Zelda Now and Then

Explore the Zelda Universe!  Want to get to know the Legend of Zelda world just a little bit better? Then check out its major - release games. It’s got a rich history…..

Zelda Game Version Chart

1986 The Legend of Zelda

The very first title that started it all, The Legend of Zelda first featured Link, the protagonist and daring hero in every Zelda game, along with Princess Zelda (whom he usually has to rescue) and the wicked Ganon (whom he usually has to defeat)....as well as the 3 - piece Triforce. One piece is for wisdom; another is for courage; and lastly, another represents power….and when in perfect balance, anyone who owns all 3 can essentially rule the world of Hyrule (the magical, far away land from which most Zelda games are based, and Link’s home of origin) and beyond. 

In this first title, which made an instant success on Nintendo’s first - ever game system, Link has to use his sword and shield, mainly, to strike down foes and make his way to the princess….rescuing her from the clutches of Ganon.This game is the first to feature the classic line of “It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this…..” This classic line is still remembered today, some even poking fun at it, in turn. In it, an old man gives Link his very first sword, by which he is to go out and conquer his evil foes! 

1987 The Adventures of Link

This game, released for the same video game console (also the Nintendo Entertainment System so gloriously hailed as the NES) was highly popular but did not notably hail as well received as the first one did. It could have been a far greater sequel as most retro gamers still recall. Yet it was not an altogether terrible game, by any means….yet the first was considerably better, in terms of storyline and plot, player controls and movement, characters, and overall worlds. Yet we live and we learn, and that’s what Nintendo did, in this bout, cutting its loses and seeing where the opportunity for improvement was at….for future games to be released, of course. It still carried a few more great ideas up its sleeve, and the Zelda series was far from done. 

In this game, you (playing as Link, once again) leave behind the comforts of Hyrule, Ganon and Princess Zelda altogether. It’s time for a different quest. And as the title memorably notes, it’s time for Link to go out on an adventure of his own, unlike all others…..making for a 2D side - scroller game like never before. Link also gets to run through new towns and talk to residents more. 

1991 A Link to the Past

A Link to the Past was a great title to kick off a new face for the Zelda franchise. It was bold, catchy and said everything it needed to say, and the game itself was no less stellar in its birth. Since it came out, scores of people went to local stores and bought it right off the shelf, hungry for more of what the magical land of Hyrule could offer them….be it an escape from everyday work pressures, a place to call ‘home away from home’ and forget any ongoing relational issues in real - life, or anything else, for that matter. 

A Link to the Past also featured itself on a more advanced, “evolved” sort of Nintendo console altogether, the SNES (SUPER NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM, the next best thing in video gaming). There was, as I recall, nearly one of these in every American home. It was the time for it….and Zelda, as a major growing franchise among Nintendo’s top titles, was there, this time in the form of A Link to the Past, in which Link has to once again take a new form and conquer Hyrule in his efforts to save Zelda and crush Ganon in his evil plans.

1993 Link's Awakening

Link’s Awakening, quite similar to the aforementioned The Legend of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link, sees Link leaving Hyrule once more and seeking out on an all - new quest of his very own….no Zelda, no Ganon, no triforce. This time, when out on the open waters, he encounters turbulent storms and later ends up shipwrecking, losing his entire ship and barely keeping his life….only to wake up and find that he was saved and nurtured, barely. Upon waking, he meets beautiful Marin, from whom he learns that he is on the island of Koholint and that his only way to escape it is to awaken a sleeping Wind Fish atop the island. 

This beautiful game was released as a Gameboy release….ah, yes, remember the original Gameboy? It was a big, portable handheld gaming box, a true gamer’s delight for playing on the go. Almost every kid on the block had a Gameboy, as I still remember to this day….and all games, at the time, were in black and white, including this one, of course. But that didn’t stop me from playing; the engaging characters and fun action controls were good enough for me.  Another, colorized version was released later.

1998 Ocarina of Time

Now, we move onto something of a more “3D nature” altogether, and this game so happens to be the first of its kind….in fact, many still claim it as having revolutionized the world of modern Zelda altogether. It really was the game that bridged the gap between the 2D world of gaming and the 3D world of gaming, respectively. This game was the first Zelda game ever to be released in 3D, and the lucky N64 (NINTENDO 64) got to feature it as part of its top - sellers. 

This game shows you your first look at a live, animated 3D Link, Ganondorf (Ganon’s more human form, seen here for the very first time as well), Ganon, Hyrule and Princess Zelda. Some of the breathtaking landscapes are what many players remember above all, and none of these were ever less than captivating altogether; each one of them stood apart on its own as did the main villains and even minor foes. In Ocarina of Time, Link would have to step up to challenges the likes of which he had never known before, using his sword, an ocarina, a boomerang, arrows of light, a hammer, and much more.

