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What Made the Legend of Zelda So Popular?

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what-made-the-legend-of-zelda-so-popular

The Legend of Zelda is an action-adventure video game franchise created by Japanese game designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka. It was primarily developed and published by Nintendo, although some portable installments and re-releases have been outsourced to Capcom, Vanpool, and Grezzo. The gameplay incorporates action-adventure and elements of action RPG games.

what-made-the-legend-of-zelda-so-popular

The series centers on various incarnations of Link, the player character and chief Protagonist. Link is often given the task of rescuing Princess Zelda and the kingdom of Hyrule from Ganon, an evil warlord turned demon who is the principal antagonist of the series. However, other settings and antagonists have appeared in several games. The plots commonly involve the Triforce, a relic representing the virtues of Courage, Wisdom, and Power that together are omnipotent. With a few exceptions, the protagonist in each game is usually a different incarnation of Link.

what-made-the-legend-of-zelda-so-popular

It’s important to make a distinction between liking a franchise and liking the specific installments within that franchise. With the latter, you consider a specific game in isolation, but you’re looking at the themes common across multiple games with the former. Here are some of the reasons why we (and presumably others) like the franchise:

what-made-the-legend-of-zelda-so-popular

1. Encouraging and Rewarding Exploration

Many games, especially today, provide large worlds to explore. Few, though, have mechanics in place that encourage and reward that exploration to the same extent as the Legend of Zelda. There’s always some stash of rupees or other valuable treasure hidden in some corner yet unexplored.

what-made-the-legend-of-zelda-so-popular

2. Interesting and Progressively More Complex Puzzles to Solve

Most installments provide you with a small handful of tools that you use to solve simpler puzzles. As the game progresses, these tools need to be used in combination with each other or in new and unexpected ways to proceed through more complex puzzles. It provides for a nice difficulty curve that makes you feel accomplished but rarely leaves you suddenly stumped because you encountered something you weren’t prepared for.

what-made-the-legend-of-zelda-so-popular

3. Amounts of Action to Balance Out the Slower Paced Exploration and Puzzle Solving

The Zelda games may not have the best combat systems, but they are still engaging and fast-paced. They add a sense of danger and a faster pace to break up the otherwise leisurely pace.

what-made-the-legend-of-zelda-so-popular

4. Popular “Hero’s Journey” Archetype

It may be cliché, but the story of a young person coming of age and growing from a nobody into a mighty hero is universally appealing. It’s empowering and fills us with the hope that good will always triumph over evil in the end.

what-made-the-legend-of-zelda-so-popular

5. Considerable Diversity Within the Franchise

Over the decades, Nintendo has explored a lot of iterations of Zelda. With other franchises, the plots are ostensibly linked and consistently in the same world. Additionally, the mechanics see only incremental improvements. That is far from the case with the Zelda franchise. Nintendo has experimented with a lot of different tones, from the watercolor of Wind Waker to the dark, gritty textures of Twilight Princess. They’ve experimented with different mechanics, such as the parallel worlds of Link to the Past, the time looping of Majora’s Mask, and the realistic motion controls of Skyward Sword. Each installment tends to have a different balance of the various elements that made the original so successful.

what-made-the-legend-of-zelda-so-popular

If the original game and Wind Waker are the only two installments you’ve played, I’d suggest trying a few more. “Link to the Past” and “Ocarina of Time” are the two classics I recommend, as they established the baseline for 2D and 3D games respectfully. As for interesting boss battles? I’d suggest playing Skyward Sword, as the combat system as a whole is more engaging and novel than probably any other installment. Should you finish these installments, you are all caught up to look forward to the upcoming Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wind 2!

what-made-the-legend-of-zelda-so-popular

E3 2021 Teaser for the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wind 2

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