3D Dot Game Heroes super review

Legend of Zelda gets remixed with a sense of humor

GamesRadar+ Verdict


  • +

    Perfectly emulates classic gameplay

  • +

    Full of funny in-jokes

  • +

    Delivers on its promise of old school fun


  • -

    Lots of jokes will go over the heads of younger gamers

  • -

    Some bits are just outdated

  • -

    instead of nostalgic

  • -

    Suffering from retro-fatigue when finished

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

No joke: there has been, on average, at least one rerelease of a retro title (Lunar, Final Fight, Perfect Dark) or release of an '80s throwback (Mega Man 10, Cave Story on WiiWare) each week for the past two months. Retro is starting to get pretty… dare we say it? Old. And even though it’s been proven time and again that gamers in their mid-20s are far more nostalgic than they should be, we’re starting to get worn out by the constant deluge of rehashes and knowing winks that get thrown at us. But just when we thought we’d had enough, 3D Dot Game Heroes reminded us that even something as seemingly worn out as NES nostalgia can still be fun and even fresh from the right perspective.

Nintendo should be proud (or perhaps planning to sue)

OK, we’ll start with the obvious: this game is very nearly a remake of the first Legend of Zelda. It has all the core parts of a Zelda, starting with the plot. You walk across the realm of Dotina (which recently shifted from 2d to 3d in an attempt to be more popular with tourists) at the behest of the King to find the lost princess and seal away the evil master once more. You have to explore six dungeons, each trickier than the last, and collect magical orbs in preparation for a final, climactic boss fight.

Above: There's "not-Ganon" wickedly plotting

Above: They got the HUD perfect

Above: Even the menu was spot on

True, lots of games follow comparable plotlines, but it plays like Zelda, too. The main character moves the same way as Link, many of the enemies operate the same – octopus-looking enemies pop out of the water and spit things at you, just like Octoroks - you get secondary items in the same order (boomerang always comes first) and the camera scrolls around one “screen” at a time, too. It’s all so familiar, but in a really good way, because as much as it feels like a classic Nintendo game, it’s the kind of game that Nintendo wouldn’t make now. Instead, it takes a band of outsiders to revisit that classic structure and reconstruct it using their obvious love for the Zelda series, particularly for the first game.

Above: The Water... sorry, Aqua Temple is a bitch in this game too

Playing the game, for those familiar with the source, is like hearing one of your favorite current bands covering a hit from two decades ago with new style and energy. The game has tons of appeal to the millions of gamers out there that grew up with the NES and played the shit out of the first Zelda. There are a lot of moments during which you’ll catch yourself saying, “here’s the forest puzzle, just like in Zelda,” or, “oh man, as I climb the mountain to get to this dungeon, rocks are falling at me, just like in Zelda!” It’s like playing a lost Zelda sequel, but with a few bits added to make it more interesting.

So old, nostalgic losers like the staff of GR are guaranteed to love the gameplay. But what else has it got?

More info

DescriptionThough 3D Dot Game Heroes is a fun game on its own, it’s basically impossible to divorce it from the source. Your overall enjoyment depends on whether you’re in on the joke or not. But if you do “get it,” then it’s the perfect game for the nostalgic fan looking for another taste of their childhood while getting a few good laughs at the same time.
US censor rating"Everyone 10+"
UK censor rating"7+"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)
Henry Gilbert

Henry Gilbert is a former GamesRadar+ Editor, having spent seven years at the site helping to navigate our readers through the PS3 and Xbox 360 generation. Henry is now following another passion of his besides video games, working as the producer and podcast cohost of the popular Talking Simpsons and What a Cartoon podcasts.