1998    Link’s Awakening DX

Ah, yes….this beautiful little game, as much anticipated, finally gets remastered and re - released in its color form. It’s about time. And this time, the Gameboy Color is now an option in the gamer’s market, and many true Nintendo fans already own at least one. This game offers enhanced graphics and speed as well, making it a great little upgrade to the originally released title of 1993. The game is sheer digital joy.

And for those who had fallen in love with Koholint, Marin, the Wind Fish, and all other classic levels and characters first seen in Link’s Awakening, an all - new chance to explore them once more was made available. This game alone brought in tons of sales by means of both Japanese and U.S. markets. Fans loved it, in every way. It was a nice little surprise to be had! In fact, more than 6 million global units have sold out entirely; that alone should say all that needs to be said, in addition to the fact that an all - new, fully - colored dungeon was also added to this re - release…..one that apparently had never been featured before as most fans conclude. 

2000 Majora's Mask

This title was a direct N64 sequel to the insanely popular Ocarina of Time title, and one that followed up quite beautifully, if I might add; here in this story, which takes place not too long after the finalized events of Ocarina of Time (in which Ganon is sealed away, not to be released to try and conquer the world again for some time, and Princess Zelda and Link return to their former versions and part ways entirely), Link leaves Hyrule on his own….but riding his horse Epona. While passing through a dark forest one evening, he is attacked from behind by a mischievous little skull kid and his two fairies, both of whom love to play pranks and naughty little tricks on people. 

While Link is completely knocked out on the ground, the skull kid combs through his belongings, taking his ocarina and some other items away from him. As he begins to play it, Link appears to wake up and goes running after the skull kid, only to nearly fall to his demise when running inside of a large tree in hot pursuits. Here inside the tree, the skull kid transforms Link into a deku shrub and attempts to forever leave him cursed in this form…..and the adventure begins. 

2001 Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages

These two games for the Gameboy Color could be played back - to - back, and in conjunction with each other’s storyline, and it was a first for Zelda; they had never done anything like this before. One could, in fact, even connect one game to another so as to transfer progress, exchange weapons and other information across games. And both games follow an interconnected storyline, as you might have guessed, both of them featuring beautiful oracles captured by vicious enemies…..and guess what? Link has to do the rescuing, once again, just as he would usually do for his beautiful Princess Zelda. 

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT…...DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO KNOW IT…..Ganon actually ends up being the villain, at the end of both of these games, one whom had been quite unexpected. I, for one, as a player, never saw it coming, and it was a good surprise to behold. Here, at the very end, you find yourself fighting off a pig - like, hog Ganon version, much like the one in the first Zelda title. Since these two games are also in 2D, like the first Zelda was, it makes sense. 

2002    The Wind Waker

The Wind Waker appears to take place hundreds of years after Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, featuring a newly reincarnated version of the Hero of Time (Link), the Legendary Princess (Zelda) and the Evil that lurks about (Ganon). This time, Nintendo put its chips on the table and held nothing back, taking full risks on creating something new entirely….which, at first, got quite a mixed reaction from hardcore Zelda fans and newbies alike. That was this: It featured a differently animated, cartoony world in which Link and all others looked more childlike and as if they were taken out of a children’s storybook. They introduced cell shading.

It’s hard to exactly describe this, in words; it’s like you have to at least play this game or see footage taken from it, in order to really get what I mean here. Google the game and see images from it, and you’ll see for yourself. Now, many fans were disappointed, initially, but once they got further and further into the game, their disappointment turned to joy...and fun. Players ended up loving the game and still do this very day; in fact, this game has been recently remastered. It also got a Nintendo Seal of Excellence and became a Player’s Choice title. 

2002 Four Swords

Four Swords was another great game that came out, taking the cartoony Link from the Wind Waker and bringing him aboard for another adventure. The game was featured for the Gameboy Advance, a Nintendo console that came out right after the success of the Gameboy Color; it was a step up above the Color and let its players rise to greater endeavors by offering more player features and functions, not to mention capacity and internal memory - storage functions worthy of note. 

Four Swords was also --- and don’t forget this --- the first Zelda multiplayer game ever. And to get one to be made on a handheld device, which you can portably take with you anywhere, was a huge feat. Nintendo also saw it as such and was proud of its work, and the fans were no less proud….massive sales showed that. 

Four Swords also took many similarities from A Link to the Past and reused them as it saw fit, including backgrounds and enemies that needed to be taught a lesson. And boy, does Link do that. Plenty of sword - slaying action is just ahead; enjoy at your own whim, player! 

