Why Ocarina of Time is the Worst Zelda

Let’s begin with a quick reminder that these “Why [x game] is the Worst Zelda” editorials are not written from the perspective of my own opinions, but instead cobbled together based on opinions and direct quotes found both in the comments on these editorials as well as the forums. The purpose of this series is not to show that any particular game is actually better or worse than any other, but instead to show that each of us has a radically different opinion on what makes Zelda “Zelda”, which then biases us towards and against completely different games than the next Zelda fan. Person A might love Twlight Princess because it has “realistic graphics” and a darker art style and dislike The Wind Waker for being cartoon-y and brightly colored, but Person B might feel the exact opposite and dislike Twilight Princess for its dark color palette and love The Wind Waker for its unique style. So there’s no such thing as “the worst Zelda” or even “the best Zelda” because there is no consensus.

Also, it should be pointed out that even “the worst Zelda game” is by and large infinitely better than most other video games out there; I don’t think any of us would say that even “the worst” Zelda game is “bad”.

But this particular editorial is meant to show why it is that a seemingly growing minority feel as if Ocarina of Time is the worst Zelda game.


From the perspective of someone who feels it is a remake of A Link to the Past
There are people out there who insist that each Zelda game is basically a remake of any other Zelda game as they tend to not deviate much from the set-in-stone formula, but no game can be faulted of this more than Ocarina of Time, which amounts to a remake of A Link to the Past. Young orphan Link ventures to Hyrule Castle, finds out that an evil force threatens the kingdom, seeks three pieces of jewelry–each locked inside a dungeon–to represent that he has the three virtues of Courage, Wisdom, and Power. Only then can he acquire the Master Sword and suddenly has the ability to switch back and forth between two similar worlds. Now he must venture into six new dungeons to collect mystical personages who will ultimately end up simply helping him break through a barrier Ganon has constructed on his base. Link defeats Ganon, saves the Princess and the kingdom. The end. The same cannot be said of the differences between The Adventure of Link and A Link to the Past, or even Ocarina of Time to Majora’s Mask. For whatever reason Nintendo copied the structure and plot of A Link to the Past for Ocarina of Time, beat for beat.


From the perspective of someone who prefers 2D Zelda
Nintendo was clearly faced with a dilemma when creating a 64-bit Zelda game: create a very beautiful and much more detailed sprite-based game, or innovate and set the standard for 3D action-adventure games. And while Ocarina of Time gets a lot of praise for creating that mold that everyone from Okami to Darksiders has since tried to emulate… the completely new style of gameplay proved to be too different for many of those who had been following the series since the first game. Top-down style was Zelda, and to be forced to play Zelda from such a completely different–and arguably overly-complicated–perspective proved too much for some of these Zelda fans who have since opted out of the series. Recognizing this, Nintendo continued to develop top-down perspective games for the handhelds… but that still hasn’t been an effective enough bate to reel those lapsed Zelda fans back in. The damage of 3D style gameplay had been done. Maybe A Link to the Past 2 will be the impetus Nintendo was looking for to hook these folks.


From the perspective of someone who prefers Toon Link
It might (or might not) surprise to you to learn that there are many Zelda fans out there who got their start playing Zelda as one of the two DS titles: Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. For them, Toon Link is the only Link. Any Zelda game with more realistic proportions just isn’t Zelda to them. And reasonably so, as this is the most used art style of any of the Zelda games. The original game used an art style that has since never reappeared, and the same with The Adventure of Link. A Link to the Past, however, had an art style which was reused by not only Link’s Awakening but also by both of the Oracle games. Ocarina of Time‘s art style was only ever reused by Majora’s Mask. But then we have The Wind Waker art style: it was reused by Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, The Minish Cap, Four Swords, and Four Sword Adventures. With six games under its belt, it’s no wonder why this art style has a subset of fans who prefer Zelda games to be done in this particular version of the character.


Those who rank Ocarina of Time as not one of the best are certainly in the minority, but their numbers are growing. And they seem to place it at the end of their list of favorites for very specific and not altogether rational reasons. Disliking a game because its art style is different from one developed later just seems absurd to me. I can better understand the perspective of those who simply have no interest in anything other than top-down style Zelda, but even that seems a bit limiting.

Which game should I research for next week? Let me know in the comments!

  • JS

    “The numbers are growing” because the newer generations of kids would rather build fake friendships with bird people than have a solid, well-paced gameplay experience.