Hyrule: See the Sights! Hear the Sounds!

HYRULE
SEE THE SIGHTS!
HEAR THE SOUNDS!

A Collaboration
From the Great Land of Hyrule
And Beyond 

Better with audio!

The Legend of Zelda would be nothing without its amazing sound design, and this mix of Breath of the Wild environmental ambiance has been carefully chosen to accompany this post. Please be sure to hit the play button!

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We respect the creators’ intentions that some of these places aren’t canonically part of the Land of Hyrule, but we believe they all still encapsulate the spirit of exploration of the great land.

Each post contains links to the blogs of the incredible authors of their respective pieces. Please support their work by following/bookmarking them. 

We recommend you start from the beginning, but you can click each link to jump to that location if you prefer.

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Starring:

Outset Island | Matt from Normal Happenings
Koholint Island | Emma from Geeky Tourist
The Fishing Pond | Kim from Later Levels
Great Bay | Jan from The Life of Jan
Zora’s Domain | Teri Mae from Sheikah Plate
Behind the Waterfall | GG from Hungrygoriya
Forest Temple | Ellen from LividLightning
Hyrule Field | KT from Wintendo64
Lon Lon Ranch | Jan from The Life of Jan
Lumpy Pumpkin | Pix1001 from Shoot the Rookie
Eastern Palace | Megan from A Geeky Gal
Clock Town | Ian from Adventure Rules
The Dark World | Jan from The Life of Jan
Ikana Canyon | Pix1001 from Shoot the Rookie
Gerudo Valley | Teri Mae from Sheikah Plate
Shrine of Resurrection | Nikki from Normal Happenings


Outset Island

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Wind Waker
Matt | Normal Happenings

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Dear Grandma,

I woke up this morning missing you. I’ve been away for a while, and I realize I’ve been far too wrapped up in my adventures to make my way back to the Island, back to Outset. Of that, I want to say I’m sorry. Courage may come in many different forms, but it almost always takes you away from the family and friends you love.

Today my thoughts are of home, as they have been for several days now. I remember whiling away the hours atop the Lookout. Sometimes I’d just stare up at the clouds, watching them change shape and wondering if people halfway around the world do the same. But let’s face it, most of the time I just lazily slept the days away instead of training with Orca like I was probably supposed to be doing.

The bravest thing I did was try to sneak up on a pig and swim out to the rock where someone always left a few rupees for safe-keeping. Those were ephemeral times, and I was happy, but even back then I dreamed there was more to life. When the pirates came and I went on that harrowing journey to save my sister, I knew that things would never be the same again.

Indeed, they are not. I may be young, but I feel I have been many different people on this journey. I feel connected, as if I can feel the links to my past and future selves — entire lifetimes played out in the blink of an eye. The places I have been have fragmented through time. Our travels have become legendary, and allowed so many people to experience the thrill of adventure and become heroic.

It’s no secret, Grandma, that your health is not what it once was. I understand that you don’t have as much time as you’d like. But you raised me, you taught me courage, and you prepared me for the world I’d be embarking upon. I sincerely believe your journey is far from over, and as you navigate the realms beyond this one, I hope this collection of stories provides you with peace and emotional contentment.

I miss you greatly, Grandma. Maybe I can find my way back home soon to enjoy a bowl of your delicious Hearty Soup. I love you, Grandma, and please give Aryll my love as well. Tell her thanks for letting me keep her telescope.

With courage,
Link

Koholint Island

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Link’s Awakening
Emma | Geeky Tourist

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I think I must have been close to 16 when I went on my first trip abroad. My parents just preferred spending money on doing up the house rather than on trips to Disney World – much to my dismay – so our family holidays usually consisted of a six to seven hour car ride up to York to visit relatives. And let me tell you now – car rides with my family are the absolute worst.

Everyone was cramped between piles of luggage, my two younger sisters would be fighting, my mum and dad arguing about the best route to take – because this was way before Sat Nav’s were a thing – and I would just be sat in the back seat of the people carrier, stroking the dog, and playing on my little purple Gameboy, completely ignoring everyone else in the car.

My go-to game was always Link’s Awakening. Unlike most Legend of Zelda games, it was set outside of Hyrule on an island called Koholint Island – and it was beautiful. If you were to look back at it today, with eyes that have seen the amazing graphics of Elder Scrolls or Witcher, you’d probably just see a load of pixels, but 10 year old Emma saw the most stunning, remote island, far away from stupid England, and her annoying family.

Koholint Island was the kind of family holiday destination I longed for, a place I wouldn’t have even been able to dream up. It had sparkling blue oceans to swim in, lush jungles to play in, and dark caves to explore. There were villages too, but no big cities, so you could spend ages wandering around and not bump into another person – an introvert’s dream.

I remember the moment I found out I was shipwrecked on the Island – I couldn’t have been happier. Most people, finding themselves stranded somewhere so remote, would probably have an anxiety attack, but not me. I wanted to explore everything. The vast, sandy beaches, the Mysterious Woods with its creepy caves, Tal Tal Mountain Range, home to the impressive Mount Tamaranch that you could see for miles.

Some of my favourite places included Animal Village, which was entirely populated by talking animals. It always reminded me of Naboombu in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which made me love it even more. Then there was Martha’s Bay, the dreamiest part of the island where Martha the mermaid lived. Finally, the Kanalit Castle, filled with dungeons and secret passageways, and treasures and monsters. It was always the toughest part of the game, but the most exciting.

Koholint Island filled me with wanderlust when I needed it the most, and since then, I’ve gone on to visit around 20 countries, and I don’t plan on stopping. Hopefully I’ll get to explore 100 more, and finally find my own Koholint Island. I’ll let you know when that happens.

The Fishing Pond

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Ocarina of Time
Kim | Later Levels

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Think of your favourite game in The Legend of Zelda series and then recall the locations within it. There are so many places to visit and secrets to discover that I’m sure there’s at least one which stands out for you. Maybe it’s the Kokiri Forest, Link’s hometown and training grounds; or perhaps it’s Death Mountain, home to the peaceful Gorons; or it could be Hyrule Castle Town, where there’s plenty to see and do. My own favourite location is a simpler place, and it’s one many others may overlook in favour of grander locations. Hidden away in a secluded spot on the north-eastern banks of Lake Hylia in the southern region of Hyrule, the tranquil Fishing Pond holds more for me than simply the promise of a legendary catch. Its watery depths contain fond memories, sibling bonds and a even a cure for heartache.

I first experienced Ocarina of Time back in the late 1990s after a boyfriend had cruelly broken my teenage heart. Growing tired of hearing me sob through his bedroom wall from my own room on the other side, my younger brother had invited me to watch him play; and despite this gesture being borne from sibling selfishness, I gratefully accepted in the desperate hope it would distract me from the pit of angst I’d fallen into.

Over time however, it became less about distraction and more about a brother and sister who wanted to play a video game together. We’d look forward to getting home from school and spending several hours making progress. Our parents were stunned at our newfound friendship – and annoyed at us for constantly yelling at Navi to shut-the-hell-up every time she dared raise her voice.

We spent hours in my brother’s bedroom running through Hyrule Field with Epona, turning day into night and back again using the Sun’s Song and completing quests. But for all the amazing sights and secrets to be found, there was one location which kept drawing us back. We’d regularly return to the Fishing Pond and waste entire evenings seeing what we could catch while chatting about the game and life in general.

For a mere 20 rupees, the Pond Owner would rent you a Fishing Rod and allow you to stay for as long as you liked. Aiming for the deeper waters in the middle or near objects like the submerged log could result in bigger fish; and you’d be awarded a prize if your catch was large enough! I sadly don’t recall us ever landing the Hylian Loach, an extremely rare creature weighing over 30 pounds, but we managed to catch something far more humorous.

