The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is now 20 years old, yet its impact on video games can still be felt today. From the sprawling open world of Hyrule to the innovative control scheme that made your duels with Dinolfos so exciting, it set a template for role-playing games that many have used but few have bettered.
To celebrate Link’s 3D debut, we’ve rounded up five ways this seminal adventure changed gaming from top to bottom!
1. A vibrant, detailed open world
When the first Legend of Zelda launched on the NES in 1986, the original 2D version of Hyrule was huge and vastly ahead of its time. Nintendo repeated the trick with Ocarina, taking the grand adventure fans expected from a Zelda game and making it sing in 3D.
It’s hard to overstate just how vivid and detailed Hyrule was. From being able to see Death Mountain linger in the distance to looking through Link’s eyes with the first-person camera, playing a Zelda in 3D brought this universe to life in a way its predecessors simply couldn’t.
While Z-Targeting might not seem like the most exhilarating thing to focus on, it’s arguably the most important. You see, Ocarina of Time used the Z-button on the N64 pad to let you lock the camera’s view to enemies and objects. It might sound simple, but it solved one of the big problems that early 3D games had with combat, and how you saw it on-screen.
Considering that everything from Dark Souls to Tomb Raider has used a form of this targeting system, it’s a quietly enduring part of Ocarina’s legacy.
3. Immersive Cutscenes
Another way this Legend of Zelda helped draw you into its world is that all the cutscenes were made in-engine.
This might not sound so special today, but considering that most of its contemporaries leaned heavily on cutscenes that looked noticeably better than the action you were playing, (such as Final Fantasy VII), it was a big deal. After all, it made Ocarina’s story even more immersive, always placing you at the heart of the action.
4. Contextual controls
To say Nintendo cracked 3D controls with Ocarina would be an understatement. The contextual controls introduced in this classic had a huge impact on how we play 3D games. By simply making the A button have a different function depending on where you used it, the way you explored Hyrule felt intuitive in a way that few other games on the N64 had managed at the time.
Just like Z-Targeting, it’s harder to find a game that doesn’t now use this type of control than does.
5. Making horse riding cool
Are we saying that Epona is such a wonderful steed that every game that has featured a horse since is just trying to mimic that wondrous feeling of charging through Hyrule with her, to little avail? No, of course we’re not. But, she did make horse riding in games more exciting than it should be, so fair play Epona, unsung hero of the Zelda series.