The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is 25 Years Old

A quarter century has passed since this masterpiece was released!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/26/2023 20:41 Comment on this     ShareThis

Although Nintendo didn’t seem all that interested in acknowledging it, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has turned 25. Originally launching on November 21, 1998 in Japan and two days later on the 23rd in North America, Ocarina of Time wasn’t just any old game launch: it was a watershed moment in video game history. It helped pioneer lock-on mechanics in games, advanced storytelling, and was one of the most visually arresting titles ever developed.

We’ve written extensively about Ocarina of Time over the years, including as part of our 35th anniversary retrospective series a couple of years ago. You can go read that for a more nuts and bolts analysis of what made Ocarina special—here, I’m going to talk about the game from a more personal perspective.

I waited years to play Ocarina of Time. Nintendo Power had been hyping the game up with endless previews and screenshots. Every glimpse of the game got me more and more pumped up for what awaited. Super Mario 64 had paved the way for what 3D games could be; Ocarina represented the next step. Its intricate game world, filled with towns and people, items and secrets, enemies and allies, made the possibilities seem so endless. What would it be like to explore a place like Hyrule from this new perspective?

When the game finally released, I got it as a Christmas gift from my aunt and grandma. I couldn’t pop it into the N64 fast enough. I was blown away as Navi flew through Kokiri Forest to Link’s house, then off they went into the gullet of the Deku Tree… and suddenly the game stopped being so fun.

I saw my first Skullwalltulla. As it sat stuck on the wall, nearly as big as Link himself, I got a lurching sense of fear in my gut that this wasn’t going to be the worst spider-like beast I would come across. And sure enough, once I ascended to the peak of the interior of the Deku Tree, enormous Skulltullas hung from the ceiling overhead.

It was at that moment that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to beat the game.

Or so I told myself. I was determined not to wuss out, no matter how scared of spiders I was. I thought it over and finally came to the conclusion that if I played music on the stereo as I played, I wouldn’t be as frightened. It worked. And to this day, when I think of Ocarina of Time, I also think of the Depeche Mode album Violator and The Smashing Pumpkins album Siamese Dream, both of which helped me to power through the sections of the game that creeped me out (I’m looking at you, Bottom of the Well).

There are plenty of historical, groundbreaking reasons why Ocarina is one of the greatest games ever made, but for me it’s all about the unforgettable adventure it took me on. The world of Hyrule felt real, grand, and enormous. Watching the sun set, finding new areas to explore, and piecing together the story of Ganon’s rise to power was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had in a game. For so many others, there are personal stories about playing Ocarina for the first time that helped it become the greatest game they ever played. I’m just one person sharing his own—what’s yours? Share with us below, and let Nintendo know that it should have said happy birthday to one of the most timeless masterpieces it has ever produced!

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