Our first time going back as adult Link, we realised the Pond Owner had added a fourth rule to his set: ‘Don’t cast at anyone.’ And wasn’t that a new hat he was wearing? Forget the quests – our next mission was to find out what he was hiding. We may have been fined 50 rupees and given a telling-off for snagging his cap and throwing it in the Pond, but the punishment was worth getting the chance to see his hairless head.

I doubt my brother recalls these days as well as I do, having now traded in his consoles for a new home and married life. But it was during those hours at the Fishing Pond when I really got to know him for the person he is. So perhaps that’s the way to cure a broken heart and strengthen sibling bonds: just add water.

Great Bay

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Majora’s Mask
Jan | The Life of Jan

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The first time that I ventured to Great Bay, the skies were plastered with clouds, and it was raining. I was new to Termina, as well as its incredibly random weather patterns, and was only in the area for a few days to study the marine wildlife along Great Bay Coast, and more specifically, to find out what was behind the sudden, diminishing numbers of local fish in the bay. I arrived at Great Bay, only to find empty beaches, and suspiciously calm waters, lapping lazily against the shoreline. I presumed that the dreary weather was to blame, though I later learned just how wrong that presumption was.

Days earlier, I had been contacted by a local professor, who curated the local Marine Research Lab at the time. He expressed concern over what he could only describe as a “curse”, which he believed was responsible for the now plagued waters of Great Bay. He shared with me the plight of the local Zora, and how the murky waters had all but destroyed their food supply, which he was helping to restore by breeding fish in his lab. The situation seemed grave. I was never one to believe the nonsensical ramblings of old men, let alone in curses and magic, but hearing of the dire state of Great Bay concerned me as well. Always up for a challenge, I packed my bags, eager to solve the mystery behind Great Bay’s problem.

Upon my arrival, I met the professor in his lab, which jutted out of the water just off the coast. He showed me his tanks, where he raised and bred fish for the Zora, and gave me some insight into the marine life that usually inhabited Great Bay’s depths. He also lead me outside to show me a strange, swirling of air on the distant horizon. I waved it off, and explained to him that it was likely just a waterspout, though he seemed unconvinced. Unfortunately, my initial meeting with the strange, old professor, left me with more questions with answers. I decided that I was on my own to try and solve the problem, and set out to find the answers myself.

I tried to keep my entire focus on my work. I talked to the locals, took samples of the sand, water, and plant life, as well as what little remaining ocean life that I could find. I tested, and retested, the samples, but found no conclusive results. Nothing made sense. The waters of Great Bay had been changed in ways that I had never seen. Ways that, until I had seen them with my own eyes, I would never have believed were possible. Unable to find any new, living specimens to examine, I even attempted to haggle with a local fisherman to let me examine what appeared to be a rare seahorse that he had acquired. Unfortunately, he kept talking nonsensically about female pirates, and I thought it might be best to drop the matter, and return to my work.

Though I felt an overwhelming sense of defeat and disappointment with myself, something else had been troubling me as well. In the brief amount of time since I arrived at Great Bay, I had experienced several instances of overwhelming deja vu. The sound of the water splashing against the sand, the position of the abnormally large moon, the distant and even the distant skittering noises that seemed to be coming from an old, abandoned house on the beach seemed so, incredibly familiar to me, as though I had already visited Great Bay, countless times before. But that was impossible, as this was my first ever trip. Still, the smallest, foggiest fragments of distant memories floated around in my head, causing me much confusion.

On my last day in Termina, I awoke in my room in the inn, feeling glum. I dressed, packed my bags, and made the trip down to Great Bay one last time. As I stepped onto the beach, feeling the familiar crunch of sand beneath my feet, I immediately noticed that something had changed. In fact, everything had changed. The sun shone brilliantly in the sky, and a blast of cool, ocean mist hit my face, startling me slightly. In the distance, I saw the professor, standing outside of his lab, staring off toward the horizon, with a contented smile on his face. As I neared the water’s edge, I saw birds soaring high above the now sparkling waters of Great Bay, circling a small island, just off the shore. Baffled, I blinked and rubbed my eyes, fairly certain that I had not seen that island there before.

Despite my failed efforts at returning Great Bay to its original state, something, or someone, had managed to succeed where I had failed, and had brought life back into Great Bay. For that, I was both incredibly grateful, and utterly perplexed. Great Bay, and it’s vast, watery reaches, bad been restored. Overcome with relief, I turned my back to the bay, and walked away from the sandy shore for one last time, I thought that I heard what I can only describe as the distant, muffled sound of some kind of instrument, perhaps a sort of flute, or an ocarina, playing a short ballad, deep beneath the sea. Before arriving in Termina, if you had asked me if I believed in magic, I would have said no. But now? After witnessing the miraculous, seemingly overnight healing of Great Bay? I’m not so sure anymore.

Zora’s Domain

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Breath of the Wild
Teri Mae | Sheikah Plate

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I’m a HUGE Legend of Zelda nerd.  Like, my-whole-life-and-wardrobe-revolves-around-it kinda nerd.  So when this collab came up I was on board before I could blink.  Only problem?  Matt said I could only do one post… Finally, after begging, Matt and I negotiated about doing multiple posts on multiple locations. My original intention was to do multiple locations in Ocarina of Time, but one of the concessions I made was to choose a different game. There are already a lot of people covering the amazingness that is OoT and the other games deserve a little love! And when I think of awe-inspiring, incredibly gorgeous, and musically perfect locations my heart immediately went to Zora’s Domain in Breath of the Wild.

Pretty much from OoT onward through my experiences with other Zelda games, Zora’s Domain was my least favorite place to go in any of them. It always either took a billion years to get there (like in OoT) or had annoying creatures that, instead of helping you, tried to kill you (like in A Link to the Past). And while the music was usually okay in all these different places they remained steadily at the back of the queue. So when I started BotW, I decided my first divine beast to conquer would be the Zora divine beast, Vah Ruta. Just to get it over with. But when I first set foot in Zora’s Domain my jaw dropped and my heart was changed. It was breathtaking.

zora's domain

The beautifully arched architecture, reminiscent of gothic structures, made from shimmering blue stone, full of the sound of tinkling, running water and surrounded by sheer rock walls studded with luminous rock blew me away. I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place that I’d love to settle down in. I walked every single inch of the city, marveling in the curves of the sweeping walkways, the exciting leaps from tall waterfalls, and the way the light always seemed perfect, whether it’s day or night.

The Zora were some of my favorite people to interact with, as well. With complicated side quests that took a significant amount of time and exploration, as well as a fun little match-making romance and an epic fight with one of my first Lynels, Zora’s domain took a solid lead in my favorite locations that never dissipated. I will sometimes go back, simply to bask in the calming nature of the area, and to sigh with relief when the second-most stunning musical composition of the game turns on and plays constantly, mingled with the lovely sound of falling water. (The first is, of course, Kass’s song. I always get sad when I finish his quests and he flies away, taking his theme with him). At first I thought it was a completely new song, but then the brilliance of Koji Kondo washed over me and I realized he had mixed the OoT, classic Zora’s Domain theme with this new, melodic tune. It’s the best. If you haven’t taken time to just go and appreciate the music drop whatever you’re doing, sit down, and warp there. Do it for me.

Fish Close Up

Now, in perfect “me” fashion I thought it would be pretty cool if you readers could see the sights, hear the sounds, and taste the culture of this location. So, I present to you, my take on what could be a classic dish for any Zora’s Domain meal. I actually tried several different fish recipes before I realized “Hey, this place is simply beautiful. With elegance and refinement. They wouldn’t go crazy with spices, crusts, or whatever. They’d be tastefully restrained, relying on a few simple ingredients to make an indulgent meal.” So that’s what this is: elegant, simple, and refined.


