Our Nintendo Life Video Game Music Festival will be coming to an end soon, and we can't think of a better way to send it off than spending way too much time analysing musical instruments in the Legend of Zelda series.
Everyone knows and loves the Ocarina of Time, it's true — but it's far from the only instrument the Hero of Time has had his mitts on. It's not even the only ocarina he's owned. Let's take a look at the instruments from Link's adventures, in order of how much we like them (with some added review-style stats for fun), and celebrate the ways that music has influenced the Zelda series!
16. Strange Flute (The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons)
The Strange Flute from Oracle of Ages and Seasons can be used to summon one of three animals: Ricky, the boxing kangaroo, Moosh, the flying blue bear, or Dimitri, a dodongo that can swim. You'll need to choose one of them to reach various areas in the game — I like Moosh the best, because he's adorable — and the Strange Flute will change its name and colour based on which one of the three you picked.
It sounds horrible, though. That might just be the crunchy audio of retro games, but it certainly doesn't do the Strange Flute any favours — it's hard to even discern what the tune is. Extra points for Moosh, minus points for most of the other things about it.
Memorable songs: 2/10
15. Howling Stone (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)
This one is a bit... odd. Most instruments are played by humans (or, well, Hylians) in the Legend of Zelda games, but Twilight Princess offers us the chance to have a dog yell at a rock and call it an "instrument". I'm not a purist — I think anything that makes music is an instrument — but this one can't really hold its own against something you might actually find in an orchestra.
Still, it's an inventive way to let Wolf Link join in. Pretty tricky to play, and it always sounds kinda bad, if you ask me, but extra points for letting me awoooo.
Memorable songs: 5/10
14. Spirit Flute (The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks)
Listen, the sound of the Spirit Flute is rather lovely, but LORD do I hate Spirit Tracks' flippin' pan pipes. Maybe I just wasn't a particularly dextrous child, or maybe it's something to do with my awful lung capacity, but the later songs that require you to skip notes were HELL. [Kate is mistaken, the Spirit Flute is easily Top 5 material! - Ed]
Blowing into the microphone is a really neat little trick that the DS really wanted players to love (remember the final case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, with all the fingerprint dust? Or WarioWare?) but I just couldn't get into it.
Memorable songs: 3/10
13. Ocarina of Wind (The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap)
The tinny speakers on the Game Boy Advance didn't do this one any favours, but thankfully the Ocarina of Wind from Minish Cap is only used for a short tune: the one you play to fast travel to a Wind Crest. It's the same tune from The Legend of Zelda's Flute, but Minish Cap's Ocarina is wayyyy less useful than TLoZ's Flute, which is basically a musical Swiss Army Knife.
Memorable songs: 6/10
12. Flute (The Legend of Zelda)
And, speaking of the Flute (or Recorder, if you prefer) — this little woodwind instrument appears in a bunch of Zelda games, but the first game, The Legend of Zelda, is where we first got to hear that iconic music that would later become the Ocarina of Time menu track. Of course, since you're reading a piece about Zelda music on a Nintendo-themed website, you'll already know that this one later became the Warp Whistle tune in Super Mario Bros. 3, so I don't need to tell you that.
Thanks to the limits of the hardware, it's not very interesting to look at, but as far as usefulness goes, the Flute/Recorder is pretty darn good — you can use it to fast travel, find secrets, and even dry up lakes.
Memorable songs: 7/10
11. Hawk Grass (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)
Twilight Princess' Horse Grass is horseshoe-shaped and summons a horse, so of course the bird-shaped grass summons a bird. Not a bird you can ride on, mind you — just a friendly hawk that can be used to retrieve out-of-reach items. Hawks are cool, but hawks are sadly not particularly useful in Twilight Princess, and criminally underused, too.
The song is nice, though, and harks back (or... hawks back) to Ocarina's Prelude of Light with its reverberating melody. Perhaps we can get the hawk to make a return in a future Zelda game?
Memorable songs: 7/10
10. Goddess' Harp (The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword)
I've never played a harp, so I am fully unqualified to say this, but... do people normally play harps by just running their hand back and forth like they're trying to lazily swat a fly? I always thought harps were more of a gentle plucking, instead of a flapping, but for Skyward Sword, the capabilities of the Wiimote didn't extend to "realistic harp play".
That said, I do quite enjoy the melodies of the harp. I mean, it's just ascending and descending scales, but still, it's got a gentle sort of lullaby feeling to it. Granted, it always sounds a little janky when you, the player, are doing it, but once you nail it and the cutscene starts, it's rather nice.
