1. We get to see the world outside the kingdom of Hyrule.
Most “Legend of Zelda” games are set inside or near Hyrule – this one is different. Instead of taking place in the kingdom, we are taken to this strange place called Koholint Island. The island contains several dungeons and secret passageways, and is guarded by a strange creature called the Wind Fish who sleeps in an oversized egg. The game also contains a refreshing amount of new characters. There’s only a few mentions of Princess Zelda, and, if we’re being honest, that’s a good thing. We get to know new faces, like Marin (real talk – Link totally has the hots for her) and her father Tarin.
2. The object of the game is simple enough: collect eight instruments, wake the Wind Fish, go back home.
When video games are too complex, it’s hard to maintain interest. In the first few minutes of “Link’s Awakening,” you learn the overall goal of the game – and it seems pretty straightforward. The basic foundation of the quest allows for more complexity in other areas, like the weaponry, side quests, and battles.
3. Hoot hoot! Dat owl.
In this game, Link is constantly approached by a mysterious Owl who imparts wisdom and hints for what to do next. Many games contain a character who helps guide your play, but the interesting thing about the Owl is that you’re never fully sure if he’s a “good” guy or not. There’s always that possibility that he may morph into a monster that you’ll eventually have to battle.
4. Secret seashells, trading games, and other side quests.
The side quests in this game are freaking endless. “Link’s Awakening” is a game you want to play multiple times because there’s always a new way to challenge yourself that you haven’t attempted before. Some of the side quests are mandatory, like when you have to take that slobbering dog Bow-Wow throughout the forest, but others are optional, and some lead to new versions of weapons or other cool items.
5. You actually need to use your brain – a lot.
How else are you supposed to know that the raccoon in the forest is actually Tarin and in order to free him from that spell, you need to sprinkle magic powder on him? And unless you’re a Hyrule zoology expert, there is literally no way to know that in order to acquire the Nightmare Key in Level 2: Bottle Grotto, you need to kill the monsters in that room in a certain order. Remember, “Link’s Awakening” was released in the early 90’s, before internet walkthroughs – if you beat this game as a kid, you did it all on your own.
6. “Stop! Thief!” and other easter eggs.
The writers must have had a lot of fun while creating all of the subtle tricks and secrets that lie within the game. They also had a serious sense of humor. For example, you were able to steal items from the shop (like that really pricey bow and arrow set) but not without consequence. The next time you set foot into the item shop, you would be immediately killed by the store-owner and then called “Thief” for the rest of the game. Ouch. Way harsh.
7. The game’s ending contained a boss to end all bosses.
So, the whole purpose of the game is to wake up the Wind Fish by playing all of the eight instruments that you acquired in the dungeons. Before you get the chance, you need to defeat the final boss, which is actually six bosses in one. Each mutation requires a different strategy with a different weapon. Congrats to you if you’re able to defeat this guy without dying once.
8. Nintendo’s early days meant a lot of glitches that enabled you to walk through walls and other cool stuff.
It’s up for debate whether some of these glitches were actually easter eggs purposely put there by the game’s creators. Regardless, the original version of “Link’s Awakening” is littered with glitches. By pressing the right combination of buttons at the right time, you were able to skip through dungeons, warp to later levels in the game, acquire weapons earlier than you should – the list goes on and on. Thanks, Nintendo!
9. An abundance of puzzles.
“Link’s Awakening” doesn’t just offer difficult battle sequences, but a lot of thought-provoking puzzles, especially in the dungeons. There are switches that trigger other switches, buttons that need to be tapped in the correct sequence, and blocks that need to be pushed at the right time. As you progress through the game, these puzzles get more and more challenging.
10. “It was all a dream” – the ultimate fakeout ending.
In some ways, this is the most frustrating thing ever – you finally wake up the Wind Fish and it tells you, “Long has been my slumber. In my dreams, an egg appeared and was surrounded by an island….” Wait – what? Do you mean to tell me that all of this was just your dream, Wind Fish? I just played a game that didn’t really exist? But maybe not – the very last shot of the game shows Link looking up at the sky as the Wind Fish flies overhead. There’s definitely some ambiguity there, which probably means the writers just wanted to mess with us. But they gave us a pretty amazing game along the way, so it’s all good.