Zora's Domain Butter Herb Fish

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

White fish filet with butter and herbs

Ingredients

  • 2 Fish filets, about 6 oz each, preferably a white fish or trout
  • 5 tablespoons salted, good quality butter
  • 5-6 sprigs fresh lemon thyme. (Regular thyme will work, too, but I like the lemon kick with fish. It compliments it really well)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2-3 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper

Directions

About 10 minutes before you want to cook take the fish from the freezer and allow it to briefly warm up. Don’t do this more than 10 minutes, since fish can be dangerous when it warms up too much. Trust me, I’m a microbiologist. When you’re ready to cook start heating a pan (for the first time, it doesn’t matter if it’s heavy-bottomed or not!) on medium. While the pan is heating up wash the thyme, but leave it on the stems, and smash the garlic. To smash the garlic simple lay it on a hard surface, place the flat of a knife on the garlic, and slam your hand into the knife to smash the garlic under it. It’s easy, as long as you keep your fingers away from the blade! Gently pat the fish with paper towels to remove as much of the moisture as you can and generously salt and pepper both sides.

When the pan is nearly ready add the 3 tablespoons of the butter, the thyme, and smashed garlic. Stir the aromatics around for a bit and then, when the butter is melted and starting to bubble slightly add the fish, laying it away from you to avoid splashes and burns.Allow the fish to cook for 3ish minutes. It depends on the thickness of the fish, but mine were about an inch thick and that was the perfect timing. You’ll want the bottom of the fish to be lightly browned and the sides to be opaque about 1/2-3/4 of the way up the fish. Quickly, but gently, turn the fish over. Add the remaining butter and begin spooning the butter and herbs over the top of the fish. Continue basting the fish for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately!

Behind the Waterfall

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The Legend of Zelda
GG | Hungrygoriya

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My love of Link’s fictional world grew out from The Legend of Zelda for NES, my first foray into the land of Hyrule. As a younger version of myself, I spent many days pushing on rocks, burning down trees and bombing random rock faces to find secrets. That world was full of nooks and crannies to uncover, but one of the most compelling places for me was the waterfall in the northeastern area of the map. I think I must’ve walked past it what felt like 1000 times before I first got the hint from the old man in the 4th labyrinth. His words, unlike much of the other advice in the game, were simple: Walk into the waterfall.

I can still remember the feelings of doubt and awe the first time I took that advice. On my way back up to the waterfall from Level 4, I had followed the river north first and then east, wondering if it too held any secrets I might be able to find. After semi-successfully avoiding being turned into a pancake by the boulders tumbling down Death Mountain, I was once again standing before the waterfall.

As I poked away at some brown tektites with my sword, I felt doubtful, almost expecting the old man’s advice to be false. More curious than ever, in I went. After the screen dipped to black for a moment, I found myself in a fire-lit room with an old woman who was demanding rupees to get her to talk to me.

Being so young at the time, and obviously not understanding what a bribe was, I forked over some sum of my money and came away empty handed, feeling a bit cheated and confused. If I’m being completely honest, I’m still not sure I understand how to get hints out of those folks consistently. Even though I know I don’t need the old woman’s information at this stage in my life, I still stick my head into the waterfall every time I swing out that way, maybe just to say hi to that memory.

The waterfall experience has caused me to grow as a lover of role playing and action adventure games. No matter the game world I happen to be exploring, if I see a waterfall in an accessible area, I try to wiggle my way in there without hesitation. I’m happy to say that even if there’s nothing behind them, I’m always filled with those familiar feelings of anticipation at the prospect of discovering something new just off the beaten path.

Forest Temple

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Ocarina of Time
Ellen | LividLightning

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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time will always be my all-time favourite video game. I’ve beaten it at least 20+ times over my many gaming years, and one area still gives me the chills every time I hear its haunting melody… yep. In the deep dark heart of the first 3D iteration of Hyrule’s Lost Woods, lies the sacred-creepy Forest Temple.

Oh, man! It’s hard to describe the feelings I have for this place. During Young Ellen’s first playthrough of the game, I remember getting my butt kicked by Stalfos one morning before forcing myself to go school, while my normally not-interested-in-video-games-at-all mom was actually cheering me on. It was a great moment I’ll never forget. The area itself triggers so many feelings. I love nature and this place is a perfect representation of an aging ruins being reclaimed by a twisted wilderness. It’s not Shadow Temple or Bottom of the Well levels of creepy, but there is something so haunting, yet so peaceful, about the place. Plus the whole thing with Link’s childhood best friend, Saria… sniffs.

The dungeon’s labyrinth-like layout and overall atmosphere was just simply amazing. And damn, the music track that plays there fits the haunted ancient forest vibe so freaking perfectly! Oh the memories…

I’ll never forget the first horrific time a Wallmaster dragged poor Link away, right after untwisting one of those haunted mansion style corridors. Now whenever I hear that swooshing sound and see that shadow grow under Link, I tap the roll button like my life depended on it.

Wallmasters weren’t the only evil hands to deal with here. I’ll also never forget my first encounter with their skittering cousins – Floormasters. Ugh! As if tackling one giant hand crawling around wasn’t scary enough, they split into many smaller hands that literally choke Link to death if they get close. Kill it with Din’s Fire!! Ahem.

Oh that victorious moment when I beat those Stalfos, finally, and got the shiny Fairy Bow. I remember being amazed with the Slingshot I got in the Deku Tree… A bow with arrows added a whole new level of awesome to the game! It just felt cool to see Link in first person while aiming and firing his badass bow. Also, I could finally shoot those eye switches that were puzzling young me. Don’t ask how many times I tried to use the Hookshot on them when I got frustrated… With the bow, I could at last go hunt down those tricky Poe Sisters to gain access to the boss floor.

And the basement boss room was just… wow! I remember feeling very anxious when I made Link climb those stairs to the platform. The gate suddenly shuts behind him and then… bam! There’s Ganondorf’s puppet, Phantom Ganon. I loved the game of extreme magic beam tennis I played with him. Frantically trying to guess what painting he was coming from next was always a fun time, too. It took a few deaths before I realized there was a safe spot to stand… Oops!

Adult Ellen can clear the Forest Temple with her eyes closed and one hand tied behind her back (I like to exaggerate), but my fond memories of the place came from the time when I had no idea what I was doing. I remember getting lost in the beautifully wild madness, and was pwned A LOT by hella creepy hand creatures and Stalfos, while looking forever to find ONE Small Key I was missing at the bottom of some random well, and it was frustrating. When I finally got the bow though, I felt progress as each Poe Sister was felled and another torch lit. I remember feeling so triumphant when I took out Phantom Ganon, and also terrified to find out what the real King of Evil had in store for Hyrule. And finally, I remember almost crying when a childhood friend had to fulfill their sacred destiny.

Hyrule Field

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Twilight Princess
KT | Wintendo64

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Twilight Princess is my favorite Zelda game. Honestly, it’s probably in my top 10 games of all time. Just the art style and the music, I love it so much! Not to mention how amazing Midna is! Stepping into Hyrule Field for the first time, seeing how big of a world it was, it was so magical. I wanted to write about the place where most of my time was spent, which was aimlessly running around Hyrule Field, catching bugs, poe hunting, and looking for heart pieces. I remember seeing how big Hyrule castle was and running around to see if I could get there. There were so many secrets that littered Hyrule field. Different caves and holes to dig and of course, grass to cut. There was so much to do.

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Look at this picture of the Bridge of Eldin — don’t you just want to blow up that rock?

Now that we’re here, let’s talk about the Bridge of Eldin. Remember that iconic fight that happened here? Remember how amazing it felt to mount Epona and battle that weird pig riding guy? Switching from bow to sword while riding a horse this fight had it all.