Memorable songs: 6/10
9. Deku Pipes (The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask)
A little too nasally for my tastes, but still pretty rad. The Deku Pipes are the closest Link ever gets to looking like one of those one-man bands, which is a large part of their appeal, and the fact that they're not made out of wood as much as they are grown out of wood is extremely cool. The sound, on the other hand, might prove to be divisive — is it a horrible honk, or a pleasant baritone?
However, in the wider context of Majora's Mask's story, the Pipes are just a beginner's instrument — basically Termina's version of a xylophone for babies.
Memorable songs: 8/10
Majora's mask has the best songs for me, In my opinion, its one of my favorite zelda games to boot. nothing beats a little song of storms or song of time.
I’m being 100% serious when I say that the original 8-bit Frog’s Song of Soul is one of the most musically hilarious things Nintendo has ever done. It’s a canon where the relationships between the keys are very nontraditional, but it’s absolutely a classical canon. They sort of sanitized it in the Switch version because of the more obvious frog sound effects, I like how the GB uses pitch alteration to imply that.
There’s no way the strange flute is worse than the spirit flute of pain. That was such an annoying mechanic. At least the strange one summons a cute animal friend.
For some reason on this article, a random video of each page started auto playing.
Ocarina appears in A Link to The Past, Link's Awakening odcourse Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask.
It is clear that this instrument wins.
Spirit Flute is terrible on a DS, and even worse on a 3DS!
Really surprising that some enterprising rom hacker hasn't patched it out, because it damn near ruins the game.
My stretch of an honorable mention - tapping A to swing or R to roll so that Link screams "yah!" along with the music in Minish cap. He can dance too!
I got really emotional the first time I came across Kass in BotW. I was climbing the Gerudo Tower and two thirds of the way up, I start hearing music. I assume that it's just the game playing music for me as all the ambient sounds of the surface have long been drowned out, but nope. When I finally reach the top, as suggested by the music growing louder as I ascend, there's a dude up there, all alone, playing his song to no one, looking down across the desert from a tower that you can't reach from the ground. Completely isolated from everything. I sat there listening for several loops of the song before finally talking to him.
Kate eluded to this. The mic by itself isn’t the problem with the spirit flute, but also because they want you to touch the right notes too. So you have to focus on the screen up close to your face, touch the right notes, and blow into the mic.
I think some have said you could alternatively lightly scratch at the mic port to cause noise.
My older sister, who was in her mid-20s when Twilight Princess first came out, struggled with the Howling Stones. She kept trying to flick the control stick instead of holding it in place. Even after our brother and I explained it she just couldn't get it.
No joke, she spent over 20 minutes struggling with one of the early songs. Our mother finally got sick of all the off-tune wolf howling and yelled "CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT, SHUT UP!!!!!!".
From then on whenever my sister came across a Howling Stone she would call one of us siblings to do it.
@Tandy255 The mic was pretty sensitive on the DS, you could blow at it from a couple feet away
The flute in Spirit Tracks was so dang hard someone sent in their cart to Nintendo Power (don't try this yourself!) so they could beat a song for them. If that doesn't tell you how absolutely infuriating it is, nothing else will
I always liked Zora Link's guitar made from fish bones, very punk rock.
The Wind Waker was such a waste of a feature. Only two functions are useful and you don't need them most of the time.
I liked the spirit flute and playing it on the DS.
Bad article. Spirit Flute is the best instrument.
"You can't expect to wield supreme time-travelling power just because some royal tart threw a kazoo at you!" Thank you @KateGray for that. This made me laugh quite a bit, gotta love a good Holy Grail reference.
No LttP Flute?
Honorable mention for Sheik's Triforce Harp from Hyrule Warriors.
Why no Ocarina from A Link to the Past and the summoning of the Loftwing/Duck?
Even if it's just literally the same thing as the Ocarina of Winds?
And why no Bell from A Link Between Worlds? And what about the Harp of Ages!!?
What about the Spirit Train's steam whistle? What about Ganondorf and the Happy Mask Salesman's Pipe Organs?
What about the various instruments in Cadence of Hyrule!?
Also missing are the higher level harps used by Sheik in Hyrule Warriors:
Lv-2 Typhoon Harp
Lv-3 Triforce Harp
Lv-* 8-Bit Stepladder
Lv-4 Triforce Harp+
Lv-4 Shining Harp
@Poodlestargenerica You’ve got a point. Though I think the Wind Waker feels very atmospheric when you use it out alone in the ocean.
