Link, I’m going out for a while. I’ll be back by morning. Don’t leave the house.
This is the list of At the Buzzer’s top 25 games of all-time, as voted on by the main ATB cast members and other friends of the show. For more information on how this whole thing works or for the other games on the list, check out the Related Links at the bottom of this post.
15) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
Chris: Link to the Past is the best Zelda game ever made.
That’s probably not the most popular opinion in the world, but there it is. I’m the only person who voted for this game, but I put it so high on my list (#2) that we’re here anyway.
Link to the Past took the series, which was already established as one of the best in the business, and set the stage for everything we expect from a Zelda game today. Beautiful, lush graphics that hold up surprisingly well for a title released in 1991. An expansive inventory, with each item having multiple purposes (unlike, say, Twilight Princess). A deceptively deep story that succeeds in explaining a lot while saying very little. And the Light/Dark World mechanic is the forefather for both Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, two games that are frequently misinterpreted as the best.
You know what else Link to the Past innovated? Let’s see. It’s the first game with the Master Sword. It’s the first game with Pieces of Heart, which increased the exploration aspects of the series. It’s the first game with the ocarina (yes, you read that correctly). And it’s the only game where Link acquires the entire Triforce, meaning he can actually use its power instead of being stuck with Courage.
The end result is an extremely tight, perfectly paced and relentlessly fluid experience that has the most replayability of any game in the series. Beginners can pick up the game and feel right at home with the controls. Advanced players can speed run through in 5-6 hours. Most items can be obtained in any order, and the dungeons are so flexible that you can go through, steal the item, leave without beating the boss, and come back later armed to the teeth if you want.
Zelda would not be what it is today without Link to the Past. Yes, the NES games were important, but everything that makes Zelda the best series of all-time started right here.
Shaun: Was there a game that handled story better than A Link to the Past when it was released? Gaming was on its way as a storytelling medium, and making advances in atmosphere and immersion, but I don’t know if any title before that hooked me as quickly as the opening moments in Link’s iconic SNES outing. Within an hour, my uncle was dead, I braved the rain and the storm and the ominous forces of darkness to save a princess, and, woefully under-equipped, embarked on a quest to save the world from complete tyranny. It was epic before my young, stupid self knew what epic was, and it was every fantasy experience I ever wanted in a video game wrapped up into one. The title many consider to be the best Zelda ever, A Link to the Past continues to serve as a template for adventure games to this day. It’s also one of the most frustrating to fit into the dual (TRI!) timeline theory, what with the Triforce…I’ll save it for another day.
MORE FROM AT THE BUZZER’S TOP 25 LIST
(18) Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
(21) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
(22) The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask