Why The Minish Cap is the Worst Zelda

TravisApril 8th, 2013 by Travis

In the introductory editorial in this series, we discussed how the best/worst Zelda game is often different for everyone, and that many times (though not every time) this is informed by something as simple as the first Zelda game played. Not that your first Zelda game is always your favorite, but that it sets a mold for what you feel a Zelda game should be. Of course there is no such thing as a “bad” Zelda game, because the one thing I think we can all agree upon as Zelda fans in that each Zelda game is impeccably crafted. However, Nintendo is not infallible, and perhaps each title has a set of weaknesses.

To that end today I will discuss why it is that I feel The Minish Cap is the worst Zelda game.

Jump inside to read more!

Let’s begin by talking about the first Legend of Zelda game I’d played: A Link to the Past. The bright and colorful sprites, vastly varied landscapes, the deep soundtrack, the unbelievable amount of secrets, the perfect gameplay… even the story, which might seem so simple at first, has a tragic darkness permeating throughout: these six innocent maidens are being captured and “sacrificed” to open a gate? That coupled with the fact that we witness the death of Flute Boy and see what happens to those poor souls who have made their way into the Dark World… it’s surprisingly dark despite the vibrant colors. In short: it’s a nearly perfect game.

So when word came in 2003 that for the Game Boy Advance Nintendo would be returning to the top-down sprited gameplay style of A Link to the Past but influenced a bit by the quirky Wind Waker, I was psyched! I preordered the special package that included the gold-colored “Triforce Game Boy Advance SP” and counted down the days until its release.

My hopes were almost immediately dashed. The color palette, first of all, was all wrong. Instead of A Link to the Past’s and The Wind Waker’s bright and vibrant colors we got a dull and dingy color palette. Just take a look at the ground, for instance: instead of the rich green color, we have a bland yellow-green in The Minish Cap. Certainly the graphics are technically improved in this newer game, simply by the virtue of an improvement from 16 to 32-bit, now we can see twice as much detail. But what’s the point if that detail isn’t visually appealing? And not only was the color scheme all wrong, but the actual layout felt tiny and cramped in comparison to A Link to the Past’s huge overworld… much of which you could explore right after setting out on your quest to find the three Pendants of Virtue. Almost nowhere was blocked to you to explore. Not so in The Minish Cap which makes use of the block-the-player-from-going-anywhere-but-this-little-area-until-they-get-the-new-tool mechanic that has become worse and worse as each new game comes along.

This even spills over into the primary gimmick of the game: the titular Minish Cap which shrinks Link down into bug-size to explore specific areas. The reason I call this a gimmick is that instead of enlarging the landscape to giant size to represent the Minish size–thereby providing a much-needed larger second overworld–the game often represents this by shrinking Link’s sprite down in size and uses the same overworld. Except in the few places it actually wants us to use the Cap. This is problematical on two fronts: 1) it tells us specifically where it does/doesn’t want us to use the Cap taking the fun of discovery out of the equation, and also 2) it doesn’t rectify the fact that the overworld already feels small and cramped in comparison to most other Zelda games. Compare this to A Link to the Past where once you discover a similar mechanic–the Magic Mirror to transport you to and from the Dark World–you can use it absolutely anywhere in the Dark World, discovering secrets all on your own with almost no indicators. When The Minish Cap wants you to use the Minish Cap to discover a secret, they mark it out for you in red ink.

The other major gimmick of the game, the Kinstones, replaced the excitement of discovering Heart Pieces in secret nooks and crannies with a much less interesting “find the right guy with your Kinstone” minigame. And then there’s the Four Sword, itself a cheap gimmick: at the end you get the power to charge up your sword and shoot a beam that heals Zelda the one time, but does nothing else.

The rest of the items were also pretty bland. The Cane of Pacci’s primary purpose is to flip stuff over. We already had that in A Link to the Past: it was a Magic Hammer. I’m not sure why The Minish Cap had to dress up and disguise the Magic Hammer. It’s only other use is to somehow charge holes in the ground up with some sort of propulsion power to send Link hurtling up high ledges. It seems like that should have been a separate item altogether. But speaking of bland items: all they could think of to put in this game’s ice dungeon was a lantern? A lantern?

