The Legend of Zelda

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North American box art.

The Legend of Zelda is an adventure action game developed and published by Nintendo and released on the Famicom Disk System on 1986-02-21, then ported to NES on 1987-08-22 for release in other countries. It is the very first game in the Zelda series.

In the game, an evil wizard named Gannon used a powerful artifact called the Triforce of Power to kidnap, Zelda, the princess of the land of Hyrule, and spread his evil minions across the realm. You play an elfin boy named Link who must collect the eight pieces of a second artifact called the Triforce of Wisdom, as well as many other weapons and items, to become strong enough to defeat Gannon.


I first played this game in the late 1980s when my brother borrowed it from his friend who lived down the street. My brother accidentally deleted the boy's near-complete save game file, and we struggled to get all his items back before having to return it to him. Later, we ended up getting our own cart, and it quickly became one of our favorites. We used help from Nintendo Power and The Official Nintendo Player's Guide to get details about the game, and I painstakingly burned and bombed nearly every title in the game to uncover its secrets. As we reached the end of the game, I faked being sick so I could stay home from school and keep playing. I was able to find the last heart container and the red ring, but I didn't get to Gannon. My brother beat it first, showed me how it was done, and then I was able to beat it too. The second quest took a lot longer because several of the puzzles were more complicated, but I did end up beating it too.

It is my second favorite Zelda game, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, being my favorite.

I own five copies of this game including the original gold cart, three 3-screw gold carts with round seals, and the gray cart. I also have a rev-A box with round seal, and a couple manuals and maps. I have beaten the game many times with 100% completion. I've beaten the second quest with 100% completion. Prior to the Internet, I hand-mapped nearly every bomb/burn site for both quests.


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8 7 6 7 10

Best Version: NES

— This section contains spoilers! —


  • Considering the constraints of the media, there is an unbelievable amount of game here! Fitting everything into 64K was a serious feat of engineering.
  • The game has pretty nice graphics considering the limitations of the NES.
  • Despite having very little space for music, Koji Kondo managed to fit memorable songs that don't become annoying; the title music is especially good. Kondo also made good use of environmental sound effects like the crash of the ocean on the shore and the monster roar when a boss is nearby.
  • The slow progression of items you can buy and through the exploration of dungeons keeps the game fresh the whole time.
  • I like how the underworld monsters are more sinister and gruesome than the over world monsters. It was also a good design decision to give each dungeon a primary monster type to help give them character, and to have the type become more difficult as the game progresses. The switch from water to blood/lava as you reach underworld 5 was a nice touch as well.
  • Even without the second quest, the game is wonderful. The addition of an entirely new underworld was icing on the cake.
  • The manual is very well-made, and the inclusion of a partial map was a great help. I also love how they hired someone to create a clay model of Hyrule just for a background photo!
  • Coloring the game cartridge metallic gold was a nice touch.
  • In order to prevent him from blending into the background, Link's sprite palette actually changes in certain underworlds. The designers were wise to do this.


  • The game requires a lot of trial and error to find all the hidden rooms and treasures, and the cryptic hints from the Hyrulians aren't all that helpful. Thankfully, the vast majority of these are optional.
  • I wish there were more red/blue versions of the various enemies, items, etc. This seems like an untapped area. For example, there are no blue Like-Likes, red Wall Masters, Red Gibdos, or Red Manhandlas. Some of them are backward was as well, like the Red Tektites being harder to kill than the blue.
  • Unless you're familiar with Japanese mythology, a lot of the monsters will seem particularly unusual and abstract.
  • The "Pay me for the door repair charge" annoyingly punishes you for exploring.
  • Some of the items seem to be poorly placed like when you get boomerangs from both the first and second dungeons. Although this may have been on purpose to introduce the idea of upgrading items early on.
  • There is noticeable slowdown when a lot of sprites are on the screen at once.
  • Dungeon 7 is particularly out of place with a, by then, sissy Aquamentus for a boss, and the red candle for a treasure.
  • In one of the second quest dungeons, it is possible to become trapped in a couple rooms closed off by a shutter door, and, if you don't have any bombs, you need to reset the game.


  • There is very little in the game to keep you on track. Dungeons usually feature a cryptic hint to get you to the next one, and sometimes you can buy hints from old ladies, but, unless you have a hint guide, you'll be lost a lost, especially in the second quest. At least the manual and map that comes with the game gives you a decent start.


Box Art

I'm not a huge fan of any of the boxes. The Japanese art is a bit primitive, and, while I like the design of the North American art, it's a little too simplistic.




Design Notes


Fan Art


Review, NES Works.
Review, Implant Games.
Regional differences.
Collision code.
Drop code.
Speedrun progression.
Longplay, USA, 1st quest.
Longplay, USA, 2nd quest.
Longplay, Japan, 1st quest.
Longplay, Japan, 2nd quest.


Bechdel test?FailThere are women, but they never talk to each other.
Strong female character?FailNone of the women are strong.
Strong non-white character?FailNobody is human.
Queer character?FailThere are no queer characters.


The Legend of Zelda has credits, but they leave out some people and are mostly aliases. Thankfully, dedicated fans have determined the majority of their real names.

Role Staff
Executive Producer Hiroshi Yamauchi
Producer, Director Shigeru Miyamoto
Director, Designer Takashi Tezuka
Programmers Toshihiko Nakago, Yasunari Soejima, I. Marui
Music, Sound Effects, Audio Programmer Koji Kondo


Language Native Transliteration Translation
English The Legend of Zelda
Japanese ゼルダの伝説ゼ THE HYRULE FANTASY Zeruda no Densetsu Za Hairaru Fantaji Legend of Zelda: The Hyrule Fantasy


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