The Legend of Zelda: A Brief History

By Isabella Estrella (blog post 1)

     On February 21, 1986, Nintendo released Shigeru Miyamoto’s first The Legend of Zelda game to Japan for play on the Family Computer Disk System.  Soon afterwards and more popularly, the game came out as a cartridge for the NES for North America and Europe (Webster).  Since the first release, numerous games, books, and even shows have come about, spinning off or centering around the characters and storylines found in the original game.  The first The Legend of Zelda has been so impactful, with people hailing it “the mother of action-adventure,” because it created a compelling game franchise that has had incredible longevity through its combining of elements like “[exploration], transport puzzles, adventure-style inventory puzzles, [action], [a] monetary system, and [simple building]” (Fahs).  The melding of various genres and inclusion of different elements to develop a new sub-genre at the time enabled refreshing gaming experiences that people still have not grown tired of.  

     In the original game, you play as Link, a young boy in an all green outfit.  You are placed in a world called Hyrule with a vague map and are tasked with the ultimate goal of finding the pieces to complete the Triforce (Nintendo Research), the main object of the game representing Power, Wisdom, and Courage (Plunkett).  After receiving your sword, you can explore Hyrule however you like, which seems to be the most attractive element of the game.  You are allowed and encouraged to roam this open space with no right or wrong direction to see what it holds in store and what you can find to help you on your quest to assemble the Triforce.  While traveling, you collect supplies like boomerangs, bows, and keys and build up your inventory in order to unlock new areas or defend yourself against enemies (Hoggins).  As you play, you have an overhead view of what is occurring in the game with simple, no-frills graphics (Davis).

     The Legend of Zelda had a major impact on the gaming world.  It was one of the first games designed to be played over a long span of time, rather than in a single sitting.  Therefore, the player could save their progress and return to the game later, which was a gigantic step in the gaming world.  The release and popularity of a game with this feature paved the way for more games to be invented, many of which were like The Legend of Zelda, in the sense that they included exploration over a large span of land or had no time limit for how long the person could play.  The distinction between video games and typical arcade games grew after this feature was popularized, because arcade games did not have this same capability (Finnegan).  The public and game critics adored the game, and rave reviews came out in Computer Gaming World.  Many computer gaming fans had denounced the NES prior, claiming it was an unnecessary purchase because it seemed like an over glorified arcade game, but the reviews for The Legend of Zelda convinced many to change their minds.  This is only a fraction of this iconic game’s impact.  

     The Legend of Zelda also came about during a strange era in Japan.  The 1980s in Japan were marked by extreme wealth, materialism, and consumerism.  People were buying nicer things, luxurious items, items in excess, or items for leisure and paid significant attention to their possessions (Living the Good Life).  Simultaneously, the Japanese government was pushing people to buy products made in Japan.  The excellent economy, interest in leisure products, and technological propensity in Japan all combined perfectly to foster a strong video games industry (Picard).  The Legend of Zelda fell right in the middle of this, which may be another reason aside from the genuine greatness of the game, that it found so much success around the world, and for such a long time.  


Works Cited

Davis, Justin. “The Visual History of The Legend of Zelda.” IGN. IGN, 24 Sept. 2013. Web. 27 Feb. 2017. <;.

Fahs, Travis, and Lucas M. Thomas. “IGN Presents The History of The Legend of Zelda.” IGN. IGN, 05 July 2012. Web. 27 Feb. 2017. <;.

Finnegan, Liz. “How The Legend of Zelda Changed Video Games.” The Escapist. Defy Media, 26 Feb. 2016. Web. 27 Feb. 2017. <;.

Hoggins, Tom. “The Legend of Zelda at 30: Birth of a Gaming Great.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 22 Feb. 2016. Web. 27 Feb. 2017. <;.

“Living the Good Life? Waste and Wastefulness in Japan of the 1980s.” Stanford Department of History. Stanford University, 08 Dec. 2016. Web. 27 Feb. 2017. <;.

Nintendo Research and Development 4 1986, The Legend of Zelda, video game, NES, Nintendo

Picard, Martin. “The Foundation of Geemu: A Brief History of Early Japanese Video Games.” Game Studies 13.2 (2013): n. pag. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.

Plunkett, Luke. “The Real History of the Triforce.” Kotaku., 21 July 2011. Web. 27 Feb. 2017. <;.

Webster, Andrew. “30 Years of Zelda: A Timeline of the Legend so Far.” The Verge. Vox Media, 21 Feb. 2016. Web. 27 Feb. 2017. <;.


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