The Legend of Zelda

legend of zelda box art original nintendo nes
10 Overall Score
Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 8/10
Controls: 8/10

Revolutionary game that holds up


Game Info

Game Name:   The Legend of Zelda

Developer(s):  Nintendo R&D4

Publisher(s):   Nintendo

Platform(s):   NES

Genre(s):   Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):   January 21, 1986 (Japan)/July 1987 (US)

ESRB Rating:   E

legend of zelda original sword link screenshot graphics gameplay

Begin one of the greatest video game adventures of all time!

A darkness has awakened in the land of Hyrule and a hero is needed. A young boy named Link has learned that Princess Zelda has been taken by the evil forces of Ganon. It is up to link to save Princess Zelda but first he must brave the dungeons of Hyrule and retrieve the eight fragments of the legendary Triforce of Wisdom. Ganon wants the Triforce and his power over the land is growing…Link’s time is running out.

The Legend of Zelda was released on January 21, 1986 in Japan for Nintendo’s Family Computer Disk System or the Famicom Disk System. A version of the game was released in 1987 for the Nintendo Entertainment System and featured a revolutionary battery saving device. The game became one of the NES’s best sellers and is often cited as one of the most revolutionary games of all time.

I can remember the commercials for Zelda on TV. One featured a guy running around looking for Zelda and the other featured a really bad Zelda rap (which can stick in your head). Both promos worked and had me wanting the game (look them up on YouTube…they’re worth it, plus the crazy Japanese commercial). I borrowed the game from a friend…and found I couldn’t find a sword. I had previously played one of their characters and didn’t realize the empty cave at the beginning was where the sword would be found…thus began my adventure into Hyrule that has continued for decades.

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Everything wants Link dead…why is Hyrule such a crappy place to live?

Zelda changed up the format of console gaming by having a really long story (they called it an “endless quest”) that was open world and featured sprawling dungeons. Each dungeon gave you a new tool to expand the area you could expore and increased the difficulty by giving you more life but more difficult enemies. The game also featured replay ability by offering a “second quest” which changed up the dungeons from the first playthrough.

The graphics at the time were also strong. The game features a top view which was different from a lot of games and some great sound effects plus a catchy tune. Today, The Legend of Zelda world is a bit bland with deserts (filled with weird turtle-esque shaped rocks), plains with shrubs, and of course the haunted forest and graveyard. The pixel design on Link alone felt sophisticated and high tech when you consider the look of the Atari from a few years before it.

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Do you have the courage to take on Ganon in the Second Quest?

The Legend of Zelda is really smooth in its design. You had multiple weapons and a sword and very few glitches to the game. It could range from good to frustrating at points when you keep getting nailed by the same enemy over and over again but the controls the game really can’t be faulted.

The Legend of Zelda was a big game. It was given a special golden case to make it stand out from the other NES games, but it didn’t need it because the game naturally stood out. In a world of pre-internet, playing The Legend of Zelda meant calling friends and investing in magazines for maps and clues (I distinctly remember calling someone when I finally reached Ganon and couldn’t figure out how to beat him). The game aided in the creation of Nintendo Power which catered to kids trying to find out the clues to their favorite Nintendo games. The game has been released multiple times on multiple Nintendo systems and is generally available for download at the Nintendo Store. It remains a solid entry into the series and is still playable to this day. The Legend of Zelda was followed by Zelda II: The Adventure of Link in 1987.

Related Links:

Zelda II:  The Adventure of Link

The Legend of Zelda:  Link’s Awakening

The Legend of Zelda:  The Minish Cap

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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