The Legend of Zelda Cheats and Secrets for NES

The Legend of Zelda title screen

The Legend of Zelda Cheats and Secrets for NES

One of the most important games ever, The Legend of Zelda is the title that kickstarted one of Nintendo’s most enduring franchises. Over the course of more than 35 years and over 16 main entries, the Zelda franchise continues to be synonymous with the absolute best games in the action-adventure genre. The first game arrived for the Famicom Disk System in 1986, taking just over a year to make its way to the US. By the time it did, the NES had a strong foothold in North America thanks to the success of Super Mario Bros. and other early marquis titles for the system.

Before players could even get their hands on the game, it was clear that the title was something special. Breaking away from the traditional “black box” artwork of older first-party titles and the newer “silver box” artwork that the developer had adopted for two other exclusives in 1987 (Metroid and Kid Icarus), The Legend of Zelda came packaged in an iconic and unmistakable golden box. Further, opening the box and viewing the matching gold cartridge said it all. Players were in store for nothing like they’d ever played on their NES.

The success and reception of The Legend of Zelda doesn’t just help create a hugely successful franchise, it helps inspire future game-makers the world over. The impact of The Legend of Zelda cannot be overstated. Indeed, the game sent a loud and clear signal that the NES was a console like no other. The title would sell roughly 6 million copies on the NES alone and go on to spawn several sequels, a port to the Game Boy Advance, and some of the most iconic characters and imagery of any video game.

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The Legend of Zelda Hyrule overworld

The Legend of Zelda Premise

The Legend of Zelda, Dungeon 1

Players begin The Legend of Zelda as a lone adventurer in one screen on a large map. A solitary cave stands off in the distance, beckoning for players to enter. When they do, the player’s character Link receives an ominous warning: “It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.”. With those words, the hermit in the cave bequeaths a sword to Link and the adventure begins. After exiting the cave, players have total freedom in how they pursue the game’s many challenges and obstacles, but along the way the environment gives some helpful clues to help both the player and Link.

The original version of The Legend of Zelda came packaged with a map, which was extremely useful in the pre-Internet era. Players couldn’t simply go online and look at a guide or forum for guidance. Instead, it was necessary to both use the included map and also have a notepad or some graph paper handy to make maps of your own. The map of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda is laid out on an 8×16 grid that spans forests, beaches, deserts, and mountains. Underneath bushes or hidden behind destructable rocks lie secrets and power-ups to help Link on his journey.

As players progress through the game, they come across 8 different dungeons, each holding a piece of the Triforce — an all-powerful object entrusted in the care of Princess Zelda. Once Link collects all pieces of the Triforce, players can head to Death Mountain and challenge Ganon. Each of the dungeons has its own map, and each is equally as rife with secrets and valuable items as the overworld map of Hyrule. Because it’s not possible to finish Zelda in one sitting, the title features a save system in which players can keep three separate save files at any time.

The Legend of Zelda Main Characters

The Legend of Zelda Link

Since The Legend of Zelda is the first game in the series, it makes sense that several staple characters are introduced within its adventure. Not only do players get to meet the Hero of Time and his eternal adversary, Lady Impa and Princess Zelda also make their first appearances in the series’ first game. The main characters in The Legend of Zelda include:

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  • Link: Link is the player character and the hero of The Legend of Zelda. In fact, players later discover he is the Hero of Time. The destined hero set to wield the Master Sword against his eternal adversary in their battle over the Triforce. According to legend, he is always clad in his iconic green tunic.
  • Princess Zelda: Princess Zelda is the daughter of the King of Hyrule. In The Legend of Zelda, she has been kidnapped by the evil Ganon for trying to stop his theft of the Triforce.
  • Ganon: Ganon is Link’s eternal adversary. He uses the Triforce to achieve his goal of ultimate power, turning himself into a hideous pig-like beast in the process.
  • Impa: Impa (sometimes Lady Impa) is a royal assistant to Princess Zelda and a sage-like elderly woman. She assists Link in The Legend of Zelda with both hints and access to healing potions.

Games in The Legend of Zelda Series

More than 35 years later, The Legend of Zelda series continues to be one of Nintendo’s most successful and important franchises. Between original releases, ports, spin-offs, and cameos, the Zelda franchise is one of the most recognizable in gaming. Additionally, with over 160 million units sold, the series is one of the most successful in gaming. Main games in the Legend of Zelda series include:

  • The Legend of Zelda (1986)
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1987)
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (1993)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of Ages (2001)
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2003)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (2004)
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (2004)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (2007)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (2009)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011)
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (2013)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (2015)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (2019)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (2023)

The Legend of Zelda Cheats and Secrets

The games in The Legend of Zelda series are notoriously well-balanced, meaning there’s no officially supported cheats or cheat codes available. However, because each game in the series is a massive adventure, there are usually some secrets and exploits that players can take advantage of. That trend begins with The Legend of Zelda, with the title featuring quite a few secrets for players to take advantage of. Additionally, there are some Game Genie cheats that players can use on native hardware and emulator.

Get the White Sword Early

Players might not realize it, but it’s possible to get the White Sword before attempting the first dungeon. Despite the hermit in the cave mentioning that Link must “Master using it, and you can have this”, the only requirement to upgrade the sword is 5 hearts. Thankfully, players can easily acquire two extra heart containers by exploring the world map.

  • After starting the game, wander around Hyrule killing enemies until you’ve obtained at least 60 Rupees
  • The store near the game’s starting point sells the Blue Candle for 60 Rupees. Purchase it.
  • Find your way to fight some Moblins in the woods east of the game’s starting point. One of them will likely drop some bombs.
  • With the candle and at least a handful of bombs, you know have access to 3 heart containers on the map. Use this map to help guide you.
  • With 5 heart containers, you can now upgrade the sword before ever stepping foot in the first dungeon.

Save Without Dying

With two controllers plugged into the NES, press START on controller 1 and UP + A on controller 2. This will pull up the save screen and allow you to save your game without dying.

Easy Rupees

With at least the White Sword equipped, make your way west to the graveyard. Ghosts will spawn on their own from tombstones. Don’t kill them, instead go around and touch the gravestones. Keep an eye on the original ghosts that spawned because more ghosts will spawn from touching the graves. Kill only the original ghosts that spawned and all the others will instantly die. If you’re lucky, they’ll drop a bunch of loot as well.

Second Quest/Master Quest

After beating the game, you can input your name as “ZELDA” to begin the legendary Second Quest/Master Quest. In this rearranged version of the game, item and enemy placements are different. Not only does this make the game a new challenge, it’s a significantly harder one.

Game Genie Codes

Free Items at ShopsSZVXASVK + AEVEVALG
Infinite BombsSZNZVOVK
Start with 8 HeartsYYKPOYZZ
Start with 16 HeartsNYKPOYZX
Start with Blue RingESKUILTA
Start with Red RingOSKUILTA

The Legend of Zelda Cheat FAQs

Are there cheat codes in The Legend of Zelda?
While there are no literal cheat codes, there are a host of secrets and discoverable items. Additionally, the game has some built-in exploits that can help players get an early advantage.

Can you use cheat codes with the NES Classic?
Yes – all supported cheats that worked on the original NES titles work on their NES Classic versions. That said, it’s not possible to use Game Genie codes on the NES Classic without modding the device.

How do you get more hearts in Zelda for NES?
There are two ways to get more hearts for Link in The Legend of Zelda. The first, and unmissable, way is to beat the dungeon bosses. In addition to the heart containers awarded for clearing dungeons, players can uncover 5 additional heart containers on the overworld map. Accessing these will require the Blue Candle, Bombs, the Ladder, and the Raft.

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