25 Years of Zelda in 25 Days - 2003
Co-authored by Jonah and Joshua

2003 was a hugely important year for the Zelda series. It was the release year of one of the most popular Zelda games ever, The Wind Waker, as well as the release of the Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition and a two game bonus disc which included Ocarina of Time: Master Quest.

Dates to Remember

The first of these releases (at least in the US) came on February 17th, when a preorder bonus for The Wind Waker was released. This bonus was a two-game bonus disc that contained both the original version of Ocarina of Time, and Ocarina of Time: Master Quest. Master Quest contains much of the same content as the original version of the game, but with dungeons that were redesigned to be more challenging. Due to this disc only ever being sold with the preorder of The Wind Waker it is quite rare to come across or find nowadays.

The next important date, and arguably the most important was March 24th, when The Wind Waker itself was finally released. One of the very many reasons this game is notable is due to the fact it is the first Zelda game to employ cel-shading, giving the game a cartoon-like appearance. Upon release, this was met with major criticism, and still is today to a point. Though, it should also be noted that this criticism has slowly turned into praise over time and the cel-shading has come to be accepted by many as an interesting effect that truly makes The Wind Waker unique amongst the Zelda series. Another notable thing from this game that has over time either been generally accepted or generally hated was the landscape. The Great Sea is the massive overworld in which the game takes place. While the sailing can be tedious and quite a challenge on its own, it also opens up a huge amount of content and places to explore. With fifty islands in the Great Sea, there is still much to do even after Ganondorf has been defeated.

For those who are familiar with the Split Timeline Theory, it can be theorised that The Wind Waker is an indirect sequel to Ocarina of Time, taking place hundreds of years after Ocarina of Time‘s end. The Split Timeline Theory theorizes that after Link was sent back in time in Ocarina of Time, the series was split into two timelines: the Adult Link timeline (Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass), and the Young Link timeline (The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass Majora’s Mask, Twilight Princess). The Wind Waker would follow the Young Link Adult Link timeline, as many hints are dropped and given throughout the game that the two are connected the prologue clearly references the Hero of Time who defeated Ganon (Adult Link) in Ocarina of Time.

The third and final important release of 2003 involving Zelda games was on November 17th, when the Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition was released. Its original release was in North America, where Nintendo Power magazine gave it away to its subscribers who had five or more registered games. For a limited time, it was also able to be obtained with the purchase of a Nintendo Gamecube. The Collector’s Edition contained four games: The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, along with a demo of The Wind Waker and a Zelda retrospective video.


What were they thinking? What have they done to Zelda? Bug eyes. Childish nonsense. What happened to the game they showed us at Spaceworld? How dare they ruin my favorite video game series.

I could go on for hours.

Toon Link, as seen in his debut trailer.

It’s hard to believe that many fans used to refer to The Wind Waker in that way. When Nintendo first showed off the newly designed cel-shaded style that The Wind Waker would use, many fans were confused and disappointed. Ocarina of Time had been a masterpiece and now Nintendo had changed the winning formula into something cartoony and tailored only for children. Nintendo was going to prove once-and-for-all that they truly were a game company only for people under 10 years of age.

At least, that’s what we all thought would happen.

Instead, Nintendo proved once-and-for-all that the style of the graphics does not affect the quality of the gameplay. Since The Wind Waker was released, we’ve seen more game developers be daring enough to try something new with graphics. Making the most life-like graphics is not always the best solution, and many of the most highly acclaimed games of the last generation stand out as much as The Wind Waker. Would anyone remember Okami if they had changed the graphic style to something more realistic?

Next time you see a new video game announced that highlights a unique or interesting graphic style thank Nintendo and The Wind Waker for inspiring that creativity.

The End of Ganondorf

The Wind Waker has a very interesting spot in the Legend of Zelda timeline. It takes place after Ocarina of Time split the timeline and continues the story of Ganondorf that began in Ocarina of Time. If The Wind Waker is remembered for just one thing it should be the development of Ganondorf as a character.

