For 33 years, The Legend of Zelda has remained one of the most iconic, beloved, influential, and consistently inventive video game franchises in the world.
From laying down the template for all future open world games back in 1986, to delivering generation defining smash hits in the form of Ocarina of Time and Breath of the Wild, The Legend of Zelda is a series that means so many different things to so many different people.
With that in mind, the prospect of attempting to nail down just five unforgettable moments from over fifteen games is a daunting one, but we love a challenge here at UNILAD Gaming.
We also love to hear how much we’ve clearly never played a Zelda game before in our lives. Inb4 any of the comments throw that one at us.
Zelda is the dude, right?
As always, this list essentially comes down to personal taste, and we’d love for you to share you favourite Zelda moments in the comments with us. There are no wrong answers here, unless you think Twilight Princess is the best Zelda, obviously.
A LINK TO THE PAST – ENTERING THE DARK WORLD
SNES hit A Link To The Past is the third game and the series, and the first to really nail down that familiar Zelda formula that was such a staple of gaming until A Link Between Worlds and Breath of the Wild finally changed it up.
While this formula suffered from diminishing returns slightly, there’s no denying A Link To The Past is a phenomenal game, made all the more incredible the first time you enter the mysterious dark world.
You hear mentions of a dark realm of some kind throughout the game’s early hours, but it’s a genuine shock when you eventually stumble through a portal that brings you right to the heart of it.
The sombre music and bleak atmosphere of the dark world couldn’t be more different from the bright colours of Hyrule, but crucially, it was a whole new world to explore, full of new enemies, treasure, and dungeons.
Oh, and the first time you enter the Dark World you turn into a bunny. That’s kind of weird.
BREATH OF THE WILD – WAKING UP
When it was announced that Breath of the Wild would feature a truly open world inspired by games like Skyrim and The Witcher, Zelda fans everywhere were delirious with excitement.
The worlds of Zelda are always built with such love, care, and detail, that being able to explore the biggest one yet in any way, at our own pace was everything we’d been dreaming about since the NES original.
And so, there was no small amount of hype from fans when they finally got their copies of Breath of The Wild and booted them up.
In a moment that echoes the very first Zelda game, Link wakes up in a small cave and immediately heads out in search of adventure.
There’s no big cutscene or exposition dump, you simply walk out into the light and come face to face with the stunning, massive, colourful world before you. Yours to explore, however you want. The Zelda we’d waited years for.
WIND WAKER – SETTING SAIL
For a game that involves a ton of sailing, it takes a while before Wind Waker actually lets you take to the seas, but it’s quite a sight when the moment finally comes.
To be clear, we’re not talking about the moment during the game’s opening when Link finally leaves home aboard the pirate ship, although that is great and super emotional. I’m not crying, you are.
No, we’re talking about an hour after that, when you first meet King of Red Lions, a living, talking boat – just like they don’t make in real life.
After running off on a fetch quest to fit your new mate with a sail, you climb aboard and let the wind carry you to adventure. An epic score kicks into life as you cut through an ocean of pure blue, seagulls swooping down to fly alongside your boat, the horizon dotted with strange new places to explore.
Before Breath of the Wild, Wind Waker was the game that came closest to capturing the spirit of adventure and exploration that NES original evoked, and it all started with this moment.
TWILIGHT PRINCESS – GANONDORF BATTLE
While we don’t think Twilight Princess is close to the best Zelda, there are plenty who would argue it deserves to sit alongside the very finest the franchise has to offer.
To be fair to it, it does have its share of truly epic moments in between all the boring bits, as well as some of most consistently awesome boss battles in any Zelda.
Fittingly, the final showdown with Ganon in Twilight Princess is an outstanding, challenging, multi layered battle that could easily be considered one of the coolest final fights in gaming.
It truly feels like a final test, demanding you use every trick and tool you’ve learned on your journey. You fight a possessed Princess Zelda, before taking on a behemoth beast Ganon in your wolf form.
After that, you chase down a human sized Ganondorf in a cinematic horseback duel, before finally locking blades in an intense one on one standoff. It’s a deeply satisfying end when you finally plunge the Master Sword into Ganon’s meaty tum.
OCARINA OF TIME – GETTING THE MASTER SWORD
This is it, this is absolutely the most unforgettable, definitive moment in the history of Zelda. There’s not a soul alive who’s played Ocarina of Time and doesn’t remember how they felt the first time they pulled the legendary Master Sword from its pedestal.
Ocarina’s first handful of hours are spent playing as a younger version of Link. Before long, a young Zelda tells us we need to gather the three elemental stones so we can stop the evil Ganon, so off we pop, eager to do some questing.
After grabbing the third and final stone and shaking off the nagging feeling that you just got engaged to a fish, it’s time to head back to the Temple of Time and save the day.
Walking into the Temple of Time with all three stones feels like the end of a long journey. Of course, when you discover the Master Sword was hidden in the Temple all along, it becomes clear the game is only just beginning.
Stepping forward to remove the Master Sword for the first time still gives us chills. The music that plays as you grip the hilt, the way Ganon steps out to reveal he’s played you like a fiddle, the fact that you wake up seven years later as an adult… it’s all flawlessly done.
It’s victory followed up by an unexpected and utter defeat that only strengthens your resolve to play through the rest of the game and get the win you’re owed, and proof that Ocarina of Time is one of the finest games in history.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.