For as long as I can remember, I have heard that Ocarina of Time was the greatest Legend of Zelda game to ever exist. It was a game that so many had grown up with. I suppose I could have been a part of it, but there were a few factors that prevented me from doing so. I was only two when the game first released, and I was not introduced to video games until I was about five. Even so, I never had a game console in my house until I received my GameCube when I began middle school. My step-sisters would bring over their Nintendo 64 on the weekends they visited, but they only had Mario Kart. I did, however, get to try Ocarina of Time while visiting my childhood friends.

They also had a Nintendo 64, and would let me play Super Smash Bros with them for hours at a time. While I spammed the B button with Pikachu, my one friend, Frankie, would always pick the green clad hero. I always liked the way Link looked, and I even tried to play as him (though I use the word “play” loosely), but one day I just had to ask: “What game is Link from?” I asked, concentrating on my attempts to do the spin attack. Frankie said he would show me as soon as the match was over.

The game ended in my demise (what a shocker!), and Frankie switched the game cartridges. Next thing I knew Link was riding across the screen on his horse, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time logo filled the screen. My next question was why the game was called The Legend of Zelda when the characters name was Link, which I was then informed that it was named after the princess (who I was upset about not seeing, but beggars can’t be choosers). An adult Link was standing in an empty hall — the Temple of Time, as I would later learn — with a pedestal beside him. Link thrusted his sword into the pedestal and became a child, much to my surprise. I’m not really certain what Frankie was trying to do, but I enjoyed watching him travel through the joyous Castle Town into Hyrule Field.

When he exited the city, and my five-year-old mind was blown away. This world was so amazing; the open fields, the volcano in the distance, there was so much to explore! Shortly after, the sun set, and from underneath the ground, Stalchildren emerged. I was terrified. I tried to remain calm, but I wanted them off the screen as soon as possible. Frankie must have been far off the path to Castle Town, because they kept erupting from the ground. He did his best to ward off the fiends, and eventually the sun came up again. After I left, I didn’t have any intent on watching the game again any time soon. For so long I had nightmares of the Stalchildren rising from the Earth and snatching me away. My sisters had a 3D skeleton puzzle which I threw out the window in fear of it coming to life. The Stalchildren haunted me for another few months or so, but I did not pick up Ocarina of Time again until many years later.

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When I was 10, I grabbed The Legend of Zelda:The Wind Waker, the first Zelda game I finished all the way through. After that, I immediately became a Zelda addict. I had borrowed the Collectors Edition that included Ocarina of Time in my middle school years, but I only managed to get up to Goron City by the time I had to return it. In all honesty, I was more interested in the music at the time, and would spend most of my time in the Lost Woods. It wasn’t until my 14th birthday when I got the GameCube edition of Ocarina of Time for myself, and completed it thoroughly.

By this point I had played the majority of The Legend of Zelda titles that were out before 2008, so I was very eager to play the game that I heard was the king of them all. I took my sweet time completing the game, trying to get everything I could out of the experience. After finally completing the game, I had to take some time to think about it.  There was no denying the fact that I truly enjoyed the game, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed as well.

“To this day I have each song memorized note for note, and I am still not tired of hearing any of them”

There are a few cons to playing a game after it’s been out for over 10 years. There were so many spoilers (skip to to the next paragraph if you have not played the game yet) lurking about, the biggest being Sheik’s identity. If it weren’t for Super Smash Bros Melee, I would have never known. I was so disappointed that it was not a surprise when it should have been. I would have at least liked to have known if I would have figured it out before her big reveal. Instead all I could do was give a sarcastic “What? I had no idea!” I had heard so much about the story being fantastic, but I must admit, I was a little let down. Of course the story was great, and the characters are absolutely lovable, but I personally did not find it to be as strong as everyone had claimed. I fully understand it was revolutionary for Zelda, I will never deny that, but in my own opinion, I felt as though games like Twilight Princess were a lot stronger. Though there were some aspects that had disappointed me after all the hype and build up, there were even more things that made me adore it.

The game has left me with so many fond memories, and even awful ones that are still somehow fun to reminisce on and chat about with other Zelda fans — but don’t get me started on the Water Temple. Darunia dancing, smashing Dark Link with the Megaton Hammer in a fit of rage, and King Zora scooting away for an eternity are but a few of these precious moments. It introduced me to Saria, Nabooru, and Malon, three characters who would soon become some of my favorites. There was nothing to complain about when it comes to the actual gameplay, as Ocarina of Time was the game to change the course for the franchise in the terms of gameplay, and I am grateful for it. Lastly, the music. My goodness, that beautiful, wonderful music! To this day I have each song memorized note for note, and I am still not tired of hearing any of these tunes (though I drove my mother crazy with Saria’s Song on more than one occasion). In my opinion, as amazing as all the new soundtracks are, none can best that of Ocarina of Time. 

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Overall, once I finished the game, as I watched the credits roll out, I felt empty — not because the game wasn’t fulfilling, but because there was no more for me to do. I had finished. I had gotten all the Heart Containers, done all the side-quests, and defeated the evil Ganondorf. What next? I wanted more. If this is the way everyone felt after they finished the game, it’s no wonder Nintendo rushed to get Majora’s Mask done so quickly!  I really think it’s marvelous how this game affects us to this day. Even those who did not grow up with it can still play it and love it all the same. It’s amazing when a company can make a game that can last through the ages, even without the nostalgia goggles some of us wear. Even if it’s not my favorite Legend of Zelda title, I can still appreciate everything that it has done for the series, and enjoy it as a another piece in the legend.

