A memorable quarter-century

The Legend of Zelda is one of the best loved Nintendo franchises, over 25 years old and still finding new ways to thrill gamers. The significant number of Zelda releases means it boasts an incredible history and reputation, with each new entry’s adventure contributing its part to the lore of the series.

The recent launch of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword continues the fine traditions of its predecessors: familiarity mixed with innovation, epic storytelling combined with small touches of characteristic humour and humanity. With the original inspiration for the series famously based on the imagination of Shigeru Miyamoto when discovering local caves, Zelda titles celebrate the joy of exploration, as well as the satisfaction of conquering quests vital to the world’s survival, or even just to help out a villager in need.

The Nintendo Life staff decided to pick ten memorable Zelda moments, progressing from the original game to the latest classic. With such a vast franchise it’s impossible to recount all of our memories, but the following represents a mixture of inspirational sequences and small, incidental doses of Zelda charm that have made us smile.

We’ve attempted to avoid major spoilers, though some story-based moments simply had to be included.

'It’s dangerous to go alone' – The Legend of Zelda

This quotation comes from the second screen of The Legend of Zelda on NES, where it all began. At the very beginning you don’t even have a weapon, yet the first cave that you enter is home to a mysterious old man, who simply utters these words and hands you a sword to help you on your adventure. The lesson for gamers playing the original for the first time: explore and you shall be rewarded.

Inspiring t-shirts since 1988

Not too far into Zelda II: The Adventure of Link you explore a village and, naturally, poke your nose into every house that you can find. In one room is a character who introduces himself by saying, 'I am Error'. It’s a classic moment that's notorious among gamers, with a common assumption being that this is, literally, an error manifesting itself in text.

Interestingly, there's a theory that Error was a deliberate name and that another character in the game, Bagu, was actually incorrectly translated from the Japanese word for 'Bug'. Some believe that by introducing characters called Error and Bug the programmers were sharing a joke through the game. It’s also worth noting that Error is actually an important figure in the adventure who later provides vital information for progressing in the game.

Link's Awakening was the first Zelda title on the Game Boy, and has most recently been made available on the 3DS Virtual Console, a release of the exceedingly pretty Game Boy Color remake. One of many stand out moments comes when you’re invited to take Bow Wow — who is actually recognisable as a Chain Chomp as seen in many Mario games – for a walk. Not only is it a surreal moment to be walking such a powerful creature that behaves like a dog, but it becomes a very loyal companion that happily devours enemies and obstacles in your way. Progress is impossible without it, and for a short period it truly is Link’s best friend.

The adventure's just beginning

The Master Sword is a big deal in many Zelda titles, an essential weapon against evil without which triumph is impossible. A Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo is a game full of wonderful moments and inventive gameplay mechanics, but we particularly enjoy retrieving the Master Sword from the forest. The build-up is tense and atmospheric, and the moment of triumph is greeted by a burst of glorious music, parting clouds and an area transformed with frolicking animals and sunlight. Grandiose and magical.

This is a spoiler, or a secret, or whatever you’d like to call it. It’s worth telling though, as anyone who has played through A Link to the Past should consider doing so again just to try out this trick. There is a moment near the end of the game where a particular item needs to be thrown into a mysterious pond to be upgraded by a faerie. Apart from this particular weapon many items don’t work, but just try throwing a sword in and see what happens…

Things are about to get epic

Removing the Master Sword from the pedestal for the first time in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Ocarina of Time redefined the series with revolutionary 3D gameplay and graphics, so playing through the original title on the Nintendo 64 is a fond memory for many gamers. A moment that epitomises the wonder of the experience is the first time Link removes the Master Sword from the pedestal in the Temple of Time. A cinematic swell of music is accompanied by wonderful imagery; it’s a moment that lives on as emblematic of Zelda storytelling in the age of 3D graphics.

The Zelda series has often allowed gamers to experiment and provoke interesting moments with their own imaginations, going all the way back to the sprite-based 2D titles.

Interacting with Cuccos in Ocarina of Time

The Zelda series has often allowed gamers to experiment and provoke interesting moments with their own imaginations, going all the way back to the sprite based 2D titles. In Ocarina of Time, meanwhile, there are various interactions with the chicken-like cuccos that stick in the mind. They can be used to descend slowly from high areas or can be retrieved for a worried owner. Whatever you do, though, don’t pick a fight with the poultry, as they will simply run you out of Kakariko Village in a flurry of furious flying feathers: being the Hero of Time will not spare you from their wrath.

The ominous approach of the moon in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

Majora’s Mask is a follow up to Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64 that's often, unfortunately, overlooked or forgotten. That's a travesty, as it’s one of the most moody, imaginative and creative titles in the franchise. The game's intriguing premise sees Link striving to avert an impending doom, in the form of the moon on a collision course with the town, Termina. The continually looming moon is a daunting sight, a visual sign of the danger of failure in the quest.

An ingenious puzzle solution in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Phantom Hourglass was the first Zelda title on the DS, introducing the concept of stylus controls and the creative possibilities of Zelda across two screens. One moment that truly shines as the epitome of imaginative puzzle design is the point where the solution is to actually close the DS and open it again. We won’t say where this happens, but it's a solution so left-field that it no doubt perplexed many gamers.

If you don't buy, you still pay a price...

Being thrown out of Beedle’s flying shop in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

As you may have gathered from our The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword review, we rate the Wii-exclusive Zelda adventure as one of the finest games in the whole franchise. A feature that truly delights is the quirky behaviour of some of the characters that Link interacts with. A memorable example is Beedle’s flying shop: if you browse the items but don’t actually complete a purchase, Beedle will have his revenge…

Those are ten memorable moments that we feel typify the characteristics and appeal of The Legend of Zelda as a series. We’d love to hear all about sequences or subtle touches in Zelda titles that matter to you in the comments below. Please try to be sensitive and either be selective in your descriptions or, where necessary, exclude major spoilers.