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In one of the darkest times in the Kingdom of Hyrule, a young, pointy-eared boy named Link takes on an epic quest to restore the fragmented Triforce of Wisdom and save the Princess Zelda from the clutches of the evil, power-hungry Ganon.

The Legend of Zelda marks the first title of the Zelda series. Players must make their way through the various forests, graveyards, plains, and deserts of the Overworld to find the secret entrances of the eight dungeons in an attempt to piece together the broken Triforce. Once all pieces are joined, Link will be able to gain entry to Death Mountain, home of Ganon, and prison of Princess Zelda.

The game is drawn in a top-down perspective. Link begins his quest in the Overworld, which features forests, mountains and lakes and is divided into several screens. Link can explore the Overworld freely, though when he enters a screen, he will encounter several enemies. He can attack them with his sword. If Link is at full health, he can toss his sword to attack enemies from afar, but when he is hurt, even slightly, he can only fight in melee range.

Link's health is represented by hearts; initially he can have a maximum of three hearts, but as he progresses in the game, he will find heart containers that increase his maximum health. The enemies are varied - some attack from up close, some shoot projectiles. When killed, they often leave behind an item - a heart to restore energy, rupees that function as money (and can be used to buy stuff in various shops in the Overworld), or bombs which can be picked up and set down to attack enemies or destroy some walls. Some items function as weapons or armor, while others are used to solve puzzles. When enemies are killed, they stay dead and will not re-appear once the screen is entered again.

To find the Triforce pieces, Link must explore dungeons. Once he finds an entrance to the dungeon and goes in, he must explore the rooms, fight enemies and collect keys until he finds the boss monster he must defeat. He will then be able to pick up a Triforce piece and gain a permanent health increase. Once he does so, however, all the monsters in the Overworld come back to life.

If Link dies on his quest, he can continue it; he will go back to his start position in the Overworld (or the entrance to a dungeon), but with the items he managed to collect so far. When Link finishes his quest, the player can choose to play the "second quest", which is essentially a harder version of the game.

The Legend of Zelda is known for several factors that were advanced at the time: a continuous world that could be freely explored, power-ups that would permanently enhance the main character's abilities, and a battery back-up save feature that allowed players to retain their progress instead of having to start over. The gameplay balanced out frequent action sequences with discovery, secrets, and exploration.


The Legend of Zelda Game Boy Advance Title Screen
The Legend of Zelda NES Exploring the desert. These enemies can burrow in the sand, and emerge where you least expect it.
The Legend of Zelda NES You can explore the land of Hyrule in an almost completely non-linear way. Some items are needed to reach certain places though.
The Legend of Zelda NES Ah, a key! Could be useful later on...

Promo Images

The Legend of Zelda Screenshot
The Legend of Zelda Other Original flier advertising Zelda no Densetsu.
The Legend of Zelda Screenshot
The Legend of Zelda Screenshot


Alternate Titles

  • "ゼルダの伝説1" -- Japanese Famicom Cartridge spelling
  • "ゼルダの伝説" -- Japanese Famicom Disk title
  • "Zelda no Densetsu" -- Japanese title
  • "TLOZ" -- Abbreviation
  • "A Lenda de Zelda" -- Brazilian title
  • "Adventure Mario" -- Working title
  • "Adventure" -- Working title
  • "젤다의 전설" -- Korean spelling

Part of the Following Groups

User Reviews

Adventuring at its best NES Katakis | カタキス (42837)
Action/adventure history starts here NES CrackTheSky (36)
Fond Memories Of A Truly Magical Game. NES Guy Chapman (1997)
A pioneer in the industry NES Calpis (65)
The original RPG / Adventure platform hybrid. NES Majestic Lizard (676)
Possibly the most amazing video game of all time NES J O (9)
A necessary NES gaming experience. NES J. David Taylor (28)
A GOLDEN Classic NES Crazy Horse (12)
It comes in a Gold Cartridge for a reason. NES Nick Seafort (22)
My favorite NES title NES Asinine (1006)