At least it came out before the Wii Remotes. 😝
Confession time: I’ve only just now realised after reading this that the opening of Ocarina of Time was based on the flute song from Legend of Zelda/Super Mario Bros. 3. It was there the whole time!
@marandahir I originally had all those things but I had to make the cutoff somewhere! This took me AGES to put together as it is 😅
@KateGray No worries! Just was wondering why they were omitted!
I agree with you on the Spirit Flutes though! I've got good pipes myself (trained singer), but I couldn't for the life of me get those to work right!
How is the Harp of Ages not even mentioned?
Trumpet? I play it
...How is everything except the Spirit Flute not a perfect 10 in Playability? Even the Harp in SS wasn't that bad...Spirit Flute is just a 1 in general. lol
Got to be the Conch Horn for me - the best of the Instruments of the Sirens
Truthfully that is literally the only thing missing from breath of the Wild other than some you know big big dungeons is music that's literally basically it's only fault even the background music while you're playing the game is so mute it's almost not even a Zelda game. Even if you turn the music up all the way it's still barely there hopefully the sequel fixes this but I doubt it
Yeah you are wrong. The spirit flute was amazing, and has the single most memorable song: the one that plays during Malladus' final battle ❤️
Props to your boi Fraser Gilbert on Pire Xbox that post's the links to the exact minute events start (or in thise case musical instruments). Cool article but a bit too much scrolling to the somg for my neanderthal brain & short attention span. Agree with this list nonetheless!!
Haha this was fun! I'm surprised to see the Harp of Ages omitted. Your humor had me snickering.
Goddess harp is way to high on this list!
The Pumpkin House when playing with Kina is horrible...
There are NO memorable songs.
And they all sounded the same anyway.
And I just finished the playthrough for the third time... And can't remember any of them.
Howling stones aren't that great either, with the half and quarter notes top to bottom right away.
The flute from Zelda 2, and the Ocarina from A Link to the Past are both missing.
Also, the Oracle games' animal flute at the bottom? Really? It's classic '90s Game Boy chiptune sound.
Honourable mention: Makar and his violin. That little Korok could take on the Devil, if not Johnny himself.
Bloody hell, Nintendo announce something.
The Harp in Skyward Sword on Wii was unplayable, I have no idea how that managed to pass the QA process.
Without even reading the article if was to be expected the ocarina would win.
To get paid to research and put together this list must be a dream job
I have no idea if it's playable (I lean toward no =( ) because it really wasn't my type of gameplay and I couldn't even get through the demo, but the oboe in Cadence of Hyrule is automatically the best, because it's an oboe.
@Snatcher I agree. Majora's Mask has a really awesome soundtrack almost everywhere you go. The tone of the game is startling and immersive. It's my favourite along with Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess.
Where was A Link to the Past's Ocarina (or "Flute" in the bowdlerized translation?).
Different music, but functionally identical to the Ocarina of Winds.
Also, the Bell from A Link Between Worlds is missing! Again, functionally identical to the Ocarina of Winds, but extra points for summoning either a cute little witch or just her broom to carry you to the destination.
"Phonograph Man" is known as Guru-Guru, or the Song of Storms Guy. I love this character and was blown away by the MIDI version of him and his tune appearing in Oracle of Seasons after seeing him in OoT.
Decent list overall. The Spirit Flute is sometimes a pain, but I love the tunes that come from it.
Wind Waker and Ocarina of Time will always be the top two instruments for me
The Ocarina of time is my all time favorite in zelda. It made the game so magical, really miss that.
It also made link badass, The Hero of Time.
I wish i could go back to my childhood, or travel to the future and buy a Switch Pro ultimate 4 😂
Are they gonna remake the Oracle series?
Harp of Ages in Oracle of Ages I think the article missed it.
@AstraeaV I would literally be in line to buy a copy of them if they do.
No "bones" about it.
all three TP flop "instruments" including two kinds of grass with individual entires, and Moosh's flute/strange flute made the list but not THEE Harp of Ages???? the harp of ages is easily the most played instrument within its own game out of the whole series.
both the learning of the tune of currents and tune of time are iconic moments. and the tune of currents is a complete bop. i'm pretty sure the icons for the songs were the first formalization of the three goddess's symbols in the franchise as well.
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