But perhaps one of the most important aspects, the story, I felt was a bit boring. When I’d first heard the quote from Aonuma that The Minish Cap would take place before even Ocarina of Time and would be one of the oldest stories of Hyrule, I was so excited! What new and interesting details would we discover about Hyrule’s history and how would that relate to the other games we know and love? When it turned out to be about Vaati, the villain of the inferior Four Swords games, I was pretty let down. Four Swords games just aren’t as interesting to me as regular Zelda games–for many reasons, but one of which is certainly that I do not find their stories as compelling as those involving “the Triforce saga” of Ganon and the Golden Power and the Princess. However, I was able to put that aside and focus on what would be interesting about this game: Vaati’s backstory. Well, it was certainly interesting to see how he’d come to become the evil wind sorcerer… but The Minish Cap ended up feeling much more childlike in tone than any other Zelda game. This was likely intentional, due to the fairytale like story and things in the game (talking hat, magic beanstalks). It just felt like rather than a regular Zelda game, this was the “kid brother version”.

I guess I just mainly felt let down. Rather than a step forward in top-down Zelda gaming, I felt like we got a watered down and inferior Link to the Past-wannabe. The only new things it brought to the table were either just old things dressed up in new clothes or flat out gimmicks. And all of this wrapped in packaging intended for a slightly younger audience. Just not my cup of tea.

But maybe it all comes down to the fact that since my first Zelda game was A Link to the Past, any top-down Zelda title thereafter had not only huge shoes to fill, but shoes of a specific shape and size and color.

What was your first Zelda game? When looking at your least favorite Zelda game, does your first seem to be connected in some way? Let us know in the comments and maybe I’ll feature your combo in the next editorial in this series!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004047914984 Krishna Moorthy

    this article’s name should be changed from “Why The Minish Cap is the Worst Zelda game” to “Why The Minish Cap is my least favorite Zelda game”

    • http://youtube.com/bastiantime bastian

      Nah, if anything, it should be changed to: “Why A Link to the Past made me expect too much from TMC” or something along those lines.

  • pokemon brown

    I would just like to point out how hilarious I find it that many people loved the article about why EVERY Zelda game is the worst (which uses the same reason to explain why, the effect of nostalgia) but when the same author writes an article about why a SPECIFIC Zelda is the worst, everyone hates it. By this logic The Minish Cap is not a Zelda game because every Zelda game is the worst but Minish Cap is not the worst. (The last sentence is sarcasm in case that doesn’t show well through the computer.)

    • http://www.controlpaddesign.com/ TheMaverickk

      The difference is that in how the writer presents the idea and discussion of how ‘our first Zelda titles shape our perspective of other Zelda games’.

      The first article in this series was clear and made a good argument. Not to mention focused on one idea alone. The idea of how one game shapes our entire perspective.

      This article is not written the same way though. Although it’s clear he’s referencing A Link to the Past in his comparison to Minish Cap, the point of this article is still ‘why Minish Cap is the worst’…. as opposed to ‘Why my perspective is skewed because of A Link to the Past’.

      That’s the reason this article is inciting the response it is. I mean to be fair the focus is on the disappointment of Minish Cap for various reasons… so naturally people are going to pique up about why or why not they may agree.

      • http://youtube.com/bastiantime bastian

        Really? I felt he made it clear in his intro paragraphs that this was following that exact same thread from the first editorial. Maybe I’ll ask him to be a bit more crystal clear in the third one.

  • Nick

    The games was even too short in length, in my modest opinion.

  • Jacob Flicek

    I thought Minish was a rather fun game. I hope they put it on the Wii U.

    • http://www.controlpaddesign.com/ TheMaverickk

      I know I’m really intrigued by the prospect of GBA games on the Wii U.

      One thing I have to mention though is that I hope that they in some ways make it so that the games look as good stretched out onto a big screen. I would hate to see the beauty of some of it’s games diminished on the big screen.

      Golden Sun, Metroid Fusion, Mega Man Zero…. I’d love to play all on the Wii U.

  • somebody you don’t know

    I just read the title. YOU ARE SO WRONG!!! (not that the minsh cap was my fav, but it it was NOT my least fav)

  • Curly_Dodongo

    Haha, this is exactly the opposite to me. tMC was my first Zelda and I loved it. My dad bought me the aLttP remake for GBA and I felt let down by it.

