What each game in 'The Legend of Zelda' series has brought to the table.

Part 1 - The Legend of Zelda’ and ‘The Adventure of Link’

When the legend of Zelda came out for the NES, it began a franchise that would be known for its quality, consistency and importantly, its gameplay elements. Each entry in the series has introduced something new, while staying true to what a 'Zelda' game is.

The Legend of Zelda introduced us to the Zelda franchise and built the framework for future entries in the series.  These articles will discuss what those were in each Zelda game (not counting the CD-I games and spinoffs)

The Legend of Zelda (NES)
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What it introduced: The Basic Zelda Formula
Appeared in: Every game since

“Overworld + A Number of Dungeons = A Zelda game”

It's unfair to say that this formula is the only part of a Zelda game. But it
IS present in every game, therefore it is important. This formula is the basic framework for each game in the series. The number of dungeons change from game to game, but there’s always an Overworld and there are always Dungeons.

The Overworld was something that wasn’t really present in gaming back when ‘The Legend of Zelda’ first came out, it was rather innovative, but now, its present in so many games.

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“All THIS in ONE game??”

What else did it introduce?
It also introduced Link. You know? The hero of the game? you thought his name was Zelda? don’t be silly...

The Legend of Zelda II - The Adventure of Link (NES)
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What it introduced : Magic
Appeared in: Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess.

‘The Legend of Zelda: The Adventure of Link’ is generally considered to be the ‘black sheep’ of the Zelda series. It has random enemy encounters, levelling up systems and is downright incredibly difficult. Some of the following games have been known to be hard at certain points, but the levelling up system and random enemy encounters is something that hasn’t really appeared since. The one thing this game did manage to rub off on the following entries is its addition of ‘Magic’.

‘Magic’ is essential to finishing the game. It cannot be completed without it, and in ‘The Adventure of Link’ they seem to substitute Link’s classic inventory with ‘Magic’. Link does still find items throughout the game, but they are only ever used in the Overworld, as opposed to dungeons, where ‘Magic’ is heavily needed.


“The Adventure of Link had awesome grammar, as you can see”

What else did it introduce?
Shadow Link. I bet you all crapped your pants when you saw him for the first time. I did.

Part 2 - ‘A Link to the Past’ and ‘Link’s Awakening’

A Link to the Past (SNES)

What it introduced: A deep story.
Appeared in: Every game since, except ‘Four Swords’ and ‘Four Swords Adventure.’

The first two games in the series relied heavily on searching and exploring. It had dialogue that helped you know where you had to go next, but most of the time it was very vague. It had no real, fleshed out story. 

The second game was a continuation of the first, but still lacked a thorough plot with character development. It was only when 'A link to the past' came out that we realised the true potential of what the Zelda series had to offer story wise. It also was apparent that ‘This World' and ‘This Link' was different to the one we were introduced to and it set up what we now all know about each Zelda game appearing on a different spot in a timeline, with each game not essentially appearing in order.   


“This game explained the true purpose and power of the Triforce”

What else did it introduce?
Dual worlds. It has a light world and a dark world. When you first enter the dark world, you realise how much bigger this game is than its predecessors and how much more this game has to offer.

Links Awakening (Gameboy)

What it introduced: A Zelda without Ganon.
Appeared in: Links Awakening, Majoras Mask, Four Swords, The Minish Cap, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, Skyward Sword.

Ganon who?

‘Link's Awakening’ was the first game in the series to be set in a location other than Hyrule. The game takes place on 'Koholint Island', an island that technically does not exist. The game is a strange entry in the series, as the events in the game happen in a sort of 'dream world'. This then makes sense that the villain of the game is not Ganon. This made it more accepted when Ganon didn't appear in future games and introduced us to a world where Ganon doesn't HAVE to appear in every Zelda game, and in most cases, theres a real reason as to why he doesn’t appear in those games.

It’s also important to note that Ganon/Ganondorf has appeared in every major console release to date (Counting ‘LoZ, AoL, ALttP, Oot, Ww and Tp), except for the upcoming release of Skyward Sword.

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‘Ganon did appear briefly in ‘Link’s Awakening’ as a form of the final boss”

What else did it introduce?
The Trading Sequence. Completely optional, but extremely satisfying and rewarding to complete. It all started with a ‘Yoshi Doll.’

Part 3 - ‘Ocarina of Time’ and ‘Majora’s Mask’

Ocarina of Time (N64)

What it introduced: The Legend of Zelda in a 3D world.
Appeared in: Majoras Mask, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword.

