Playing Your Song In The #1 Position…
The Nintendo 64 is a system I still own. Of all the old games and toys I had as a kid, it is one I never gave away for another person to enjoy. Maybe I’m just selfish, but in my defense it does still get used. You’ll probably be unsurprised to learn that I kept Ocarina of Time as well, and it may be the sole reason the N64 stuck around, if I’m honest. Those of you familiar with the game probably know why. I don’t like using the word masterpiece hardly ever, but describing this game as anything else would just be selling it short. Bringing the Zelda series into the world of 3D was a new and major step for the franchise, and it was taken with flawless grace, and on the first outing to boot. What we’re left with is nothing less than what many consider to be the greatest video game of all time.
‘The Greatest Video Game Ever Made’ is a big statement. I could argue the merits of Ocarina of Time forever and make every brilliant point one could possibly make, and there would still be a mob screaming about how it doesn’t deserve that title. So I’m not going to try to make an air tight argument for it. I’m going to talk about the game, some of its greatest attributes, and why, despite being nearly a seventeen year old game, it still holds up today as one of the greatest ever, and is walking away with top honors on our countdown.
Hero of Time
Ocarina of Time starts with the legend of three great faeries and the creation of Hyrule. This gives the player some quick back story and lays the foundation of the world you will set out into. Then it drops down into the Kokiri forest and to Link (or whatever name you chose for your hero). The adventure starts out as fairly standard fare: Find a sword, a shield, and then learn to use them. Afterwards you’re cast into your primary adventure, as the Great Duku tree explains the threat to Hyrule, tasking you with meeting Princess Zelda and helping her to try to save the kingdom.
The adventure sends you to all ends of Hyrule, from the tallest of mountains, to the bottom of it’s largest lake; across deserts and into the darkest of chasms, and ultimately through time itself. The tone of the story varies from lighthearted, comical, and childish, to dark, dreary, and hopeless. But the setting is only one piece of this brilliant puzzle, and there are characters inhabiting this world that mirror this variety as well. The characters here have real personality; One moment a person is stern and stoic, but later expresses happiness, dances and smiles. The world of Hyrule has dimension and so do its people, something I think many games lack at times, but its completely necessary for a world to feel real to achieve an meaningful immersion that will let the player really care about the game.
Through the journey, you truly feel like your character grows, even though he never says a word. Where this feeling comes from, I think, is the way the game immerses the player, and that growth ultimately comes from the player more than Link himself. That’s not something every story can do, and I definitely felt that from Ocarina of Time. To feel like you’ve made the journey as a person as opposed to the protagonist in the game doing it is something special, and not easily forgotten. It’s something that sticks with you, and Ocarina was the first game that really did that for me. Maybe that’s why I hold it in such high regard, but I also know that I’m not alone. Many others share this kinship with the Hero of Time, and that’s one of Ocarina’s greatest strengths.
Pinnacle of Adventure
I think another huge factor may be that Zelda is, and has almost always been, the quintessential adventure game. The story of a hero saving the princess and the kingdom is one as old as time. It’s the classic story, and in each generation of games, the Zelda series has stood strong, not only as the pinnacle of the genre, but also as the standard for all other fantasy adventure games to be compared to, and for good reason. When the Nintendo Entertainment System made home gaming a real source of entertainment again after the collapse of Atari, the first Zelda game was one of its staples. Then when Nintendo released the Super Nintendo system, A Link to the Past was ready to fill that role again. So when the N64 gave the series the capability of decent three dimensional graphics for the first time, Ocarina of Time was again there to take its place.
The wonderful part is, despite the drastic change of graphics between these three gaming systems and the transition from a platform game to a three dimensional environment, the Zelda games never floundered in providing a great game quickly after the system’s release. Based on their record, they seemed to have done this by sticking to a few key ingredients: Tell a good story, create a full world to tell this story in, and make the game fun to play. An astounding thing about Ocarina of Time, I learned recently, was that it was originally developed to be even more vast than what actually was released, but the capabilities of the N64 game cartridge limited the developers, and it had to be reduced to what was eventually released. If it would have been a better or worse game for it, we will never know, but it’s incredible to think that they wanted to include even more into a game as big and deep as Ocarina.
Hall of Fame
I think most people (or at very least, anyone who played Ocarina in its prime) saw this coming. Ocarina of Time is widely renowned as one of the greatest games ever made, and is one of the few games to ever broadly receive completely perfect scores from critics, something very hesitantly given. The land of Hyrule holds a special place in the memories of those who spent any decent amount of time there, and Ocarina is a very special and crucial part of that legacy. Whether or not it’s a perfect game may be up for debate, but that it is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, is not. I barely feel like I need to say the score it gets, but it’s without hesitation that it gets a 5 out of 5 from us at the Newbiverse. There is no better way to end our list of 100 greatest game than with the masterpiece that is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It’s been a pleasure looking back at all the games on our list, but perhaps this one most of all.