Why Ocarina of Time might actually be Zelda’s saddest storyline legend

THE Legend of Zelda The series is a crown jewel among Nintendo’s many IPs. Spanning over three decades, the franchise has had many episodes, all varying in tone and gameplay, so naturally everyone will have a favorite that stands out above the rest. Breath of the wild is renowned for its breathtaking open world, while A link to the past is often credited with having cemented the formula that the series still follows today. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, in particular, was a breakthrough success and remains the personal favorite of many players to this day.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is often praised for being the epitome of how a full scale adventure game should feel and play. However, just looking at it as a simple adventure would sell the game short. While many often consider later titles as Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess so many darker and more mature stories, Ocarina of time in fact, there is much more going on in his world than some might initially think. While the other aforementioned titles are quite advanced with their dark subject matter, Ocarina of time instead uses sub-texts and underlying themes to sell its more grown-up concepts, possibly resulting in the saddest story of the entire series.


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A victim of the passage of time

hyrule temple of time triforce

Ocarina of time starts out much the same as most other games in the franchise, with Link sleeping soundly in his bed, abruptly awakened by a call to action to embark on a life-changing journey. For about the first third of the game, the overall pace plays out like most The Legend of Zelda earlier games had, and quite frankly still been played to this day. Link will explore new places, meet new populations, and face the danger of acquiring another key element to progress further.

Which sets Ocarina of timeThe plot of, aside from the others, however, is the emphasis on time that affects Link himself, as well as the world around him. We can of course say that it exists in other titles such as Majora’s Mask, but this game is more direct and involved in how time connects to the game world. Time is directly related to gameplay, and the player can interact and change time more freely in Termina to try to save the world. In Ocarina of time, this element is tied strictly to the plot and out of the hands of the player, unfolding in a more subtle and unchanging manner.

At one point in the story, Link collects three Spirit Stones and unlocks the Time Gate in the Time Temple. To sum up the following, Link is essentially the Chosen One, prophesied to end the evil of the world. However, when he collected all three stones, he was still far too young and inexperienced to face the challenges ahead. So, unknowingly, Link is locked up for seven years in the Temple of Time, so he can return once he’s older and more able to deal with Ganondorf and the other evils in store. This was done without warning for Link, setting in motion the tragic subtext for the remainder of the adventure.

Elapsed days

legend of zelda ocarina of time master characteristic saber

From there, Link is now an adult and has a new set of obstacles to overcome until the ultimate showdown with Ganondorf. Link ventures into Hyrule once again, to places both new and old, in order to overcome the darkness that has plagued the world and its inhabitants. What’s exceptionally tragic about this is that Link (and by extension, the player) returns to a world with a noticeable gap and a lack of information. When Link entered the Temple of Time, the world he left behind contained wonder and life. By the time he steps out of that same gate as an adult, Hyrule as he knew it is a barren wasteland, home to nothing but misery and death.

The player then returns to the world they had just become familiar with and had become attached to over hours of play, but things are now drastically different. Time moved on as Link basically came to a standstill, wasting precious moments and not being able to be there when the world needed him most. His home in Kokiri Forest is overrun with dark creatures, when once beautiful places like Zora’s Estate are now inhospitable. Ocarina of time goes to great lengths to compare and contrast what was and what is now reality for Link. It’s almost ironic that a protagonist with the power to control time at his fingertips finds himself in a difficult situation, therefore out of his control.

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Childhood vs adult

ocarina of the art of time

These parallels and differences shown between two moments of time, highlight the interaction between childhood and adulthood in Ocarina of time. When controlling Link in the early parts of the journey, the player witnesses the world through the eyes of a child. Almost every part of the game world complements this notion, with upbeat and energetic music tracks, and the overall visual style being colorful and appealing to the eyes. For comparison, the later levels tackled in adulthood have darker, mysterious music and dark, grainy art styles.

While other dark adventures in this series like Majora’s Mask have a fair share of mature themes, much of the action in the plot directly involves Link and actually happens because of his choices. The point is, Link had no choice Ocarina of time. The once innocent childhood life he lived has been taken away and replaced with a much harsher and less compassionate world. It is because of this plot structure that Ocarina of time could very well be the saddest part of the whole series.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is available on Nintendo 3DS, 64, GameCube and Switch.

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