The best part? Oh you know what the best part was already. The boss is defeated, the victory cutscene rolls, and this beautiful, majestic, stunning image comes to life across your screen. The feeling of victory after this battle was so unlike any other battle from any game I’ve ever played.

Hyrule Field holds so many of my favorite video game moments. Like running through every single enemy to try and save Midna after Zant turns you into a wolf. But it also has one of my least favorite moments. Remember finding Illa at Telma’s bar? Remember the sick Zora prince you also found at the bar? Now do you remember Telma asking you to escort Illa and the Zora to Kakoriko village while she recklessly drives a carriage? I remember all too well. The fact that you had to keep all the enemies away from Telma or she would continually steer in circles AND constantly put out the flames on the carriage was a pain.

Hyrule Field is an area you find yourself enthralled in from the start to the end of the game. And the final battle with Ganon on Hyrule Field, chasing him on Epona with Zelda and then switching to the Master Sword to finish him off was one big feel trip. There were so many important moments that happened in Hyrule Field. Like running to find that Midna wasn’t dead (yay!) and she returned to her true form. And searching for all the owl statues to find the entrance to the City in the Sky (which is possibly a dilapidated Skyloft).

You keep coming back to moments throughout the entire game in your mind. So many games have places you visit maybe a few times, until you level up and move on to never see that location again. Not Hyrule field. And with each time returning, there’s something new. It never felt like a chore or like you were backtracking. It was always a pleasure to find yourself roaming everything Nintendo offered in this spectacular game.

Hyrule Field gave a sense of freedom. Yeah, since 2006 there have bigger games that put its open world feeling to shame. Breath of the Wild is certainly much larger than Twilight Princess. By now the games graphics aren’t as stunning as they were at the E3 reveal of 2005. It’s nothing compared to the 4K gaming we have today. But that feeling of first stepping into the vast green field, littered with enemies and treasure, never seems to leave no matter how many times I’ve played through. And at least for me, it was everything I ever wanted in a Zelda game.

Lon Lon Ranch

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Ocarina of Time
Jan | The Life of Jan

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When I was a young boy, my father took my brother and I to Hyrule Castle Town Market for the first time. My father wanted to purchase a few cuccos for our farm, and had agreed to let us come along. Once we had crossed the drawbridge, and entered the town market, my father gave us each five rupees, and sent us away so that he could speak with the elderly woman at a nearby farm stand.

Across from the market square, we found Bombchu Bowling Alley. Without hesitation, we entered the building, eager to spend every last rupee in our pockets. Unfortunately, the owner took one look at us, and shooed us away immediately. I was in the process of mentally plotting my revenge, when our father rounded the corner.

“There are no cuccos here,” he told us, running his hand through his graying hair, “but I may know where we can find some.”

We left town, and walked back to the road that lead back to our farm. As we turned for home, my father stopped us, and pointed to a hill in the distance.

That’s where we’re headed, boys,” he said.

I squinted my eyes, but could see nothing but green knolls. I looked to my brother, who only shrugged. Once we arrived at the hill, our father grabbed our hands, and helped us climb the grassy mound. When we reached the top, he shielded his eyes from the midday sun, and peered off into the distance. I followed his gaze, all the way to where a large wooden sign stood against a wooden fence backdrop, announcing our arrival at our destination.

Lon Lon Ranch.

Even from an acre away, the smell made me crinkle my nose.

“It stinks!” My brother whined.

My father smiled, reached down to ruffle my brother’s mop of blonde hair, and motioned for us to follow him toward the ranch.

Lon Lon Ranch was exactly what I expected it to be. There was a large, central corral, with a man leading a pair of horses around a training course. I could hear the sounds of cuccos and cows coming from a nearby building, and I felt a sense of excitement bubbling up inside of me. Unfortunately, I also smelled the stench that came with being surrounded by ranch animals, and my feeling of excitement quickly turned into nausea.

As we approached the man, a commotion near the building that housed the other animals caught my attention. A young girl was chasing around a dozen fluffy, baby cuccos, trying to herd them into a pen. Her flaming red hair flew wildly behind her as she shouted and jumped around the small birds. My father and the man were talking, and my little brother was cautiously inching toward one of the horses, so I decided to try and help her.

As I walked toward her, a baby cucco broke from the group, and raced toward me. I reacted quickly, scooping it up into my arms as it clucked and squirmed. The young girl finished corralling the others into the pen, and I handed her the small bird.

“Thanks!” She said breathlessly, “I’ve been trying to get them back into their pen for ages!” She held out a small, dirty hand to me, “I’m Malon! Who are you?”

I told her my name, and told her that my father, brother, and I we were looking to bring a few cuccos back to our farm. Malon’s eyes lit up.

“That’s so great!” She exclaimed, “Come on, let’s go see my father!”

Before I could react, Malon had grabbed my hand, and was dragging me toward our fathers in the pasture.

“Ah, I see you’ve met my daughter, Malon,” Malon’s father turned to us as we approached, “She’s a wild one, but this place couldn’t run without her.”

Malon beamed, “They want to take some of our cuccos, father!”

Malon’s father chuckled, “Of course, we were talking about just that!” He motioned toward my brother and I, “Pick out any two you’d like!”

We gasped in unison, and without hesitation, sprinted toward the pen housing the baby cuccos. My brother picked out a small, black cucco, that repeatedly tried to peck at his hand. I gingerly picked up the cucco that I had corralled for Malon, and it looked up at me curiously as I stroked it’s fluffy, feathered head.

Malon’s father, Talon, invited us inside for a couple of tall, refreshing glasses of Lon Lon Ranch’s famous Lon Lon Milk, as well as some warm, baked apples. After we ate, Malon showed my brother and I the adult cuccos, the cows, and the horses that they kept. Aside from the cows and numerous cuccos, which Talon affectionately tended to daily, Lon Lon Ranch also had a total of seven horses, and Malon boasted to us about how she had ridden every one of them, and could do the training course with her eyes closed.

“I’ll bet you two rupees that you can’t!” My brother challenged her.

Malon flashed him a devilish grin, “Okay!”

Of course, she did do the entire course with her eyes closed, and my brother begrudgingly handed her the rupees.

“Just wait ‘til I’m older,” she said, “I’ll be able to ride, and shoot a bow. You’ll see!”

Malon then asked us if we wanted to ride one of the horses. My brother declined, and rejoined our father back in the house. I, on the other hand, was excited to try my hand at riding, and waited anxiously as she fetched a horse.

Malon brought a beautiful, brown foal to the pasture, but just as I reached out to stroke her, she reared up, and kicked at the air, causing Malon and I to fall to the ground. I sat in the dirt, visibly shaken, while Malon roared with laughter.

“Epona, wait!” she called after the foal, who had galloped away from us.

After that, I quickly decided that it was best that I didn’t ride any more horses. The others joined us, and we exchanged goodbyes. I held my new, baby cucco in my hands, and Malon pulled me in for a surprisingly tight squeeze.

“It was so nice to meet you!” she said, “Next time, you can ride a different horse, I promise!”

I smiled at the thought of seeing Malon again.

We left Lon Lon Ranch, just as the sun began to set, and streaks of pink and orange painted the skies. I turned and waved back at Malon and Talon, but they had already turned toward their house. Sadly, we never returned to Lon Lon Ranch. Although I never saw Malon again, I still think of her fondly, and often wonder if she ever did master shooting a bow while riding a horse.

A few years after our visit, we learned that the ranch had been taken over by bandits. Malon and her father we able to get it back, but were forced to leave their beloved ranch after years and years of financial hardship. Today, I’m afraid, Lon Lon Ranch is no more than ruins, and memories of simpler, happier times.

