On the 21st of November 1998, Nintendo released the very first 3D Legend of Zelda game, Ocarina of Time, wowing fans and critics alike. It went on to receive Game of the Year for that year and in the eyes of many publications, was named the best video game of all time. Needless to say, it was a fucking hit, folks.
Like I said in my very similar love letter to Half-Life yesterday – which is also 20 years old this month – I have an extremely hard time choosing between the shooter and Ocarina of Time when it comes to my number one favourite game of all time, and while Half-Life was probably the most influential, I’d say Ocarina of Time is the most special to me.
It was the first title to introduce me to an inventory system, which wasn’t just complex for its time, it was step up for me, a 10-year-old kid mindlessly bashing away at the controller of his Nintendo 64. I couldn’t just run around jumping blindly in the hopes of discovering how to complete a task as I did in Super Mario 64, I had to pay attention, listen to (or more accurately, read) what NPCs were saying for clues, and find items which would help me throughout the journey.
Ocarina of Time unfolds in two parts, the first played as child Link, and the second as adult Link, allowing you to explore the land of Hyrule during two different periods in time. Not only did this expand an already enormous world for its time, but it also gave the story a complexity that enthralled my tiny brain in a way nothing else had.
But the best part of Ocarina of Time was its masterfully crafted dungeons, all of which contain head-scratching puzzles, new items to discover, and boss battles that rival even modern games. Each new dungeon taught you how to use a new item without excessive hand-holding and then tasked you with figuring out how that new gadget could help you bring down enemies big and small.
But not every dungeon was a literal dungeon, they were diverse and interesting every single time. There was one in the belly of a huge fish, one in the crater of a volcano, and one at the bottom of a goddamn lake, among others.
Many of the puzzles in Ocarina of Time involved playing music on an ocarina by note, which added another interesting layer to its gameplay. Not only did you have to learn the songs, but you also needed to figure out which one to use in different situations. The title also introduced a target-lock system and context-sensitive buttons which are still widely used in games today.
Amazingly, Ocarina of Time is still the highest ranking game of all time on Metacritic, with a score of 99. By comparison, the latest Zelda game, Breath of the Wild, is sitting at 97. Many consider BOTW to be the best Zelda game of all time and sure, it’s nothing short of a fucking masterpiece, but if you ask me, nothing can top the N64 classic, and the lasting scores prove it.
If the nostalgia is eating away at you after reading this, you can still buy the remastered version of Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 3DS, which is essentially the original game with sharper visuals.
Happy birthday, Ocarina of Time, you magnificent son of a bitch.Image: Nintendo