In 2014, I was in line waiting to pick up my copy of Pokémon Alpha Sapphire, when a girl and her father were on line before me. The father asked the cashier, “Do you have the game… what was it, ‘warriors of time’?” “No, Dad! It’s Ocarina of Time!” The little girl replied. The cashier left and returned with a copy of the game for the 3DS, and the girl’s face lit up. Seeing this, I couldn’t help but smile. Maybe because I saw a little bit of myself in that girl, but also because I knew about the epic journey that she was about to embark on. I didn’t know if she played any other Zelda games, or if she knew about the secrets that awaited her, but one thing I did know for sure is that she would treasure the memories to come.

  • reaper

    I grew up playing Ocarina of Time. I wasn’t even born when it came out (1999 :/) but a cousin of mine gave me his N64 when he went to university. I’m from Spain and the game wasn’t even translated to Spanish so I had an older friend translating it for me. Ocarina of Time taught me the bases of English apart from entertaining me for more than 13 years and developing my love for music which made me learn how to play the guitar for more than 7 years, so i’m really in debt with the game. Thanks Nintendo ^^.

    • Elven_Ariaera

      Thanks for sharing, it’s so cool to see the different ways this game effects us all!

  • Jarlmann

    From the moment I was old enough to form words, I was hooked on Zelda. When I was a young-un, around 4-5, my uncle would sometimes babysit me, and to keep himself occupied, he brought along his relatively new SNES machine and played SMB3 and Link to the Past in our living room(the man was just over 30 at the time). I was dead sold. I had no idea what was going on, but the colors and sounds hooked me.
    Before I turned 10 I had completed Super Metroid, SMB3, Star Fox and Link to the Past. I’ve no idea how, I probably had guidance. Every other weekend I’d be invited to my uncles house to play SNES with him and my 2 younger cousins, Turtles IV was a favorite, as the TV show was all the hype around those days for the kids.
    My uncle knew an employee at the Norwegian branch of Club Nintendo, and roughly a day after the European release of any title, he’d have 2 copies of it.
    You can imagine how excited I was about the concept of playing Mario in 3D! Like, how did that even work! I got the machine as a Xmas gift the year of it’s release, and OoT will forever be my fondest memory of my childhood. Shadow Temple and the Well scared the living heebees out of me, I had to hand the controller of to one of my ballsier friends who didn’t mind the spooks. As the years have gone by, my friends have gradually become less enthused about the Nintendo games, but they are still very dear to me, and I love to replay old titles when I have the time. I’ve saved all consoles and games to make sure why own kids will one day have the pleasure to explore the wonders of early day Nintendo 🙂

    • Elven_Ariaera

      Thanks so much for sharing! You were a lot braver than I was on those scarier parts. I’m so glad this story could spark some memories of your journey with this game!

  • Great story, Stephanie.

  • Bobby

    I think OoT is a fantastic game, but I do agree that it has always felt a bit over hyped and overrated. As someone that grew up with ALTTP and played WW as a college sophomore, I found those two to be the true pinnacle of LoZ games for their time.

  • Tatl Tael

    This site needs a better copyeditor.

    • Elven_Ariaera

      There has been a lot going on for our editors with all of the Breath of the Wild news, so there may be a few mistakes here and there. Sometimes these things happen, but we hope you can still enjoy the articles we post here at ZU!

  • Ciel

    I recall very explicitly the events leading up to Ocarina of Time.

    Before it came out, all my games had been gifts for birthday or Christmas. But I was finally old enough to look at affording my own game… I had a year to prepare

    I preordered it, and every day I asked for chores to just earn a few pennies more. I had to make enough to afford the preorder on release day.

    My best friend at he time was in the same boat. We both worked so hard… and then … the gods blessed us.

    For whatever reasons I can’t remember, we ended up with several days off from school upon release.

    Those were the best 5 days of my childhood, I think.

    Almost every hour was me excitedly calling my friend to see if they had found XYZ secret.

    • Elven_Ariaera

      Thanks so much for sharing! It’s really great to see everyone’s own unique story for the same game!

  • Michael Kelly III

    I was 13 when this came out…..and i got stuck on the water temple for at least 2 months…..

  • Since others have shared their OoT origins…

    I recall being at a toy store in the mall when I was around 7 years old. My dad loves gaming but hadn’t picked up a new console in a while, so on a whim, we headed for the counter and saw what they had. When he saw the Nintendo 64, he nodded and asked for one, then considered the games. He grabbed Mario Kart for the family, but then he asked for Ocarina of Time and handed me the bag.

    “Y’know, I really enjoyed Zelda on the NES. Maybe you’ll enjoy it, too.”

    OoT was my first Zelda game. It took me a while to get over the spooky skeletons and surprise spiders, but eventually, I fell in love with the series and went on to buy every subsequent game.

    I don’t know if my dad knows how much that meant to me. I should tell him someday.

    • Stephanie Cusumano

      That was a lovely story, thank you for sharing! I’m also glad I wasn’t the only one who was spooked by the skeletons, haha!

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