“My country lay within a vast desert. When the sun rose into the sky, a burning wind punished my lands, searing the world. And when the moon climbed into the dark of night, a frigid gale pierced our homes. No matter when it came, the wind carried the same thing… Death. But the winds that blew across the green fields of Hyrule brought something other than suffering and ruin. I coveted that wind, I suppose.” ~Ganondorf

While we had always known it was Ganondorf’s desire to obtain the Triforce and rule Hyrule, his speech in The Wind Waker was the first time we learned why. Ever since The Legend of Zelda, Ganon had simply been a monster out to rule the world. The Wind Waker made him truly human.

At the end of the game you realize that, though still evil, Ganondorf had coveted Hyrule so much that he waited hundreds of years until he could finally bring together all three pieces of the Triforce and make his wish a reality.

When I first experienced the ending of The Wind Waker I cheered when the King of Hyrule touched the Triforce before Ganondorf, but I could also feel the devastation in Ganondorf. Could any of us possibly imagine what it would be like to want something and be willing to wait hundreds of years, have it within our fingertips, and then lose it?

The battle that followed ended in the death of Ganondorf. It was a fitting end for a chapter of the Legend of Zelda. Without the split in the timeline, we likely would have never seen the softer, human side of Ganondorf.

Every Game Has a Story.
Only One Is a Legend.

All in all, 2003 was a very big year for the Zelda series. While The Wind Waker originally received some criticism, it went on to become the fourth best-selling Gamecube game of all time.

For all those who are curious, here is the original E3 2002 trailer for The Wind Waker:

Update by Joshua 11/11/11: Sorry about the timeline confusion; we should have caught that before publishing! Thanks to Ben for pointing out our error!

  • This made me feel like I was reading a Hylian Dan article.

  • JordanDiPalma

    Ah, I loved the WindWaker… but… why didn't SoulCalibur II get a reference here? It released that same year and the GameCube version featured Link. It's by far one of my favorite cameos of Link in a non-Zelda game. You guys gave plenty of mention to Smash Brothers, why not SC?

    • Linksoer

      I totally agree with this!

  • Nedaj

    I think you got the split timeline mixed up. In the child timeline Link and Zelda stop ganandorf and twilight princess occurs. In the adult timeline Link is nowhere to be found and wind waker occurs.

    • Also, the statue inside Hyrule Castle. Skyward Sword is Before Ocarina, so it wouldn't even be in any from any of the splits.

    • EraZ3712

      There was another error in the article where it mentioned that Skyward Sword was part of the Adult timeline. If it is part of ANY timeline, it should be before Ocarina of Time, not after TP. 🙂

      Other than that, great article! I love Wind Waker (but more than once gave up on Tingle-Please-Translate-Maps-At-Less-Prices part), and it sure did a lot on what is viewed as "Proper Zelda" for the newer generations.

      Personally, Gamecube is still my most favorite game station, but looking forward to Skyward Sword a LOT. IGN's most recent review on Zelda: "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the greatest Zelda game ever created. It’s the best game for Wii and one of the finest video game accomplishments of the past 10 years…"

      Now THAT says something!

  • Ben

    "the Adult Link timeline (Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword), and the Young Link timeline (The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass). The Wind Waker would follow the Young Link timeline, as many hints are dropped and given throughout the game that the two are connected."

    Wouldn't it be more like:
    Adult Link timeline (The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass) and Young Link timeline (Majora's Mask, Twilight Princess)? Also, didn't anyone say that Skyward Sword takes place before Ocarina of Time?
    I don't wanna start a huge debate about timeline-theories here, I'm just saying.

    Good article by the way!

    • Hylian Overboard

      Not just anyone, Aonuma. It's been reiterated many times that Skyward Sword is a prequel to Ocarina of sorts.

    • avalpsychicguy

      You're right. No offense to the writer of this article, but they really need to check their sources…

    • Prince

      maybe they mentioned this thing of child and adult based on Link's own appearance. In that way, this article works. Just sayin

    • Joshua Lindquist

      Hey Ben, thanks for pointing that out. I've corrected the article.

