo ensured that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was released when it was intended to in 2002, although it seems to have been at a cost to the game, as at least one planned dungeon was cut entirely. This game renewed the focus on exploration with an entirely new setting by having Link explore the ocean on boat and visit various islands. This game attracted mixed attention in general due to its cartoony style as well as being shorter and easier than previous Zelda games, although it still featured a storyline that built up on the events of Ocarina and expanded on the motivations of Ganondorf. At the same time, Flagship continued developing handheld games. The same year as The Wind Waker, they completed a remake of A Link to the Past for the Game Boy Advance that came with an original title called Four Swords. Four Swords was developed as the first multiplayer Zelda experience and required at least two players to play, although all players were required to have their own cartridge. They followed this up with The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures for the Gamecube in 2004, which included a single-player mode and was heavily influenced by A Link to the Past mixed with elements of modern games such as The Wind Waker. The Japanese version had an extra game based on The Wind Waker called "Tetra Trackers". However, this game's multiplayer mode also had specific technicalities that dragged it down, as each extra player had to have a Game Boy Advance to use as a controller as well as a Gamecube-GBA Link Cable to connect it to the Gamecube. Capcom worked on one last game for the Game Boy Advance, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, which acted as a prequel to the Four Swords games and was a pure, straightforward Zelda adventure. Nintendo also rereleased Ocarina of Time for the Gamecube with a new harder "Master Quest" mode that was based on Ura Zelda.

As the Gamecube neared the end of its lifespan, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess entered development and promised a return to the realistic style that players missed from Ocarina of Time. It featured a darker storyline and a realistic style to take advantage of the Gamecube's graphics. It featured small improvements on the traditional gameplay, the most notable being the addition of mounted gameplay. Due to its delays, it was simultaneously released for the Gamecube and as a launch title for the Nintendo Wii. The Wii version added motion controls and also flipped the map around to account for right-handed players being in the majority. This was followed by a pair of Nintendo DS games that followed the storyline of The Wind Waker, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. These games changed the traditional Zelda controls in order to take advantage of the DS's dual screens and touch screen. The next Zelda game would be The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which was released late into the Wii's life. Unlike Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword was specifically made as a Wii game (and more specifically for the Wii Motion Plus and it featured a revamped set of motion controls with various other alterations on the expectations of a Zelda game in an attempt to refresh the series. These included flying segments, a stamina meter and a system of upgrades for items as well as a system of different types of shields. The game's graphics featured a mix of The Wind Waker's cel-shaded art with part of the realism of Twilight Princess for more of a watercolor effect.

Skyward Sword was just part of Nintendo's efforts to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Zelda series in 2011. The year also saw the enhanced port of Four Swords as free DSiWare, a 3DS remake of Ocarina of Time, the announcement of a Zelda Symphony event that would play orchestrated versions of Zelda music throughout America, and at the year's end, an artbook known as the Hyrule Historia was released in Japan. A relatively low-key announcement, the Hyrule Historia not only contained pieces of previously unseen concept artwork for all of the main Zelda games, but it explained how they all fit together in an official timeline.

The Zelda series continued on the 3DS with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds in 2013. The series then spent some time focusing on remakes, between The Wind Waker HD for the Wii U in 2013 and Majora's Mask 3D for the 3DS in 2015. Two new Zelda titles have been in development as well: Tri Force Heroes will be the next handheld game in the vein of the Four Swords series, while The Legend of Zelda is in development for the Wii U.


Zelda has not inspired many spin-offs. This is likely due to the more serious nature of the Zelda series which does not lend itself to spin-offs as easily as Mario. Some minor cases have included a Zelda Game & Watch game that was based on Zelda II, a set of Zelda games for the Satallaview which was based on A Link to the Past and the more recent shooting game Link's Crossbow Training. There is also a subseries of loosely-connected comical games starring Tingle. This started with Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland, but these games have primarily stayed in Japan. These do not count the licensed Zelda games that were produced for the Phillips CD-i are not considered canon. For more information on these games, see Nintendo Games on Philips CD-i.

The biggest Zelda spin-off to date was Hyrule Warriors in 2014. This game was developed with Koei Tecmo in the vein of their Dynasty Warriors series. It notably starred not only Link, but featured Zelda and a variety of characters from throughout the series as playable characters. It is also a game that has DLC packs which unlock new costumes and characters. It is being remade for the 3DS as Hyrule Warriors: Legends.

Additionally, characters and settings from the Zelda series have appeared in the Super Smash Bros. series due to it being one of Nintendo's biggest franchises. Link has been playable in all four installments, and from the second game, Melee, onwards, Zelda, Ganondorf and Young Link were added to the mix, with Young Link being replaced by the Wind Waker-inspired Toon Link in Brawl.


