The Legend of...
There are a lot of copy cats out there. You know, people who take someone else's idea and run with it, cashing in on pre-established concepts. Doppelganger games are rife today--we see them all the time. But even if some games are blatant ripoffs of the original's creativity, that doesn't mean they can't be amazing experiences themselves. And hey, if you're going to pull ideas from something, you might as well take those ideas from the best of the best.
Take the Zelda series for instance. Link's adventures are some of the most highly praised games in history--which is why there are so many other games that copy directly from the Zelda playbook. Some of these games have built on their Zelda inspiration so well that they have become our favorites. I've put together the most obvious Zelda clones you can find out there. So, if you have a hankering for a good old fashioned adventuring, but don't want to replay Ocarina for the umpteenth time, you might want to give these games a try...
3D Dot Game Heroes
If you took the original Legend of Zelda--2D pixel graphics and all--and fleshed it out into a full 3D game, it would be 3D Dot Game Heroes. All those little squares in Legend of Zelda are cubes 3D Dot, giving the environments, characters, and monsters in this games a charming Lego aesthetic.
The hero, is basically... anything you want it to be because the character creator lets you build your own warrior block by block. If you're crafty enough you can even create the original 8-bit Link in 3D. But the retro look isn't the only Zelda quality the game has. The gameplay is essentially ripped right out of the classic series, complete with plenty of environmental secrets to uncover, dungeons to explore, and intense boss fights to overcome.
Golden Axe Warrior
If ever there was a Zelda clone... its Golden Axe Warrior. The game is practically a carbon copy of the original Legend of Zelda in terms of art style, and every element of the story just screams Zelda. I mean, the main character is a young hero, the hero needs to find nine crystals in hidden labyrinths, and he must destroy the bad guy (Death Adder) with the evil destroying Golden Axe. The game hits every point.
Though, Golden Axe Warrior wasn't well received by critics, the inspiration is undeniable. The spin off completely deviates from the Golden Axe series' formula in favor of a massive overworld that challenges players to make their way through the game, finding items, and doing all the things that Link does.
Beyond: Good and Evil
Beyond: Good and Evil might not be the first thing you think of when you hear Zelda clone, but Jade's adventure has a lot in common with Link's 3D quests. Jade battles enemies with her signature bo staff, pushes blocks to solve puzzles, and has hearts to represent her health bar, though Beyond has a heavier emphasis on stealth elements--which Zelda really hasn't gotten a good handle on.
Nevertheless, Beyond just feels like a Zelda title. Getting side quests from wacky characters, solving environmental puzzles, and racing around the world in Jade's hovercraft gives you the feeling that you're on a grand adventure. And if you aren't convinced that Beyond is a Zelda game in disguise, consider this: Jade is garbed in green, her race is Hillyan (not Hylian), and she's closely connected to a giant, talking pig.
Being a PlayStation fanboy in the late 90s there weren't many Zelda-like games to play. But thanks to games like Alundra, you could take up your sword and shield in an epic quest to save the world from a demonic evil. If that scenario doesn't already sound like the plot of a Zelda game, Alundra's opening sequence starts with the titular hero waking up on a beach to discover that he is a dreamwalker and must save everyone in a local village from a demon causing horrible nightmares (Link's Awakening, anyone?).
Well, the story doesn't play out exactly the same way as Link's quest to awaken the Wind Fish, but Alundra's overworld looks like it was pulled straight from A Link to the Past, and the dungeon design has all of the Zelda tropes. I mean, you use arrows, bombs, and spells to defeat enemies and solve puzzles. There's even the Zelda staple of forcing players to defeat every enemy on screen to make a door open or item appear.
Prince Ali (fabulous he) is out to stop a great and powerful, ancient evil. When he stumbles upon a magical golden armlet, he sets out on a quest to summon four elemental spirits with the power to save the world. Beyond Oasis takes the classic Zelda formula and makes it its own.