    Contrary to you, I saw the palette of aLttP as being darker than tMC, and thought the sprites weren’t as good. In retrospect, I see that it was for an earlier system and that the graphics are/were still great, however being around 8, the thought didn’t occur to me.

    Secondly, I felt that aLttP was a much harder game. tMC was still a challenge to me at that point, and the difficulty was just right for my younger self. However, when I was faced with aLttP, it felt damn near impossible, especialy the fact that the enemies seemed more ruthless and unforgiving.

    Weirdly, the story also seemed worse to me; it was just about some wizard guy with big hands rather than the spellbinding, jeering Vaati.

    I guess this demonstrates what you said in your first article perfectly; the first game(s) in the series you play become your favourites and set a mold. While you felt let down by tMC having played aLttP first, I played the games the opposite way round and thus have an opposite opinion. Looking back now I can appreciate aLttP for the amazing game it is, however back when I was 8 this didn’t seem quite so obvious.

  • oozy the wolf

    while the reasons are good don’t think everyone will agree. while your complaints are resonable it was a different style of almot everything which is something we should all agree is what keeps zelda more interesting

  • BlackRaven6695

    The title doesn’t actually convey what message the author is trying to get across. “Some reasons you may have not liked Minish Cap” would be more accurate.

  • ecylisis

    A gimmick is an attraction, something that’s meant to draw somebody to the game. Example: the Wii’s motion controls. How the hell is becoming tiny a gimmick? The misuse of this word honestly disgusts me.

  • http://twitter.com/cooiejr sterling

    Minish cap is easily my favorite portable zelda.

  • Mason Koehl Gugenheim

    i can see where your coming from – not personaly playing the game myself and all. my first (conquered) zelda game was Ocarina of time and then i started getting in to the earlier games. wind waker was a disappointment from the time i saw the box, but i felt obligated to own it and conquer the game before i made further judgments and when i got around to it i found it to grow on me. i still like the style and the story line better in ocarina of time because of the nostalgic feeling, and at that time period finaly finding a game that i like and can play over and over. what the fans have to realize is that you cant beg/expect for the perfect zelda game because they make it how the see the legacy and it is not our part to say what link should and shouldnt do, but the games will continue for a while and it is our job to enjoy them and keep the new/ and the old legacy alive! – anonymous zelda fan!

  • ???

    I actually enjoyed the article and find it funny how our first zelda game effects why we like or dislike other zelda games. Even I completely disagree for Minish Cap for being the worst game but that is just my opinion.

  • MasterOfSwords1

    I’m sorry, but this article really disappointed me. I happen to love this game and a lot of the arguments made against it here really aren’t valid points. I love the graphic style, the fairytale theme, and the new items. And as for the whole thing about shrinking down into a minish, it would be impossible to rework the entire world making it 10x as big just for the times you use the hat. This was a wonderful game, and whenever you call a game the worst Zelda game, just go play Zelda II.

    • ???

      Why does everyone think that Zelda II is the worst? So what if the game play is not normal Zelda. Just because it is different game play doesn’t make it a bad game. I find the game very fun and challenging.

      • MasterOfSwords1

        Personally, I think Phantom Hourglass was the worst. I just said Zelda II because other people think it is.

  • Mysterious

    Almost no one understands the point to this editorial series.

  • Link

    People…..I’m the number one fan of Zelda, I have played and beaten every Zelda game, Have all Zelda stuff, room is Zelda decorated, all the games are good. Only the worst game of Zelda is the one you don’t like, get over it. You don’t have to write about every dang thing that happens. If you don’t like it, that’s ok! It’s your opinion not anyone else’s opinion, It’s yours.
    -1# Zelda Fan

  • Cero

    This article should be named why TMC is his least favorite. A lot of this article is personal opinion and doesn’t warrant a worst just because his expectations weren’t met.


    The Minish Cap is a triumph.

  • Darktimeleader

    To be honest, I dislike all the Zelda games Co-Developed by Capcom, they just kinda downgraded from its similar title. Link’s Awakening is MUCH better than OoA and OoS, and as said in this article, LttP is much better than Minish Cap.