The Lumpy Pumpkin

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Skyward Sword
Pix1001 | Shoot the Rookie

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The Lumpy Pumpkin? Ooooh, I remember. I visited it way back, must’ve been about 6 or 7 years ago. I was really excited to finally go there, after all it ain’t easy to get to. I’ve never been the best Loftwing pilot. I mean, that spiral charge move? No way! That’s too scary. But I’d been practicing a lot and being extra nice to Birdo, my Loftwing, and finally we made it to the Pumpkin Landing! There aren’t that many bars and restaurants in Skyloft so it was nice to check out somewhere new.

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Or, I thought it’d be nice. Turned into a bit of a weird experience if I’m honest with you. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it has this cool pumpkin patch out back where they grow the pumpkins, and the soup itself is deeeee-licious, but there was some slightly weird stuff happening inside. I was just looking for a nice quiet afternoon, maybe a bit of harp music, some friendly chat and the odd bowl of pumpkin soup, but I’m not sure I’ll be going back after that display.

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Credit to the bar owner though, I think he’s called Pumm. GREAT moustache that man, must’ve taken a lifetime to grow! He’s done the place up nice too. Or at least it was nice when I got there. Seriously though, I can’t put much of the blame on Pumm, he did try and make it clear that causing criminal damage was completely unacceptable, but they might wanna fork out for some better security. I mean who in Hyrule thought it was a good idea to let that blonde guy in?

KinaI was just sitting down at the table sipping on some mighty fine pumpkin soup when he comes in, all dressed in Green. Blonde hair, shield on his back, y’know the ‘hero’ type. Well maybe that’s what he thinks but I’m having none of it. First of all, he waltzes in and demands some soup, even though he doesn’t have owt to drink it out of – I mean, everyone knows you have to bring your own receptacles to bars these days. But no, he forgot to bring his and was pretty ticked off when Pumm told him to come back later.

So anyway, yeah, where was I? Oh yeah, so this guy walks towards the stairs, barely even stopping to listen to Kina the waitress, she was only trying to be nice, but he isn’t much for chatting apparently. Seriously, where are his manners?! I noticed Kina point up at the chandelier on the ceiling while she was talking to him though. Actually pointing it out might have been a mistake in hindsight, but wowee, that thing was beautiful. The biggest chandelier I’ve ever seen, AND it was COVERED in rupees. Blues and greens I think, and then there was this…this crystal thing. BEAUTIFUL it was, looked like having that in your life would be real good for you if you know what I mean.

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But yeah, showing this to that insolent guy was a mistake, cos what did he do next? He stormed up the stairs and gave the old balcony three fair old whacks. Seriously, who does that? He just starts pounding the wall. I mean he must’ve really wanted that pumpkin soup or something, I guess being hungry can make you aggressive sometimes. But he just whacked it until CRASH. That chandelier fell straight off. Nearly killed me it did. But then what’s worse, he just trots down the stairs like nothing happened. Pumm is screaming his head off, but this guy just strolls on up to the rupees and crystal thing (it’s kinda heart-shaped, really pretty!), and pockets them. In my book that makes him a thief as well as a vandal.

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All in all, what could have been a lovely day at a friendly bar was ruined by one awful guy. I’m sure Pumm has him working hard to payback the damage he’s caused, but let me tell you, if they ever get him back in there to work, even if it was just providing the musical entertainment, I won’t be coming that’s for sure!

Eastern Palace

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A Link Between Worlds
Megan | A Geeky Gal

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I have a secret to tell you: I have never played a Zelda game before this year. I know, I know. I definitely don’t live under a rock, and I definitely know it exists. Before you pick up your pitchforks, rest assured that I was given some lovely recommendations for my very first time.

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I have finally set out on my very first adventure in A Link Between Worlds. And what a ride it’s been thus far. While the popularity of Zelda was not immediately recognizable while following Gulley and getting my first delivery job, I took an hour just to get used to running around my small home and exploring the places nearby. Everything was new and shiny! After my failed delivery, I got my sword, which seemed a bit typical like other adventures I’d been on. Cue the Heroic Quest, and I was feeling pretty at home. I pressed onward towards the next location, Eastern Palace.

Things took an amazing turn at Eastern Palace. My eyes were opened. I could finally see why there is so much love for these games. I adored the puzzles and the fun enemies. Things were just hard enough to make me think before I acted. Things could get a bit hairy or even frustrating while in the Eastern Palace’s dungeon, but I pushed on, knowing I needed to join Osfala, all the while admiring the mechanics and how much fun I was having in my very first dungeon.

I reached my first boss battle. With some quick thinking, I thought I had defeated Yuga only to be turned into a painting like the warriors before me. I knew though that the story was far from over. My bracelet pulled me off the wall and gave me the ability to merge into walls. MERGE INTO WALLS. I was freaking out, and showing my husband this amazing game mechanic, and just fangirling over how awesome this new “power” could be. After playing with my new power and (still) admiring such a unique game mechanic, I finished up the Eastern Palace dungeon to continue on my Heroic Quest.

After experiencing several hours of gameplay in A Link Between Worlds, I can safely say, it is one of my favorite games. I adore puzzles, but I love uniqueness even more. Being able to turn myself into a painting and walk along walls, squeeze through crevices, and avoid obstacles really sold me on the game itself. The Legend of Zelda has gained a new fan, thanks to this amazing recommendation!

Clock Town

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Majora’s Mask
Ian | Adventure Rules

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I’m not a city guy in real life. I grew up in the suburbs, far away from the concrete jungle and honking cars. I live in a city now and I honestly hate it. But in the world of games, cities can be something more than smelly masses of grumpy people. They can be magical, exciting collections of quirky characters and compelling quests. No city in my mind captures this better than Clock Town, the hub city in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

This place is full of memories for me. As a kid, I was inspired by all of the opportunities and cool locations. My sister and I would play Stock Pot Inn with our cousins, some of us managing the inn using an Excel spreadsheet and Monopoly money while others portrayed the inn guests and their personal agendas. In the game, I loved to talk to the inn guests; Guru-Guru and the dancing sisters are funny to talk to and offer simple side quests that provide you with a heart piece. Speaking of heart pieces, how could anybody forget the mysterious toilet hand which offers you one in exchange for something that works as toilet paper? For some weird reason as a kid I thought that guy was so cool, and I sometimes use that voice for NPCs in tabletop games I run.

In addition to the selection of quests available in the Stock Pot Inn, Clock Town offers a bunch of fun mini games to play. As a kid I really enjoyed the maze in the treasure chest house, particularly because you get the best reward for being Zora Link. That form was always my favorite, so the fact that the owner of the establishment acknowledged that he was the coolest (albeit for different reasons) was pretty exciting to me. There’s also the dojo where you can train in swordsmanship to earn a heart piece, one of my favorite locations in West Clock Town. I particularly liked to come here after midnight on the third day, when the proprietor is cowering in fear of the moon.

The pressure of the moon certainly adds some flavor to Clock Town as well. Seeing how different individuals react as doomsday looms ever closer is truly compelling. Some, like the swordsman, react with fear. Others press forward with grim determination, the postman waiting until the very last moment to evacuate as he performs his duties. These two reactions are played against each other more directly in the mayor’s office, where the head foreman and the captain of the guard argue about whether or not the city should be evacuated. The way the NPCs actually react to the passage of time and begin to panic breathes life into Clock Town in a way that many other games have failed to emulate.

As a hub town, it’s important that Clock Town have everything a budding adventurer could need. Luckily, the place is chock full of cool shops to visit. The bomb shop seems difficult to interact with at first – as a kid it took me forever to figure out that I needed to save the place from being robbed in order to get the best gear. Once I finally saved the old woman from Sakon, it was a proud moment. The Curiosity Shop and its shady owner were mysteries to me, not only as a result of their portrayal in the game but because my young mind could never quite figure out how to interact with them. Game mechanics reinforced the mysterious nature of the shop in a way that built superstition around the location in my head. And who could forget the bank where your hard-earned rupees could be saved up? I would dedicate hours to figuring out how I could get as much money into the bank as possible before the three days were up, and stand proud at the end of a cycle at how full my coffers were.

