The NES classic The Legend of Zelda paved the way for dozens of sequels and spin-offs in the franchise, as well as directly influencing a myriad of video games released over the past 30 years.
While the original Legend of Zelda adventure may feel fairly archaic by today’s standards, many modern games still follow the basic core principals of game design that legendary title laid out.
The following games have all taken inspiration directly from The Legend of Zelda, or display game mechanics similar to those that where first seen in entries in the Legend of Zelda franchise.
The 1993 Super Nintendo classic Secret of Mana follows the adventures of Randi, Primm, and Popoi as they team up in order to find the Legendary Mana tree and save the world. While the game does contain many of developer Square’s trademark JRPG mechanics, Secret of Mana was notable for its departure from the company’s previous work in the way that it allowed players to engage in enemy encounters in real time instead of transitioning to a separate turn-based battle mode. The game also encouraged players to explore areas located on the world map by providing a host of NPCs, hidden areas and secret items.
From developer Matrix Software, Alundra is an often-overlooked 1998 PlayStation classic that shares many mechanical similarities with early 2D titles in The Legend of Zelda franchise. The game has players take control of the titular character Alundra as he explores the region of Inoa for clues regarding deadly nightmares that have befallen the local villagers, while using his unique Dream Walker ability to enter their dreams and slay the monstrosities lurking within.
Exploration and combat are as much a focus in Alundra as any core Zelda game, with players needing to acquire new gear to help reach previously inaccessible locations and enter hazardous dungeons in order to defeat challenging bosses.
While Alundra has sadly fallen into obscurity over the years, it remains one of the few games outside of The Legend of Zelda franchise itself to provide a gaming experience on par with the legendary series’ 2D outings.
Dark Cloud, developed by Level 5 and released at the tail end of the year 2000, is an action role-playing game that puts players in the boots of a young boy named Toan who is granted the ability to restore lands so that he may rebuild towns and villages, while teaming up with other adventurers, in order to take down the Dark Genie responsible for their destruction.
Throughout the game, players are tasked with traversing monster-infested dungeons and locating magical “Atla” orbs which contain various structures that can be placed down later via a city-building mechanic. Dark Cloud also features a similar targeting mechanic to Z-targeting, first seen in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and keeps the combat fresh by allowing players to switch between 6 unique and interesting characters on the fly.
Players are also encouraged to enter dungeons multiple times in order to gather items or crafting materials which can be used to upgrade weapons. To avoid making these repeat trips tedious, the layout, items and special unlockable areas within Dark Cloud’s dungeons all change upon re-entry.
Taking a colossal step forward for open-world adventure games is the PlayStation 2 classic Shadow of the Colossus. Developed by Team Ico and released in 2005, the game puts players in control of the nimble Wander as he sets off, along with his trusty stead Agro, to awaken his unconscious love interest. The gameplay consists of riding Agro across vast, picturesque landscapes, climbing mountains and various structures, and battling 16 Colossi located throughout the land.
While Shadow of the Colossus features no dungeons to navigate or lesser enemies to fight (not counting those slippery lizards and their coveted white tails) it more than makes up for their absence with the Colossi, which act as 16 unique and often-puzzling boss fights. Similar to bosses in The Legend of Zelda franchise, players must study the Colossi closely in order to discover and exploit their weaknesses. Unlike The Legend of Zelda, however, players are not given a new item or weapon with which to defeat a Colossi, but instead Wander must rely on his trusty starting sword and bow to aggravate or topple a Colossi, providing an opening to mount and plunge his sword deep in to their glowing weak points.
FromSoftware’s Demon’s Souls gained notoriety for being a difficult game released at a time when hand-holding in video games had hit a breaking point. Developed for the PlayStation 3 and released in 2009, Demon’s Souls shares many similarities with the 3D Zelda games such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess.
The game’s combat, for example, has the player character lock on and strafe around enemies, allowing them to block or dodge attacks while keeping an eye out for openings. Demon’s Souls, while fairly a linear game, also does its best to encourage exploration in its richly-detailed locations full of enemy encounters, sneaky traps and hidden items.
The boss fights are the standout attraction in any FromSoftware game, and Demon’s Souls’ boss fights are no exception. All are located within their own specific arena-like environments, similar to those seen throughout The Legend of Zelda franchise, and bosses require players to study their every move and gauge every weakness in order to finally fell the towering behemoths and claim their souls for themselves.
While gacha games have garnered a bad reputation over the years, often for being short, repetitive mini-games that require in-game purchases in order to bypass frustrating waiting mechanics, Genshin Impact developer miHoYo set out to quell this common perception when they released the game on mobile platforms back in September 2020.
Genshin Impact draws much of its inspiration from the critically-acclaimed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Assuming the role of The Traveler, players are tasked with finding the lead protagonist’s missing twin while exploring the land of Teyvat. Players traverse the vast, colorful land of on foot, climbing and gliding over mountaintops in search of various NPCs, missions, and challenges dotted around the world map.
The combat, like many adventure games following the release of Ocarina of Time, allows players to lock-on and strafe around enemies while dodging attacks. What sets Genshin Impact apart, however, is the ability to switch between characters in the game’s roster on the fly, enabling players to get the upper hand by attacking with an enemy’s corresponding weakness.
For 35 years Zelda games have had a dramatic effect on the course of the video game industry. From the original NES classic that started it all, to the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the series’ core mechanics and themes can be seen in titles throughout gaming history. As The Legend of Zelda continues to grow and evolve, players will likely see many more games drawing influence from the legendary franchise.