Best of 2013: #2 - The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds shows Nintendo's understanding of what made the classics so special, paired with a capacity for change and evolution that we haven't seen for years. It's our Shacknews #2 Game of the Year.

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Nintendo may be knocked for its reliance on franchises, but games like Super Mario Galaxy show that the company can innovate within such storied series. The Legend of Zelda series, on the other hand, has suffered through good-but-not-great sequels, struggling to resonate with gamers the way Ocarina of Time once did.

A Link Between Worlds shows us that, at long last, Nintendo understands what made the classic top-down Zelda games so special. The end result is a game that's destined to be as revered as its inspiration, A Link to the Past.

The connection to LTTP makes it easy to shrug off this newer entry as merely an imitator that stands on the shoulders of giants. Superficially, that's true. It owes a large part of its visual identity to the SNES classic, particularly in the world layout. But to me, that just made the accomplishment more impressive. Comparing itself to such a revered classic could have made its flaws more glaring, so the entire concept was an innately risky proposition. To quote The Wire: "you come at the king, you best not miss."

While Worlds keeps many mechanics from the SNES game, Nintendo smartly did away with many Zelda staples. The item rental shop solved three legacy design problems at once: it made the game less linear, made dungeon loot more valuable and varied, and fixed the economy. The wall-painting mechanic, which I was sure would be a tacked-on gimmick, became a perfectly natural way to take advantage of the space. And the transition to 3D models and emphasis on providing a smooth 60 FPS made slashing Link's sword at enemies feel better than it ever has.

I've loved Zelda for a long time, but A Link Between Worlds gives me renewed confidence that Nintendo understands how its earned the following that it has. A Link Between Worlds is not only a compelling reason to own a 3DS, it's the reason to be a Zelda fan again.


The Shacknews Best of 2013 Awards were determined by ballot voting across the entire Shacknews staff. Our top pick will be revealed tomorrow.

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From The Chatty
  • reply
    January 21, 2014 2:00 PM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Best of 2013: #2 - The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

    The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds shows Nintendo's understanding of what made the classics so special, paired with a capacity for change and evolution that we haven't seen for years. It's our Shacknews #2 Game of the Year.

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      January 21, 2014 2:14 PM

      Can't wait to play this. I lost interest half way into Phantom Hourglass, I know this game is will be a nice return to form for portable Zelda.

      I do wonder, though, if it suffers from being a little too easy like most Zelda games these days.

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        January 21, 2014 2:38 PM

        Leading up to this one I actually replayed through Link to the Past and then played through Minish Cap for the first time. So either my top-down Zelda skills were at their peak, or this one really is just plain easier. I only died 1 time in the whole game and that was during the very final boss fight. Since by then I owned all of the items that you can rent, I didn't actually have to experience the loss of the rental items returning to their owner when I fell.

        That said, I freaking loved this game. Easy sure, but absolutely wonderful. The only thing I can add to what was said in the write-up here is that I thought the music was possibly the best of the series. Just beautiful.

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          January 21, 2014 2:42 PM

          I can understand that. Mario 3D World's first half is probably too easy, but I still had a blast in a lot of those levels. Same with Skyward Sword.

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        January 21, 2014 2:52 PM

        I think most Zelda games are getting easier, because we're getting older and have played various games with puzzles.

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          January 21, 2014 2:54 PM

          The puzzles were perfectly fine and a lot of them were clever.

          Where I thought it got easy was with the final boss fight, which felt disappointingly easy. This is really the only place where the game doesn't live up to A Link to the Past, because that game put you through the wringer for its final boss fight.

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        January 21, 2014 5:14 PM

        Phantom Hourglass was awful. Believe all the hype on this one, it'll blow your mind!

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      January 21, 2014 2:41 PM

      Oh man, this is a great game! The life they brought to this world is amazing. I agree, the music is the best of the series.

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      January 21, 2014 2:44 PM

      So... the big question... who gets first: Grand Theft Auto V or Super Mario 3D World? The world wants to know Shack!

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        January 21, 2014 2:49 PM

        The answer comes tomorrow.

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          January 21, 2014 2:54 PM

          Oh!!! My sanity!!! It's tossed itself out the window! Now I'm drooling! Who will win? Mario? Grand Theft Auto?... or Pushmo?

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        January 21, 2014 6:02 PM

        both those answers are wrong :(
        it should be something new and radical instead of just a refinement on previous great games.

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        January 21, 2014 6:34 PM

        I view the big question as which of those games got snubbed so hard that it didn't even make the Top 10?

        I like GTA just fine and all but I think I have to root for Mario here. Nintendo takes the top two slots, A game on a "dead" console upsets one of the biggest selling games of all time. I love it. Do it guys!

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          January 21, 2014 7:07 PM

          I'm rooting for Mario too, but things rarely rarely ever go my way.

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      January 21, 2014 2:46 PM

      Great game. Dunno about 2nd best game of the entire year tho.

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      January 21, 2014 2:53 PM

      So obviously #1 is a tie between Rogue Legacy and Gunpoint.

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        January 21, 2014 6:09 PM

        I like Rogue Legacy. Have you tried Risk of Rain? Digging it right now.

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