The Legend of Zelda revolutionised itself with its release of ‘Ocarina of Time.’ It brought a 2D, flat game, where many of the elements would seem to only work on a 2D plain, into the 3D world, and done so, so extremely effectively. This game’s release not only revolutionised The Legend of Zelda franchise, but 3D gaming as a whole. Many elements that are used today in all sorts of 3D gaming, begun with this game, along with Super Mario 64.

“The transition from 2D to 3D worked perfectly”

What else did it introduce?
Epona. What more can I say?

Majora’s Mask (N64)

What it introduced: Controlling someone different than the normal Link.

Appeared in: Twilight Princess, Spirit Tracks.

There was a lot that was introduced in Majora’s Mask, but many things didn't stay with the franchise. The time cycle, the heavy use of masks and some other elements. A lot of people didn’t like the fact that you were sort of ‘timed’, and had to do certain things within a time limit or during a certain period within the three days you were given. This Zelda offered you the ability to control other characters with the mask of that character. You could become a Deku, Goron or Zora and it was essential to the gameplay and the story. This added a different dynamic to solving puzzle, especially near the end when you had the ability to use all three masks. If you collected every mask, you were able to receive the Fierce Deity Mask, which could only be used during boss battles. It allowed you to turn into the awesome looking Fierce Deity to reign havoc on the bosses. It made the final boss fight much more easy.


“Seeing Link transform into this for the first time was amazing.”

In Twilight Princess you were able to turn into a wolf, which added the same dynamic element to some puzzle, and this ability to control someone else appeared again in Spirit Tracks, where you were able to send Zelda’s spirit into an enemies shell so that you could control her and yourself to solve puzzles that needed both skill sets of each character.

What else did it introduce?
You know who i’m talking about. The pinnacle of strangeness in Zelda.

Part 4 - ‘Oracle of Ages/Seasons’ and ‘The Minish Cap’

Oracle of Ages/Seasons (GBC).

What it introduced: Co-Developer(s)
Appeared in: Oracle of Ages/Seasons, A Link to the Past: Four Swords, The Minish Cap, Ocarina of Time 3DS, Four Swords Anniversary Edition.

The Legend of Zelda franchise was solely developed by Nintendo, until 2001 when Capcom co-developed the Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons games for Gameboy Colour. The involvement of Capcom didn’t change the Zelda formula dramatically, and their input helped shape another fantastic 2D Zelda game.

“The Oracle games had a slightly different vibe, but it was welcoming.”

What else did it introduce?
The Oracle games give you different seeds that you can use in conjunction with your seed bag or slingshot. They have introduced elements similar to this in subsequent Zelda games.

The Minish Cap (GBA).

What it introduced: Cities in the Sky
Appeared in: The Minish Cap, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword

When studying Zelda in terms of it’s timeline, one new element that has been present since The Minish Cap is this notion of ‘Cities in the Sky’. It’s obvious that The Minish Cap has had an influence on some subsequent games in the series, mainly being Twilight Princess and, even more heavily, Skyward Sword.


“If we are ever blessed with the official Zelda Timeline, i guarantee that there is a relation between The Minish Cap and Skyward Sword”

The Minish Cap is currently the last game in the series to be 2D. Who knows what the future holds, but if the development team of The Legend of Zelda chooses to keep the series 3D from this point on, the 2D era of will be considered over, which would be extremely sad and i doubt that Nintendo would forget The Legend of Zelda’s true roots.

What else did it introduce?
The Gust Jar first appeared in The Minish Cap, and has also appeared (named the ‘Gust Bellow’) in Skyward Sword.

Part 5 - ‘Wind Waker’ and ‘Twilight Princess’

Wind Waker (GC).

What it introduced?
A much more improved sword-combat system.

Appeared in?
Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword.

Up until this point you could swing your sword, block and sometimes perform a spin attack. Wind Waker introduced a number of different ways to use your sword in battle. You could counter any of the enemies attacks and perform a hurricane spin attack, as well as choose whether you wanted to do a horizontal slice or vertical slice. Some of these didn't exactly appear in following entries, but the following games did build upon the sword techniques, which got a complete overhaul with Twilight Princess' motion controls and Skyward Sword's more accurate wii motion plus controls.

“Pushing A when it lit up caused you to do a ‘counter attack, but you had only a second or two to press it”

What else did it introduce?
A different type of overworld and a new way to travel hyrule (boat) which also appeared in Phantom Hourglass (Boat), Spirit Tracks (Train) and Skyward Sword (Bird).

