At this point it's hard to remember all the hoopla Wind Waker caused when it launched in 2003. Nintendo ditched the serious tone of 1998's Ocarina of Time and replaced it with a childish, Saturday morning version of always-hero Link and the kingdom of Hyrule. Many were incensed. But you know what? It's still one of the best puzzle-solving, labyrinth-crawling adventures you'll ever play.
Graphics don't make everything, but here they certainly carry a bright, cheery mood through the whole game. Even though Link's sister is missing and Gannondorf is scheming yet another wild plot, it's hard to feel a sense of danger when everything looks like it's made out of candy. Forgiving the lack of mortal peril, the perfect animation and wispy art style really do feel like playing a cartoon and can't maim the tried-and-true gameplay we've been digging for almost 20 years.
The premise is unchanged from the first Zelda: run through an immense, secret-filled overworld peppered with murky dungeons, obvious (but quietly devious) puzzles, and untold secrets to stop Ganon from usurping the all-powerful Triforce. The sense of adventure and exploration is as powerful here as it's ever been, with every area offering some type of mystery to reel you in. The main quest is engrossing, sure, but blindly heading off to the horizon is what keeps you coming back. The level and creature designs are some of the most creative images ever put on a TV screen, from a lava-soaked centipede monster down to the avian townspeople of a tropical island.