What Zelda Is

What Zelda Is

I got a message from a reader the other day. He noticed that I write a lot of articles about Zelda games (like this one and this one, both about the new Zelda, Skyward Sword). He needed my help.

“A lot of my friends are into Zelda,” he wrote to me. “Because I don’t actually get what Zelda is, I can’t participate in there conversations. It seems like an interesting game, but I just don’t get it. I want to play it and I want to get Skyward Sword. Please could you explain Zelda to me? Thanks :)”

Dear reader, allow me five brief attempts to explain…

  • There is a moment in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker when you’re sailing across a vast sea and you see a speck in the distance. It could be a small island close by or a vast one far away. You sail toward it, wondering, not knowing if you’re about to find a speck to inspect of a mountain to scale. That’s Zelda.
  • In Ocarina of Time, or in any game in the series, really, you find yourself in a dungeon, possibly unsure how to open a locked door. You can trust that the people who made the game only allowed you to enter the dungeon because you had everything you needed to get through it (except for one key item that will be in that dungeon and will probably then allow you to access new places outside of that dungeon). In the dungeon, for a moment, you may be stumped. How in the world does that door open? Eventually you will sort it out and find your path… a path that leads you to a room inside of which is a monster. The monstrous boss may kill you, sending you back to the beginning of the dungeon. Your time wasn’t wasted. You will discover that something you did while puzzling through the dungeon had opened a path — you hadn’t realised this before — and now you can trot from the beginning of the dungeon to the boss battle, none of your time squandered thanks to that masterful architectural clockwork you’re inside of. That’s Zelda.
  • In the original Zelda, if you burn a certain bush, you’ll hear a memorable chime and find that, where that bush grew, a staircase to a surprise. You find it by accident. The next day, at school, you tell your friends about it. That’s Zelda.
  • In just about any of the games in the series, you will find the boomerang. Again. And the bow and arrow. And the bombs. You have to rescue the princess, ride the horse (ok, that one’s not so frequent), collect the jars, fight Ganon and be reminded how much a red rupee is worth. That’s Zelda.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, you spend three game days helping the farmer, the postman, the kid and the mum, the innkeeper, the bartender and, as the clock ticks down and the world is seconds away from destruction, you help two people finally get married. And then… you must turn back the clock and try harder, because that’s not heroic enough for a boy named Link, who is destined for even greater things. That’s Zelda.

Make sense now?


  • you’ll find 3 magical artefacts, unleash some chaos when you think you’re gonna win then discover you need to find 5+ more artefacts. that’s zelda!

  • Playing a speechless main character, thats Zelda!!
    (Haha the world of Zelda sure is a chatty place since it doesn’t allow Link to talk)
    Having an annoying fairy get in your way, thats Zelda!! (“HEY! LISTEN!”)

    But Hell YEAH, bring forth Skyward Sword!!

  • Accidentally losing your progress of 3 dungeons, but continuing going anyway because it’s so much fun. That’s Zelda.

  • There is a moment in every zelda game when you feel goosebumps and from your eyes little tears of joy try to emerge, That´s Zelda

  • Being 9 years old with a large stick and running around and exploring the seemingly infinite forested hills behind your grandparents’ house, all the while keeping an eye on the sun and drawing a mental map of the area so you know how to get back before nightfall.

    That’s Zelda.

  • Learning to play an Ocarina that affects the flow of time. Note, by note you memorize them and then you smile when you hear them interwoven in the soundtrack. Epona’s song~, Saria’s Song~ etc. That’s Zelda.

    Sailing through the ocean, battling hordes of enemies, acquiring new techniques for your swordplay, developing an incredible hand-eye reaction time and muscle memory and then being dropped into a cave of dozens of heavily armored enemies. heavily outnumbered, but not outmatched, you grasp you controller as if it were the very sword’s hilt and smile defiantly. You charge. That’s Zelda.

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