The Legend of Zelda is a video game franchise where you play a silent-type heroic character clad in green, that fights the flood- wait! Wait waitwait, wrong franchise. Sorry. In the Legend of Zelda, you play as a character appointed by your commanding nation to quell the forces against your kind, harnessing little more than a trusted weapon, tiny blue lady with all the know-how, and copious amounts of courage and luck. Your name is the Ma- Link! Link- you play as Link. Man alive. Who knew the only two video game franchises I’d come to love would be so similar? I’ve already covered Halo in a previous thoughts piece I’ll link you to here, so no more of that.
Both franchises hold dear places in my heart for both their story and the time they came in my life. I started playing Halo in 2007, but before that, the Legend of Zelda inspired my every creative spark. When I look back at old comic books I made or just original art in general, they were almost all based off of the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Back in 1998 when I was five years old, my older brother and I got a Nintendo 64 for Christmas. The first 3D Legend of Zelda game subtitled Ocarina of Time just came out that year at the end of November so we and millions of others including one of my best friends received it as a packaged deal for the system. It was the first time we got a gaming console. Other kids at this time had a Play Station, NES, or SNES, but to my brother and I, this was the genesis of gaming. We later received other games like Mario Kart and Super Sash Bros but for a long time the Legend of Zelda was all we had. (Side note before getting into it, I always called the game ‘Oricona’ of Time for some reason, and I always pronounced deku, ‘deeku.’ For a kid, the latter is sensible, but my mix-up of ocarina has no rhyme or reason to it. Anyway, back to it.)
I remember my brother and I being stuck in the Great Deku Tree dungeon for the longest time until our cousin solved a particular puzzle for us. Afterward, once defeating the dungeon’s boss and leaving our character’s home of Kokiri, we entered Hyrule field of the first time. Witnessing the expanse of land housed the same feeling of awe in me that Halo’s second mission did. All of a sudden, you were in the world, and nothing was going to be the same again. It reminds me of when I was younger and would walk to school. My elementary school was ONE block from my house, so at the time my whole world was very small. It wasn’t until like grade five that I started biking around the city with my friends, where for the first time I truly grasped the scope and scale of the world.
As one does, I eventually beat the game. I had beaten it before my older brother and best friend. I remember that being the first time I had really competed and won. On the day my brother made it to the end fight with Ganon, I sat there furious. He hit B, triggering the final blow animation, and I ripped out the power cord! Like that was going to permanently stop him from beating the game. Talk about childish and petty. Obviously he soon beat the game along with everyone else and life went on. A year later, Ocarina of Time’s sequel was announced! I begged to have it and when it came out, my parent’s obliged. At this point it was clear to my folks that I was obsessed. I went through an addiction phase with the N64 where I wouldn’t do my homework or let anyone else play, so my parent’s grounded me from it and I threw a full-on fit. These were the first signs that I had an addictive personality, but how could my parent’s have known that? Regardless, I started drawing my own dungeon maps and spin off story lines for Link. Then, Wind Waker came to the GameCube. I was at first appalled by their change of art design. It was cartoony now! Completely divorced from the first two 3D games’ ‘realistic’ art design. But my love was strong and I adjusted to it, quickly falling in love with the story it told. Years passed before the next game was announced at E3 2004. It was at the time untitled, but… the art design… it went for a more realistic look! And in that reveal trailer the camera panned over a land that looked just like Ocarina of Time’s Hyrule field. I remember watching that trailer over and over again, thinking, ‘is this the third game to Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask? Will it take place between then and Wind Waker, where Link returns to Hyrule? My mind was running wild! As we all know now, that wasn’t the case. It was its own standalone story in its own universe. Before this game, I didn’t even know the stories of any of the other games in the series, and didn’t know they all held the same names of characters but were otherwise not connected.
So now I shall cover all of the Legend of Zelda games as quickly as I can: The first game simply titled The Legend of Zelda came out in 1986. Since there are over 19 games, this first one will be the only story I dive into for the sake of levity.
