Posted on December 17 2014 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
Welcome to a new article series at Zelda Informer, where I explore every game in the series to determine why some may feel that game is the best Zelda game ever made. The goal is not only to explore the positive aspects of each game, but to give an idea of the very different reasons each of us enjoy the Zelda series, which is why no one game will ever be universally accepted as the best. No right or wrong answer exists for which game you feel is the best, but maybe this series will get you to look at some games in a new light.
The Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System is one title most Zelda fans are at least aware of. It started the entire series and gave us at least one thing that has stayed true in every game to date: the theme song for the entire series. Despite being the first in the series, it can arguably stand as one of the greatest — maybe even the best depending on your personal tastes. Let’s explore what makes this game possibly the greatest Zelda game of them all.
Open World Exploration
Perhaps the greatest calling for this game lies in the base concept of how the game unfolds. That is to say, the game provides no direction and the entire world is explorable from the start. This is a unique concept even today, because most games give you at least a the barebones of direction or markers on the map to help guide you to your destination. The Legend of Zelda does not, begging you to truly explore with unknown consequences. What lies on the next screen? Only your curiosity fills that blank, not a map or objective marker.
This is why above any other Zelda game in the series, the open world exploration rises tall. Not only do several games lack a truly open world in the series, they lack the pure freedom The Legend of Zelda tackles it with. While this sort of freedom — exploration with a lack of direction — may not be for everyone, those that enjoy exploration in its purest form will find no better experience for it in the series than in the game that started it all.
A Dangerous and Treacherous Path
This game is packed with danger as it is crawling with enemies around every corner. We’re not talking about toss-away enemies like Keese have become in some of the later titles, but enemies that can’t always be ignored and require some skill to lay waste to. You have to dodge, you have to swing at just the right moment, and sometimes retreat is the best form of action you can take.
When retreat isn’t an option, you must exercise your ability to react quickly, while still having the foresight to patiently wait for the right opening to strike. Sometimes this will require the use of different items, other times it just requires some quick work with the sword.
While other games have enemies packed on every inch of the world, The Legend of Zelda stands out for the unique variations in enemy types combined with uncanny difficulty of even defeating the easiest of them. The game isn’t afraid to throw 5 or more enemies at you at once, making it all the more difficult.
Hidden Things are Actually Hidden
Which tree do you light on fire? What rock face do you drop a bomb at? While this title originated these simplistic puzzles, it also didn’t give you a visual clue to act; finding secrets in this game is an exercise in trial and error. A source of frustration for some can be a call of joy for others. This game is full of the unknown, making the thrill of discovery all the more satisfying.
In many ways The Legend of Zelda is the exact opposite of what Zelda games are today when it comes to lending a helping hand in any matter. While this isn’t inherently a bad thing, those that truly enjoy the challenge of gratifying their own discoveries without aid will find no truer experience than this title.
The Legend of Zelda may be a simplistic offering compared to other entries in the series, but what it provides is something that isn’t nearly as profound in any other game in the series. For these reasons alone, this game may very well be considered the best offering the series has ever had.
Keep in mind that in stating that I am not giving my stamp of approval — I really enjoy this game and have a lot of respect for what it does, but it’s not my favorite game in the series. Nonetheless, this isn’t about what my personal tastes are, but what the facts are. The Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System is unlike any game in the series, and what made it popular back in the 1980’s still stands true today — even more so considering few if any games offer what it does in the fashion it is presented.