Some people say that the 3D games in the Zelda series such as Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess are the most important and most defining games. Now, I cannot argue that these games are influential, important, and very pretty to look at, but when it comes to choosing the top dog in the Zelda series, there is no question in my mind that A Link to the Past trumps all the other games.
There are three key reasons as to why A Link to the Past is the best of the best when it comes to the Zelda series: An engaging storyline, the intellectual challenge, and replayability. The engaging storyline is what pulled me in the most. A Link to the Past explores, cleverly enough, Hyrule's past. A whole mythology is created and laid out on the table for the player to explore and interpret. The characters it creates are vivid and entertaining, even a little tear-jerking. There's room for comedy as well. How often do you see the great hero of an epic fantasy turned into a pink bunny rabbit?
As far as intellectual challenge, A Link to the Past offers plenty of puzzles and riddles. Some might argue that the game is too hard. Admittedly, some of the twists and turns in the storyline can be difficult to follow, but I think that one of the most unique and brilliant aspects of the Legend of the Zelda series as a whole is that it is more than just a smash and crash video game. You don't just need brilliant hand/eye coordination and timing to rescue this princess. There aren't any question mark boxes you need to smash. Instead, the player's mind is engaged. And let's face it. In the modern age of the internet, if any puzzle really stumps you, there are plenty of places to go to get help. Still, it's incredibly satisfying to solve the riddles on your own and then throw your arms up in the air like Hiro and proclaim, "I did it!"
Finally, there's replayability. A game is an investment and it's good to know, I think, that after you beat it the first time, there's enough intrigue and difficulty to go back and try to do it a second time. Indeed, the world that A Link to the Past creates is so expansive and full that by the time you reach your second go, you've probably forgotten half of what you went through the first time. And of course, there are always new things to discover that you might have missed in this massive world of the game.
A Link to the Past is a brilliant opus in the video game world. Today, on Zelda forums and in chatrooms, you'll still hear people singing its praises, butting heads with the steadfast advocates of the 3D games. It doesn't have glamor, it doesn't have shiny trappings, but the game is so well designed, with so much thought put into it, that it doesn't need the glorious graphics of its descendents. I'm so glad an on the go version of the game has been made finally. With the rapid disappearance of the SNES system, it's good to know that this beautiful game will be able to live on.
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