There’s still so much more to explore about Clock Town, and there are some secrets that I’m sure I still haven’t discovered even now in my adulthood. Clock Town is my favorite place in my favorite Zelda game – it’s a location that inspired my young mind to explore every nook and cranny, to play creatively outside the world of video games, and to imagine that there could be excitement in even the mundane lives of the NPCs. I may not love cities in real life, but Clock Town will always hold a special place for me thanks to all of the amazing adventures I’ve had there.

The Dark World

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A Link to the Past
Jan | The Life of Jan

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I was eleven years old when The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was released for the Game Boy Advance. At that point in my life, I was regularly putting in several hours a day on my N64, playing Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, which were my favorite games at the time, and the pride and joy of my collection. However, having just got an awesome, glacier-colored GBA for Christmas, and a copy of A Link to the Past, I was eager to put down the controller, and dive into my first Zelda adventure on a handheld device.

The day after Christmas, my mom brought me to Walmart, where I picked up an official guide book for the game, which was something I had done in the past, since there was still a void in the gaming community that had yet to be filled by the arrival of YouTube. I skimmed through the pages during the long drive home, and was immediately intrigued by a feature that A Link to the Past offered, that I had never before encountered in any of my other games: The Dark World.

The idea of an alternate world, a darker world, where everything was scarier, and more twisted, resonated nicely with my budding, emo personality, and made me giddy. Armed with a new pack of AA batteries, a light for my GBA, and several days of winter break left ahead of me, I locked myself in my room, and started my journey. Well… kind of. You see, as I had already discovered from reading the guide, the Dark World couldn’t be accessed until I got through the Light World portion of the game. So, I did. In record time.

But this isn’t about Light World, so let’s get to the good stuff.

The Dark World.

I was feeling prepared, and invincible, riding the adrenaline high that came with defeating the evil Agahnim. I was ready to take on anything and everything that the Dark World would throw my way. After my victory at Hyrule Castle Tower, I was transported to the Dark World, where I stood victoriously atop the Pyramid of Power. I descended the steps of the pyramid, nearly missing out on a heart piece (rookie move), and eagerly began exploring.

Everything looked different, yet somehow, exactly the same. The world seemed muddier, and more dreary. The trees, grass, and shrubbery had all been replaced by their eerie, discolored Dark World counterparts, and even the water took on a murky, green hue. For a moment, I toyed around with the idea that living in the Dark World could be really cool. Kind of like being the cool, main character in a young adult novel set in a dystopian future. The enemies were also changed, and I’m ashamed to report that I died more times than I’d like to admit, just minutes into my arrival in the aptly named Dark World.

I found myself feeling irrationally anxious when exploring the somewhat new, darker terrain, because honestly, everything was just so creepy. I went from feeling like a total badass, to feeling like a feeble, little rabbit. I actually ended up putting the game down for an entire day, because I was too afraid to take on the very first Dark World dungeon, the Dark Palace. Let’s just say, it didn’t go well when I finally turned my Game Boy back on either. I was dying at every turn, and it was frustrating, to say the least. Oh, and Moldorm, the final boss of the Dark Palace, was by far the most difficult boss in the game for me. By the time I had actually beaten the Dark Palace, I hardly wanted to keep playing. But, of course, I couldn’t just put it down, as there were more dungeons to conquer.

After I recovered from my initial failures in the Dark Palace, I felt renewed, and my adventure was surprisingly easy moving forward. I didn’t even need to rely on my guide book for certain parts, though, let’s be honest, I still needed it to get every last sweet, sweet heart piece. I also really enjoyed using my Magic Mirror to cross over between the Light and Dark worlds, and seeing the stark differences in the landscapes. My favorite place in all of the Dark World was the Village of Outcasts, which was the equivalent of Kakariko Village in the Light World. It was the only real town in the game, and I liked the buildings, and the ghosts. Oh, and the name, which seemed pretty relatable to my tiny, emo heart.

Though I hit another, irritating snag while fighting Trinexx in the Turtle rock dungeon (I kept running out of those stupid bombs), the rest of the game was a breeze, and a loads of fun. My time in A Link to the Past was the first time that I had ever experienced such high highs, and low lows, in game before, and despite how infuriatingly difficult it could be at times, the feeling of victory was utterly intoxicating.

In the years following my first experience in A Link to the Past, I restarted the game countless times, just to experience it all over, again and again. As an adult, I even found an old, glacier-colored Game Boy Advance at a retro gaming store, as well as a copy of A Link to the Past, and played it again. And while the nostalgia was lovely, the game was just as infuriatingly difficult at times, even ten years later. I still find myself feeling the itch to return to the Dark World from time to time, mostly because I am a glutton for punishment. However, having grown older and wiser since those carefree days of my youth, I now know that it’s better to just spare myself the high blood pressure, and the headache, that comes with flipping that switch to ON.

Ikana Canyon

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Majora’s Mask
Pix1001 | Shoot the Rookie

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So you’ve finally made it from Hyrule to Termina and you’ve got one destination in mind. Never mind the fun and frivolity of Clock Town. Never mind that scary moon. Oh no. You’re a real adventurer. You want to get really scared, right? Well…yes and no. Your destination, Ikana Canyon, definitely has the power to terrify, but it is the depth and detail of the place that really gets the imagination racing. Ikana Canyon is a large area within Termina, the strange mirror-world version of Hyrule, which appears in what is probably my favourite Zelda game – Majora’s Mask. Ikana doesn’t have many people (living people at least), but it is so full of history, culture and mysterious goings on, that it has stuck in my memory very clearly and remains one of my favourite locations in any game.

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From the unsettling Road to Ikana to the utterly monumental Stone Tower, the area is filled with mysterious places to explore. Often terrifying, it is a haunted place filled with echoes of the past, monuments of a long gone era as well as brief but bright glimpses of the present day.

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One of the first experiences you have in Ikana is the Graveyard where Dampé the Grave-keeper lurks. Grave-keeping isn’t necessarily as terrifying a job as it sounds. I mean graveyards can be very eerie, but these people are dead, what are they going to do to you? However a chat with Dampé and the real terror of the region starts to unfold in your mind. It turns out he doesn’t like tending the Graveyard at night because he is afraid of the Ghosts. During the day, Link would be forgiven for believing that the ghosts are not real, but upon nightfall they will be all over you, and to make it worse, their leader Captain Keeta appears to have it in for you.

Ghosts in a graveyard isn’t original. In fact Ocarina of Time has its own haunted graveyard, but the thing which makes the Ikana Graveyard stand out is that the ghosts are cursed versions of the soldiers of Ikana. This really struck me because it shows early on in your exploration of the region that this place has history, it has civilization, even though none now remain alive to keep it going. Keeta told of a war which destroyed Ikana Kingdom, but in their cursed state the soldiers remained to defend their homeland long after the war and their lives had been lost. The details of the war are scant, but this small interaction inspires the player’s imagination to fill out the details.

Historical, archaeological and cultural elements continue throughout the region and you encounter many aspects of the old civilization once you get inside Ikana itself. Ikana Castle is one of the most interesting examples of this. There you meet not only the (now undead) King of Ikana, but you also fight his best swordsmen. Just having a King might make it feel a bit cheap, like the history of the area had just been an after-thought, however adding in the swordsmen who Link must fight gives real character to the place. It shows you people from long ago who did actual jobs in a working civilization, they were people – not just nameless ghosts from a distant land. As a student of history I think this particularly appealed to me as it is often those characters, not the Kings and Queens, who jump out at me from the pages of books and chronicles, even if they seldom appear in them at all.

