Going Home - Ocarina of Time's Best Locales
Image: Nintendo Life

November 21st, 2023 marks the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time's Japanese launch. To mark this historic Hyrulean occasion, we'll be running articles throughout the week dedicated to the game, our memories, and its legacy. Today, we're looking at some of our favourite locations in Ocarina of Time's Hyrule...

Going back to your favourite video game world can often feel like going home. You know every single pixel, every nook and cranny, every inch of the map is etched into your mind for the rest of time. And because of that, you fall in love with certain places as much as you would anywhere in the real world.

The Hyrule we get to explore in Ocarina of Time is one of the most iconic and memorable maps of all time, and we wanted to celebrate this particular incarnation by picking out some of our favourite places. And we're not just talking about things like the Market or the whole of Zora's Domain, oh no — we're talking iconic settings, specific spots in wider maps, and those special places that stand for why we still love Ocarina of Time, 25 years later.

Our team of Zelda fans have got together to pick some of their favourite places in the game, and we want to hear from you, as well. Judge us if you want. Or don't. Because everywhere in Hyrule rules, right? Except for Jabu Jabu's Belly... we don't ever want to revisit there.

Nintendo Life staff key: Alana Hagues (AH), Gavin Lane (GL), Jim Norman (JN), Ollie Reynolds (OR)

Outside the Temple of Time

Temple of Time
Image: Nintendo Life

This is probably the easiest pick out of everywhere — the Temple of Time is an iconic landmark in multiple Zelda games, but come on, it's the very place where Link "grows up" in Ocarina of Time. The inside might be what we all remember — there's a real sense of majesty about the altar room what with the haunting, heavy music. But the outside, and the stark contrast between the polygonal halls and the pre-rendered background of the Temple; have always stuck with me.

The soft green, bushy trees, neatly trimmed; the gentle, still lake; and the ambient noises of birds chirping. This is how you first see the Temple of Time, and even if the inside has more impact storywise, the outside fills me with a mixture of calm determination.

But saying the outside doesn't tell a story either would be a lie. Young Link might see the outside as a place of serenity and power, but as an adult, Link's very first sight when he reawakens is the outside of the temple. The greens have gone. The trees are bare. The sky is black. And there's now just a hollow wind blowing through the area. It sets the tone for the rest of your adventure and fills you with an entirely different determination — one that makes you want to save the world, to preserve that greener past. AH

Lake Hylia's shoreline

Lake Hylia Mist
Image: Gavin Lane / Nintendo Life

I've waxed lyrical before, multiple times, about the majesty of the mist over Lake Hylia at daybreak, but I just can't resist an opportunity to wax some more.

As a kid, I'd go on family camping holidays in and near forests and we'd often take early-morning strolls around lakes and the like. It's generally cold and wet in England, and even in the summer you're liable to wake up to condensing dew as the sun slowly rises.

Seeing the same phenomenon rendered in-game as the light turned from deep, dark blue to pink in the early hours was a revelatory moment for me. It showcased video gaming's potential for capturing the sedate beauty of nature amongst all the high fantasy and spectacular landscapes. Unforgettable. GL

Kakariko Graveyard

I have always enjoyed a Zelda graveyard. It's mostly for the comedy value of reading a 'passed-down Hylian poem' that goes something like "press up, down, right to turn day to night!" — a cryptic message that only Link can decipher. But in this case, it's because OoT's Kakariko Graveyard taught me to like them. It taught me that they were often stacked with mystery.

The village graveyard is a rather small location, all things considered, but there are songs to be learned, races to be had, items to be received (the best item, if you ask me) and, yes, a flippin' dungeon to be explored later on. That's a lot of activities for an area that would likely only contain half a puzzle in later Zelda games.

I had walked the area countless times as Child Link, so to go back as an adult and work out that I could actually move the graves and, wait, go inside?! You can keep your Depths, gimme Dampé's Crypt any day. JN

Hyrule Castle Maze

Though you could certainly argue that the sequence in which Link sneaks through Hyrule Castle's courtyard toward our titular Princess is somewhat rudimentary by today's standards, it remains one of the most memorable moments of the game, particularly during those introductory few hours.

With the bright green colours, the neatly trimmed hedges, and the quirky accompanying musical score, the maze represented one of the 'cleanest' locales in Ocarina of Time, and I remember playing through this for the first time and wishing I could simply exist in the environment; maybe pitch up a recliner and bathe in the perpetual sunlight.

The entire sequence doesn't last very long (unless you repeatedly run into those dastardly guards), but for me, this almost makes the whole thing even more unforgettable. There are environments in Ocarina of Time that let you drink in the atmosphere for as long as you like, but I'll always remember the maze for its distinctly memorable brevity. OR

Back Alley

If I can get through this without suffering an innuendoism (that's an innuendo embolism, friends), I'm a big fan of the Back Alley. Ahem. Okay, quieten down.

The back streets to the west of Castle Town's market form a loop where old men linger, ne'er-do-wells loiter, and black market goods can be found. It's also the location of one of the series' most low-key shocking moments. I always loved not only how the crowd noise disappeared when you leave the bustling hub, but the volume of the cheerful music lowered, too, with Link's footsteps echoing down those static side streets.

Not the most glamorous of locales, for sure, but an emotive one filled with characters and character. And dogs. GL

Haunted Wasteland

Haunted Wasteland
Image: Nintendo Life

The Haunted Wasteland isn't as spooky as its name suggests, but it is one of the few places that is shut off to grown-up Link when he wakes up in the big wide world of adulthood, so it has always managed to maintain that sense of mystery for me.

Yes, this might not be quite as jam-packed as some of the other locations on this list, but that is kind of the whole point. In its barren openness, the Haunted Wasteland stretches out like a giant immovable obstacle and relies on you putting your Longshot and Eye of Truth to good use if you are to pass through it. The sound of the wind and the sandstorm obstructing your view only serve to spice up this atmosphere further.

If it wasn't for that funky Gerudo Valley theme that keeps playing in the background, this would probably be the most isolated-feeling place in the entire game. Fortunately, you are never truly alone when there is a good bop. JN

Sleepless Waterfall

Sleepless Waterfall
Image: Nintendo Life

There's something really magical about being a kid and finding secrets hidden behind waterfalls, right? Gavin's already talked about Lake Hylia and the beauty of the mist, but I think this stretches to most watery areas in the Zelda series. The serenity of Zora's Domain is always something that gives me the cosy, gentle feeling of being home.

As it turns out, the scenic entrance to Zora's Domain also gives me that same feeling. It's like the entrance to a secret fort that you've made as a kid — except behind a waterfall. The winding path in front of the Sleepless Waterfall acts as a means of protection but also looks like a place of worship. Playing Zelda's Lullaby puts the falls into a deep "slumber", and opens the way to Zora's Domain and that beautiful, soothing music.

Sometimes, the simplest of secrets are just as special as the biggest ones. AH

What's your favourite place in Ocarina of Time? Vote in our poll below and tell us why you love these places in the comments!

What's your favourite locale in Ocarina of Time? (329 votes)

  1. Outside the Temple of Time23%
  2. Lake Hylia's shoreline15%
  3. Kakariko Graveyard9%
  4. Hyrule Castle Maze5%
  5. Back Alley5%
  6. Haunted Wasteland2%
  7. Sleepless Waterfall10%
  8. Somewhere else! (Comment below)32%