Way Back When
In 1993, anybody who was anybody was rocking a Game Boy, and Nintendo was determined to keep that going with a fresh entry in one of their most popular franchises of all time. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening marked the franchise’s first appearance on a handheld system, but more importantly, it was a vast departure in terms of story and setting. Unlike previous games in the canon, Link’s Awakening didn’t even take place in Hyrule or feature the titular Princess Zelda whatsoever. Instead, it began with Link washed ashore Koholint Island and then saw him seek out eight magical instruments that would aid him in leaving the island and resuming his travels across the sea.
Its black and white visuals (or, well, black and green) and a unique setting were certainly different at the time, but the change in aesthetics didn’t mean Link’s Awakening diverged from the series’ gameplay roots. Sure, the game took an unexpected page from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link by introducing a handful of brief side-scrolling segments – even going so far as to include Goombas from the Mario franchise – but almost everything else about Link’s Awakening felt very familiar. As with most Zelda games, it featured plenty of dungeons to explore, creative and dangerous enemies to fell, useful items to find and wield, and well-hidden secrets to uncover. And considering it was aiming to bring such a popular series to an entirely different new kind of hardware, it’s probably best that it kept its gameplay familiar.
Surprising almost no one, Link’s Awakening was a critical and commercial success for Nintendo. It went on to get a re-release for the Game Boy Color in 1998 as Link’s Awakening DX, which added color to the graphics and offer an exclusive dungeon. Link’s Awakening DX remained otherwise identical to the original experience and marked the only other version of the game until 2019’s full remake for Nintendo Switch. This gorgeous version of Link’s fourth outing overhauled the graphics with a new art style, introduced a tilted camera angle, and tightened up a few mini-game controls, but it still largely provides the true experience of the original and is a perfectly solid option for those seeking to enjoy this often overlooked game.
Where You Can Play It Now
Sadly, Nintendo hasn’t done the best job of keeping this particular game easy to access on modern hardware. As of this writing, there’s only one modern system where it can be played, and it’s worth noting that even that version is the upgraded Game Boy Color edition. Luckily, the Nintendo Switch remake is extremely faithful to the original despite its vastly different art style and a few quality of life updates, so if you don’t own a 3DS, that’s going to be your best bet.
Here’s the modern platforms on which you can access The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening:
- Nintendo 3DS (Virtual Console)
Though Nintendo hasn’t shown a lot of love to the original version of Link’s Game Boy adventure in recent years, the remake is still a wonderful entry point. And with so many other excellent Zelda games to play on modern systems, at least you know you have plenty of other journeys you can take if this one isn’t doable for you.