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If the characters from Ikana provide a sort of history of the region, then the music which lives on here provides a culture to flesh out the bare bones of that history. Of course, music is intrinsically important in the Zelda series and the part it plays in Majora’s Mask, including in Ikana Canyon is no different. The Elegy of Emptiness, taught to you by The King of Ikana himself, is a great example of how the music in Zelda helps to add an extra layer of character. Even without hearing the music, the title alone is unnerving. The King’s explanation, that he is gifting Link a ‘soldier with no soul’ perfectly describes just how creepy the effect of the song is. The empty clones of Link in his various forms that are created by playing the song really are terrifyingly soulless. It is a nice analogy for Ikana itself, which despite having standing remains, is empty of life.

That is not to say that the region is entirely devoid of life, nor is it purely a monument to a forgotten civilization. It has one small glimmer of Termina’s current culture in the at-once-terrifying-and-also-reassuring Music Box House, in which you will find the somewhat unhelpful (but very much alive) Pamela, along with her rather Gibdo-esque Father. Music, as suggested by the name of their house, is also an important feature here, as the house itself (when you get it working again!) plays the song Farewell to Gibdos, which keeps the strange mummified enemies at bay, and makes it safe for Pamela and her Father to inhabit the area. Why the family is there in the first place is the thing that is of real interest here, as we are told that Pamela’s father is a scientist, investigating the supernatural occurrences in the Ikana region. This adds to the feel of the region, showing its importance and interest to the modern-day inhabitants of Termina, illustrating that it is not just me as the player that finds the place intriguing, but also the people of Termina itself.

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The glimpses of modern life are fleeting however. The real pinnacle of the Ikana region is the Stone Tower, and the Temple contained therein. This is a HUGE structure, visible across much of Termina, and Link must climb its giant walls to reach the Stone Tower Temple and remove the curse from Ikana. The inside of the tower is treacherous in the extreme, with crashing boulders, Beamos and Keese hindering Link’s climb. Rather than the enemies or even the puzzles being the main fascination of the Tower to me, it is the mystery of it that really sticks in the memory. It is a monumental structure comparable to no other in the world, but yet no one alive or in the realms of the undead seems to know who built it or what it was for. It is ageless, without history, as nothing seems to remain which explains its origins.

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Completion of the Stone Tower Temple paves the way for Link to continue his quest to save Termina, and upon leaving Ikana, you will have righted many wrongs, removed curses that have stood through the ages, and released many from their perpetual undead state. It is a safer, less terrifying place than when you first galloped towards it, but in terms of the many mysteries it hides you are left wondering what secrets it may still keep.

Gerudo Valley

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Ocarina of Time
Teri Mae | Sheikah Plate

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Let’s talk about The Legend of Zelda. Because, you know, I don’t do nearly enough of that… But more specifically, let’s talk about the brilliance of Koji Kondo and Ocarina of Time. When this game was released I was a kid. An elementary-age girl with nearly 0 friends and loads of time on her hands. School came relatively easily to me, especially at that time, and my parents didn’t have any rules about the number of hours we spent plugged into games (they themselves played games for hours when they could) so I spent the better part of my pre-adult years living in Hyrule. And Ocarina of Time was my first foray into the world of Zelda. It was intoxicating. And I speak about this subject so often, I probably don’t need to hash it over yet again. Who knows, you might even get bored of my gushing admiration of OoT one day! So suffice it to say that this game, with it’s map size, beauty, story, and music, made a huge impression on me.

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When Matt said “Talk about your favorite Zelda location” I knew immediately it had to be from Ocarina of Time. How could it not be when my entire life has been shaped by this series, starting with that game? But then came the problem of narrowing it down… That was a much more difficult task. Honestly, breaking it down, my favorite locations could be summed up to The Lost Woods, Gerudo Valley, Kakariko Village, and Lon Lon Ranch. And I don’t even have to delve deep to know the reason why: it’s Koji Kondo’s brilliant score. Seriously, have you ever heard a game soundtrack that inspires and impacts you quite as much as OoT? I submit that you have not! Unless you’re heartless, of course. And the themes associated with those 4 spots are the absolute best. The lighthearted Lost Woods, the haunting, windswept Gerudo Valley, the calming home of Kakariko Village, and the peaceful serenity of Lon Lon Ranch. How can you pick between them? And while it was really difficult, after some… negotiating … with Matt I finally narrowed it down. That was hard, for heaven’s sake, it’s like trying to pick your favorite Lord of the Rings character! They are all favorites, you know, so it comes down to “most favorite.” Now that it’s narrowed down, though, I don’t know why I thought it was so hard. This place has obviously been my favorite for decades. Gerudo Valley, with it’s interesting puzzles, beautiful landscape, and heart-throbbing theme takes the cake.

I remember the first time I ever tried to navigate the dungeons of the Gerudo. I thought it was the hardest, most frustrating puzzle I’d ever had to solve. I got constantly lost, caught around every turn, and trying to escape the cell the first time took me the better part of half an hour. I even remember resetting without saving because I was so lost and wanted to simply start over from the outside. When you’re kid Link, the idea of a secret place you can’t enter just makes it 500% more mysterious and more exciting when you finally get to explore it as adult Link. And, as a young female, seeing some incredible Gerudo warriors with their scimitars and ninja-like skills was very inspiring. Then, even better, being the first male to be allowed inside this incredibly exclusive group is a major boost to your self-esteem!

But the best part was the theme music. *sigh*

I used to head to Gerudo Valley, sit in any corner, and just keep the TV on and as loud as possible so I could hear the music while I was off doing other things: reading, cleaning, anything. This music speaks to my soul. Everytime it pops up in my music everything immediately stops and it gets blasted as loud as possible. I love driving down the road with the windows down blaring the Legend of Zelda. It draws a lot of interesting looks from the people around you. You know how there’s always a “bit” in a song that makes it one of your favorite songs? A line, a melody, a harmony? Well, the entirety of Gerudo Valley is a “bit” to me. The thrilling runs, the haunting minor chords, the repetition with added harmonic lines. It’s incredible to think about what one man created for something so small as a tiny corner of a world inside a video game.

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And, as with the Zora’s Domain article, I wanted to include my take on a dish I believe would be found on any Gerudo Valley menu: a cucumber and tomato salad. It had to be cool and crisp, something to compliment the heat and refresh while replenishing your hearts. The middle eastern atmosphere, landscape, and culture was so apparent I couldn’t go with anything else. And now I present Gerudo Valley Cucumber and Tomato Salad.


Gerudo Valley Cucumber and Tomato Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Cucumber, tomato, and red onion with olive oil and herbs

Ingredients

  • 2 cucumbers
  • 2 tomatoes (I prefer Beefmaster, but any variety will work)
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1-2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Now, the first key to this recipe, since it’s so basic, is to make sure everything is fresh and high quality. The cheap olive oil will definitely taste like it, using dried herbs will make everything taste bitter and dry, and using vine-ripened tomatoes will astronomically improve the way you think about tomatoes. I’m not going to stop you from using the other stuff, but you’ve been warned…Dice the tomatoes into 1/2 inch pieces. Finely dice the red onion. Peel and dice the cucumbers into 1/2 inch pieces. Usually, I don’t bother peeling my vegetables, but I’ve found that the thick, waxy skin on cucumbers can impede the texture of this salad, so I highly recommend it this time.If your fresh herbs are on their stems, pull the leaves off the stems. If you need a reference go to my blog and there’s lots of videos. Mince the herbs by rocking your knife back and forth over the top, being careful not to bruise the leaves.Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and stir, starting with the smaller amounts of herbs and oil. If your taste demands (like mine does) that more oil, salt, and herbs be added, continue adding until it tastes right to you. Serve immediately or refrigerate for several hours. Be warned, the longer you refrigerate, the more juicy the tomatoes will get (the salt pulls the liquid out of the flesh and makes your salad a tad soupy). Enjoy!

