The Legend of Zelda vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Which Game Had the Greater Influence?

The Legend of Zelda vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time

The Legend of Zelda vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Which Game Had the Greater Influence?

In terms of overall impact on the medium of video games, few franchises come close to the influence of The Legend of Zelda series. The 1986 original is a game that, for all intents and purposes, was only possible on a console, released in an era when most console games were simple arcade ports. The advancements in technology that made it possible to bring The Legend of Zelda onto an NES cartridge (after it was released on the Famicom Disc System) were revolutionary for its time, and Nintendo’s choice to invest in that new technology allowed one of its most important and long-running franchises to see similar success in the West as it had in Japan.

Fast-forwarding 12 years later, the Nintendo 64 receives one of its most important games in November of 1998 with the release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. As the first 3D game in the series, Ocarina of Time‘s release signaled a massive leap forward for both the franchise and game design as a whole, proving that the worlds and mechanics of a 3D game could be just as intuitive and engaging as those of their 2D counterparts. 3D games existed before Ocarina of Time, but none of them even came close to the level of quality or brilliance of its design.

Trying to decide on which of these Zelda games has the honor of being the most influential is one of the hardest lines to draw in the series. One is responsible for changing how game makers utilize the NES, while the other’s influence on 3D games is still palpable today. Both of these Zelda games, in their own right, are two of the most important titles to ever arrive in players’ living rooms.

The Legend of Zelda vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Side-by-Side Comparison

The Legend of Zelda vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Comparing the original Legend of Zelda to Ocarina of Time shows just how similar both games are despite their obvious visual differences. Yes, both games are part of The Legend of Zelda series, but both are also the starting point for entire runs of games in the franchise. The original Legend of Zelda is the basis on which A Link to the Past for the SNES derives its design, which would in turn go on to influence every subsequent 2D Zelda. Similarly, Ocarina of Time is the first 3D game in the series, and its formula was repeated across the franchise until the reinvention of Zelda via Breath of the Wild.

CharacteristicThe Legend of ZeldaZelda: Ocarina of Time
Release Year19861998
Release PlatformFamicom/NESNintendo 64
Number of Releases2, Virtual Console, Switch Online2, Virtual Console, Switch Online
Total Sales7.29 million14.04 million
Review Aggregate ScoreN/A99
Graphical Style2D, 8-bit3D, 64-bit
Number of Games Taking Influence From its Design86
Beginning of the Franchise
Highest-Rated Game of All-Time

The Legend of Zelda vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time: 5 Must-Know Facts

Here are 5 must-know facts about The Legend of Zelda and Zelda: Ocarina of Time:

  • The original Legend of Zelda is the game that begins the entire Zelda franchise, meaning Ocarina of Time would not be possible without its existence. That said, Ocarina of Time might be one of the most influential games of all-time, Zelda or otherwise, for the ways that it revolutionized 3D game design at the time of its release.
  • The Legend of Zelda is undoubtedly one of the greatest games of all-time, and although it doesn’t have a reivew aggregate score available, it’s not a stretch to assume it would hold a strong average in comparison to other titles. Ocarina of Time, however, is both the highest-rated game of all-time and would go on to sell twice as many copies as The Legend of Zelda.
  • Both Legend of Zelda and Ocarina of Time were responsible for changing the way game makers approached the medium. Legend of Zelda helped show what was possible on Nintendo’s new home console, while Ocarina of Time is arguably the first successful full-3D action-adventure game.
  • The formula Ocarina of Time establishes would carry throughout the Zelda franchise until Breath of the Wild, which actually borrows heavily from the sense of freedom and exploration present in the original Legend of Zelda.
  • Both of these legendary titles are available on almost every Nintendo platform starting with the GameCube, showcasing their shared importance in Nintendo’s long-lasting legacy and history.

The Legend of Zelda vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time: First Game or Most Impactful

The Legend of Zelda predates Ocarina of Time by 12 years and several games in the series, but Ocarina of Time is a bold step forward for the franchise as the first 3D game in the series. Both titles are hugely important to the overall success of the Zelda franchise, but it’s an objective truth that Ocarina of Time could not exist without the original Legend of Zelda‘s success. Ocarina of Time may be the first Zelda game to embrace three dimensions, but the original is the game that starts one of Nintendo’s most important and impactful franchises.

The Legend of Zelda vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Sales and Critical Reception

Due to the lack of dedicated game media at the time of The Legend of Zelda’s release, there are no actual review scores available for the game. Still, to see how the game fares in contrast to other, more modern titles, looking at publications’ “Greatest Games of All-Time” lists bears some fruit by typically featuring The Legend of Zeldasomewhere in the top ranking. On the other hand, Ocarina of Time’s release coincides with the proliferation of game media both in print and online, and as a result, it has the highest aggregate score of any game ever. Additionally, Ocarina of Time has sold more than double the copies of the original Legend of Zelda across its lifetime.

The Legend of Zelda vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Shifting Paradigms

The change to 3D from 2D was a tectonic shift in the way video games were designed, and it also coincides with the shift in how video game stories are told. Concurrent with both these changes is the shift in perception of seeing video games as simple toys or hobbies to being taken seriously as a potential billion-dollar industry. Along with Final Fantasy VII, Ocarina of Time shows how former 2D series could fare in the new future of the medium, showcasing just how far technology had advanced in such a short time and revolutionizing what’s possible in their respective genres.

The Legend of Zelda vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Current Influence

Ocarina of Time is such an important game and milestone for Nintendo that it makes perfect sense for the series to follow its template for years to come after its release. Eventually, though, fans grew tired of that formula, as evidenced by the lower sales of Skyward Sword. Feeling the need to go back to the drawing board, Eiji Aonuma and the Zelda team chose to embrace the spirit of the original Legend of Zelda when designing how to rebirth the series for modern generations. The result is Breath of the Wild, which is tantamount to a modern revision of the original Legend of Zelda and also the best-selling game in the series by a large margin.

Bottom Line

Gaming today does not look the way it does without either The Legend of Zelda or Ocarina of Time, and the influence of both titles is far greater than what can be captured in a simple face-off between the two. Still, if one is to choose a definitive winner, it’s hard to argue against the original Legend of Zelda. Not only does the release of The Legend of Zelda help to catapult Nintendo to being a household name, it also makes the subsequent games in the series possible. Without Legend of Zelda, there’s never Ocarina of Time or Breath of the Wild. The Legend of Zelda, for more than 35 years, remains the perfect encapsulation of creator Shigeru Miyamoto’s brilliance and understanding of the human thirst for adventure.

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