There are certain video games that we know will go down in history. Decades from now, with no shadow of a doubt, we will still be talking about masterpieces like Ocarina of Time, Tetris, Grand Theft Auto 3, Resident Evil 4, and countless other classics that not only felt amazing to play, but ushered in new mechanics and visual conventions the entire medium came to adopt, paradigm shifts of such magnitude that the entire world had to stand up and look on in amazement at what has just been accomplished. Before they came along, our idea of what video games were capable of was so much smaller. 25 years later, The Legend of Zelda’s first 3D adventure remains as influential as it’s always been. Without it, who knows what video games would even look like in 2023.
It’s also hard to believe over two decades have passed since we awoke in Kakariko Village to the sound of an obnoxious fairy, finding ourselves in the green tunic of a young man who would soon find himself sprinting across Hyrule Field in pursuit of adventure. The opening is iconic, and establishes a picture perfect means of introducing the player to new characters, mechanics, and locations without ever overwhelming them or risk losing interest. You’re so curious, so driven, that every NPC you stumble across or blade of grass you run through is begging to be interacted with. It’s primitive today, but on the Nintendo 64 we had never seen a 3D experience this vast or experimental before. It isn’t hyperbolic to say it changed how we would come to appreciate video games forever.
Ocarina of Time has been re-released in multiple ways throughout the years, which includes a 3DS remaster, GameCube Master Quest edition, and Nintendo Switch Online.
It isn’t even my favourite Zelda game, and I played it for the first time after I’d been smitten by Wind Waker. Its quality still speaks for itself though, and how so many of its moments or music have become ingrained in our cultural consciousness to the point that I can close my eyes and picture the title screen sequence playing out in its entirety. Epona galloping across the boundless green, the haunting yet beautiful music, and a version of this legendary hero I would soon come to know intimately.
My early memories of Ocarina are rather scattershot, as I stumbled into the Deku Tree to fight spiders before sprinting over to Castle Town. Many of the frustrations we’d come to associate with 3D Zelda games were innovations back in 1998 as we were suddenly free to rotate the entire camera, however we liked or lock onto enemies and focus on every single action.
Temples poised to grow into predictable archetypes in the future were instead fresh and exciting, endless in their sophistication and majesty. Unlike most of the games of that childhood era, I don’t look back at Ocarina of Time with an upturned nose of betrayed nostalgia. I see the first attempt at a series trying to be something more, to know that video games would soon have us exploring open worlds with infinite possibilities.
Breath of the Wild is Ocarina of Time’s creative vision fully realised without any technological boundaries, simultaneously building on Nintendo’s original ideas and learning so much from all the games that arrived during the interim. All the mechanical advancements and odd timeline shenanigans learned since Ocarina of Time or even before, when we were shown a seemingly endless world with infinite possibilities. In retrospect, it was a fairly tiny field with a load of temples and key locations scattered about the place, but in the infancy of 3D it blew our minds and changed the medium forever. Suddenly, we had a new benchmark for other games to look up to and a new idea of what Zelda could be, the years after spent thinking about what the Hero of Time would eventually become.
Next: Tears Of The Kingdom Is Too Afraid To Show Us Link’s Balls