The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has long been heralded as one of the greatest games of all time. Since its release in 1998, it’s been a mainstay in the gaming world — an undisputed classic. The game has seen a few rereleases over the years, including a remaster for the 3DS in 2011 titled Ocarina of Time 3D and a Switch port via Nintendo Online’s N64 collection. With the recent release of Tears of the Kingdom, there are sure to be more than a few new Zelda fans out there. Whether you’re among this new crop of die-hard fans looking to explore the series’ back catalog, looking to break into the series, or just want to try out a gaming classic, this article is for you. We’ll be analyzing the game’s undying praise to see if Ocarina of Time is worth playing in 2023.
Let’s get started!
The story of Ocarina of Time, while simple, is still enjoyable. At the time of Ocarina‘s release, story was just beginning to be a focus in gaming. For years beforehand, most games either didn’t really have a story or placed them firmly in the background. A Link to the Past had a story, but it didn’t match the scope and heart of Ocarina of Time.
Many of gaming’s most celebrated stories also still retained a certain disconnect from the player. Final Fantasy VII, which released the previous year and garnered similar undying praise, was still reliant on turn-based combat. Ocarina, meanwhile, managed to tell an engaging story which truly putting you in Link’s boots. You weren’t just slowly giving orders to your character, you actively controlled him. This lent a certain sense of adventure to the game that hadn’t really been captured before.
The story is a very archetypical hero’s journey. Link, in his first struggle against the evil Ganondorf, must save all of Hyrule from certain doom. To do this, you must journey across time and space to find the seven Sages, seal Ganondorf away, and put a stop to his malicious plans. It’s interesting, engaging, and features some genuinely surprising twists. It offers a real adventure with fun (if sometimes bland) characters and many unique locales.
Unfortunately, many games have simply outdone the innovations trailblazed in Ocarina of Time. Nowadays, there are plenty of titles that have achieved better storytelling than Ocarina, including other Zelda games. Many would argue that even the game’s direct follow-up, Majora’s Mask, offers a more engaging and compelling narrative. That said, Ocarina still manages to deliver a fun story that’s worth your time (no pun intended). It can also be really fun to see where the series’ tropes began, as well as the groundwork for countless gaming stories to come.
Ocarina of Time set the formula for 3D Zelda games. You view the game from a third-person perspective, generally viewing Link’s back. Players coming from Tears of the Kingdom may find the controls (especially in combat) obtuse at first. In the context of modern controls, Ocarina can feel a bit stiff and janky. However, give yourself a bit to adjust, and the controls start to make more sense. Eventually, it’ll be just like riding a bike.
That said, they could still potentially be a deal breaker for some people. If you’re one of those who’s turned off entirely from the controls, consider playing the remake on 3DS. Ocarina of Time 3D introduced a few overhauls to gameplay that make the overall experience much smoother.
The N64 didn’t have a second stick, leading to limited camera control. However, Nintendo utilized the Z-button to introduce a gaming mechanic still present in the series today. Z-targeting (or L-targeting, depending on your system), swings the camera to face Link’s back or lock onto an enemy. Oddly enough, this can make the combat somewhat resemble the Dark Souls series. You lock onto an enemy, focusing on them, and swing your sword when they’re vulnerable.
When they are vulnerable, that is. The game’s garnered its fair share of (justifiable) criticism over how long it makes you wait in combat. Most enemies spend a long time being invulnerable, forcing you to sit there with your shield up and wait for an opening.
Overall, the gameplay of Ocarina of Time is fun, though it definitely shows its age compared to more recent titles like Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom. If you’re looking to play a classic Zelda game for its gameplay, you’re better off looking elsewhere. Wind Waker and Twilight Princess refined the gameplay quite a lot, leading to those games generally feeling much smoother despite their own age.
Puzzles, Bosses, and Dungeons
This is one aspect where Ocarina of Time shines. The boss fights are woefully simple (use item on boss, hit boss with sword, repeat), but the dungeons they inhabit are not. Each of the game’s twelve dungeons have distinct aesthetics and mechanics. From Jabu-Jabu’s disturbingly organic appearance to the Shadow Temple’s genuine creepy factor, each dungeon feels unique, and you’d rarely mistake a room in one dungeon for a room in another.
Though the game has an annoying tendency to hold your hand a bit too much, solving the dungeon puzzles is a lot of fun. Zelda dungeons have always been great, and Ocarina really only has one ordeal that you have to slog through. There have been better dungeons since Ocarina, but pretty much all of the ones in this game are good fun to explore.
So, Is Ocarina of Time Still worth Playing?
There’s no denying that Ocarina of Time shows its age in 2023. Honestly, the only reason to play Ocarina is because you really want to play Ocarina. If you want to play a Zelda game with a gripping and dramatic story, Twilight Princess is a better option. Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom both boast smoother gameplay. Wind Waker offers more charming visuals that have aged far better. Even Majora’s Mask, which was released on the same system only a year later, innovates and improves on Ocarina’s formula.
All this said, Ocarina of Time genuinely is a classic, both because of and despite its flaws. Gaming wouldn’t exist today as we know it without Ocarina. It introduced an entire generation to concepts rarely seen before in video games. There may not be much reason to play it over many other games, but there’s still reason to play it. At the end of the day, it’s a fun game. Why else do we play games if not to have fun?
Every gamer owes it to themselves to at least give Ocarina of Time a shot. If nothing else, it’s a look into the foundations of modern gaming by playing one of the art form’s most beloved works. It may not have aged as gracefully as some of its peers, and it may have been done better by future rereleases and sequels. Nonetheless, we would still say that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is definitely worth playing in 2023.
Join the High Ground
That wraps up our thoughts on if Ocarina of Time is worth playing in 2023. If you have any further thoughts, questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to leave a comment below or share this post on social media. And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more guides and gaming content.