The Shrine of Resurrection

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Breath of the Wild
Nikki | Normal Happenings

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Let’s start at the beginning. I could feel myself slowly being hollowed out by the people and the things around me. The feeling of being in a constant state of wearing my heart on my sleeve, mixed with depression constantly asking me if I was really ever worth anyone’s time, had led me into being burnout far earlier than I would have ever hoped. I coped with these issues through unhealthy obsessions such as over-exercising, over-thinking, and quite frankly over-committing. By the end of my time of living in the place that I had always known, I had basically given up to defeat from all of my problems.

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Once things started to fade they changed, and in the time I could take a breath, I was suddenly moving 600 miles (965 km) away from home. Once I was settled in it took me nearly a year to fully recover from what I had been through. Some big events in my own life very much remind me of when Link is sent to The Shrine of Resurrection. He fights until he literally has no fight left in him anymore. He nearly dies while trying to protect Zelda just moments before he is placed in the shrine. In a despondent world, seconds away from becoming post apocalyptic due to Calamity Ganon taking over his world, Link gives into the pressures of defending the world and just gives out. Zelda is saved by others, and she tells them to save Link by placing him into the shrine.

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In many ways (although I will probably never know the burden of the fate of the world being on my shoulders), I felt like Link did just before I moved. I had been pretending to be okay for so long, and my armor and fake face started to crack piece-by-piece until there was nothing left but the truth. Like Link, I had no chance of surviving in the broken place that my mind had created around me. However, in the game, just when the audience thought the the hero of Hyrule was not going to make it, Zelda’s own strength allowed him to rest and recover from the darkness for a little while.

I am not a hero but I can relate with a higher power intervening in my life. He would not allow me to give up so easily. Instead of leaving me, He gave me the strength to break into a million pieces, just so I could be put back together again.

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I now live in a major metropolis, and that is overwhelming when compared to the town that I grew up in. I am now living in a place with people that I do not know, and all of the luxuries of familiarity has been replaced with a clean slate. The memories of pain and survival are now swapped with a terrifying feeling of unknown. I know nothing about my surroundings and I am forced to come out of my head and go into the reality that is my life.

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There are two presences that always have been, and are still, extremely strong in my life — the God that I serve, and the person who means the most to me. Link is also faced with having to deal with waking up to all of his closest people being gone, and the world that he knew is completely different from when he went to sleep. He still has Zelda guiding him and he has some technology that will help him along the way. Despite these things being there to aid him in his quest, he still has to adapt to the current state of the world.

His journey is very unclear when he realizes that there is an entire world outside of the shrine that has nursed him for so long. Once Link leaves, he steps out to see the gigantic world of Hyrule. This realization reminds me that there is so much more to my life than just the small corner of the world that I grew up in. Zelda tells link to open his eyes, and he is forced to live again in the large world that he was once defeated in again.

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He now has an unclear journey ahead of him, but the difference is that he now has the will to move forward despite all of the pain that he experienced before he fell asleep. His memory is gone, but he still has emotions, and whenever he remembers important moments before he lost his memory he seems to be taken aback by his realizations that he has lost so much time. Yet he chooses to seize the moments he’s been given in the present. Link chooses to move forward, and so do I.

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Hi everyone, Matt here. Special thanks to these amazing bloggers for the amount of time and effort put into this collaboration. Each and every one of you deserves special recognition for sharing your memories and feelings in such an artistic way. When I started Normal Happenings, I had no idea there would be this much support for what started out as a simple exploration of my favorite land from video games.

If you liked this collaboration, please be sure to share on social media so others can enjoy the sights and sounds (and tastes) of Hyrule. Additionally, it will help each of these bloggers get the recognition they deserve.

As always, we welcome your feedback in the comments. What is your favorite location in The Legend of Zelda? Tell us about your memories of Hyrule, and if it’s still part of your life to this day.

Music mix was adapted by YouTuber Vapidbobcat based on the music of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild by Nintendo.
All Legend of Zelda related images are copyright Nintendo.

Help us make amazing designs, better collaborations, and even achieve our dreams of podcast and video content. Consider becoming one of the amazing patrons of Normal Happenings. We would be forever grateful! become_a_patron_button

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Published by

Matthew // Normal Happenings

Matthew Estes. STL-based Blogger. Graphic Designer. Happily Married. One day I'll actually complete a book I'm happy with. I love pizza, video games, and using way too many ellipses...

56 thoughts on “Hyrule: See the Sights! Hear the Sounds!

  1. THIS IS SO COOL!!! I love this collab!
    In Ocarina of Time my favorite parts of Hyrule are the fishing pond and Lon Lon Ranch. I love those little peaceful spots where you can take a break from the action. When I was a kid I would spend a lot of time in these safe spaces, despite holding back my progress of the game for a while in doing so.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is one of the most impressive, well put together and beautifully done blogging posts I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Thank you to everyone who participated and made it possible!

    Favorite places in all of Hyrule are Gerudo’s Valley from Ocarina of Time and Zora’s Domain in Majora’s Mask. The music of Gerudo’s Valley is still a favorite track and as a kid I used to spend hours in that area of Hyrule, role playing my own stories and repurposing the many rooms of the Gerudo’s fortress. As a person, I’m drawn to bodies of water and – when I can – swimming in them, so the Zora’s Domain in Majora’s Mask was a special treat since it was partly submerged and I was able to explore it as a Zora 😁.

    I’m going to tweet this out and, if it’s alright with Matthew, repost it on The Codex: Online so my followers can enjoy it too.

    Thanks again. Reading through this nostalgic post may or may not have brought some tears up to the surface as I was able to talk a mental walk back through some of my favorite places in gaming.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is fantastic, brilliant work by everyone involved and well done Matthew for organising it. I might have to try and put something like this together for World of Warcraft (if you don’t mind me nicking your idea?) as I feel about that game as you guys do about Zelda. This is incredible, you guys should be super proud of your accomplishment!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What’s an awesome idea! If you do ever want to do something like this for World of Warcraft, I would be more than happy to contribute! Although I haven’t played in about 2.5 years, I played for 10 years of my life, and had so many incredible experiences and memories. 🙂 ~ Jan

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This turned out so well! I loved reading everyone else’s memories and experiences for some games I haven’t had the pleasure of playing yet. It gets me so much more excited about the series to know that there are so many great places I can still experience for the first time. Thanks for organizing this, and to everyone else that participated: great work!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This is so emotional for me. It is so refreshing that I can relate to so many memories. I for one have lots of memories playing Zelda games growing up. Amazing work!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. This post is so clever! I love the huge collab and the music just makes it perfect. Speaking of, where did you get the mix from? Is there a way to get a copy? It is just so peaceful and pretty.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This came out awesome dude! Probably the big collabo of the year! I would’ve definitely taken you up on being in it but I’m not going to lie to you dude. I haven’t played a whole of Zelda growing up. (I know sad). If you do another big project like this I’m in (unless it’s Kirby themed). LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on Adventure Rules and commented:
    I’ve been involved in a number of collaborations of varying scale – perhaps one of the largest was this project on Normal Happenings! I contributed merely a few paragraphs of this massive exploration of the world of The Legend of Zelda, and I fully recommend you read all of the articles. They vary in tone from fond memories to silly stories to moving experiences, and each one is worth reading. Normal Happenings is working on a similarly huge project that’s due to hit the Web in November, so keep your eye on his blog for when that goes live!

    Liked by 1 person

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