Hey Nintendo, could you not be evil for a little bit? I’m trying to celebrate your games here. Put the copyright hammer away.
Wonder. Danger. Discovery. Terror. These are just four of the core tenants that make for a thrilling adventure.
When it comes to adventure, no video game franchise does it quite like the Legend of Zelda. Nor does any other franchise do it so well so consistently. Regardless of how divisive some of the entries can be, they all still manage to capture that feeling of going on an exciting journey.
Wonder and Discovery
A sense of wonder and discovery is necessary for any fantasy world. One of the biggest reasons why such franchises as Lord of the Rings and One Piece are so successful is the cool or interesting bits of world building.
Zelda games are full to the brim with such things. Whether you’re diving into the Deku Tree or climbing Death Mountain in Ocarina of Time, gliding through the air in Breath of the Wild, or soaring the skies in Skyward Sword, Zelda is full of these breath-taking fantasy set pieces.
Even the inhabitants of the worlds are interesting. From the stone-eating Gorons to the Zoras of the sea, to all the dozens of monsters you’ll face along the way, few fantasy worlds are full of such colorful creatures. Places and people, there’s always something new and amazing to find!
Hell, discovery is one of the core gameplay mechanics of the franchise! It’s all about turning the world upside down, searching for secret items or dungeons to further your journey forward. It was this very sensation that made the original NES game such a hit!
All of this makes each Zelda game feel like a genuine journey. You’re always finding new and interesting places and having new adventures. It never stops until the credits role!
But of course, colorful worlds and fun discovery doesn’t mean much if you’re completely invincible. Every adventure needs stakes. They need…
Danger and Terror
Exploring a Zelda world isn’t always fun. Sometimes, these games could be downright brutal. And not just on a gameplay front.
Plenty of Zelda games are really tough. Those original NES games are downright brutal; even the most basic enemies could mess you up! When Breath of the Wild came out, people were taken so off-guard that death montages became the primary thing everyone covered!
Ganondorf may not be a particularly deep character, but he’s certainly an intimidating one! Every time this dude shows up, he feels like a monolithic villain! He’s a final boss that actually feels like a final boss! Just the thought of him coming back in Tears of the Kingdom is one of the biggest reasons why everyone is so excited for it!
Granted, plenty more Zelda games are super easy. You could beat games like Wind Waker or Twilight Princess with very little risk of every dying, unless you actively go out of your way to die. Surely that sense of danger is gone. And it kind of is.
They just replace it with heart-stopping terror.
Zelda games have some messed up stuff in them. Take Ocarina of Time for example. After leaping forward in time, what does Link find? A city in ruins, populated by the living dead, who shamble towards you while shrieking in agony. And don’t even get me started on those bloody ghast things with the really long hands!
There are tons of other good examples. The Moon in Majora’s Mask, basically everything with Zant and that creepy vision in Twilight Princess, Zelda games were often downright terrifying!
All of this grounds the adventure. For every time you laugh, for every time you gasp in wonder, there’s a moment that puts you on edge or sends a shiver down your spine. It gives the journey genuine stakes and only makes the it even more engaging.
There are tons of adventure games out there. Massive open world games, Metroidvania games, choose-your-own adventure games, the list is nigh endless. The genre is one of the oldest in video games.
Yet the one I always come back to the most often is the Legend of Zelda. When it comes to the feeling of pure adventure, very few games came even close. Say what you will about its individual entries. Say what you will about the franchise itself. But when I want a thrilling, magical adventure, Zelda will always be my first pick.
Enjoy Tears of the Kingdom, y’all. I’m sure I will.
At least, if Nintendo doesn’t light my house on fire for daring to talk about them on the internet again.