Looking back: The Legend of Zelda

We dissect each and every game in this legendary franchise

The Legend of Zelda | NES (1987) | GC (2003) | GBA (2004) | Wii (2006)

One of the most influential games of all time. Millions of gamers around the world have spent countless hours exploring its many mysteries.

The legend: Gannon, the Prince of Darkness, has stormed into Hyrule and nabbed the mystical Triforce of Power. Then he kidnapped Princess Zelda in an attempt to acquire her Triforce of Wisdom. Fearing the great power Gannon would receive by collecting both versions of the Triforce, Zelda shattered hers into eight pieces and sends her aid, Impa, to find help. The boy Impa finds is none other than a young Link.

Master swords: The first Zelda game is, obviously, packed to the brim with firsts. It begins with no direction at all. You're thrown into a new realm with no immediate clue as to where to go. You could visit the game's eight dungeons out of order, explore vast forests, graveyards and lakes at your leisure, scour the wilderness for hidden passageways, marvel at the sheer number of monsters roaming about... the world was wide open. The ability to save your progress was brand new to console players too - it meant you didn't have to finish the whole thing in one sitting. And given the game's then-extraordinary length, you probably couldn't complete this adventure within one day. In fact, back then, completing this game at all meant hours of trial and error and constant communication with friends. In some ways, this was the first game that really made gamers interact with each other to get ahead, and also served to make Nintendo Power an indispensable source of Zelda hints. If you wanted to find the Triforce and collect all the items and weapons that would become Zelda staples, you had to sniff around outside the game.

In other words, the first Zelda solidified an entire franchise, made millions of gamers into lifelong Nintendo fans and ensured the ongoing success of its own official magazine, which began as a modest newsletter, Nintendo Fun Club News. Pretty good run by any means of measurement.

Best moment: The music. The items. The story. The title screen. Everything's summed up best by this legendary intro.

I AM ERROR: It's hard to think what went wrong with the first Zelda, but if we have to nitpick, that map is not helpful at all. Even as wide-eyed youths we stared at that bleak gray rectangle wondering what the hell it meant. Oh, Link's five cubes from the lower east side! Sweet. We can totally use that information.

It's a secret to everybody: Miyamoto readily admits he borrowed the "Zelda" name from author F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda Fitzgerald - The adventuresome tone came from Miyamoto's outdoor escapades as a child - The main villain, Ganon, is spelled "Gannon" in this game only - Inputting your name as "ZELDA" activates the game's second quest right away - Actor Robin Williams named his daughter Zelda - When re-released many years later, it came packed in a grey cartridge, not the standard gold version. Oddly enough, this grey cart is harder to find than the gold, because who wants a grey Zeda cart?

Hero of Time? Argue all you want about the outdated graphics, non-existent story and simplistic battle options - this is still one of the best games ever made. Too bad one of its sequels would perfect everything introduced here, making it seem older and more archaic than it really is. 9/10

One of the most influential games of all time. Millions of gamers around the world have spent countless hours exploring its many mysteries.

The legend: Gannon, the Prince of Darkness, has stormed into Hyrule and nabbed the mystical Triforce of Power. Then he kidnapped Princess Zelda in an attempt to acquire her Triforce of Wisdom. Fearing the great power Gannon would receive by collecting both versions of the Triforce, Zelda shattered hers into eight pieces and sends her aid, Impa, to find help. The boy Impa finds is none other than a young Link.

Master swords: The first Zelda game is, obviously, packed to the brim with firsts. It begins with no direction at all. You're thrown into a new realm with no immediate clue as to where to go. You could visit the game's eight dungeons out of order, explore vast forests, graveyards and lakes at your leisure, scour the wilderness for hidden passageways, marvel at the sheer number of monsters roaming about... the world was wide open. The ability to save your progress was brand new to console players too - it meant you didn't have to finish the whole thing in one sitting. And given the game's then-extraordinary length, you probably couldn't complete this adventure within one day. In fact, back then, completing this game at all meant hours of trial and error and constant communication with friends. In some ways, this was the first game that really made gamers interact with each other to get ahead, and also served to make Nintendo Power an indispensable source of Zelda hints. If you wanted to find the Triforce and collect all the items and weapons that would become Zelda staples, you had to sniff around outside the game.

In other words, the first Zelda solidified an entire franchise, made millions of gamers into lifelong Nintendo fans and ensured the ongoing success of its own official magazine, which began as a modest newsletter, Nintendo Fun Club News. Pretty good run by any means of measurement.

Best moment: The music. The items. The story. The title screen. Everything's summed up best by this legendary intro.

I AM ERROR: It's hard to think what went wrong with the first Zelda, but if we have to nitpick, that map is not helpful at all. Even as wide-eyed youths we stared at that bleak gray rectangle wondering what the hell it meant. Oh, Link's five cubes from the lower east side! Sweet. We can totally use that information.

It's a secret to everybody: Miyamoto readily admits he borrowed the "Zelda" name from author F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda Fitzgerald - The adventuresome tone came from Miyamoto's outdoor escapades as a child - The main villain, Ganon, is spelled "Gannon" in this game only - Inputting your name as "ZELDA" activates the game's second quest right away - Actor Robin Williams named his daughter Zelda - When re-released many years later, it came packed in a grey cartridge, not the standard gold version. Oddly enough, this grey cart is harder to find than the gold, because who wants a grey Zeda cart?

Hero of Time? Argue all you want about the outdated graphics, non-existent story and simplistic battle options - this is still one of the best games ever made. Too bad one of its sequels would perfect everything introduced here, making it seem older and more archaic than it really is. 9/10