Looking back: The Legend of Zelda

Sept 28, 2007

Nintendo currently owns four of the top 10 best-selling franchises in the video game world. Number one? Of course it's Mario, the bouncy platform king everyone knows. Nipping at his heels are 493 super-powered Pokemon. Charging right behind them, however, is one lone figure riding atop his tireless steed, sword held high in utter triumph and hard-nosed defiance against all other comers.

So, even though Mario and Pokemon outrank Link by a wide margin, the latter's mindshare and personal importance to millions of gamers makes them number one by a long shot. The original Legend of Zelda launched in the US 20 years ago (August 22, 1987), and a brand new chapter, Phantom Hourglass, is on our doorstep. To celebrate two magical decades of Hyrule, we're going to blow the magic whistle and explore the wide world of Zelda, exposing its successes, secrets and shames for all to see. Our grading system for each title:

The legend: Plot details

Master swords: Notable new features, weapons, and skills this particular game brought to the series. These are additions that worked.

I AM ERROR: These additions... did not work as well as hoped.

It's a secret to everybody: Trivia that both everyone and no one knows.

Hero of Time? Our verdict on each and every Zelda - which one gets the top nod?

Above: Zelda's popularity now spans 20 years, 14 games and nine consoles

Nestled among these criteria will be videos and screens showcasing the best moment of each Zelda title. Did your favorite scenes make the cut?

Let's kick it off with the game that started it all - the original Legend of Zelda.