2003 The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition

This Collector’s Edition game was one that very few lucky Zelda fans, myself included, ever got to grab a copy of….during a very limited period in time. In order to get it, you had to subscribe to Nintendo Power magazine during its temporary promotional sale, which did not last long...and mention the offer you saw featured for it. The Collector’s Edition featured four games, all on one CD, which you could play inside your Nintendo Gamecube (the latest and greatest, at this point, in Nintendo consoles). The four games included were The Legend of Zelda, The Legend of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (along with the optional The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Master Quest), The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and even a hidden little surprise….a quick demo of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, which you could play the first about 5 - 10 minutes of. 

The short demo of The Wind Waker was included to give fans a taste of what was to come, for the same console. And the Wind Waker later became a top Gamecube game. Success was good….. 

2004 Four Swords Adventures

This next - up - on - the list, Gamecube game saw the cartoony Link once again, and there was a little bonus in there, too….you could even connect this game to your handheld device and exchange certain functions between it and the original Four Swords Gameboy Advance title mentioned earlier. Both allowed for multiplayer interchangeability and so much more. And later, this game was also enhanced to be able to be played on the Nintendo Wii, too…..

In this game, Link comes to the late conclusion that his evil twin, Shadow Link (as featured before, mainly, in The Legend of Zelda: The Adventure of Link and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, respectively) is out and about, up to no good, of course. This troubles his mind greatly. Notably, Nintendo Power named this title, at the time, the 48th best Nintendo game ever, quite an accolade, as you can imagine…..and Metacritic also scored the game an 86 / 100 overall. In 2004, it quickly became the U.S.’s third best - selling game as well. 

Play the game in three modes. First, there’s Hyrulean Adventure. Then, there’s Shadow Battle. And last of all, don’t forget Navi Trackers. Explore! 

2004    The Minish Cap

Another great Gameboy Advance title with a catchy front - cover photo, and a no less descriptive back cover showing live screenshots and a cool, technically worded intro to the game, this time is ‘go time’ once more for the Zelda series...and The Minish Cap shows players what they can come to expect this time around. It makes promises and delivers on them, bringing Zelda to a new level of awesome as it does so. Capcom and Flagship mainly took over in developing this game while Nintendo had a small role to play, this time, in mainly overseeing all final operations and merchandising / marketing for it. 

This game quite notably prequels The Four Swords and even attempts to show Vaati’s true backstory, from an angle you have never seen it before. It also shows you the very birth of the Four Swords. As for the Minish themselves (or Picori, as the Hyruleans actually prefer to call them), they’re a tiny race of creatures. They come in three types: Mountain, Forest and Town. And in this small - time adventure, Hyrule’s King directly chooses Link for the task of helping these creatures out, especially right after the cruel Vaati destroys one of their precious heirlooms and turns Zelda to stone….not very nice of him, right?

2006 Twilight Princess

Twilight Princess was another stepping stone revolution of its own kind, doing something similar to what Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker managed to do….but this time, with the Wii Nintendo system; the game was also released as a Gamecube version, but the one for the Wii is far more notable and can do much more, as well, a true upgrade for the more serious Zelda player. In the Twilight Princess, Link is seen transforming into a wolf form, for the first time in Zelda history, in order to stop an evil that befalls his beloved Hyrule. And to further succeed, he must befriend many allies along the way, knowing who to trust. 

The animation and graphics behind a game like this are quite interesting as they seem to mix those from Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker, to create a final effect that is somewhat 3D / traditional but yet slightly cartoony. It works. And fans once again love it for what it is. ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT FOLLOWS…...READY FOR IT? Yes, Ganon resurfaces in this game, and you must take him down. 

2007 Phantom Hourglass

Phantom Hourglass is the “pride and joy game” of the Nintendo DS for its time. It takes handheld Zelda gaming to new limits of excellence, saying the least. It combines all kinds of wonderful 2D and 3D elements from previous top - selling Zelda releases and works its own new magic here. In this title of the franchise (the 14th installment, not to mention), the events unfold right after those of The Wind Waker. After having defeated Ganon and getting inside the Ghost Ship, Tetra is seen (in an in - game cut scene) crying out for help, but Link falls hard into the water while trying to follow her. 

Link manages to luckily wash up ashore, just as he apparently did in Link’s Awakening, with his life intact. He regains consciousness after the fairy Ciela manages to wake him up, and then he goes exploring the island. He runs into the Phantom Hourglass, which appears to be filled to the brim with nothing less than the Sands of Hours...and then gets some help from an elderly man, Oshus. He meets others along the way, remembering the reason for his mission altogether: to find and save Tetra, if she’s still alive. 

