It is already obvious that many of us on staff are major Legend of Zelda fans; copmbined, we we have soaked up hundreds of hours across every single game in the series. The impact that these great video games have made in the gaming industry is significant enough such that many other titles have taken more than a few notes from the beloved series. Here are ten video games that were heavily inspired by the Legend of Zelda, some very loosely, and others that aren’t afraid to blatantly pay homage.
Players take control of Prince Ali who discovers a golden armlet that is destined for a battle against the wielder of a silver armlet. The objective is for Ali to use the golden armlet to summon four elemental spirits from their shrines. A Zelda-like straight out of the gate, Beyond Oasis establishes prophecy and one large collection quest. The combat also works exactly like you might expect from a top-down 2-D Zelda game. Prince Ali’s main weapon is a dagger, but players have the ability to pick up swords and various ranged weapons like bombs and crossbows. These weapons also come with limited use and run out if you use them up too much.
Beyond Oasis was released in 1995 on the Sega Genesis. I discovered it back in my teenage years when, admittedly, I had my nose in emulation of illegal roms (which we do not condone). I knew it as Story of Thor as it was called in Europe. Having owned a Genesis much longer than I ever owned an SNES, I was surprised that my brother and I somehow missed this one. To this day, I believe it is one of the best looking video games on that console, due to its clean hand-drawn art style and smooth gameplay.
For anyone craving nostalgia for the original Legend of Zelda, this is one is for you. 3D Dot Game Heroes was developed by Silicon Studio, who are best known for Bravely Default and Bravely Second on the Nintendo 3DS. It was released over in Japan in 2009 and published by FromSoftware, but we can thank Atlus for localization and bringing it to the US a year later. While presented in a 3-D space, 3D Dot Game Heroes still holds its 8-bit inspiration and looks like a giant Lego set as a result. The story is simple: the hero must collect six magical orbs to save the kingdom of Dotnia from the evil Dark King Onyx.
Players create their character using the game’s 3-D sprite editor, so let your imagine run wild. The health bar is measured by how large your sword is, and that very same sword can be leveled up in length or width and grow to massive proportions. Like a typical Zelda game, players will travel across the overworld and various dungeons with puzzles standing in your way. Boomerangs, bows, lanterns, and more secondary weapons make an appearance because this wouldn’t be a Zelda-like without them. 3D Dot Game Heroes is perfect for any Legend of Zelda fan who just cant go another day without saving a kingdom from darkness.
There are many Zelda clones out there, but none have seen as much exposure as Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas. Initially released exclusively to iOS in 2013, Oceanhorn saw great reception and retained a score of 85 on Metacritic for quite some time. Critics praised its presentation for being an unashamed Zelda rip-off on their mobile devices, though it fell short in other areas. Oceanhorn carries the cartoon-like style of Wind Waker with less cel-shading. The camera angle is also isometric which gives the gameplay a top-down Zelda feel. Now that Oceanhorn has released on just about every platform, it has been met with average scores due to the fact that it just doesn’t fit right on home consoles.
On the site we actually have two reviews for both the PC and PS4 versions. Both reviewers fall in line with the rest of the internet and gave positive marks for the presentation. Former writer Chris Theiblot also gave Oceanhorn positive marks for its Zelda-like mechanics, whereas Kelly’s opinion fell on the opposite side of the spectrum and exclaimed that “Oceanhorn is to Zelda as Sam’s Choice is to Coca-Cola.” First gameplay for Oceanhorn 2 running on an iPhone 7 Plus was revealed a few days ago, and continues to embrace its influence and is already taking notes from Breath of the Wild. This franchise will clearly not be finding its own identity any time soon.
Next on our list is Shining Soul II, from Atlus and Sega, a dungeon-crawling action RPG that shares many features with games like Diablo and and Baldur’s Gate, such as leveling up and tons of loot. Released in 2004 on the Game Boy Advance, Shining Soul II is an entry in Sega’s long lasting “Shining” series. Being a direct sequel to the first Shining Soul released on GBA, there are various indirect nods and references to other characters and events from past entries. Shining Soul II’s presentation greatly resembles the style of A Link to the Past and other RPG titles we know and love from the SNES days.
