1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
In a word: Classic
Predictable, maybe, but few can deny that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time features one of the most classic and quintessential stories in all of video games. It’s a coming of age tale of good vs. evil full of princesses and dark lords, and it’s a story of one man against the world as he fights to restore peace to the land of Hyrule. Link may not be a knight in shining armour per se (unless, of course, he’s wearing Twilight Princess‘ magic armour!), but there’s just something about the Zelda series that harks back to a time of medieval chivalry and knightly romance– and no game captures that more perfectly than Ocarina of Time.
But it’s not just its timelessness that makes it my favourite story. Any game can be a good yarn if it has the right ingredients, but what makes Ocarina of Time stand head and shoulders above the rest is that it knows how to tell a good story, and structurally it’s an absolute masterpiece compared to other instalments in the franchise like Skyward Sword. There’s the initial “call to adventure” by the Deku Tree and Link’s first “journey” into the huge world of Hyrule, closely followed his meeting with Zelda and subsequent “quest” to retrieve the three Sacred Stones, but even all that isn’t enough to defeat the mighty Ganondorf. Oh no– instead, we go through that all again when Link becomes an adult, only this time the world feels that much darker and crueller than the innocent world of your childhood. Zelda is gone, Ganondorf has won, and everyone you once knew and loved has either been almost exterminated (the Gorons, the Zoras) or are nowhere to be found (Saria, Ruto, Darunia, and all the other would-be sages you looked up to as a child).
Everything’s the same and yet completely different, and it’s that contrast and sense of having to re-adjust to the world around you that always gets me every time I boot it up. It’s traditional story-telling at its very best, and while it doesn’t necessarily break as much new ground as Majora’s Mask in terms of funky narratives, there’s a reason why these age-old plot structures still enchant us even today– because they’re damn fantastic at what they do, and as the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke… well, you certainly don’t need to use the Triforce to fix it.
So there we are– my Top 5 Favourite Stories. Honourable mentions must go to Ōkami and The Last Story, both of which came this close to inching out Fragile Dreams for the fifth spot on this list, but in the end just missed out. The only question that remains now is what are your favourite video game stories? Do you agree with my choices, or would you have a completely different list? Let us know in the comments below!