The first game in the Zelda series, The Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System, was released Feb. 21, 1986 — 34 years ago. Multiple titles across multiple systems later, it remains one of the greatest video game series of all time.
For the birthday of the beloved series, here are nine things about The Legend of Zelda and the Zelda series that you might not know.
Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda were created by the same person
Shigeru Miyamoto is a name that video game fans know well. A developer, then general manager of Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development Division, Miyamoto began his career with Nintendo in 1977 and remains with the company to this day. He has worked on countless games, but he’s responsible for two hugely popular Nintendo titles: Super Mario Bros. and The Legends of Zelda (he’s also responsible for Excitebike).
There are references of Mario in the Zelda series, and vice versa
If you picked up the wonderful remake of Link’s Awakening, which dropped for the Switch last September, you may have noticed (or remembered from your youth) that Yoshi is a toy up for grabs in one of the mini games. Or in Ocarina of Time, there are totally pictures of Mario and Luigi and Bowser in Hyrule Castle. How about the warp whistles? In Zelda and in Super Mario 3, it’s the exact same tune. They aren’t always obvious, or common, but they are there.
Zelda was named after author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife
Yeah, the author of the Great Gatsby. Well, his wife’s name was Zelda. The F. Scott Fitzgerald society describes Zelda as “an artist, writer, and personality who helped to establish the Roaring Twenties image of liberated womanhood embodied by the “flapper.”” Shigeru Miyamoto loved the name Zelda, the rest is history
The name also made its way back to the arts as the late great Robin Williams named his daughter Zelda, who is today also an actor. She has mentioned in the past that her favorite game in the Zelda series is Majora’s Mask.
Link was influenced by a Disney character
It is true that Link, the main protagonist of the Zelda series (and many people mistakenly call “Zelda”) was inspired by Peter Pan. In an interview in 2012 Shigeru Miyamoto explained that he was a big fan of Disney. Mixed with the design and graphical limitations of the original Nintendo, color palettes were at a premium and distinct shapes needed to be used in order to get the semblance of a character (that’s why Super Mario has a moustache, for example, so that the nose could be distinguishable in that blocky graphics era). For this reason, it was decided that Link needed a long hat and pointy ears, leaning towards the look of an elf with colors reminiscent of Peter Pan.
Breath of the Wild has an 8-bit prototype
This blew my mind when I first heard it. Breath of the Wild, my favorite game of all time and definitely in the conversation of one of the greatest video games ever made, was first designed as an 8 bit game, the exact same graphics as the original Legend of Zelda. It wasn’t for public consumption, but to work out the features and layout as a “proof of concept.” The 8 bit version was eventually brought to light and I really, really, really want to play it.
The Staflos Skeleton is the only enemy to appear in every game
This lovely creation is the “goomba” of Zelda — present in every game, but not very powerful. I guess that also makes it like a Storm Trooper. Why is it that the weakest enemies are always the ones that make it through to every game?
It was one of the only NES games with a gold cartridge
The Legend of Zelda and its sequel were unique in that the packaging was gold. There are other NES gold cartridges, like the gold Nintendo World Championships 1990 cart that sells for like $25,000, but not many others.. Oddly enough, the gold Zelda cart is actually more common than a grey Zelda cart, but it was still a cool distinction back in the day.
Zelda’s theme music almost wasn’t Zelda’s theme music
If I asked you right now to hum the Zelda tune, you’d probably know it and it would give you goosebumps. It does for me, every single time. That song almost didn’t happen.
Initially, Koji Kondo wanted Ravel’s Bolero as the main theme (check it out here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhhkGyJ092E). The song was still under copyright so it could not be used. Instead, Koji Kondo went to work, perhaps a tiny bit inspired by Ravel’s Bolero, and created an all time banger.
In the timeline of the games, The Legend of Zelda takes place near the end
Decades of Zelda games have flushed out quite the timeline, which splits thanks to Ocarina of Time. The Legend of Zelda, though it was created first in the series, happens well after the events of Ocarina in the scenario where Link is defeated by Ganon. After the Era of Light and Dark (Link to the Past, Link’s Awakening, Oracle of Ages / Seasons, Link Between Worlds, Tri Force Heroes), and the Golden Era, comes the Era of Decline, and that’s where Legend of Zelda comes in (and Adventure of Link immediately after it).
Someone has beaten The Legend of Zelda in under 28 minutes
Speedrunning is awesome and I love it. It takes retro games and gives them a competitive overhaul. According to speedrun.com, player lackattack24 from the United States set a World Record time nine months ago of 27 minutes and 40 seconds.
Credits to Arda Ocal, ESPN.