Twilight Princess (GC/Wii).
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What it introduced: Motion Controls

Appeared in: Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword

With the release of Twilight Princess for the Wii specifically, the future of Zelda games have changed. It’s hard to imagine that the developers of The Legend of Zelda series will ever go back to traditional controls for a console Zelda title. With the addition of Wii Motion Plus and the release of Skyward Sword, it seems that the Zelda team has found a style that they like and are going to stick to, at least for a while. Twilight Princess introduced motion controls in a simple fashion, but it is the recent release of Skyward Sword that has solidified the motion control experience for the Zelda series.

Twilight Princess was originally developed for the Gamecube, but was ported to the Wii, with motion controls added. Skyward Sword is the first Zelda game developed specifically for the Wii.

“Aiming was made easier with the addition of motion controls”

What else did it introduce?
I thought the addition of Double Clawshots was pretty neat, but not the way they gave you them as two separate items.

Part 6 - ‘Phantom Hourglass’ and ‘Spirit Tracks’

Phantom Hourglass (DS).

What it introduced?
Touch Controls

Appeared in?
Spirit Tracks

As we get into the final article in the series, it's difficult to determine what aspects of a Zelda game is present in future titles as there aren't many subsequent entries as of yet. The Phantom Hourglass introduced one gameplay element that was present in a future title, which was touch controls. The Phantom Hourglass was released for the Nintendo DS, which is a direct sequel to Wind Waker, and the development team introduced a new way to play via the touch screen. Who would have believed you could play through an entire Zelda experience with just a single stylus.

“Tap to strike, swipe to control sword swing and draw quick circle to spin attack. It worked perfect.”

The system was praised for being intuitive, clever and simple, but still offering an in-depth level of gameplay that is expected from the The Legend of Zelda series. The system was present in Phantom Hourglass’ Sequel, Spirit Tracks, with a few simple modifications to the controls.

What else did it introduce?
Phantoms and Safe Zones. They reappeared in Spirit Tracks, and a modified version appears in Skyward Sword in the form of the Silent Realm.

Spirit Tracks (DS).

What it introduced?
The Whip

Appeared in?
Skyward Sword

This is where it gets difficult. Spirit Tracks is that last game in the series before Skyward Sword and is the most recent handheld title in the series. Where the Zelda series will go next in terms of handheld games is totally unknown at this time and whether or not the next entry in the handheld series, for Nintendo 3DS, will be top down view, or take a more 3D approach, which we know is possible with the release of Ocarina of Time 3D.

We don’t know what elements of Spirit Tracks may or may not be present in a future zelda title as of yet, except for Skyward Sword, and the main thing that was taken from Spirit Track and used in Skyward Sword was the Whip. The whip first appears in Spirit Tracks and is one of the main items in Skyward Sword. In Spirit Tracks, the whip can be used to leap over gaps, steal items from enemies and throw items at enemies. The same things can be done with the Whip in Skyward Sword, but in a 3D environment.

“The Whip is visually different in each game, but is used in very similar ways”

What else did it introduce?
Literally ‘Playing’ the instrument. In Spirit Tracks, the main instrument is a Pan Flute, known as the Spirit Flute. In order to play it, you actually blow into the mic and move the flute left or right to adjust the note. This is something i believe will be present in future titles yet to come, as motion controls begin to have a more predominant presence in video games, and Zelda games especially.

Epilogue - ‘Skyward Sword’


Skyward Sword has been released, to rave reviews, and since it is the latest entry in the series, it is impossible to determine what will be taken from skyward sword, and placed into future entries in the series but we can speculate as to what might be.

What may appear?
One-to-one Motion Controls



It has been said by people in the development team that Motion Controls will be the future for console Zelda games. At least we know it will be present in the next entry on the Wii U, as they have stated it will, but for handheld games (3DS) what does this mean? Personally, i believe that when an original 3DS Zelda game is released, it will utilise the Gyro in someway.

What may appear?
Item - The Beetle



This item seems like the perfect fit the Nintendo 3DS. I can’t imagine that Nintendo would not take advantage of The Beetle, combined with the Gyro Controls for the next 3DS Zelda game. I personally believe Nintendo will use the art style from Skyward Sword for the first original 3DS game. Therefore, i believe that some items will reappear. The bBeetle is the one item I believe that has the most chance of reappearing in the upcoming 3DS Zelda game.

What may appear?



Spoilers are ahead!

In terms of the story of Skyward Sword, its doubtful that Ghirahim would make an appearance again, but its not impossible of course. If you’ve witnessed the end of Skyward Sword, you may know that Ghirahim may still appear again, but in which way is unknown at this time. I find it difficult that Nintendo would throw away a character as interesting as Ghirahim.

Written by Michael Villalon for ‘The VG Island.’

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