  • Aaron hill

    well interesting article do i agree with it no but do i see how he might think that yes, ok i admit that the art style wasn`t my favorite but it still had some cool aspects to it. i wish that the minish cap wasnt so obvious where to use it but it was still interesting to use. though i agree that the overworld needed to be larger and more intersting like link to the past.

  • Link-of-Lylat

    Well, my first zelda game was Link to the Past, too, but I love Minish Cap. Plus, at least you could use the lantern to burn things, and you could keep it out as long as you want!

  • PRDX4

    Before all of you get your MC panties in a twist, I pretty sure this is a SERIES, so he’s going to go over at least most of the games as to why the could be someone’s least favorite. This does not mean he hates it, or anyone else who likes it. It is simply an opinion, and if you disagree with his opinion, right WHY (politely) and not that this article was poorly written (which it wasn’t).

  • Xyphon

    I suggest if you’re going to leave us off with a cop-out (Just not my cup of tea.), then you should title it accordingly. “Why I think the minish cap is the worst Zelda” would be more appropriate. Otherwise, you just get people yelling at you.

  • Wandering Goron

    My first Zelda game was Ocarina of Time and my least favorite is Phantom Hourglass or Four Swords Adventures. Those are the only 2 Zelda games I do not like.

    I don’t like FSA because it’s the antithesis of Zelda: No growth, no exploration, no thought. Although, I can recognize that it wasn’t trying to be like the other games in the series and just wanted to be a sequel to Four Swords. That doesn’t excuse its lack of quality or fun, but I understand why it is the way it is.

    Phantom Hourglass, on the other hand, was set to be a sequel to Wind Waker, but portable. Instead it was largely boring. Here’s an excerpt from its entry in my list of to 16 zelda games:

    “Phantom Hourglass tells you how to solve many of the puzzles and handles sailing for you, so the only input you provide on the sea is picking a destination and poking at some
    ugly fish. Sailing isn’t supposed to be about going from A to B; it’s about
    discovery and adventure. The only time I got stuck was in the Ice dungeon where
    I was expected to figure out that you can use your rope like a slingshot to
    cross a gap…

    …The world feels unengaging. I was unable to get invested in exploring the world or meeting new characters because it all feels lifeless and uninteresting. The only characters I cared
    about were Link, Tetra, and Linebeck. I cared about Link and Tetra only because
    I knew who they were from Wind Waker.

    The dungeons do not resemble the theme they
    are trying to present and feel very generic. They aren’t awfully fun and are
    forgettable. They kind of blur together in my memory. I remember the Temple of
    the Ocean King the most, but only because I was forced through it multiple
    times. I won’t talk about that temple much because almost any conversation regarding
    Phantom Hourglass usually involves complaining about it and you’ve heard the
    same thing for at least 5 years. While it is bad, it’s not as bad as everyone
    says. You can get through it quicker each time if you’re observant and use your
    new items…

    …The music is mind numbing, except for the Linebeck’s theme, which is great.
    Probably because he’s a cool dude. Customizing your boat is a great and fun
    idea, but creativity is punished because boats that mix different styles and
    themes have less durability than those that adhere to one theme.”

    I can’t cut this game slack just because it’s a Zelda game. I thought it was kind of good until I asked myself the question “Am I giving this game a break because it’s called Zelda? If this it wasn’t called Zelda would I dislike it?” and the answer was yes. While the being able to say “All the Zelda games are good. There isn’t a single one I dislike.” would be nice, it’s simply not true in my mind, and I’m not going to lie to myself or others when discussing the game. Say I’m not real Zelda fan if you want, but I’m just giving my honest opinion.
    TLDR: I don’t like Phantom Hourglass because it felt empty, boring, and unengaging. If you curse at me enough you might be able to change my mind.
    Oh yeah, and Spirit Tracks is one of my top 12 favorite games.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tiffiny.sumbry Tiffiny LovesDre Sumbry-Terrel

    I think complaining about how grass looks is a bit much. not all grass is perfect even if it is a video game. i think the MC grass looks good and more realistic then just a green carpet

  • Garo Master

    I only had this game for a week when my friend let me borrow it, but I liked everything I saw. And ALttP was also my first Zelda game, but I didn’t really think it was that great. The was nothing wrong with MC that bothered me and it is far from the worst game. No, SS was released to compete for that title. I will go ahead and say it: I don’t think SS is that great a Zelda game. Fun, but worse than the others. THAT’s the worst in my opinion.

