It’s Zelda week over here at Game Informer, and we’re getting that hype train rolling into Skyward Sword station by reminiscing a bit about some of our favorite moments from the iconic Nintendo franchise. I spoke to a number of Game Informer editors about the moments from the series that have had profound impacts on them, whether it was an epic boss battle, discovering a secret with a bomb, or something that resonated outside of the games entirely.
Come join us for a ride through some of our favorite, most meaningful Zelda moments and memories. Oh, and don’t forget to share your own in the comments!
Brian Shea, Senior Editor
I have a long history with the Zelda series. Not only was the original Legend of Zelda on NES in the first group of video games I ever played, but my two favorite games of all time are Breath of the Wild and Ocarina of Time. While my time playing the franchise is full of memorable moments like the first time you go to the Dark World in A Link to the Past, or the final showdown with Ganondorf in Wind Waker, for me, the Zelda series is defined by something else: an unending sense of wonder.
I first felt it when playing A Link to the Past, but it hit new heights with Ocarina of Time when I initially stepped out into Hyrule Field. In that moment in 1998, my Nintendo 64 felt limitless. That version of Hyrule Field may feel miniscule and barren by today's standards, but nearly two and a half decades ago, that was a truly impactful moment. While Wind Waker's open sea delivered a similar feeling with being able to sail to various islands, it didn't reach the same "wow" factor for me. It wasn't until 2017's Breath of the Wild that the sense of wonder that I felt with Ocarina of Time was equaled. Exploring that massive version of Hyrule and discovering every delightful and frightful secret the world has to offer elevated it beyond my wildest expectations. I never thought I would feel that sense of wonder – after all, open worlds have evolved so much since Ocarina of Time – but Nintendo somehow captured that lightning in a bottle for a second time.
Ben Reeves, Online Content Director
I’ve always said that 1998 was a great year for games. Between the releases of Resident Evil 2, Half-Life, Metal Gear Solid, Panzer Dragoon Saga, and StarCraft I wondered how I was ever going to settle on my personal game of the year. But then Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and it seemed like there was no real competition. Link's first outing in 3D was a revelation. Hyrule felt like a real living place with characters who were off doing their own thing while I saved the world. Link’s epic adventure was full of worthwhile sidequests, clever dungeon design, and item upgrades that made you feel like a true powerhouse. The first time I played the game I completely lost myself in it, and I had trouble breaking away even to eat or sleep. Still, one of its most memorable moments was when I walked across Hyrule Field for the first time and first took in the scope of the world. Back then, few games felt that grand; I’d never see a game with a day-night cycle and a sun that actually moved across the sky. These days, that field looks quaint, but in 1998 it was true video game magic.
Daniel Tack, PC Editor
I’ll never forget getting my NES. It sounds like one of those yarns about trudging uphill in the snow, but I mowed lawns back in the day to eventually get myself one of these coveted neighborhood attractions. The day I got it, I had enough to get one game with the core console. I’ll never forget the golden cartridge that separated the original from the rest of the Nintendo line. It may be very, very dated today but the classic Legend of Zelda put me on a path where games were going to be an important part of my life forever.
The Legend of Zelda is simple by today’s standards, but the freedom to explore, dungeon crawl, and discover the many secrets of Hyrule (and then share them with friends in the classroom during lunch hour) was truly a magical time to be alive. Later, A Link to the Past would become one of my favorite games of all time, and one I cite often as something close to perfection.
Blake Hester, Senior Associate Editor
I have played very few of The Legend of Zelda games. In fact, I've only played two. Breath of the Wild and one of the games on Super Nintendo. But that doesn't mean I don't have a Zelda moment near and dear to my heart.
One time, in a moment of vulnerability, my dear friend (and former Game Informer intern!) AJ Moser shared with a few friends and I the time he hand-made a Link costume to wear to his school's Halloween Day. He was, of course, mercilessly bullied for this. A heart-breaking tale, to be sure. But what makes it a great moment is that we in turn were also given ammunition to bully AJ 15 years later for his costume. His biggest error was sharing pictures with us, which have been saved on my phone now for years. Thanks, AJ!
Liana Ruppert, Senior Associate Editor
When I played the first Legend of Zelda game when it came out in the late '80s, I was a kid and I remember feeling very overwhelmed by the fantasy adventure. Back then, "open-world" was a novel concept, one that wasn't really established yet, so as a kid I didn't really know what I needed to do to save the princess and become the hero. It wasn't until years later when I tried to give it another chance when I saw how much love this game received and what it later spawned into as a series. A little older, a little wiser, the mechanics and exploration didn't stress me out when I was younger, it gave me purpose and made me want to go out and explore. After that, my gaming preferences were changed forever.
While I still love me some Contra and F-Zero from back in the day, The Legend of Zelda opened me up to a new way of gaming and of losing myself in a new adventure. Seeing the different iterations of Link through the years has been a treasure, but I have to say I still think Wind Waker is the best of the series. A hot take, sure, but I liked that Nintendo tried something new with this character and I found that the risk paid off. Link was expressive, in-tuned with what was going on around him, and seeing the story unfold and setting sail in the adorable Ghibli-fied boat felt exhilarating.
I love the way The Legend of Zelda makes me feel and that's why I'm really glad we're celebrating this amazing franchise this week!
John Carson, Associate Editor
Like in Breath of the Wild, Hyrule’s demise came years before the events of Wind Waker, and diving deep into the ocean to find the remnants of Hyrule’s last great struggle is one of my favorite moments in the entire series. Entering the castle and finding it lifeless and desaturated is an eerie contrast to the bright and colorful surface world. Frozen moblins and knights are scattered about in various poses depicting struggles from their final invasion. In defense of the attack and subsequent flooding of the world, a barrier was put up around the castle, stopping time and everyone in their tracks.
Few locations feel as sad as this depiction of Hyrule Castle, stuck in its final moments before Ganon’s calamity left it buried and forgotten under the Great Sea. In my time secluded within this somber environment, I reflected on the loss of the kingdom I had helped save numerous times in the past. Though, this dour place still holds a glimmer of hope: the Master Sword, a gift from one hero of time to another, and a needed sign that Hyrule’s ultimate sacrifice was not done in vain.
Marcus Stewart, Associate Editor
My favorite Zelda memory is that when I first tried it as a kid, I absolutely hated it. I’m a big Zelda fan now, but my appreciation for the series didn’t blossom until I was an early adult. You see, despite growing up with an NES and Super Nintendo I missed out on the classic entries.
My first real taste didn’t come until I borrowed Link’s Awakening from a schoolyard buddy. I’d been used to mostly platformers and sidescrollers, so I didn’t understand Zelda’s structure. Where was I supposed to go and when? How do I solve these hard puzzles? Six-year old Marcus just couldn’t wrap his mind around it. The next day I threw the GameBoy cartridge back in my friend’s face (not literally … I think) after a night of struggling with it.
As I got older and became more aware of the series’ reputation, that initial bad impression made me wonder if I didn’t give Zelda a fair shake. I gave the series another shot, beginning with Minish Cap of all entries and quickly worked my way through the vast majority of the franchise. That included revisiting Link’s Awakening, which I now adore in both its DX and 2019 incarnations. While I wish my first impression was the religious experience felt by most fans, I always chuckle about how I almost wrote off one of my favorite franchises from the get-go.
Now it’s time for some of our most important entries to this list - your picks! Let us know about your relationship with the Zelda series in the comments!