My favourite games: Link’s Awakening

Yesterday I challenged my Twitter followers to name three things that encapsulate me, and I think that my friend Richard came up with the most perfect response:

It would be fair to say that I am obsessed with The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. It’s one of the very first games that I remember playing, and to this day it remains my very favourite game of all time.

So it’s unsurprising that I thrilled when Nintendo announced the upcoming Link’s Awakening remake at the end of the most recent Nintendo Direct. From the very opening shots, I felt shivers of excitement running through me, and not long after the direct ended I cried actual tears of joy.

Here are three reasons why I think that Link’s Awakening is a masterpiece, and why you should be excited for the remake’s release later this year.

1) The story

Link’s Awakening‘s story is a very simple one when taken at face value. Link is shipwrecked on the mysterious island of Koholint. He’s unable to leave and sets out to wake the Wind Fish from its slumber in order to escape.

Screenshot of the title screen from The Legend of Zelda Link's Awakening DX on Gameboy and Gameboy Color

The Wind Fish’s egg atop Mount Tamaranch in the title screen of Link’s Awakening DX

But scratch the surface, and this is a story that rivals, and even surpasses, the strange world of Majora’s Mask. As Link’s journey progresses, the line between dreams and the waking world becomes increasingly blurred, culminating in an emotional ending that rarely fails to move me to tears.

I would say more, but I want to leave Link’s Awakening‘s story as unspoiled as possible for those of you who will experience it for the first time later this year.

2) The music

The Zelda series is renowned for its music. The soaring ballads and rousing themes can transport us back to our first experience with each game, long after we finish playing.

What Nintendo achieved with Link’s Awakening is nothing short of a marvel. Despite the limitations of what the GameBoy could achieve, they produced a score that is equal parts majestic and haunting.

In no piece is this more true than the Ballad of the Wind Fish (featured above in Rozen’s beautiful cover). It hints at the mystery of Koholint Island. So it’s no surprise that the reveal for the remake featured just a few ethereal notes from it, hiding right at the end of the trailer.

3) The dungeons

Of course, games are made to be played. And for Zelda games, that means dungeons.

The eight dungeons in Link’s Awakening are things of beauty. Although they’re made up of a series of square(ish) screens linked together, this doesn’t stop them from being complex, tightly constructed puzzle boxes.

As in Zelda game, as you work through the rooms, you solve small puzzles to find keys and progress further into the dungeon. You’ll come across mini bosses along the way as you inch ever closer to the final boss at the end of each dungeon.

Screenshot from Link's Awakening, Link is in a dungeon fighting against a skeleton mini boss

But what I love about these dungeons – especially some of the later ones – is that this doesn’t feel like a series of small puzzles, but rather one big puzzle that you’re solving. And that makes it especially satisfying when you finally manage to unlock it all and head to the boss that waits for you at the end of each of them.

The perfect package

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening has the full package. A moving and surprising story, memorable music and enjoyable gameplay. It’s a little slice of greatness that I think will be difficult to ever beat. And that’s why – for now at least – it remains firmly in the number one slot as my favourite game of all time.

If you’ve never played it, you really should give it a go, especially if you’re a Zelda fan. And given that it’s both available via the virtual console on Nintendo 3DS and has the remake coming later this year to Nintendo Switch, you really won’t have much of an excuse not to.

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