I feel that Shining Soul II belongs on this list solely for its combat and presentation. When I played it, my first thought was that it looked like a Zelda game with its top-down 2D art style and presentation. Along with that came the combat, which also feels very Zelda-like in my hands. It also carries the all so familiar classic light versus darkness theme. There are eight characters with very unique play styles, ten dungeons, and eight hidden dungeons—thats a lot of replayability! I first discovered Shining Soul II while doing some trade-ins at EB Games back in the day, and it became one of my favorite GBA games of all time, and the one personal favorite I chose to mix into the list. Unfortunately it did suffer a mixed reception.
Here we have a major sleeper hit, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy—released way back in 2004 on the PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube. The game was recieved positively for its presentation, story, characters, and gameplay. Unfortunately, the it woefully underperformed and saw lackluster sales across each platform. Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy takes place in a mythical ancient Egypt. Players take control of Sphinx and Prince Tutankhamen. The story begins as the prince is turned into an undead mummy by his evil brother. Sphinx intervenes in the plot and aims to help the prince return to life.
Sphinx and the cursed Mummy strongly resemble the 3D era of the Zelda series through combat, puzzles, and exploration. Players switch between Sphinx and Prince Tut through various scenarios—Sphinx wields the blade of Osiris and takes care of the combat and exploration looking for fragments of the Prince’s soul. While trapped in Castle Uruk, Prince Tut navigates the dangerous traps and puzzles; his undead body is used humorously to complete said puzzles as he falls victim to many traps that would end his life if he were indeed living. When I played Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy during its initial release, I enjoyed it very much. I believe it was criminally overlooked by people who would have enjoyed it if they could get their hands on it today. I’m curious whether THQ Nordic can get a hold of this IP once held by the original THQ and possibly bring this diamond in the rough back from the dead as a PS2 classic or remaster.
Hyper Light Drifter is a top-down action adventure game inspired by the 8-bit and 16-bit eras of gaming. It was released in March of 2016, and everywhere else in July a few months later. Players take control of the Drifter who is in possession of long forgotten technology, he also suffers from an unknown deadly illness—a story concept which is based on the lead designers’ heart disease. The Drifter wields an energy sword and a pistol that refills on ammunition when enemies are hit with the sword. Hyper Light Drifter’s reception was very positive, with many critics and fans comparing it to A Link to the Past.
That comparison likely comes from the top-down exploration; that inspiration is clearly seen when opening the map. While the combat is also similar, I would say it is more akin to the Dark Souls series due to its difficulty curve and enemies that get increasingly tougher. Our reviewer gave Hyper Light Drifter a 9.2 particularly for its art style, presentation, and the context-driven narrative. It is worth noting that the tone is fairly somber—aside from Majora’s Mask most Zelda fans are more familiar with the upbeat fantastical “I’m going to defeat evil” tone that the series is known for. Fans experienced that somberness most recently with Breath of the Wild‘s minimal use of music and a big empty environment. That change in tone seemed to bee fans’ biggest complaint; in that case Hyper Light Drifter may not be for you.
From the creators of the Rayman series, Beyond Good & Evil was released in 2003. Another title on the list that was a commercial failure, and yet critically acclaimed and was even nominated for Game of the Year in 2004’s Game Developers Choice Awards. The game’s story is centered around the character of Jade, a skilled reporter that is working with a resistance group to expose a major conspiracy. Beyond Good & Evil has become something of a cult favorite, and fans have been waiting for a sequel which has been in and out of development for almost a decade. As of November 2016, the development team has now put full focus into developing the sequel since their work is now done on Rayman Legends.