2009 Spirit Tracks

Spirit Tracks is as catchy of a game as its title is. Another great Nintendo DS release with a Zelda spin on it, action - packed adventure and colorful story are what you get here, but with a whole lot more than before. In this turn of events, it seems that the setting now takes place hundreds upon hundreds of years after all events that took place in Phantom Hourglass and Wind Waker. Here, New Hyrule is the domain that you get to explore; it’s a land founded by none other than your friend, Tetra, who got it all started after Phantom Hourglass concluded. The land remains just as when she had founded it.

Link’s goal here, like not seen before, is to certify as a train engineer and commence his new career….or so he thinks. But destiny always has other plans for him in store, or at least for his other reincarnations. He heads to Hyrule in search of getting certified, only to find that, after undergoing the full ceremony, Princess Zelda asks to speak with him in private….later telling him not to fall prey to the lies or advances of Chancellor Cole, whom she does not trust in any respect…..

2011 Ocarina of Time 3D

Ah, finally, my favorite game of all Zelda games gets its own remastered handheld version: I knew it would happen one day. The Nintendo 3DS is truly spectacular, allowing you to take 3D gaming digitally, wherever you should go….and offering new games like this at its disposal. In addition to Master Quest, I loved this remastered, re - released title, which lets you do more than you ever could in previous Hyrule. Take your favorite N64 Zelda title, the one that started it all, and release it in a new form...and it becomes a recipe for greatness, late nights, coffee and some newfound fun. 

As soon as I bought this game, I could not find myself putting it down. How could I, when my quest was to re - explore Hyrule and find the 3 stones, in addition to the 6 medallions, and stop Ganondorf in a new way? That became my quest, so all else could wait…..I was in “gaming mode” from that point forward. 

I love how they kept the skulltulas in the game. You still had to collect all of them. It was fun. And there was also the final battle against Ganon….how could I forget? 

2011    Skyward Sword

This game featured Desire, which I still remember as one of the most cruel incarnations of Ganon ever to this date. He was, to say the least, in my mind, the most brutal 3D Ganon we’ve ever had thus far….and for this game alone, I sure am glad I bought a Wii when it came out. This 2011 game offered great “rumble features”, which you could instantly feel as your Wii remote would shake and make sounds at random times, telling you something pivotal was in the works. It certainly pointed out key milestones or turning points in the game, to which I was grateful….and still remain. 

Skyward Sword, as I still recall, took me nearly 63 hours of committed playtime to get to the end of. It truly was a long and detailed, rigorous game in every good sense; I loved how long and in - depth it was. And I loved the Hero Mode option it offered at the end, upon beating the game, an option that let you play with even more difficulty….challenge accepted. I especially enjoyed being able to soar through the skies throughout the adventure, encountering all sorts of realms here and there…. 

2013 The Wind Waker HD

And as I did mention just briefly, earlier, there would come a time in which The Wind Waker would have to be re - released….so that players would not forget about the special game, and so that newbies could get a feel for it as well. And 2013 was that special year in which it happened. The Wii-U was a special gaming console indeed, one that was blessed in getting to feature it. The upgraded re - release offered more colors, more vibrant gameplay and levels, and even some other nifty little surprises; it was a great enhancement to the 2002 original for the Gamecube. 

Remember how you would enter some of the darkest, most unlit dungeons and find your way around in the original? Well, things have been mixed up here, a little, and we think you’ll like the changes. Plus, the control options for greater roaming and action commands have also been tinkered with….but in a good way. Try it all out and you’ll see.

The cut scenes in the game also show that they’ve been touched up a bit, polished. Everything looks a “step up” from before. Try the game, and play it all the way through. 

2013     A Link Between Worlds

This 3DS title prides itself in officially being A Link to the Past’s prequel. The 17th franchise installment, released in multiple countries, it even went by the title The Legend of Zelda: Triforce of the Gods 2 in Japan. Interesting, right? But also, a new character Yuga rises forth….but not in a good sense. In fact, this wicked person captures Zelda and takes her with him to Lorule, where Link has to follow and make the rescue; as always, it will be far from easy…..

Yuga hopes to resurrect the evil Ganon --- oh, no! His plan to do so includes capturing the 7 Sages. Link, help! 

This game, quite fascinatingly, is also the first of its kind….being the first in which Link merges between walls, sometimes becoming a painting, in order to get through numerous levels. In 5 months alone, this game already sold nearly 3 million copies, making it a top - seller of the year. Critics mainly praised the central dungeon puzzle designs used, difficulty of levels, color schematics and backgrounds, and so much more. 