      • Ben

        No problem my friend 😉

  • Sanity's_Theif

    I'm sorry, but I cannot share in the praise of this game, granted Wind Waker IS indeed a good constructed game, it is just NOT the Zelda game for me, same as people who love Super Smash Bros Melee and absolutely detest Brawl, I simply do not like Wind Waker, and for more reasons than just the graphics

    I hope you can all respect my opinion instead of just thumbing me down because I don't agree with you

    • Trolololol
    • Sanity's_Theif

      There goes any hope I had for seeing any maturity in this community >_> how childish

    • Baga Jr.

      I respect your opinion, but personally, I can't see how anyone can like OoT or any Zelda game, and yet not like WW. I think it's because it's easy to stumble over the beauty of OoT or any Zelda game, but in WW, many people skip over it.

      It's really unreasonable how many people say there's not much to do in the Great Sea, but then you find out they barely explored it. Also, the sailing isn't very long if you do it one block at a time and stop at the islands and do everything on them. By the time you've explored a lot, you already have a warp song any way, which puts you, at the most, one block away from almost any island. And for those who say it's easy, then I'm really confused cuz OoT was almost just as easy, but they both have everything that makes a Zelda game good, one of which is great exploration.

      I'm not trying to say you're wrong. I'm just saying that I see so many similarities with other Zelda games that I can't imagine someone that doesn't like WW even though they like OoT or something.

      • Gwydion

        Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of Wind Waker either, and it's not the graphics. Despite starting without a sword in other Zelda games, I couldn't help but think the beginning of Wind Waker was a bit dull, and then as soon as I did get my sword, I lost it again and had to go through an entire dungeon without it, sneaking around and being sent back every time I got caught. I'm horrible at being stealthy in games – I don't enjoy games with this sort of gameplay. At least in the Gerudo Fortress in OoT you had your weapons and could stun the guards, not to mention it was pretty short. And then on top of that, I find the camera to be positively horrid. This makes the game very frustrating for me. I got more upset due to not being able to properly see than anything else. I honestly don't mind the sailing, though, funny enough. I like big, expansive overworlds.

        Anyway, I'm aware my opinion could change later as I haven't yet beaten the game (and I have been assured by my brother that it will), but for right now, I am a fan of most Zelda games, but I don't much care for WW. So yes, it is possible.

  • Agreed with everyone who pointed out the timeline errors. I also have to admit that Wind Waker is not one of my favorite Zelda games. Don't get me wrong, the story and gameplay are great, and I think the cell-shaded style really works. My problem has always been that the story was way too spread out, meaning that there were too many sidequests to do that had no relevence to the plot. Made it kind of hard to stay interested. But man, when I was involved in the main plot… It was amazing. Much love for Wind Waker. <3

    • ajscott123

      I would say that one plus with all of the side quests, the enormous sea, etc. of Wind Waker were unique features that made the adventure feel like a longer ordeal for Link (me?).

      What I'm looking forward to is playing the games according to the split timeline and seeing how I feel about them. I will be playing MM and WW at the same time….SO EXCITED.

      • Devoid

        actually you'd play mm, then Twilight Princess and Wind Waker

        Tp and WW fall relatively in the same time frame. this is why I've always thought that TP Link and WW Link are indeed the same person, just in different circumstances given the timeline split

    • Baga Jr.

      Well, that's not a reason to not like WW as much as other Zelda games. In fact, other Zelda games do as much side-stories as WW. Besides, story isn't as important as your comment makes it seem. The gameplay is supposed to be what keeps you going cuz it's a game.

      • Yeah, but the MM sidequests were often very relevant to the plot, or were compelling enough that I wanted to help the characters far more than in WW.

        And not everyone plays for the same reasons. Just 'cause my reasons don't apply to you don't make them any less valid.


  • Weevil

    WW is the best game EVER! and it is soo awesome once you wrap the game and play on the same save file, then link is in pJs the whole game, you can understand hylian and you star with the full color picto box. AWESOME.

