This year marks the 35th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda series, and we could think of no better way to honor this fantastic series of games than by compiling a list of our top 35 favorite things about it! All month long, we’ll be counting down from thirty-five to one the people, places, items, and activities from The Legend of Zelda series that make the games special, memorable, and well-worth playing. Per our usual schedule, watch for new posts on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and share your own thoughts on the series in the comment sections. And so, happy 35th to The Legend of Zelda – we had a great time celebrating, and thanks to our readers for joining the party!
3. Majora’s Mask is the Best!
Jacob: Yup. It’s the best. This is easily the most personal story of all the Zelda games, and it shows in everything. Everything that happens has some sort of personal story or tragedy tied to it. The themes of death, suffering, regrets and endurance abound throughout the game, as do those of courage and the power of doing good/forging connections with people. Add to that a moving soundtrack, wonderful variety of gameplay, mysterious lore, grittiness and some of the series’ best dungeons and you’ve got a GOAT of a game as far as I’m concerned!
Duck: It should be no secret by now that we here at Virtual Bastion love Majora’s Mask. In fact, it is my personal favorite game of all time. I absolutely love the game’s dark tone and emphasis on the theme of death, from people who have already died (or who are on the verge of death) and need help passing on to those who are still alive, but are awaiting their impending destruction when the moon falls in three days. Will they face their doomed future with courage? Will they run away? Or will they exist in utter denial of their circumstances until it’s too late? Majora’s Mask is clear proof that Nintendo does not only make family-friendly kid games, but are capable of creating games that cut straight to the soul and what it means to be human.
Cary: Nintendo did something pretty dang incredible with The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. They made a game that looks, feels, and plays like an extension of Ocarina of Time, but it exists in an alien place. The more you explore Termina, the more you realize that nothing about it is right. This bright, happy world of outward fun and joy hides a dark heart and humanity’s ills. The game offers a bizarrely brilliant take on life versus death. It’s an oddity even within the Zelda series, but it’s also a commendable risk, because Nintendo could have easily given the world “Ocarina of Time 2.” But they didn’t, and if nothing else, we can only thank them for that.
2. Midna from Twilight Princess
Jacob: Midna is the best companion. Not only is she playfully snarky to the last, but she also has a proper character arc for us players to get invested in. The stakes are personal for her, and she indeed is absolutely essential to the story. There is no Twilight Princess without Midna, and I must admit that I was actually sad to say goodbye to her when all was said and done. She may even be the best character in the series; I can’t really think of anyone better!
Duck: Easily my favorite of Link’s companions, Midna is a sassy, little Twili with a lot of personality. Sometimes too much personality. What makes Midna interesting is her character development. At first, she cares little for Link, even treating him with contempt, and only wishes to use him to serve her own ends. As such, she’s, well, a jerk. But as the game progresses, she grows to care more about him and adopts a less selfish attitude, becoming a true ally of Link and his cause. It’s not the most original character arc out there, but it certainly serves to make Midna a far more interesting and memorable character than some of Link’s other companions…
Cary: When I first played (and did not complete) the Twilight Princess, I did not like Midna. At all. I found her to be grating and unlikeable. Having finally completed the game in recent years and seeing Midna’s story through, I think that was the entire point. Because sometimes, in life, you don’t always end up with the best companions. Sometimes they are mean and annoying and only like to make fun of the things you do. But if you stick with them, show them that you care, well…maybe someday they’ll care, too. That’s Midna. Of all Link’s companions, Midna’s story is the most transformative (literally and figuratively), and I simply can’t imagine Twilight Princess now without her, sarcasm and all.
1. Link, the Silent Hero
Jacob: Well, Link isn’t exactly better than Midna, but The Legend of Zelda is basically the story of Link’s courageous, heroic struggles against evil. He is the hero, the kind of person that we all want to be in some way shape or form. To step into Link’s shoes is to become, for a short time, a more heroic version of ourselves. He is the person who doesn’t shy away from the things he needs to do, doesn’t let the odds overwhelm him and doesn’t let people or obstacles keep him from his goal. He doesn’t trample over others like Ganondorf, but rather he perseveres. Link isn’t a character so much as he is an ideal. I find him inspiring, and I hope that many future generations will have the chance to take on his quests and find something similar in the experience.
Duck: Our #1 pick could be none other than Link, the main protagonist of the Zelda series and one of the most recognizable video game characters of all time (even if people sometimes get his name confused with Zelda’s…). Though a silent protagonist (aside from his iconic “hyah” and other assorted voice grunts), Link feels like the ideal hero. Link is typically just an ordinary guy with an extraordinary bravery and willingness to risk his life for the sake of Hyrule (or whichever land he happens to be rescuing at the time). And I think that’s what makes him such a great character. He’s not some noble knight or powerful king. Link seems, for all intents and purposes, ordinary. In a lot of ways, Link is the sort of person we should all strive to be. The kind of person who helps others without the need to fuss or draw attention to ourselves. No fame, no glory. Just someone doing the right thing just for the sake of it. It’s no wonder he was chosen by the Triforce of Courage, and if he’s good enough for the Triforce, then he’s certainly good enough for us!
Cary: Yes, indeed, I’ll reiterate that there’s no way we could have placed anything or anyone other than Link at the top spot! From his humble 8-bit beginnings to his full-HD realization, Link is the means through which players become part of “The Legend of Zelda.” His name says it all! He is the thing that links us to each individual game, story, and character. He is…us. Link is the belief that with plenty of determination, helpful companions (even if they aren’t, at first), and good tools at our sides, we can achieve anything. Link is the ubiquitous symbol of courage in gaming, and he’s been such for thirty-five years. One can only imagine the adventures yet to come for him, and us, in the next thirty-five!