A small kingdom in the land of Hyrule is engulfed by chaos when an army led by Ganon, the Prince of Darkness, invaded and stole the Triforce of Power, one part of a magical artifact which alone bestows great strength. In an attempt to prevent him from acquiring the Triforce of Wisdom, another of the three pieces, Princess Zelda splits it into eight fragments and hides them in secret underground dungeons. Before eventually being kidnapped by Ganon, she commands her nursemaid Impa to find someone courageous enough to save the kingdom. While wandering the land, the old woman is surrounded by Ganon’s henchmen, when a young boy named Link appears and rescues her. Upon hearing Impa’s plea, he resolves to save Zelda and sets out to reassemble the scattered fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom, with which Ganon can then be defeated.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link came out in 1987 and is a direct sequel to the first game, taking place many years later. Then the third game, A Link to the Past came out in 1991. It’s a prequel to the first two games, and is directly followed by Link’s Awakening in 1993. Ocarina of Time came out in 1998 and is apparently a prequel that takes the story back many centuries; according to character designer Satoru Takizawa, it was meant to implicitly tell the story of the Imprisoning War from the manual of A Link to the Past, with Majora’s Mask in 2000 directly following its ending. (Another side note, there’s a YouTube video by The Game Theorist called Dear Nintendo, I FIXED Your Timeline! (Zelda) He goes over the whole timeline properly for those who like things done properly. So just keep in mind that although I’m covering the official Zelda timeline, it isn’t something the makers of the franchise actually planned to have.)
Next, Skyward Sword from 2011 is a prequel to Ocarina of Time. Twilight Princess which came out in 2006 is set more than 100 years after Ocarina of Time. The Wind Waker from 2002 is actually parallel to Twilight Princess, taking place in another timeline branch, which we’ll get into in a bit. Phantom Hourglass from 2007 is a direct sequel to Wind Waker and is followed by Spirit Tracks in 2009 which… is set about 100 years later with a different link on a supercontinent far away from the setting of The Wind Waker. So like… why? Why even make it a Legend of Zelda story? Why say they’re connected?! But I digress. Four Swords from 2002 for the Game Boy Advance was considered the oldest tale in the series’ chronology at the time of its release, with Four Swords Adventures released in 2004 set sometime after its events. The Minish Cap, also from 2004, preceded the two games. A Link Between Worlds which came out in 2013 takes place six generations after Link to the Past. Important events occur in the game include the Triforce being reunited, and Ganon being resurrected.
Nintendo’s 2011 timeline announcement subsequently posits that following Ocarina of Time, the timeline splits into three alternate routes: in one, Link fails to defeat Ganon, leading into the Imprisoning War and A Link to the Past, Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages, Link’s Awakening, The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link. In the second and third, Link is successful, leading to a timeline split between his childhood (when Zelda sends him back in time so he can use the wisdom he has gained to warn the Zelda in the past of the horrifying fate of Hyrule) and adulthood (where the Zelda from the future lives on to try and rebuild the kingdom). His childhood continues with Majora’s Mask, followed by Twilight Princess and Four Swords Adventures. The timeline from his adult life continues into Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.
FINALLY, In 2017 Breath of the Wild came out, officially taking place after all previous games in the series (without specifying a connection to any of the three timelines), and moved Link’s Awakening to take place before Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages.
Now with all of that wiki timeline nonsense covered, the only games important to me were and are the console games. I understand if that makes me ignorant to other story beats but that’s where I’m at with the franchise. On that note I admit I’m not a super fan by any means. Even with the console games, I never played Skyward Sword which came out on the Wii. So for my own timeline, I know of Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Breath of the Wild, and Link’s Awakening which just came out with a refreshed coat of graphics in 2019 on the Nintendo Switch.
Whether you’ve played every game, only some console games like moi, haven’t played any but watched family and friends play through them, haven’t played any but watched the cutscenes online, or only know of the games by name, the Legend of Zelda’s got a place for everyone. According to Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the franchise, one of his most memorable experiences as a young boy was the discovery of a cave entrance in the middle of the woods near his childhood home in Sonobe, Japan. After some hesitation, he apprehensively entered the cave and explored its depths with the aid of a lantern. Miyamoto has referred to the creation of the Zelda games as an attempt to bring to life a “miniature garden” for players to play with in each game of the series, and to me you can really feel that sense of adventure when you play.
Also a fun fact worth noting, Miyamoto named princess Zelda off of American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife. He’s stated that he thought the name sounded “pleasant and significant” and decided to pay tribute. Another fun fact! The inspiration for Link and his fairy came from Peter Pan and Tinker Bell. And finally, the Master Sword was inspired by Excalibur, which originates from the Arthurian Legend in the Welsh collection of Mabinogion.
The Legend of Zelda is a strategy game series that rewards players’ puzzle solving abilities with a rich story of good fighting evil, courage in the face of insurmountable odds, and love. The latest game announced is a yet untitled Breath of the Wild sequel, to come out for the Switch possibly in 2021. It is said that it will build atop the original’s world with a new story and gameplay elements, something inspired by Red Dead Redemption 2. What do you guys think of this series? What games have you played? What do you know about Link, Zelda, and Ganon? What do they mean to you? Are you curious to find out what happens next for these characters? Let me know! Thank you so much again for being here. I appreciate your time, I love y’as, and I’ll see you in next one.