The world of gaming owes a lot to The Legend of Zelda. It is one of the longest running and most revered series in video games, so its impact can naturally be felt in many other games of the action-adventure genre.
Ever since the release of the original game on the NES in 1986, players have loved stepping into Link's boots and getting lost in the wondrous worlds Nintendo created. Whether it be set in the Kingdom of Hyrule, Termina, Koholint Island, or some other magical place, each entry has brought something new to the series. But they have all shared one crucial aspect: the call of adventure.
Who doesn't love being sucked into a mystical quest with dangerous monsters, exciting weapons, majestic music, extraordinary magic, and tantalizing puzzles? Not every entry has been perfect, but with each one, players could see the innovative brains of Nintendo's best at work, experimenting with new ideas and mechanics.
Over the years, the series has featured more than its fair share of behind-the-scenes secrets. With the vast library of titles the franchise has accrued, it's natural that The Legend of Zelda would now be a host for interesting factoids. And with how the series as a whole has affected the gaming world, it can be interesting to look back at the process behind one of gaming's most valued pieces of art. The world as we know it would be a very different place without the elegant Princess Zelda and her courageous knight, Link.
Here are 25 Awesome Things Fans Forget About The Legend of Zelda.
25 The Princess Was Named After F. Scott Fitzgerald's Wife
F. Scott Fitzgerald was best known for writing The Great Gatsby and This Side of Paradise, but his wife Zelda was an author, too. More importantly, at least in the terms of this list, she was also the namesake for Hyrule’s princess.
When Shigeru Miyamoto was trying to decide on the final name of the game, a PR Planner suggested making an illustrated storybook for it where Link rescues a beautiful princess. Miyamoto wasn’t crazy about the storybook idea, but he did love the name that was suggested: Zelda, after F. Scott’s wife. A gaming icon was born.
24 The Original Name Wasn't The Legend Of Zelda
Before the name of the Princess was decided upon, Miyamoto and his team bounced around a couple of ideas for the name of the game.
During early development, the game was simply referred to as Adventure.
But after the game got a bit fleshed out, it was called The Hyrule Fantasy. This title makes a lot of sense, but Miyamoto really liked the idea of calling it The Legend of something. When Zelda was suggested as the name for the princess, he knew he had it. The original Japanese release is actually called The Hyrule Fantasy: The Legend of Zelda.
23 The Original Was The First Console Game To Have A Save Feature
While there were some older PC games that allowed players to save their progress due to powerful hard drives, the first console game to do so was The Legend of Zelda. Before that, with games like Super Mario Bros., players would have to complete games in one sitting if they wished to reach the end.
It makes sense. Due to the game’s size, non-linearity, and difficulty, the developers chose to include a battery-powered RAM chip in the cartridge. This would serve as a turning point in gaming as progression began to be more important.
22 It Brought On Non-Linearity In Gaming
Before The Legend of Zelda was released, many of the most popular games simply tasked players with going from Point A to Point B. Games would progress in difficulty from level to level, but there would often be a definitive end to each section.
The Legend of Zelda was completely different from the games that came before it.
The overworld of Hyrule meant players could explore and figure out where to go on their own, as well as return to previous areas. These days, games are often praised for non-linearity and letting players figure things out without holding their hands.
21 Link Takes A Lot Of Inspiration From Peter Pan
Shigeru Miyamoto is a huge Disney fan, particularly of their adaptation of Peter Pan. Link’s design obviously takes a lot of inspiration from Peter, from his green clothes and cap and his fairy companion.
But there are other references to Disney’s classic film in later games.
In several titles, Link must fight his own shadow, Dark Link, though it’s a bit more dramatic than how Peter has to fight his. Also, the Kokiri, first seen in Ocarina of Time, are a race of children that never age. Just like Peter Pan’s friends, the Lost Boys.
20 The First Game Was Originally A Dungeon Building Simulator
Before any story elements or characters had been created for The Legend of Zelda, it began as a dungeon building simulator. The developers would build dungeons to send them to one another and test their skills.
Miyamoto thought that playing through the dungeons was more fun than designing them, and decided the game needed an overworld too.
This is how the foundation for The Legend of Zelda was built. It also debuted as a launch title for the Japanese-only Disk System, which had better sound design than the original console.
19 Players Could Originally Choose Between Sword And Boomerang
While it’s iconic now, the way in which The Legend of Zelda began was changed a couple of times. Link originally started with a sword, but when testers complained about the game being too complicated, Miyamoto decided to make Link start entirely item-less.
