Genre: Action, Adventure | Players: 1 | Developer: Nintendo EAD
A Link to the Past is the game that moved the Zelda franchise beyond the blind experimentation of the original and the mindless back and forth of its sequel. The upgrades in graphics and gameplay work in unison to finally crystalize what became the series’ keystones: exploration and puzzle-solving. It’s presented from a top-down perspective, like the first game, but secrets are marked clearly in both the overworld and dungeons. Emphasis is instead often placed on finding alternate entrances once one has been tantalized and stymied by what lies behind the easily visible ones. Also, navigating complex cave systems in order to mine them of all their treasures. Dungeons are composed of visually distinct wings and floors and maps make a return. Puzzles that span multiple floors replace exhaustive marches to elevators.
This is also the game that introduces the basic framework of the series: three dungeon items, Master Sword, more dungeon items, light arrows, Ganon(dorf). Though, the arrows are still silver, here. While it may have appeared in other games prior, for me LttP is the origin of the mechanic whereby one moves between two worlds in order to solve puzzles and progress. This went on to appear in Silent Hill Origins and the Constantine licensed game.
The second part of the game takes place primarily in the Dark World where you must retrieve nameless maidens from each of the dungeons before rescuing Zelda and scaling Ganon’s Tower. A Link Between Worlds replaces these maidens with a new generation of sages who are actually given dialogue and interactions with Link prior to them being kidnapped. This is the one true weakness of LttP, in my opinion. There’s a serviceable amount of lore on display, but there is virtually nothing in the way of character and story. I'm content with the level present in the 3D Zelda games, so I don't need MUCH, but I need SOME. Look, I don’t need or want story in Mega Man games, so you have my empathy and respect, even if I don’t have yours in this particular case.
If all you're looking for is solid 2D gameplay, though, you won't find much better on the SNES, or anywhere else, really.
Buyer’s Guide: Originally an SNES game, it’s also available on Game Boy Advance and the Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles. The viewable area is somewhat cropped on GBA, however, so I’d recommend not seeking out that version unless it’s truly your only viable option. Several altered versions of the game were broadcast on Satellaview, but just wiki that yourself or check out Clan of the Grey Wolf’s retrospective if you’re curious from a historical perspective.
3 Catfishes 4x weak to Grass out of 5