Aesthetic Exploration: The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda is a staple series when it comes to gaming. One of the most fascinating aspects of the games is that there is no real order to the games besides a rough timeline with no games taking place in the same time period of the Zelda universe (for the most part). The game still revolves around the playable character Link however but it is a different Link every game (excluding a few early games). This gives the game designers free reign to make each game look one of a kind while keeping the central visual themes and it can be seen in the varying aesthetics of each game.

In this post I will be looking at a few of the defining games in the series.

The Legend of Zelda (1986)

The original game, known primarily for its NES release had very small island feel to it with abandoned structures, beaches, forests, and small settlements scattered around. The technology held back any extreme aesthetic from being implemented but the game definitely has a unique feel to it.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991)

Released on the SNES, the series began to take its stride with detailed sprites that brought more life to the game and defined iconic characters throughout the series. Deeper colors were used and an added game detention the dark world allowed the game to provide two aesthetics.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

The explosion onto the 3D scene on the 64 really helped the game flesh out in the way it looked. The game starts off with link as a child and an overall cheerful playful aesthetic to the game. Later you play as adult link in a twisted dark world and a more grown up feeling.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2002)

Released on the Game Cube, Wind Waker has the overall clay-like design throughout the whole game. The comical feeling helped to look very good on the current platform and was improved further by an HD remake for the Wii U.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)

Released on the Wii, Twilight Princess was the darkest of games released. Characters were more humanistic and detailed than before with the general setting being dark and depressing, reflecting the terrible things that had happened to the world.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011)

With Skyward Sword, the game moved back towards the colorful eye popping design of Wind Waker but with more detail and humanoid characters.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (March 2017)

The upcoming game looks to be a mixture of Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, but it is hard to say how the aesthetic will turn out. We’ll have to wait and see for ourselves.




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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Alexander Thompson
    January 28, 2017 3:24 pm

    Very interesting post! As a kid growing up in the 1990’s, I grew up with both of the Legend of Zelda games on N64 along with Super Mario 64, all of the Star Wars games, etc. And it really is fascinating to me to see the varying aesthetics within a single game as much as between games. The Legend of Zelda series is a prime example as it has had a version with every generation console it seems like, and a few HD remakes. The two games that I played the most were Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess (for Gamecube), and I have to say, Ocarina of Time is still one of the most fascinating games in existence. The fact that you can time travel from happy-kid land to scary (almost post-apocalyptic) adult land at will to do different activities was crazy in 1998. And as you stated, the aesthetics of the setting, characters, and plot change as well. I honestly can’t think of any suggestions that would improve you post. Overall, great job! Keep up the good work.

  • Gautham Govindarajan
    January 25, 2017 7:11 pm

    It is really interesting to see how the evolution of a video game could possibly explain how the human perceptions have evolved during the last few decades. Video games, which were considered to be only for kids, are now more popular among adults than children. The inclusion of more darker themes into these games in the last few years and the excitement created by the launch of the new Nintendo Switch are prime examples of this trend. It would be really interesting to see how the game has influenced other media like “The Legend of Zelda” TV series and comics. I’m sure someone at some point thought about making a movie out of it too. But, after seeing the results of the movies like ‘Super Mario Bros’, ‘Warcraft’ and ‘Assassin’s Creed’, it may be best to live it as it.


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