But also, early on the Old Man in the cave offered Link the option to choose between the sword and the boomerang, but it was switched to just the sword. The sword makes more sense, yes, but it would also be built into the future games. The first item Link usually acquires is the sword.
18 Mario And Zelda Were Developed At The Same Time
If there are two franchises that Nintendo is known best for, it’s Mario and Zelda. The two are often thought of as being the best the company has to offer. But they are even more linked than that.
Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda were developed at the same time. Miyamoto created both of them; when he and his team came up with new ideas, they would divide them between the two games depending on which idea suited which game better. The same is true of Super Mario World and A Link to the Past for the SNES.
17 The Iconic Theme Music Was Composed In One Day
The overworld theme from The Legend of Zelda is not only a staple of the series, but one of the most recognizable pieces of music in video game history.
And it almost wasn’t in the game.
The original idea was to have a piece of classical music, specifically Maurice Ravel’s Bolero, play over the title screen. But late into the game’s development, composer Koji Kondo realized the rights to the piece wouldn’t expire for another month. Rather than wait and waste money, he composed the now iconic theme music in just a single day.
16 The Second Quest Was A Mistake
In many of today’s greatest action adventure games, a more difficult second playthrough or new game plus mode is made available for players looking for an extra challenge. But the first game to do so was the original The Legend of Zelda.
Only, that feature was created by a mistake. Once the development team were finished with the game, they realized it only took up half of the cartridge’s space. Rather than waste it, they filled it with the second quest. Many future games in the Zelda series would implement a similar feature, such as Ocarina of Time’s Master Quest.
15 Most Links And Zeldas Are Not The Same Characters
This may be a bit obvious for hardcore Zelda fans, but casual players may be surprised to learn that most games in the Zelda series are not direct sequels to one another. There have been a few, like Majora’s Mask and Zelda II, but most are stand-alone adventures.
The history of Zelda is vast and spans centuries, so each Link and Zelda we encounter are actually ancestors or descendants of each other. This is something we might not all appreciate though. By being less constrictive, Nintendo gives themselves the option to explore different points (and even timelines) in Hyrule’s history.
14 The First Two Games Take Place At The End Of The Timeline
The Zelda timeline is… complicated, to say the least. For a long time, fans were unaware how the games fit together chronologically. Then Nintendo released Hyrule Historia and revealed that Ocarina of Time split the timeline into three different sections.
One of these timelines is if Link were to fail to stop Ganondorf, leading to a much more bleak Hyrule. And the first two games in the series sit right at the end. While it may seem weird to have the first two games ever made take place at the end of the story, it somehow fits with Nintendo.
13 The Great Deku Tree Can Be Found Across Timelines
Nintendo loves to include references to other Zelda games in various entries, but this one actually makes sense with the structure of the timeline.
The Great Deku Tree perishes at the beginning of Ocarina of Time, but later a Deku Tree sprout appears after conquering the Forest Temple. It is thought that this sprout grows into the Deku Tree seen in Wind Waker in one of the timelines where Link was victorious over Ganondorf. But in the timeline where Link loses, specifically in the first game, the first dungeon is an empty husk of a tree.
12 Link's Awakening Was Inspired By Twin Peaks
Link’s Awakening is one of the stranger games in the Zelda series, but it is nothing compared to the show it was apparently inspired by. Twin Peaks followed an FBI agent as he investigated a crime in a small town with close-knit citizens before bizarre things started occurring.
The developers left out the crime but loved the small-town aspect of the show and decided to make their own for the first portable Zelda game. Link’s Awakening didn’t take place in Hyrule, and Koholint Island was full of interesting and close-knit NPCs.
11 The Music From A Link To The Past Took Up Too Much Space
The music from The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past is so amazing that multiple future entries would include their own renditions of several tracks. Yes, it is indeed iconic.
But that incredible music came at a price.
The tracks took up 1/8th of the entire cartridge. That may not sound like a lot, but A Link To The Past is a pretty big game. And it could have been even bigger. The developers struggled to compress it to even that much space and they had to scrap some ideas to make room for the music.
10 The Oracle Games Started As A Remake Of The Original Game
It isn’t often that Nintendo lets another company develop a game with one of their most popular characters, but that’s exactly what happened when Capcom made Oracle of Seasons and Ages for the Game Boy Color.
Originally, Capcom pitched them the idea of remaking the first game before partnering to make a trilogy of interconnected games.
Nintendo approved the idea, but developers at Capcom found it more interesting to skip the remake and create something new. The third game was never made, but the first two became the only games canonically in Zelda that weren’t developed by Nintendo.
