Ocarina of Time – The Zelda Game That’s Loved by the Critics

If you’re a video game fan who keeps himself/herself updated with the latest video game news, you may have caught wind of the universal positive acclaim that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been receiving. To be direct about it, critics have been saying that Breath of the Wild is one of the best video games to have been released in recent times. With information being made available at a swipe of a finger during this “information age”, the majority of those who enjoy video games is probably aware of Nintendo’s latest gem. But this isn’t the case with an older Zelda game, one that was released almost two decades ago. That game is what I want to talk about today because I don’t think it has received the level of attention that a game of such quality deserves – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time box and cartridge.

The first point that I want to establish is how good this game really is. Forgive me if I use numbers and data, but that’s the only way to objectively illustrate the quality of this title. If you haven’t heard already, then I’ll tell you now – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the only game that has achieved a Metacritic score of 99:

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time remains to be Metacritic’s highest rated video game of all time.

Some may argue that Metacritic’s method of aggregating review scores is flawed or incorrect, but that score of 99 essentially means that almost all the professional critics who reviewed The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time gave it a highly positive review. If Metacritic’s rating isn’t enough to convince you, then we can look at GameRankings:

From the perspective of Game Rankings, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is second only to Nintendo’s Super Mario Galaxy.

Whether The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is indeed the greatest video game of all time is arguable, but what can’t be denied is that this game belongs in at least the top five. This game is THAT good.

Why is Ocarina of Time highly regarded by video game critics and fans alike? I can’t speak for anyone else but myself, so let me talk about why I find this game so amazing. I’ve been playing video games since the 8-bit era and have played The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the SNES at least twice before the original PlayStation was released. Despite having prior experience with Zelda games and even PlayStation games like Mega Man Legends and the first Resident Evil, Ocarina of Time still managed to blow me away.

I never had the luxury of owning a Nintendo 64, so I had to settle for the emulated version of Ocarina of Time that was released as part of The Legend of Zelda Collection that was released for the Gamecube – that was my first full experience of Ocarina of Time. Back then, I have to admit that the game’s visuals already felt slightly dated but that was the only negative feedback that I had about the game.

In terms of game mechanics, Ocarina of Time revolutionized how 3D adventure games would be played by implementing several innovations like analog movement, lock-on targeting in combat (called Z-Targeting in the game), and context-sentitive action buttons. At least for myself, it was the first truly open world gaming experience that I had and while the game’s world may seem smaller in comparison to today’s video games, Ocarina of Time’s world was considered expansive during its time. Controls felt simple and intuitive, yet offered enough depth and complexity to be immersive and challenging.

Lock on targeting is a mechanic that is still employed by today’s video games.

But what really made Ocarina of Time memorable for me is how much emphasis it put on character development. Prior to this game, characters in the Legend of Zelda were mere plot devices that gave you a reason to explore their worlds and experience their game mechanics. Ocarina of Time made you actually care about it’s world and its characters.

You start off as a boy, an orphan, living in a secluded forest town with no family and only a handful of friends. You then get asked to perform a small mission – figure out what’s ailing the forest town’s deity, the Great Deku Tree. This starts a grand adventure, and upon learning the game’s mechanics you gain access to the land of Hyrule. This setup is perfect as an introduction and saves the reveal of a grander world for the time when you’re ready to explore it.

You then visit different parts of Hyrule, getting to know it’s residents while following a new, bigger mission given by the Great Deku Tree. By the time you’re about to complete this, you’d have already spent a significant amount of time with the different races that inhabit the land. This is the point wherein your journey takes a left turn – for reasons that I will not reveal, you end up getting thrust seven years in the future. Because of all the years that went by, you end up finding yourself in the same yet, different world. Familiar yet, unfamiliar. Characters you knew before as a young boy have changed, and so have you. You’ve gotten bigger. And so has your mission.

This storytelling approach combined with solid game design and innovative game mechanics made for a video game that truly stands out. Ocarina of Time is THAT GOOD. It is so good, I found myself playing it again to completion several years later – this time, in a remastered form for the 3DS. The 3DS remastered version of Ocarina of Time, despite having minimal changes outside of a graphical upgrade, still managed to get highly positive critical responses:

More than a decade later, the remastered version of Ocarina of Time still received universal acclaim from various video game critics.

And this brings me to the final point that I’d like to make. As a Legend of Zelda fan, I have to admit that I get a little disappointed whenever I talk to another person who enjoys video games and I learn about how they’ve never played any of the Legend of Zelda games. That Zelda fan in me is quite happy about the attention that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been getting today. Finally, people around the world are experiencing what I experienced when I played Ocarina of Time – they’re not the same games but these two titles definitely are similar in how much critical praise they’ve gotten. If you’re one of the 89% of the 1.5 millions who bought the Nintendo Switch and also bought Breath of the Wild, I envy you.

If you’re one of the people who have yet to play any of the Zelda games and also did not purchase a Switch, but are curious about the franchise, I highly implore you to pick up a 3DS and Ocarina of Time 3D. This polished version of Ocarina of Time is more palatable to the modern audience and is easier to obtain. A brand new copy of the Nintendo Selects version of the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D only costs $19.99 at retail; add the $79.99 cost of a Nintendo 2DS and you’ll only need to spend roughly a hundred bucks to experience one of the greatest video games of all time. Enough of my fanboying – that’s all I have to say about Ocarina of Time. If you haven’t played it – play it! You’re missing out!

Next week, I’m going to talk about a pair of Zelda games that people don’t really talk about much – the Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons!

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2 thoughts on “Ocarina of Time – The Zelda Game That’s Loved by the Critics

  1. Looking past nostalgia, I can still wholeheartedly agree with critics on their praise of this game. I’m not sure what you mean by this game not receiving “the level of attention that a game of such quality deserves” though, especially since it has the highest critical scores and many top 5, even number 1, spots on many “Greatest Video Games of All Time” lists.

    • Thanks for the comment! My bad, I wasn’t able to specify the context of what I said, which is limited to my “world”. Outside of Nintendo fans, gamers in our country barely know Ocarina of Time nor even the Legend of Zelda franchise. Our country is dominated by Sony/Microsoft.

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