  • sunken_castle

    windwaker is amazing i got a copy the other day for £2.99 with ocarina and master quest bonus disc so having hours of enjoyment till skyward sword comes out

  • Alessandra

    I loved the Wind Waker, sure it was a huge shock to me as to why they did the graphics like that but I liked that it was different and it still had good music in it plus seeing Link do facial expressions was cute.

  • ajscott123

    I had no idea that my two-game bonus disc was so rare. If I didn't have a day job I would add WW and Master Quest to my queue of installments I have to play BEFORE I can play SS.

  • "the Adult Link timeline (Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword)"

    Skyward Sword in the Adult Timeline? Skyward Sword takes place before Ocarina of Time, so it would be like:
    SS–OoT (Timeline Split)

  • shyguy

    Love all the zelda games but the timelines confuse the hell out of me!!


    The Wind Waker, Ocarina of Time Masterquest, The Zelda Collector's Edition, and Soul Calibur II were all splendid games.

  • Devoid

    "Every Game Has a Story.
    Only One Is a Legend."
    that sent Chills down my spine.

  • Coffee

    i think wind waker proved that graphics don't have to be realistic in order for the game to be so epic. personally wind waker has the best storyline, in my opinion.

  • Gromalomalom

    I don't know why people argue about which Zelda games were the best and which were the worst. In my opinion, they are ALL the best!

  • avalpsychicguy

    When Ganondorf explained his reasoning for desiring the Triforce, I actually kinda felt on his side. O_o I felt THAT sorry for him. I dunno. He really did seem to be a human. And I suppose his cause was just; his means, however, were not justified.

    • hero23time

      Then why wouldn't you purposely get killed in the beginning so that you wouldn't kill him? lol

  • Justin


    Here is the known order of the Zelda franchise…

    Skyward Sword Then

    Ocarina of Time afterwards

    Adult Timeline: Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks

    Child Timeline: Majora's Mask, Twilight Princess

    Please Jonah check a wiki before talking about theories *-_-

    • lord-of-shadow

      I'll admit, I haven't been keeping up to date with the popular timeline theories, but last I checked it's all open to quite a bit of interpretation. Nothing fits together perfectly, and all timelines require a certain level of assumption to make them work.

      There is no "known order".

      • Justin

        Errr… There is a known order. Anouma said so himself. These are the only games that are valid. All the rest are just theories… I understand your point though.

    • Baga Jr.

      This is definitely true, and nobody can really do much to argue about this.

      The rest of the games, however, is where the debate is.

  • deh

    Wind Waker's greatness aside, OoT Master Quest is incredibly awesome, too. I was lucky enough to get it with my copy of Wind Waker. I wish more Zelda games had alternative, harder dungeon layouts. Interestingly though, the Water Temple was IMO not made even harder, but actually a lot less annoying.

    And I like that you pointed out Ganondorf's great development. For having the cartoonies graphics, WW actually has one of the more mature storylines in the series.

  • Linksoer

    This has already been pointed out. But I'll mention it nonetheless.
    You got the timeline wrong.
    The Adult Timeline is (The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks)
    And the child Timeline is: (Majora's Mask, Twilight Princess)
    While Skyward Sword takes place before OoT. and hence, before the split.

  • The cel-shaded graphics were great for Wind Waker. I'm sure if WW had TP graphics it would have lost most of it's charm. I hope they remake it for the Wii U with more content because I've beaten this game over 50 times and have always loved it since I first got it when it came out (7 years old at the time)

  • Hylian_Shieldmaiden

    I'd also like to state along with my fellow readers/posters that Aonuma has stated in an interview that Skyward Sword does in fact take place before Ocarina of Time, and therefore before the split. http://www.zeldadungeon.net/2010/07/skyward-sword… 🙂

  • Oleg

    …meh, I actually kinda don't blame the haters. The first e3 video was such bad quality – the game in itself is much better in my opinion.

  • Cory

    Okami was originally prototyped with a realistic graphical style, good thing they ended up going with a cel-shaded look.

  • Crow

    No love for Soul Calibur II?