9 Its Innovative Targeting System
Being able to lock on or focus on a single enemy is something we may take for granted now as it’s expected to be included in pretty much every game that tasks you with fighting foes.
But the first game to do so was Ocarina of Time. It doesn’t seem like much now, but it was the first game to show players how to approach fighting enemies in a 3D space. And since this was during a time when many developers were stumbling with 3D, the inclusion of Z-Targeting was a crucial one.
8 Breath Of The Wild Took Developers Back To Their Roots
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was seen by most as a monumental step forward in the Zelda series as well as open world games. One of the aspects that made it so entertaining were the in-game physics.
In order to see how these physics would work, developers created an 8-bit version of the game to test them out in.
Things such as chopping a tree down so that Link could walk across a chasm, or using a Deku leaf to spread fire around, were tested and seen in the final game.
7 The Map In Breath Of The Wild Is Roughly The Size Of Kyoto
Another way Breath of the Wild improved on the Zelda formula, of which there are many, was the size and scope of Hyrule. The series had always toyed around with the “open world” concept without actually being one of those games, but Breath of the Wild was something truly different.
The game utilized a massive map, which was around 12 times the size of the one seen in Twilight Princess. It is also roughly the size of Kyoto, Japan. Nintendo knew they wanted to let players get lost in their new world, and having a gigantic map certainly helped.
6 Twilight Princess Was Due To The Poor Wind Waker Sales
“Poor” may not be the right word, but the fan reception of Wind Waker was certainly not a series high point. Some believed the cel-shaded graphics looked a bit too kid-friendly and longed for a more realistic and adult Hyrule.
Thus, the next console release was suitably darker.
Twilight Princess featured many things that never would have been included in Wind Waker. Not only were the graphics and art style different, but plot details were much more melancholic. The most notable was the incredibly unsettling cut scene about the Interlopers. Ilia’s cackle still gives me chills.
5 The Scope Of The Great Sea Was Due To Loading Limitations
During development of The Wind Waker, Nintendo wanted to create a seamless sailing-to-land experience, which meant no loading screens for new areas. In order to achieve this with how fast the GameCube could load environments, they had to experiment with the size of the sea as well as each island.
This may have led to some players feeling like the Great Sea was too empty, but it’s really a testament to how Nintendo chases an idea relentlessly. The Wii U is clearly more powerful than the GameCube, which is why the HD re-release of the game included the swift sail.
4 A Link Between Worlds Was Indirectly Influenced By Mario 64
When Ocarina of Time was in early development, Nintendo played around with the idea of having the game take place in a hub world similar to Super Mario 64. Link would be able to enter paintings in Ganon’s Castle just like Mario did in Peach’s.
Part of that idea was kept for the battle with Phantom Ganon. When Nintendo was creating the 3DS Zelda, A Link Between Worlds, they thought it would be fun to give players the ability that Phantom Ganon had. Players would be able to turn into a painting and navigate to different areas.
3 Breath Of The Wild Pays Tribute To Satoru Iwata
When beloved Nintendo president Satoru Iwata passed away in 2015, it definitely came as a blow to the gaming community.
So, to honor the man that made their company great, Nintendo paid homage to him in Breath of the Wild.
One reference is the character Botrick, who bears a striking resemblance to Iwata. But more touching is the Lord of the Mountain. Your Hyrule Compendium tells you it was a sage that now watches over its land and that its other name is Satori. The developers felt Iwata was watching over them and chose to include a similar figure.
2 The Series References Mario... A Lot
Over the years, Nintendo has had a lot of fun including references to the world of Mario within different Zelda games for players to find.
In Link’s Awakening, you find Mario enemies like Goombas, Piranha Plants, and Chain Chomps, as well as a Yoshi doll. In A Link to the Past, you can find portraits of Mario in a house in Kakariko Village. In Majora’s Mask, the Happy Mask Salesman carries a Mario mask. In Twilight Princess, the sad clown Fyer has a Bullet Bill patch on one of his sleeves. And these aren’t even all of them.
1 The Series Takes Inspiration From Folklore And Mythology
While the Zelda series features its own folklore and mythology, it also takes a lot of inspiration from tales of different cultures.
The Master Sword is one of the more obvious ones, as it is a reference to the sword in the stone from the tales of King Arthur. There are also references to Greek mythology in some enemy types like the one-eyed Hinox in Breath of the Wild, as well as the structures found in Zelda II. Then there’s the Minish from The Minish Cap, which are based on the koro-pok-guru from Ainu folklore. The list goes on.