The Legend of Zelda: Innovation of a Generation

To celebrate 30 years since ‘The Legend of Zelda’ was released in the U.S., Andrew Rivera explores three innovations the original gave the gaming world.

During the making of Zelda, creator Shigeru Miyamoto set a new standard for action RPGs. Originally, it was going be a linear dungeon crawler, but Miyamoto wanted to capture the feeling of discovery from his youth exploring caves in Kyoto, Japan. The history of Zelda can be traced back to his decision to hide his dungeons away in a vast over-world, controlled by the Calamity Ganon and his evil forces. The first Zelda didn’t invent the open world genre, but it polished and popularized the concept. Now, every game from Skyrim to Grand Theft Auto is a wide open sandbox, and it all started with the original Zelda.

Another big addition the NES Zelda brought to the world was the concept of a second quest. Thanks to a programming mistake, Nintendo had over half a cartridge worth of storage space left in the first Legend of Zelda. They added nine new dungeons to a brutal remix of the over-world, and gave gamers a brand new second quest to conquer. This kicked off the concept of a ‘New Game Plus’ mode that RPGs, action, and adventure games have made a staple ever since.

The final innovation might have been the most important in the history of Zelda, if not the entire history of videogames. The Legend of Zelda wasn’t the first open-world game, but it was the first to make it accessible. Huge sandboxes like The Witcher, GTA, and basically any Ubisoft game wouldn’t be possible without the original innovation of The Legend of Zelda.