Top 100 Games of All-Time: #5

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Release Date: April 13, 1992

Platform Played On: SNES

2018 Placement: #4 (-1)

Screenshot 2022-07-11 203447

What It Is:

Link’s big transition from 8-bit to 16-bit, A Link to the Past was Link’s return to the top-down exploration vibe of the original game after Zelda 2’s sidescrolling departure. Like the original game, there is a large overworld to explore with many interesting characters, but you get a little bit more direction this time around. The wizard Agahnim has taken over Hyrule Castle so Link is tasked to find three pendants which will allow him to draw the fabled Master Sword and stop Agahnim.

And while it seems like the Master Sword will be the culmination of your efforts in this game, it’s actually only the conclusion to the first act. Upon defeating Agahnim, Link is drawn into the Dark World and must rescue the seven Maidens who have been sealed away in crystals. A second, warped map and seven more dungeons, each with their own complexities, await the hero and man, let me tell you, young me loved surprise remixed/altered maps. (This is going to be a theme in every game from here to #2, just you wait.)

Why It’s Important To Me:

Every gaming person has a favorite Zelda game. For some it’s the first game in the franchise they played. For others it’s Breath of the Wild. As I write this Tears of the Kingdom is about to become a bunch more’s favorite. This one is mine simply because I think it’s perfect. It has the perfect amount of dungeons and the perfect amount of items that have the perfect amount of usefulness. The exploration between each of the two maps is perfectly spaced, all the bosses use the special weapons of their dungeons perfectly. The story and characters are perfectly executed with not being too strong to overpower the thrill of adventure and discovery, but not completely absent.

I dunno, it’s hard to describe this game in any other way. Ocarina of Time duplicated its dual world strategy in 3D, but for some reason it just didn’t have a huge effect on me like it did most others in my gaming generation. I felt like the items were more unique and fun to acquire in Link to the Past. I’ve played this enough that I have a lot of the map memorized like Link’s Awakening, but not fully so every time I play I still have to do a little bit of thinking and remembering. It’s long enough that I feel excited to play it again but never overwhelmed. I can’t ever get sick of this game.

My Strongest Memory:

Back in the 90s there was this magazine called Nintendo Power, and I was an avid subscriber. One of the things the monthly magazine had was a comic that semi-followed the story of Link to the Past. I loved following that little comic monthly and was doubly excited when I did stuff in the game that was also in the comic. You can read the comic in its entirety here if you’re curious (bless you, Internet!).

Other than the memory of the comic, my strongest memory is definitely the Thieves’ Town dungeon – the fourth dungeon of the Dark World. In the dungeon you find a surprisingly empty boss chamber and one of the Maidens you’re supposed to rescue chained up inside a cell deeper in the dungeon. After bombing a higher floor and allowing sunlight into the boss chamber, you can lead the Maiden into the light only for it to reveal Blind the Thief – the dungeon’s boss and a minion of Ganon. Unlike most of the other bosses in the game which are monsters or otherwise uncommunicative and just sort of attack Link regardless, Blind the Thief having a small personality and trying to trick Link always stuck out to me as one of my favorite bosses/enemies of the entire series. Figuring out how to reveal the fake Maiden’s true identity was one of the highlights of my first playthrough of this game and I’ll always rank Thieves’ Town highly in terms of Zelda dungeons because of it.

Why It’s #5:

Like I previously stated for Tetris Attack, this game is interchangeable in the #4-#6 spots. It will always be my favorite Zelda game and I don’t think the childlike wonder of discovering the Dark World for the first time can ever be replicated as a cynical adult now, no matter how fun the gameplay is. No other game has ever reached the highs of finding useful tools/weapons and then being able to use them in fun/useful ways across a vast open world – too much of big, open world gaming is highly directed nowadays. Give me the variety of a staff that creates blocks, a rod that shoots ice, and a medallion that makes earthquakes and I’m a happy camper. Also a hookshot. There must be a hookshot.