Top Ten Reasons why Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time for the N64 is the Best game ever made.
10. Lock on Fighting
Zelda managed to create a dynamic sword-based combat system with the invention of "Z-Targeting." The ability to lock onto any enemy, while the camera automatically panned around the action set a precedent that is still imitated to this day. It was intuitive, simple to learn, and added a layer of complexity to what would have otherwise been a fairly basic hack and slash adventure.
9. Time Travel
Time travel is a great game mechanic, but it was seldom handled better than it was in Ocarina of Time. The first time Link jumps ahead 7 years, is one of the greatest moments in gaming history. For the first half of the game you're a plucky kid running around a vibrant kingdom, filled with likable characters. Then you get the Master Sword, and you're told that it's put you into some sort of magical coma for the last seven years, during which time Ganondorf has been mucking up everything. Fine, bring it. You wake up as adult Link, and everything seems fine. Temple of Time's the same as ever, and you think "okay, how bad can it be?" Then you step outside and it's like "WOAH! Okay. Wow. Didn't realize we were going there, Nintendo." Hyrule is now a total Hellscape. The streets of are filled with shambling undead abominations, the sun is choked from the sky by ash that perpetually pours out from Death Mountain. And the Royal Palace is now a dark tower literally floating over a lava filled chasm. And it's only then, as you take in the full extent of your failures that you realize it: you done goofed. It's terrifying, sobering, and unforgettable.
8. A Huge World
Today, it's easy to take enormous open worlds for granted. However, in 1998 Hyrule was huge and the adventure had never seemed grander. Once you got over the sheer enormity of Hyrule Field, the game's hub area between regions, you began to realize just how many places there were to go. Would you scale the peaks of Death Mountain? Venture into the belly of the leviathan, Lord Jabu-Jabu? Or endure the challenges of the Gerudo Valley? The choice was yours! Ocarina of Time was an early example of an open world game done right.
The statement "You could ride a horse," doesn't sound too exciting on paper. But, the first time you took the reigns of Link's steed was an unforgettable experience. The ability to charge across the fields of Hyrule, and summon your companion at any time made an already vibrant world feel all the more alive. When you were on that horse you weren't just exploring the world, you were mastering it.
6. The Greatest Tutorial Level Ever
I defy you to name a game that has a better introduction than Ocarina of Time. Right off the bat, you're given an amazing quest to destroy the evil presence that is killing the Great Deku Tree. It's a small dungeon that very cleverly introduces you to every mechanic in the game, while never once feeling like it's holding your hand. Teaching you the intricacies of a game without letting you know you're being taught is no small feat. It's some of the strongest game design ever made, and it's literally just the first hour of the game. A foretaste of what was to come.
5. The Cast
Prior to Ocarina of Time, Zelda games weren't really known for their supporting cast. Yes, there was Princess Zelda and the omnipresent threat of Ganon. But, who were they? Well...uh...she was a Princess and he was some kind of evil, wizard, pig? Look, I know it's a video game. It doesn't need much of a plot to be compelling. Pig wizards trying to conquer the world was really all the premise you needed to make a new Zelda game. But, Ocarina of Time went well beyond the call of duty and created elaborate backstories for all of its key players, while introducing a host of amazing new characters. Ocarina succeeded in finally making Hyrule a unique fantasy setting in its own right. It gave the world a depth, lore, and credibility that were unforgettable.
One of the best aspects of Ocarina was its many, many side quests. The fact that Link had the option to just kick back and fish for a few hours was a welcome addition to the series, as it allowed players a chance to catch their breath between quests to save the world. The fact that there were a plethora of other such mini-games helped keep you grounded and never made the game feel over-bearing or too serious to be fun.
3. Endless Exploration
Ocarina of time pushed exlporation as a mechanic more so than possibly any game before it. As Link, you had to meticulously inspect every inch of Hyrule if you wanted to truly complete the game. The optional quest to free a family from a terrible curse, forced you to scour every dungeon for Gold Skulltulas. The series trademark treasure chests are hidden across the entire world, and in many cases under it, as you discovered hidden caverns beneath unassuming shrubs. No matter where you went in Ocarina, there was always something to do, and more to discover.
2. The Music
Zelda's never been a slouch when it comes to tunes. Even the very first game sported some of the most memorable tracks on the NES. However, Ocarina graduated from chip-tunes to offer players a fully orchestrated score. And what a score! From the ominous chorals of the Temple of Time, to the spritely medley of Kokiri Forest, to the epic battle music that swelled at the start of every boss battle, this game was pitch-perfect at every turn. Unarguably one of the greatest video game soundtracks ever composed, Ocarina was worth playing just to listen to it.
1. It got so Much Right on the First Try...
Honestly, this is what it boils down to: Zelda made a smoother, more radical transition to 3D than any other series in gaming history. The decision to take a top-down dungeon crawler, and turn it into a 3rd-person game with a major emphasis on combat could have turned off a lot of long-time fans. But Ocarina of Time masterfully struck a balance between the old and new, to create an experience that was entirely new, but unmistakably Zelda. When most classic franchises were fumbling to create a compelling 3D experience. Zelda had no trouble transitioning to the new format. And the fact that it all worked so well on the first game, is a testament to the genius of its design team.
It's that unprecedented level of pollish that makes it the greatest game of all time.
The Original Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - For the N64
What are your fondest Zelda memories? Do you disagree with my sentiments about Ocarina? Do you think that there was another Zelda game more deserving of the title "Best Game Ever Made?" As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments!