It's Dangerous to Go Alone: The History of 'The Legend of Zelda'

After "A Link to the Past," Nintendo set to work on the first "Zelda" title for its handheld gaming system called the Game Boy, which debuted in 1989.

The result, called "The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening," came out in 1993. Mechanically, it was very similar to "A Link to the Past," though its tone was quite different than what had been seen in the "Zelda" series. Caught in a fierce thunderstorm in the middle of the ocean, Link awakens to find himself washed ashore on an island, where a mysterious owl tasks him with finding eight musical instruments that can wake the Wind Fish, the island's guardian who lies dreaming at the top of the mountain.

With its emphasis on music, dreams and fantasy, its lack of color (due to the limitations of the Game Boy), and its stronger focus on puzzle solving, "Link's Awakening" was an introspective turn for the series. It was well received, but after its release, five years passed before Nintendo released the next official "Zelda" title.

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In the meantime, tech company Philips closed a deal with Nintendo that gave it permission to make two "Legend of Zelda" titles for Philips' console, the CD-i. Both released in 1993, the games were called "Link: The Faces of Evil" and "Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon," and both are considered to be totally badonkers, and not in the good way.

"The Wand of Gamelon" is noteworthy for making Zelda the playable character and Link the character in need of rescue. Many major video game magazines praised "The Wand of Gamelon" and "The Faces of Evil" at the time they were released, but their bizarre animated cutscenes and clunky side-scrolling gameplay turned the games into objects of ridicule.

In 1995, a third CD-i game called "Zelda's Adventure" — this time created by third-party developer Viridis — was released. Again, Zelda was the player character, tasked with rescuing Link. However, instead of cheesy animated cutscenes, the game featured even cheesier live-action cutscenes. Reception of "Zelda's Adventure" was unanimously negative.

It's almost impossible to find and play the CD-i games. Don't expect them to be coming to the Virtual Console any time soon; to this day, Nintendo excludes these three CD-i games from its official "Legend of Zelda" timeline.

Jill Scharr is a creative writer and narrative designer in the videogame industry. She's currently Project Lead Writer at the games studio Harebrained Schemes, and has also worked at Bungie. Prior to that she worked as a Staff Writer for Tom's Guide, covering video games, online security, 3D printing and tech innovation among many subjects. 

  • Warsaw don't include little articles about Wind Waker, Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword? Though they are not as impactful as the others I still believe them to be worth at least a short article each.
  • spookyman
    Hmm a half finished article. Sounds like CNN reporting to me.
  • knowom
    The adventure of Link was actually my favorite Zelda game was a bit like Nintendo's version of a Konami Castlevania game or a bit like Metroid with a rpg theme as opposed to sci-fi.
  • tomate2
    Long live Nintendo 64!
  • Spanky Deluxe
    It feels like half the article is missing.
  • tobalaz
    A Link to the Past was my all time favorite Zelda.
    I've played LttP through so many times as a kid I've got every boss and item location still burned into my memory!
    Good times.
    Zelda never really felt the same again after that.