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What Game Defines Zelda?


I am a Person of Interest
Jul 12, 2010
Ganon's Tower
I think ALttP defines Zelda. I think it is the best Zelda game, just not many's favorite. It's got good items, solid dungeons, it introduced the Master Sword, expanded upon Ganon's chatacter, etc.


is climbin' in yo windows
Jul 12, 2010
San Antonio
I don't believe any game has, or could define Zelda, because the series can be anything it wants to be. If the developers wanted to make a futuristic title, it would still be Zelda, because it shares that name.

That's sort of what I was getting at. It's very subjective and for Zelda fans who are familiar with all of the games, ALttP will be seen as the originator and perfecter of many things that are very 'Zelda' because of similarities in name calling. I have the same answer, but I have a different reason:

I often hear about games that are 'like Zelda'. It's possible that these things are more characteristic of the Zelda series. They characters might be different, but the plot structure, the items, the real time combat, the light/dark world theme, etc. could be the same, and that would make it characteristic of a Zelda game, just not share the same name. I think that we are thinking of Zelda specific things, when what Zelda is really about is the immersive environment, the exploration, the uncovering of tales whose scope covers the entire world. These are the things that will stick with Zelda when the game is adapted to new technology, and gameplay. Having the triforce or the master sword has little to do with a game being representative of Zelda.

edit: After re-evaluating the question. Every game defines Zelda. They become a part of the Zelda cloud from which we can see what traits are common, and what things are not. What themes we can see throughout and what the goals of each game are.
May 16, 2008
Kentucky, USA
I see a lot of people choosing what they view to be their favorite or first game rather than what game should define Zelda based on its qualities. However, most everyone has said either ALttP or OoT, and I will have to agree with both of these. I don't believe that you can truly pick one or the other, and as a matter of fact, its really hard to pinpoint one single Zelda game to represent them all. Why? Because, at least to me, every single Zelda game feels different to play. ALttP is like LoZ on steroids, but both games feel very different. Even Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages each feel different to me.

If we were going to really look at which game defines Zelda, I don't think one single game can. The series is really separated into 2D and 3D eras, and though every game feels different, they all will ultimately either play like one or the other (aside from Zelda II). Having said that, I think it is obvious that A Link to the Past encompasses everything that 2D Zelda can and has been. ALttP set the standard for what Zelda should be. Now when it comes to 3D, Ocarina of Time obviously defines that era of the series because every game that has came after it has borrowed from its forumla/style of gameplay. Even when it comes to games like Wind Waker, which were drastically different in graphical style from OoT, that game still had the same gameplay mechanics.

If one had to overrule the other, I'd say ALttP would win. And no, ALttP is not my favorite Zelda game. I just believe that it tells you pretty much anything you need to know about the series. It has the generic formula of Link saving Zelda (and the world) from the tyranny of Ganon, plus added backstory for the Triforce and Hyrule. Ocarina of Time did these things as well, but it was just in a different format built around a different plot. Really, either are good representations of the series, but I believe since ALttP did it first, and in the 2D format that Zelda originated in, it would win.
Nov 7, 2010
LoZ starts the series... but Alttp defined the zelda formula, no debout

I love OoT, but Oot is based in Alttp in a lot of ways too (collect 3 things, master sword, save the 7 maidens/sages, ganon, introduce a lot of items like the hookshot,it have lost woods, death mountain, lake hylia, kakariko village, the desert, starts the Dead Man's Volley, the pices of heart, bottles and all the things you can put in, the cuccos, a lot of classic enemies, 2 parallel worlds (dark and light), the sacred realm, classic music like zeldas lubally or the ganon theme, jeez, A LOT OF THINGS AND EVEN MORE!)


Sage of Tales
I would say A Link to the Past because it codifies the quest:

The three pendants/gems. These correspond to the Spiritual Stones in OoT, the pearls in WW, the Fused Shadow parts in TP and probably some other stuff in games I haven't played or am forgetting.

The Master Sword

The Dark World - you go there soon after getting the MS. In the case of OoT, it's a Dark Future. In TP, it is the Twilight, but they did something a bit different in TP by making the Twilight part of the early quest and thereafter, Link runs around mostly in the Light World.

Maidens - correspond to Sages, correspond to Mirror Pieces, etc.

Showdown in what is or once was Hyrule Castle (the Pyramid) with beast-Ganon.

Kakariko Village made its first apperance, as did water dungeons where you have to do funky stuff with the pulling of levers and switches.

First game where you can abuse small animals (cuccoos) and they gang up to kill you.

A lot of what makes any given basic Zelda game plot is in ALTTP,a nd ALTTP did it first - so I consider it the definitive "codifier" of the basic legend, at least.


Warrior Postman
Sep 30, 2009
I'm at a toss up between A Link to the Past and original Legend of Zelda for the NES.

When most non-Zelda players think of Zelda, they think of LoZ (at least in my experience). All conceptions of Zelda are vaguely based on that game. The definition is pretty simple: "Zelda is about this guy with a sword. He kills stuff." I can't talk with random people about Alttp or OoT, but almost everyone, young and old, knows about LoZ.

Among those of us who have played a few of the Zelda games, I think Alttp does the best job of defining the in-game elements for reasons already mentioned. :)
Nov 22, 2010
Twisted Tea Cafe
I would have to say A link to the past as well, since the game came out when I first came out into the world, it is awesome, the storyline is great and Link turns into a bunny which in my opinion is epic XD soo yeah A link to the past!
Sep 1, 2010
Ocarina of Time. For me, it was my first Zelda game, but for Zelda as a whole, it has the great balance of everything from dungeons, sidequests, items, and it really felt like they were on the right difficulty level, and encouraged creative thinking when it came to puzzles.
Nov 27, 2010
A Link to the Past is the correct answer here but that was an overhead game sooooo I think it should be OOT. The game created the 3D genre even though it had the same formula as ALttP.


Dec 16, 2009
United States
Attack helicopter
OK, so I'd consider that the Zelda game MUST have Link as the main protagonist. But something like Zelda as a sidekick in ST is OK. The setting of the game must be a medieval-like location. So something like OoT or aLttP would be a perfect example. The game can't have too much technology. So no modern passenger planes, guns, modern subways, etc.


Gone (Wind) Fishin'
Jul 16, 2010
Montreal, QC, Canada
I could come here to gush about how amazing I think Ocarina of Time is, but I'm not here to do that. OoT encompassed everything it needed to, and it does a great job of representing and being an example for the Zelda franchise. However, in terms of what truly "defines" Zelda, I too am going to side with ALttP. When I think of Zelda, and when I explain Zelda to my friends, I draw from ALttP as having laid the foundations for what we see today; being the game I feel that first got the formula to how it is today, it is often what I judge newer games on to decide how much they deviate or are similar to the Zelda "formula." That's not to say that the original LoZ didn't break ground -- it certainly did. But when I judge a newer game for seeming different (not that that's a bad thing), this is the game I think back to. It had all the elements that made Zelda great and all the elements that will continue to make Zelda great. I won't go into great detail about what these elements are, as they've been said in better ways.


I don't think it's possible for just one game to define the entire series. It's like taking one individual and basing an entire race on what that person was like. Each game added something new, and they all define Zelda in a different way.

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