This game is played on 2 screens. It features enhanced dual - screen settings. It’s truly a delight of its own, one of a kind! 

2015 Majora's Mask 3D

Yay, now my other favorite N64 Zelda title (my second favorite) gets re - released in handheld form….happy day! This means I can now collect hundreds of rupees and deposit them in Termina’s town market, and do it all over again the next day. I can also save my progress at all kinds of local owl statues, strike down gossip stones with my sword until they reveal to me a juicy secret, ride on cuckoos to reach new landing areas, locate skulltulas for hidden treasure, and so much more. I’ll play for hours --- I’ll be one happy camper. I loved this game! 

And this game doesn’t leave out anything from its original release: It’s got it all and more. You can still be able to transform right into your Deku Link, Goron Link, Zora Link and Fierce Deity Link versions as often as you please….this time, doing so from a cute little transportable screen. Play it in your car, at your friend’s house, during breaks at work, or anywhere else. I really like how some of the best, most memorable cut scenes from Majora’s Mask do not lose their quality and feel….try it and see. 

2015    Tri Force Heroes

The 3DS is the proud bearing console of this game, and it’s an upgrade from the DS itself. This we know. But what we do not know, perhaps, is that Tri Force Heroes already got worldwide recognition and sales as of October 2015, during its release date; how cool is that? The Zelda universe really is expanding, after all, at this point….Japan and America are not the only 2 countries to get a taste of it. And I’m sure there’s still much more in store when it relates to market expansion.

Anyhow, Hytopia becomes the setting for this story, and it’s a kingdom like no other. Here in Hytopia, fashion is everything….in fact, it is way more than a way of life to those who live therein. Here, fashion is everything, as important as the air that is breathed. Fashion is King!

Princess Styla (like “style”...get it?) holds tremendous positive influence and power over the residents of Hytopia, until she’s cursed by the Lady, an unknown witch who shows up. An irremovable brown suit is then forced upon her body. Her father, King Tuft of Hytopia, is beyond devastated and makes every effort to find who can lift the curse...calling upon Link, eventually. 

2016 Twilight Princess HD

Re - released for the Wii-U, and rightfully so to celebrate its 10th anniversary as a Zelda game, Twilight Princess HD is back for more….but adding more. In this version, Link still has to use his main sword and shield, bombs, arrows, a boomerang and all the lovable weapons he wielded before. But the awesome Wii-U GamePad, this time, is what makes the game a delight to play, adding more user features and control functions than was previously thought possible, thereby enhancing every user’s experience. 

You can see Link’s present inventory, as well as a more thorough, expanded “current area map”, all on the touchscreen featured in the new Wii-U controller. And furthermore, as a new player, you can now find yourself more quickly toggling and switching between the items in your inventory, saving a few seconds of time in the progress. And some have noted that it’s even easier to get used to these new control settings as well. So it kills a few birds with a single stone, don’t you think? (Figuratively speaking here, of course…..)

Get a Wii-U. And then get this game. If you hate every other Wii-U title, you won’t hate this game...we promise. 

2017 Breath of the Wild

This Wii-U / Switch release has sold almost 12 million global copies. It mixes old and new Zelda. That’s what I love about it, besides the fact that it’s loaded with other surprises. 

In this adventure, Calamity Ganon (yes, that’s his name this time around...ha.) is attacking the peaceful Kingdom of Hyrule, once more. Yet it seems Zelda, and her brave knight Link, seal him in the castle….but not for good. Link is incapacitated and basically in a coma for 100 years.  He wakes up with most of his memory gone only to find both Ganon and Zelda sealed in the castle.  She had basically been holding the seal for 100 years.  He now has to recover his memories, save Zelda, and save Hyrule. 

You must team up with new characters like King Rhoam, learning all you can, in order to fully stop Ganon. And you must persist, going even long after the going’s gotten rough. You must not tire, because if you do so, Hyrule may once again fall…..  

Breath of the Wild is the last game on the list, so far...but who knows what Zelda will have up its sleeves next? People have already speculated on what the next titles should be and when they might get released; only time will tell. But for now, enjoy this latest hit --- play it over and over again, and by the time you have, there’ll probably be something new out…..here’s wishful thinking, anyway.

Concluding Words

We hope you have sincerely enjoyed briefly browsing through every single one of the games on this ever - expanding list. Zelda is truly a rich and diverse universe, with many glorious accolades under its belt. It countless games and glorious storylines are what make it what it is, and players could not ask for more. Check out any or all of these games we’ve mentioned.