Ali has some of the standard Zelda weapons and equipment, like a bow, bombs, and swords, but the hero also has his own unique magical abilities. Once the prince summons a spirit, he gains that spirit's elemental powers. He can use the spirits to breathe fire to light torches and burn enemies, unleash magic storms, and reach out and grab distant objects (like a hookshot). Beyond Oasis might not look like a Zelda title right away, but once you get into it, the game's inner A Link to the Past starts to show.
Aesthetically, Darksiders is nothing like the Zelda series (not even the darker ones). Darksiders is all about the apocalypse, the end of humanity, and shoving a giant sword down monster's throats... then slicing them in half with it. At first glance you might think it has more in common with God of War than Zelda. But don't always judge the book by it's cover. Darksiders' lead character, War, is much more like Link than you might think.
Aside the God of War style combos and monster eviscerations, Darksiders' gameplay is largely focused on solving environmental puzzles, grabbing new gear (like hookshots and portal guns), and delving into the depths of a dungeon. War even has his own Navi-like companion, albeit the Watcher actually hates the horseman and tries to kill him any chance he gets.
Crusader of Centy
If you're looking for a game that is completely reminiscent of A Link to the Past, you can't go wrong with Crusader of Centy. A young boy comes of age and takes up his father's sword and shield to defend humanity from evil monsters. Like A Link to the Past, you have to explore the environment, chat with NPCs and uncover the reason behind the monster's attacks.
Rather than the hero collecting various items and equipment throughout the story, Corona (the main character) acquires the help of friendly animals and their unique abilities. Once you find your non-human friends, they will follow behind you and assist in battle. Corona's pet dog holds down enemies while you slice them to death, and other animals like the penguin can give you elemental abilities allowing you to freeze attackers.
Here's an original Legend of Zelda clone that came out on Turbo Graphix-16. It seems, back in the day, everyone wanted to be Zelda. In Neutopia, you take on the role of a young boy (go figure) as he embarks on a quest to collect eight medallions, defeat the demon Dirth, and rescue a princess. Sound familiar yet?
Everything down to the items the hero uses come right out of a Zelda title. You fight off enemies with your sword and shield, blow up walls with bombs, and launch pillars of fire with a fire rod (though Link's fire rod wouldn't appear until a later date). Every Zelda staple is here: the overworld, the items, the dungeons. Altogether the game isn't half bad, and is probably the closest you're going to get to a classic-style zelda game on this list.
Ittle Dew takes Zelda conventions and places them in a humorous light. The top-down adventure puts you in control of a snarky, young heroine as you battle cute creatures and explore underground dungeons. The difference between Ittle Dew and the other Zelda clones on this list is this game puts a huge focus on solving block-pushing puzzles. A lot of block-pushing puzzles.
The game progresses in an open world, allowing you to explore each section of the environment as you see fit. Getting new items will give you access to the previously closed off areas (giving the game a tinge of a Metroid vibe), and there is plenty of witty dialogue making the game stand out from the Zelda titles.
Imagine the wolf sequence from Twilight Princess, give the wolf a magic paint brush, and expand that sequence out to a full length game. That's Okami. Well, sort of. Okami definitely has it's own unique qualities, like the hand-painted Japanese art style, deep combat system, and creative character design, but the Zelda influences simply can't go unnoticed.
Amaterasu, the game's white wolf protagonist, travels around the world, helping NPCs, battling hordes of dark spirits, and delving into dungeons as she attempts to bring life back to the cursed land. The way you earn new powers by meeting with mystical figures throughout your journey is reminiscent of the Zelda titles, and Ami even has an annoying, talkative little companion that will clue you in to the next step in your quest.
Know any other wannabe Zeldas?
There you have it. If you were looking for a few Zelda clones to play, now you have a pretty good set of games to explore. Have you played any good clones lately? Let us know which ones are your favorites by leaving a comment below.