Critic Reviews

Video Game Den NES Feb 08, 2011 5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars 100
Geeks Under Grace NES Jul 18, 2014 9 out of 10 90
1UP Game Boy Advance Jun 07, 2004 9 out of 10 90
Computer and Video Games (CVG) NES Sep, 1988 9 out of 10 90
Dragon NES Oct, 1993 4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars 80 Wii Jan 19, 2007 4 out of 5 80
IGN Game Boy Advance Jun 04, 2004 8 out of 10 80
Retroage NES Dec 31, 2011 8 out of 10 80
Score NES May, 1995 8 out of 10 80
Legendra Wii Jul 15, 2007 3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars 60


Topic # Posts Last Post
Legend of Zelda tribute on MTV 4 Daniel Saner (3423)
Mar 14, 2011
Super-epic orchestral take on Zelda music 1 J. P. Gray (120)
Jun 02, 2008
RPG Controversy 50 mobiusclimber (245)
Oct 31, 2007


1001 Video Games

The NES version of The Legend of Zelda appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


The Legend of Zelda was popular enough to have a TV cartoon based on it in the late 1980s-early 1990s. It was part of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, and aired only on Fridays during its original run in the US.


The Legend of Zelda was the first NES cartridge was released with a shiny gold colored plating, breaking away from the usual gray color.


The Legend of Zelda was popular enough to have a breakfast cereal based on the game called the "Nintendo Cereal System" and was co-packaged with Super Mario Bros. cereal. The sweetened corn bits were in the shape of Link, Link's shield, boomerang, key, and a heart.

Character names

  • Link was named as such because of Shigeru Miyamoto's desire to "link" the player and the character together.
  • Zelda was named as such when Miyamoto learned that F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife was named Zelda. Feeling that the name was appropriate, the princess was named Zelda.

Famicom Disk System

In Japan, The Legend of Zelda was the first original game released for the Famicom Disk System add-on, being the only launch title not previously released on cartridge. The Japanese cartridge version was not released until 1994, and was the very last first-party Famicom release. As there had been three sequels produced in the meantime, the cartridge version was titled The Legend of Zelda 1 to avoid


In the United States, The Legend of Zelda was the first NES cartridge to include a battery-backed save feature.


The instruction manual says that Pols Voice -- an enemy in the game that looked like a ghost with large rabbit ears -- "hates loud noises", although the flute item has no effect on it. This text actually refers to a microphone which was built into the Famicom's controller, but was not included in the NES; blowing or shouting into the microphone killed these creatures.


As of 2004, Legend of Zelda has sold eight million units.

Version differences

A modified version of the game, complete with updated graphics, a smaller overworld, and completely different dungeons was released in 1995 for the Satellaview, the Super Famicom's (Japanese Super Nintendo) Japanese-only satellite-based add-on.

Called BS Zelda (the 'BS' standing for Broadcast Satellaview), several sources from Japan allude to this as being intended as a "third quest", much like the second quest accessed via the secret code.

When the game was 'rebroadcast' in 1996, Nintendo changed the map layout again. This revision apparently had a smaller broadcast audience than before, and is known only as "~map2~". This second map could again be thought of as a "fourth quest". Additionally, Link was replaced by the Satellaview mascots: A boy who wore a backwards baseball cap, and a girl who had red hair.


  • Electronic Gaming Monthly
    • February 2006 (Issue #200) - #5 on the "Greatest Games of Their Time" list
  • Game Informer
    • August 2001 (Issue #100) - #1 in the "Top 100 Games of All Time" poll
    • October 2004 (Issue #138) - One of the "Top 25 Most Influential Games of All Time"
  • GameSpy
    • 2001 – #10 Top Game of All Time
Information also contributed by 雷堂嬢太朗 -jotaro.raido-, Big John WV, Captain Canuck, Guy Chapman, Indra was here, Maw, ModestMr.Green, Son of Kyuss and vedder

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Contributed to by ResidentHazard (3564), Michael Cassidy (21110), Guy Chapman (1997), Kam1Kaz3NL77 (459126) and Servo (57355)
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