  • TReXD

    I like Minish Cap because it was my first Zelda game and introduces me on other games.

    I feel bad for this article. It’s like being biased on something.

    It should be balance, not always negative.

  • the one guy

    Minish cap was great, just becouse you had way to high expectations doesn’t mean that the game is bad.

  • Fourthreetwo

    You forgot the part where ALTTP dungeon design is no where near as inspired as TMCs.

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  • evoxpisces

    When Minish Cap came out, it was my least favorite Zelda at the time. Since we now have the severely disappointing Phantom Hourglass, Minish Cap is no longer my least favorite. But still sits as my 2nd least favorite. A lot of the reasons I don’t like Minish Cap match yours [the writer] but in summary, it’s just not a fun game. It definitely felt watered down compared to most Zelda games and I agree the item selection was borderline terrible. So it’s not one or two reasons why I don’t like Minish Cap, it’s the summary of the game that just doesn’t add up for me.

    That’s the opposite case for Phantom Hourglass in my opinion. I thought that PH’s presentation was solid, the story was interesting, and it looks pretty good. In fact prior to its release I really though that PH could be my new favorite game….but then I played it. I’m already not a huge fan of touch screen controlled games and Zelda games especially don’t suit that control method. The controls were not something you could get around either. If you didn’t like them, there was no way to turn them off. And then my second gripe with the game is just as big…and that’s the central dungeon (Temple of the Ocean King I believe it’s called?…it’s been a while) and every time I had to go back to that dungeon I hsted it more and more. PH is one of the few Zelda games I never want to play again.

    About my first Zelda game…it was Link’s Awakening. It’s also my favorite 2D Zelda. It came bundled with my original b&w Game Boy and initially hated the game, eventually came to love it. Are Link’s Awakening and Phantom Hourglass related? Hardly. Other than the fact that they’re both portable.

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  • TripleForces1374

    I thought that this was a good article. I played through almost every Zelda game (with the exceptions of Skyward Sword, and the Oracles which I am starting soon on emulators) and found that this one was my least favorite. It was by NO means bad, in fact, I loved it! I just felt like it was so different from what I’m accustomed to! I would play this game again in a heartbeat, but I can see where the writer is coming from, and I do admit that ALTTP is one of my all time favorite Zelda games.

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  • DD

    I absolutely loved the Minish Cap! It was definitely watered down so kids can play too. Still, I absolutely enjoyed beating that game.

  • Curreeus

    Minish Cap was my first Zelda game, and I still love it. Yes, it was definitely aimed at kids, but I don’t think that was a bad thing – for me, it was a good introduction to the franchisel, and it has its own place.

    It doesn’t measure up to the “epic” scale of gamesthat deal with the Triforce Saga and Ganon/Ganondorf like OoT or LttP, sure, but I like to think of it as an adventure that happened in the early days of Hyrule – “this is what life was like before Ocarina of Time and the split timeline.” Yes, the colours can be drab and it’s more childish than other titles, but I feel like this game is often underrated by people measuring it against LttP or OoT. It’s not supposed to be epic like them – it’s just a fairytale, basically; something that Hyrulian children would read about in story books. I still play it for a lark now and then.

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  • tof

    Original Zelda was my first as a kid, then Link to the Past et al. I personally LOVE Minish Cap. It has everything I could want in a Zelda game. It did seem a little bit “kiddish” at first, but I got over it quickly and loved how it incorporated all the best elements of the various Zelda game’s I’ve played over the years. I love the way the sword turned out as it got powered up by the slingblade bros or whatever they’re called. I even warmed up to fusing kinstones. The music was great, as expected, and homage was paid in all the right spots to my favorite games (using the original whistle theme for the ocarina, and the original dungeon music reprised in the tomb of the king). I also love the way you can put any weapon/item on either A or B button. Coming from the old 2D zelda games, I could never get used to the way the 3D games force me to use the B button for sword. When panic time comes, I ALWAYS hit A and then get hurt because A isn’t sword.
    Thumbs up for Minish Cap.