It would not be a favorite games list without a Zelda title on there somewhere. I debated long and hard about which game to include on this list, other top contenders included The Wind Waker and Breath of the Wild. However, at the end of the day Link’s Awakening includes some of the most memorable experiences for me. When I was younger I played most of my video games on portable devices and spent countless hours holding a Game Boy. The Game Boy pocket was almost like a second security blanket for young Jacob. I played and enjoyed a little bit of A Link to the Past, but having a similar portable experience was life changing for me.
Link’s Awakening DX sold me on the Game Boy Color. They promised so many colors! After months of playing nothing but Pokémon Red in classic grey scale (more will come on that game shortly). Of course I got the classic green Game Boy Color that still works to this day! That is more than I can say for two of my PlayStation Portables… but I digress.
Because I played this game when I was younger I never used a guide. If you remember some of the classic Zelda games, they were not easy and often full of difficult side quests and hidden objectives. I remember feeling very free when playing this game. The map size encouraged exploration and invoked a mysterious land. The map in A Link to the Past, was too big with too much to do. The hardware limitations of the Game Boy Color worked in favor of the game design process and created a more refined Zelda experience. It was easy to explore every tile of the world map and nothing was too hidden that it could not be found through casual exploration. As a youngster I came very close to obtaining every heart piece and collectible. The trade quest was especially engaging and forced me to speak with almost every villager as I tried to unlock the final prize.
I would play Link’s Awakening years later on the 3DS Virtual Console and it almost felt like returning to a half remembered dream. Similar to the titular awakening that Link experiences at the conclusion of the final boss battle. Many of the difficulties that seemed impossible to unravel now seemed trivial as I became more in tune with game design nuances and tropes that would point seasoned veterans in the right direction. Plus I also had use of the mystical internet full of guides and locations of collectibles. This was a game that included a final boss room maze that required you to memorize the text from a hidden book in the game’s library. If you did not know that where the solution to the maze was located, the developers left very few hints about how to enter the final boss room. Younger me felt like I would never complete the final boss, which led me to go back into the world map and explore until I found every last collectible. The world was fun to be a part of and included many unique and memorable characters, like Marin who is now a playable character in Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition for the Nintendo Switch!
Remember that this was a game that came out well before Ocarina of Time, but still included the magical musical instrument. While I enjoyed other music abilities in future Zelda titles, nothing has resonated with me like the Ocarina. While Link’s Awakening did not feature the full suite of musical options like the N64 games, it did allow you to play and unlock three different songs. Each with their own unique melody and ability. I enjoy watching speedruns from all of the Zelda games, but watching someone march through Link’s Awakening in about two hours is still an incredible feat to watch because of how much time I spent slowly learning the way the world works.
Link’s Awakening is often overshadowing by some of the more engrossing Zelda adventures. For me the game combines the perfect amount of world building, with just the right touch of character that created a memorable experience that I would still enjoy visiting to this day. I may even watch a speedrun later just to watch the great gameplay again. Oh and you can jump in this game! Roc Feather was the best item in the game!
Sorry to say that this will be the only Zelda title on the list, but don’t worry there are many more Nintendo games – just probably not the one’s you expect!
Tomorrow please look forward to my memories on Mega Man X!
Jake “prettyboyplaid” Fredericks