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Legend of Zelda: A Brief History of the Classic Nintendo Series

by: jenniferamlie ; edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom ; updated: 5/25/2012 • Leave a comment

With more than a dozen games in the series and over 50 million units sold worldwide, there is little doubt that the Legend of Zelda series has been an immense success. Its 25 year legacy has not only impacted Nintendo, but the entire gaming industry as well.

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    Legend of Zelda NES 

    Throughout the history of the video game industry, few series have captured the imagination of fans quite like the Legend of Zelda. Many of the home console titles are considered to be among the greatest gaming creations of all time. The series has deftly combined elements from many genres including action, adventure and RPG. Playing Zelda is a truly unique experience and one that defies classification.

    The genius behind this game series is Shigeru Miyamoto. In addition to his work on the Zelda series, he created the Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., Star Fox, Pikmin, and Nintendogs franchises. He was born in November 1952 near Kyoto, Japan. While working on the original Legend of Zelda for the NES, Miyamoto said that he was inspired by his childhood experiences of exploring nearby caves and forests. He certainly captured his love of adventure in the LoZ games.

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    Legend of Zelda Games: NES to N64

    The original LoZ game was released in Japan in 1986 and a year later in North America. It was the first game to feature an internal battery for saving. The gameplay was non-linear. Gamers could freely explore the map. If you beat the game or used the word "Zelda" as your name, a second quest became playable. It switched the location of dungeons and items. While the graphics and story were simple, the game was unlike anything else before.

    Link with Zelda Adventures of Link For the sequel in 1988, the gameplay changed considerably. It featured more RPG elements and side-scrolling levels. The resulting game, the Adventures of Link, was experimental in nature. While it did not capture the hearts of some fans quite like the first one did, the added emphasis on non-playable characters and the addition of magic would influence future games in the series.

    A Link to the Past was released in 1992 for the SNES. The third game in the series returned to the original's top-down perspective. It had a deeper story, larger dungeons, more items, and a greater number of puzzles. It's the first LoZ game to feature the concept of Light and Dark worlds. It also integrated the magic aspect of the second game without overshadowing the importance of swordplay.

    Link and Epona in Ocarina of Time In 1998, Ocarina of Time took the series into 3D. This game increased the scope of many beloved LoZ staples like the Zoras, Death Mountain, and the different regions. It also introduced Link's horse, Epona, and gave Princess Zelda a more important role. It was followed by another successful N64 entry in the series, Majora's Mask. While Majora's Mask was different in terms of story, it kept Epona and the separate regions of the landscape. It had a very dreamlike quality and while Majora's Mask was not an "average" Zelda game, it was strange but familiar at the same time.

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    Legend of Zelda Games: GameCube and Wii

    Wind Waker Wind Waker was released in 2003 for the GameCube. The graphics were cel-shaded and many gamers were turned off by Link's "cutesy" appearance. Even though there were complaints, the game was still well received by most players and critics. The story starts on an island, where Link lives. Instead of traveling around on Epona, Wind Waker is focused on exploring the sea. There were still plenty of islands, towns, and people to interact with. While it looked different, the game was still the same Zelda adventure fans love.

    In 2005, Twilight Princess was released for both the GameCube and the Wii. Both versions are the same, except the map is inverted on the Wii. Twilight Princess returned to the fields of Hyrule. It also returned to the series' traditional style of graphics. In the game, Link transforms into a wolf while he's inside the Twilght that has taken over the land. In order to save Hyrule, he must defeat the Twilight and Ganon.

    In time for the Holiday season of 2011, Skyward Sword will be released. This is Link's last adventure for the Wii. It takes place high above Hyrule in a place called Skyloft. The controls are revamped, thanks to the Wii Motion Plus. The dungeons are suppose to be different. Instead of being indoors, they will be more outdoors and natural.

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    What's Next for the Legend of Zelda?

    With the announcement of the new Wii U console at E3, there's little doubt the series will go on. Besides the new console, many of the older Zelda titles are getting a new life on the 3DS. Ocarina of Time is the first one receiving a 3D makeover. With this year being the 25th anniversary of the series, there are sure to be more games and celebrations to be announced.