The one that started it all: "The Legend of Zelda" (1986)
It was the mid-1980s, and Shigeru Miyamoto, a game designer at Nintendo in Japan, had just finished work on the third "Donkey Kong" game. He and his team started developing two games at the same time. One was "Super Mario Bros.," a platformer game in which a plumber named Mario must run and jump his way through perilous obstacles in order to rescue a princess.
The other game may have had a similar art style and damsel-in-distress plot point, but was otherwise radically different from the linear, score-driven "Super Mario Bros."
The story goes that Miyamoto was sitting in his office one day when he opened his desk drawer and imagined that there was a miniature garden inside. That thought, along with Miyamoto's childhood memories of exploring the woods around his home, were the seeds that grew into the team's other game: "The Legend of Zelda."
Unlike "Super Mario Bros.," "The Legend of Zelda" was a top-down exploration game that emphasized puzzle-solving instead of fast reflexes. Players could visit the game's eight levels, or "dungeons," in any order they wished, before moving on to rescue Princess Zelda.
The titular princess was named after Zelda Fitzgerald, the American socialite and wife of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. "I liked the sound of her name," Miyamoto later said in an interview. For the playable character, a green-clad hero tasked with saving Zelda, Miyamoto chose the name Link. Why? Because the character was supposed to be the vessel through which players explored the game's huge, wild world — the "link" between the real world and the magical kingdom of Hyrule.
The game, titled simply "The Legend of Zelda," was released in February 1986 for the Famicom Disc System in Japan. Players were awed by and delighted with the game's nonlinear structure and (for the time) huge open world. Today, fans still quote the game's now-iconic opening scene, in which a wizard gives Link a sword and sends him off with the words "It's dangerous to go alone. Take this."
Today, you can still purchase "The Legend of Zelda" through the Nintendo Virtual Console (a part of the Wii Shop Channel and Nintendo eShop) for the Wii, Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.