A game about looking forward, and looking back

Warning: The rest of the article may contain spoilers. Proceed at your own risk!

The towns through which you'll travel play a large part as well, as every one is much more than a simple location with a name. Each has its own personality that makes it feel alive, its inhabitants sharing a mentality unique to its setting. The communities feel like just that – communities, not like aggregates that could be transposed anywhere. The defensive Gorons, the cheery Korikis, the bustling shoppers in the castle market, the mysterious desert folk and more make travelling between villages feel exciting and lifelike. And when Link – spoiler alert – wins the Gorons over, changing them from xenophobic to welcoming and you from an outsider to an honorary member of their tribe, not much can match the feeling of satisfaction. Lon Lon Ranch as well, even with so few characters feels alive, vitalised by the lonely Malon and her father Talon casting a glow of humanity and emotion over it and making winning it back later in life feel important. It's also the original home of your horse, Epona, and your taming and befriending of her strengthens your connection to the animal, the ranch, and the adventure. It never feels like a programmed, artificial experience. Each of the elements has a life of its own, and the entire game is enriched as a result.

As you progress through Hyrule Field toward one of these locations, you're also leaving behind Koriki Forest. Everything about the game's opening – the fear of the outside, the connection to the Deku Tree, the similar dress of its inhabitants as well of their connection with fairies, makes this feel alive, unique and special. It isn't just your starting point but your home – which is why when Link becomes an adult and returns to find it overrun by enemies, this is such a grave offense that propels you on your quest more than a simple directive would.

A game about facing yourself

Ocarina of Time is a game about growing up. The implementation of time's progression was a huge innovation – the ability to move between childhood and adulthood, the passing of the hours from day to night and back again, the difference between what happens during each daily phase and the drastic change of events in Link's future. The venturing forth from the forest to save Hyrule has our Hero of Time become a man, both figuratively and literally. Just seeing the day change into night makes the experience feel more lifelike, and Ocarina did it better and more realistically than it had ever been done before.

Finally, the use of music as an integral tool makes Ocarina of Time feel much closer to the human than the virtual world. Its serenity and humanity makes calling your horse, altering time and more seem like a unique implementation of art and beauty than a code-based gameplay component.