Art is an expression of passion. It’s our interpretation of — and reaction to — the things we see, think and feel in our day-to-day life. And here’s the best part: even children can express this passion. That’s why fan art is a testament to just how strongly games can resonate with us. Even a youthful mind can connect to and feel inspired by their worlds, their characters, and their stories — so much so that they want to express these feelings creatively.

I certainly felt this way as a 12-year-old fan of Ocarina of Time. It was my very first adventure game and I immediately felt connected with it. I loved the world and its inhabitants, from the ageless Kokiri that represented my innocent childhood, to the Gerudo who represented the mature, badass woman I aspired to be. I couldn’t get enough of it, so I invested myself into its world even deeper through my art.

In honor of the game’s 20th anniversary, I’d like to take a trip to the past and revisit five pieces of my childhood Zelda fan art, to remember just how much this game inspired creativity in me. Make no mistake: I am cringing hard sharing these, but at the same time they’re heart-warming to look back over as an adult. They give a glimpse into my youthful interpretations of the world I was so invested in. I hope you enjoy exploring them with me and it reminds you of your own childhood passions!

Yuga’s Art Gallery is a series in which we highlight our favorite artwork from The Legend of Zelda community, as well as some official artwork from the franchise from time to time. Zelda is a series that is constantly changing its style, and after over 30 years of evolving and shifting its visuals, it continues to inspire endless ways for artists to interpret their favorite characters and moments.

1. A simple Saria portrait

I remember being really attached to Saria as a child, as her shy-yet-playful personality resonated with me. Now that I’m reminiscing about it, I think I saw myself in her. As a result, a lot of my fan art (and fanfics) featured her. I’ve always wanted to cosplay her too — one day maybe!

I don’t know where Saria is supposed to be in this picture: you can see a giant rising sun behind her in an open field, so it’s not the sheltered Kokiri Forest (it must be pretty hot wherever she is though). Perhaps this is how I imagined her posing for a photo while on her first trip with Link in Hyrule Field (if Kokiris could leave the forest, that is). Wherever she is, she looks like her normal cheerful self!

2. Lon Lon Link

Something I’ve discovered while looking back on my fan art is that I’ve clearly been a Malink shipper since I was 12. In this cute little pic, I envisioned what Link would look like in Lon Lon attire, either while spending some time helping around the ranch or perhaps after becoming Malon’s betrothed!

He’s clearly feeling awkward however, with a very stiff pose, awkward grin, blushing cheeks, and a paranoid thought about people laughing at him. I think he would warm up to the outfit eventually though; it looks a lot more comfortable than a tunic.

3. Kafei’s new admirers

As you can see, this piece is a crossover! Kafei, now in his childhood form, has gained some new admirers: Saria and Ruto. He doesn’t seem aware just yet, but would no doubt feel crazy awkward after realizing what kind of attention his cursed body was attracting. In the foreground, Link is trying to stoically pose with his sword and shield and is equally oblivious to what’s going on. Two of his potential love interests are being wooed by a Termina boy!

This is one of the few colored pieces of fan art I did. I remember drawing pictures and using our scanner to create copies, so I could keep both the original and a colored version. I must have been worried about messing the colors up, and although the coloring is far from good, I think I should have done more of them!

You’ve probably picked up on my obsession for signing these pictures — I must have been super proud of them. Well, my adult self is more proud of the fact that it’s given me a more accurate timescale of when I played these games. I originally thought I was older than 11 when I first played Majora’s Mask, but I guess not! Likewise, I was convinced I was around 12 when playing Ocarina of Time, but I must have been about 10. Rediscovering myself has been fun.

4. Adult Link and Navi

Link’s all grown up! Two years after my last picture, I’d clearly gotten better at the finer details and more confident with drawing backgrounds. I like how I took the time to draw the Hylian Shield with every single symbol and made sure the Master Sword had the Triforce on it (as well as some shine!). I also like how I made sure to add Kokiri Forest’s entrance in the background, to pinpoint exactly where Link is stood in Hyrule Field. He needs to go pick up that rupee and arrow behind him before they disappear though!

5. Got (Lon Lon) milk?

As I grew a bit older, I started adopting a more cartoony style of art, substituting the big anime eyes on characters for more simplistic features. This is an example of me really getting into it and applying it to my fan art: Link getting some Lon Lon milk!

I remember as a kid (and even now in fact) absolutely loving how the bottles look in Ocarina of Time when you acquire them. They’re so shiny and shapely, unlike how they look in your inventory or when you use them to catch things when they suddenly have a weird pointy bottom. I guess I wanted to recapture this magical feeling in a cute piece of art. Navi is being her usual kill-joy self — as we all perceived her at the time, that is — but Link is equally as enthusiastic as me acquiring a new bottle. Plus, he’s got some free, delicious, and no doubt nutritious Lon Lon milk! You bet your fairy wings I’m gonna set it to C and use it.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little trip to the past with me. I encourage you all to share your childhood art too, so we can remember how much these games meant to us as kids and inspired our creativity.