The Legend of Zelda series is among the most well-known in video games for having the most confusing of timelines. Very few games reference to another game, although recently all console games since The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask have referenced back to Ocarina of Time while The Wind Waker has received some direct follow-ups for the Nintendo DS. Most callbacks are vague, but they give the loose basis for the series timeline. Most Zelda games are based largely around the three main characters: Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf. Their fates are usually tied largely in with the Triforce and the Master Sword. As a result, many of the games that take place in Hyrule feature very similar stories, but these storylines have become more complicated over time. Most recently, Skyward Sword has been officially established as the earliest game in the timeline, and although it does not feature Ganondorf due to preceding his birth, it does set up the circumstances between Link and Zelda's eternal battle with him through the new villain Demise.

Another notable set of games that are tied together are the Four Swords trilogy. These games follow an implied order of The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. All three of these games feature Vaati and the Four Sword as focal points.

Part of the reason for the continuity order being so obscured in confusion is due to Nintendo's focus on the gameplay for individual games over their stories. Ocarina of Time is known to be based on the Seal War/Imprisoning War from the backstory of A Link to the Past, but the specifics of the game's gameplay and storyline evolved to the point where Ocarina's storyline does not accurately match the original story from A Link to the Past. Similarly, Four Swords Adventures was also apparently changed after Miyamoto reportedly "upended the tea table" for the game. The storyline had at one point been called the oldest story in Hyrule by Aonuma, and unused text in the game contains references to the Master Sword and the sages which imply that it would have acted as a true prequel to A Link to the Past, but these elements being stripped from the game instead have left Four Swords Adventures as another game with an uncertain timeline placement.

An official timeline was not released until 2011's Hyrule Historia, despite previous claims that Aonuma would not reveal the contents of Nintendo's timeline document. This timeline wound up including the split timeline that Aonuma had previously mentioned, but it also introduced an unforeseen third split from Ocarina of Time. This new timeline did not arise from the game's usage of time travel like the other two timelines, but it instead followed an alternative storyline in which Link died during the final battle with Ganondorf. This split is used to lead into the classic games and explains the discrepancies which have arisen between Ocarina of Time and the Imprisoning War backstory, although the presence of a hero already retcons the latter. The spin-off games are also briefly addressed, specifically BS Zelda and Link's Crossbow Training, and the text says that they are "not included in the chronology", which implies they are actually non-canon.

Game Order

Games featuring the same Link are paired together.

Other Media

The series has inspired various media adaptations over the years. One of the earliest was a cartoon series which ran with the Super Mario Bros. Super Show in 1989. This cartoon was based solely on the first Zelda game and featured Link constantly protecting Zelda and the Triforce of Wisdom from Ganon and his forces. It had a comical tone in which Link often crudely hit on Zelda, only to be coldly rejected. It is notable as the first time Link was shown with a fairy companion in the form of Spryte, who had her own unrequited crush on Link. The Legend of Zelda only lasted for thirteen episodes, although Link, Zelda and Ganon also appeared in an episode of Captain N: The Game Master. There was also a short series of The Legend of Zelda comics that were made by Valient Comics which based on the cartoon but combined with elements of Zelda II and a stronger loyalty to the games.

Since then, there have mostly been manga and comic adaptations of various individual Zelda games, which usually expand upon the game's storylines while taking some liberties, usually in the form of adding or repuprosing characters to act as as sidekicks or foils to Link. It started when Yu Mishasawa wrote and drew manga versions of The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link in 1989. Shotaro Ishinomori, the creator of the popular manga Cyborg 009, later made a comic version of A Link to the Past that was published in Nintendo Power in 1992. In 1994, Ataru Caviga made a manga counterpart for Link's Awakening which was followed by his own A Link to the Past adaptation in 1995. Akira Himekawa later condensed the storyline of Ocarina of Time into a two-volume adaptation with two bonus chapters. Himekawa has written all of the manga adaptations since, including Majora's Mask, Oracle of Seasons, Oracle of Ages, Four Swords Adventures, another adaptation of A Link to the Past (likely to the GBA remake), The Minish Cap and Phantom Hourglass.

In 2011, Nintendo commissioned the makers of the popular video game-based webcomic Penny Arcade to make a five-page comic based on Skyward Sword. One page was released on the official Skyward Sword website per week starting the week before the game's release. The first page features Link in the sky with his narration describing his quest to find Zelda in the style of a romantic adventure, and for the following pages the character of Gaepora narrates with a style fitting a type of story book. His narrations are interspliced with scenes of Link battling early enemies in the game. In addition to this comic, a Skyward Sword manga has been announced by Akira Himekawa for release in 2012. The Hyrule Historia also included a prequel manga which explained the backstory of Skyward Sword and featured an earlier (possibly the earliest) incarnation of Link.

See Also

Personal tools