My 10 Favorite Games #9

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

My #9 game is the same game that stopped my series of Zelda replays cold. (I promise to get back to those soon.) It wasn’t playing the game that held me up, but writing about it. I had, and continue to have, a hard time articulating my love for A Link to the Past. Me saying LttP is great for a thousand words wouldn’t be very interesting. I don’t feel I have much to add to this conversation. It has few flaws, even fewer of which are worth mentioning at all, so I can’t make an argument to excuse them. I also don’t have much nostalgia for it, having first played after it came out on the GBA (I played it on a SNES, but I know the GBA version had just come out.) and I didn’t own it until I bought it one the Wii Virtual Console. Still, even ten years after its release, A Link to the Past is obviously a great game.

LttP belongs to that special category of SNES game that was the apex of their line of game design. After the SNES everything was about 3D and while some games were similar, they really did their own thing. This more recent resurrection of 2D games has largely been homage or imitation, not evolution. A Link to the Past is Nintendo perfecting what they started in Zelda 1.

LttP manages to improve on just about every part of the first Zelda game, while bringing in almost none of the bloat that has crept into more recent Zelda entries. Most of that bloat is due to the newer game’s greater narrative ambitions. LttP has no such goals; it is pure gameplay. It is astounding how fast LttP gets the player to the meat of the game, the dungeons, compared to its sequels. Despite its lack of storytelling ambition, LttP provides as cohesive a world imaginable in 16-bit. Sure, the NPCs lack anything resembling personality, but the world they live in makes sense.

As someone who cut his gaming teeth on the original LoZ, A Link to the Past is all that I could have hoped for in a sequel. It keeps all of the sense of adventure and exploration, but lost most of the confounding obtuseness. It is nearly perfect.