Top 100 Games of All-Time: #45

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Release Date: June 6, 1993

Platform Played On: Game Boy

2018 Placement: #46 (+1)


What It Is:

The Legend of Zelda’s first foray into the portable console realm, Link’s Awakening was the first game to not even feature the titular princess. It plays much in the same style of the SNES Link to the Past, with the added bonus of a new item called the Roc’s Feather which gives Link the ability to jump for the first time. It’s a very typical Legend of Zelda gameplay-wise as you have eight dungeons and a decent-sized overworld to explore as you collect items and abilities to help get you further into the game.

What’s different about Link’s Awakening is the quiet, spooky weirdness of the Koholint Island locale. Everything feels just a little off and some of the characters are unique oddities. You’re unraveling a mystery as you progress through the game, and the conclusion isn’t just “beat Ganondorf and save Hyrule.” The narrative is much more compelling than “save the princess” and each Koholint resident’s personal story make for a sad and heartfelt game by the time you reach the ending.

Why It’s Important To Me:

My family would go on vacations regularly. Every summer my dad would plan a two-to-three week road trip to some new place we hadn’t gone yet. On spring and winter breaks we’d road trip to visit family. So I invested a lot of time into my Game Boy as a young child, and Link’s Awakening was the game I played and replayed the most. I ended up thinking I knew the game like the back of my hand, only to forget a key element and spend eons remembering which item went to which villager in the long chain of presents the game puts you through.

I had forgotten how much the game meant to me until I played the remake recently for the Switch. As soon as I stepped onto Koholint with the cute new graphics, though, I was instantly transported to a nostalgic blanket of warmth and happiness. All the puzzle solutions immediately came back to me, and the ones that didn’t, well, now I had the internet to remember things for me. Link’s Awakening was my portable childhood and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My Strongest Memory:

Well, THIEF, obviously. As a kid, I don’t think I ever had a single save file that wasn’t named THIEF because who the hell was actually gonna pay 980 rupees for the bow? I ran out of that store with the bow every single time and I didn’t care what the villagers called me. It was probably my biggest act of insignificant rebellion as a child.

The other strongest memory was the stupid seventh dungeon. There’s a mechanic in the dungeon where you have to bring an iron ball around and knock over four pillars, which makes the different floors fall and combine. It’s a really cool idea and I love the result but I swear to God every time I play the game I spent half an hour trying to navigate the ball around to the pillars because I always get lost and can’t for the life of me remember the order of where to go. AHHHHHH.

Why It’s #45:

Because it’s the second-best Zelda game. Suck it Breath of the Wild, you wish you were cool as Link’s Awakening.