Summer for many university campuses signals crowds of visitors for orientation season. Living and working in a college town, I’ve become accustomed to passing by many a tour group these days as fresh-faced newcomers arrive to explore the campus and surrounding area. Ordinary classroom buildings and local fixtures come alive once again as new eyes see them for the first time and imagine what the future will be like. Without knowledgeable tour guides, visitors to unfamiliar areas can get lost and overwhelmed. With the right leader, however, these same unfamiliar areas can sparkle with vivid potential.

New game experiences offer a similar sense of simultaneous apprehension and excitement for novice players. This is particularly true when a series has many entries. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start! For the Zelda franchise, there are lots of opinions as to which game might be the best or how newcomers can get the most out of their initial experience. This brings me to today’s question: if you were selected as a Zelda series tour guide to lead a group of newcomers to the franchise, or through a specific game, where would you make your first stop?

In some ways, I still consider myself a Zelda novice, with a limited overall experience of the full breadth of the series. That being said, I think my experience gives me the perspective to be able to relate to brand-new or future Zelda fans and their potential need for a game that is approachable and fun, without being too overwhelming, frustrating, or niche. I personally can think of nowhere better to begin than by leading my tour group through the Kokiri Forest as they are introduced to Ocarina of Time. My group of Zelda newbies will begin their journey through the Zelda series by peering through the eyes of Child Link. This way, they will grow along with him as they are introduced to classic Zelda icons, such as Hyrule, the Triforce, the Master Sword, the legend of the Hero of Time, and of course, Princess Zelda herself.

If it came down to a specific location in one game, I can’t shake the feeling of both trepidation and anticipation I felt when initially standing on the banks of Squabble River while gazing ahead at the Dueling Peaks in Breath of the Wild. This site was one of the first I explored after leaving the Great Plateau. As I lead my tour group of Breath of the Wild novices, I would love to share the burst of happiness and love for adventure this spot still gives me to this day. Obviously this direction is nothing out of the ordinary, as players will naturally pass through the area while following the “Seek Out Impa” main quest storyline. Nonetheless, I would still want to encourage new players to make their first non-tutorial stop here. The tension that comes from exploring the unknown will sink in as my tour group wonders what might be beyond the ravine snaking between the looming rock structures ahead. I remember feeling a sense of wonder seeing the light of the Dueling Peaks shrines reflected in the flowing water of the river. Recreating this moment for my Zelda newbies would make me feel like a worthy tour leader.

Ultimately, a newcomer’s experience can be helpfully shaped by the advice they get as they enter into a novel experience—and I know that Zelda Dungeon has an audience full of knowledgeable guides! So, how about you? What would be your first stop as a tour guide for Zelda newcomers? Leave your itinerary in the comments below!

Featured Art: 双子的记忆 by Arsh

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