Much like any of our favorite Legend of Zelda games, Beyond Good & Evil is fondly remembered for its personality found within the characters and setting. One of the key differences is that this game falls more into the sci-fi genre, while most of the titles on the list carry a fantasy setting. The main objective is to gain photographic evidence of the conspiracy. Jade’s camera is easily the most important mechanic, but the puzzle solving and combat we are all familiar with his here with some stealth segments heavily blended in. Instead of a horse, we get to use a hovercraft to explore the world. The world of Beyond Good & Evil is a memorable one in the same way we think of Hyrule, including the wacky NPCs and mini-games that give us a complete package. An HD version was released sometime later on Steam, Xbox Live Arcade, and Playstation Network.
Next on our list is none other than Star Fox Adventures, Rare’s last title for Nintendo before the company was acquired by Microsoft as a first-party developer to make video games on the Xbox 360. Star Fox Adventures was released in 2002 on the Gamecube, but it was not originally going to be a Star Fox game or on that console. The original name for Adventures was Dinosaur Planet, and was intended as Rare’s next project on the Nintendo 64. After Shigeru Miyamoto noticed similarities to Star Fox, he suggested that the game be absorbed into the series. The result was a beautiful looking Zelda-like.
Star Fox Adventures was criticized for not being a proper sequel to Star Fox 64. There were only a handful of the classic on-rails Arwing missions which occurred when going to another section on the planet. Fox is instructed by General Pepper to go in unarmed, and he later acquires a staff that is utilized in melee combat and various puzzles. Fox traverses through a visually stunning Dinosaur Planet that even has a Day/Night cycle and meets all sorts of anthropomorphic dinos. This adventure is also where we meet Krystal for the first time, who was intended to be the main character in the original design for Dinosaur Planet. Star Fox Adventures is an obvious recommendation for any Zelda or Nintendo fan, and is one of the best looking video games on the Nintendo Gamecube.
In 2010, THQ released the first game in the Darksiders series. We did get to see the second chapter for the four-part story before THQ filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and auctioned off all of their intellectual properties. Until the remastered versions were released, many fans did not expect a new entry to the series which is now the recently-announced Darksiders 3. This franchise is very loosely based on the biblical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and events in the book of Revelation. The horseman War wakes up from his slumber during the final battle between Heaven and Hell, only to discover that the other Horsemen have not been woken and that the seventh seal is unbroken. War is found accused of awakening prematurely, he aims to prove his innocence by finding the true culprit.
Not only does the Darksiders series have a unique story, but it also carries a unique blend of gameplay. The combat resembles heavy action titles like God of War and Devil May Cry, while the exploration and dungeons resemble The Legend of Zelda series. Darksiders II went down an action RPG route by adding a loot system for players to equip various levels of gear and weapons throughout their journey. Everything that fans loved about the first game was all there, including the puzzles. The Darksiders games are some of my personal all-time favorites, especially for the comic book-like art style. Like many other fans, I eagerly await the next entry.
Released late into the Playstation 2’s lifecycle, Okami was the final game released by Clover Studio before it was closed a few months later. Taking place in a feudal Japan setting, the characters and events combine many Japanese myths and folklore. Players take control of the Shinto sun-goddess Amaterasu who takes the form of a white wolf in order to stop a re-awakened evil and restore the cursed land of Nippon by using a divine tool called the Celestial brush. The game’s presentation is cel-shaded but heavily inspired by the Japanese sumi-e(ink washed) paintings. That artistic influence is further used as players restore the world, which becomes more beautiful, colorful, and vibrant as progress goes on.
Director Hideki Kamiya said himself that the Legend of Zelda was an extreme influence in the overall design of the game. Okami features a focus on combat, puzzles, and exploration which involves plenty of side quests. The Celestial brush is not only the most important tool, it is also the most important mechanic. It is used by drawing gesture on the screen after slowing down the world via a button press, enemies are defeated by drawing a line through them while other miracles are performed by doing more painting-like gestures—these mechanics are further refined in the later Wii and PS3 versions with motion controls. Okami was yet another victim or poor commercial success and critical acclaim, it has become more beloved over time and now considered to be one of the greatest video games of all time due to its artistic expression.
Let us know in the comments what you think of the list, and some of your favorite Zelda-like video games that probably didn’t make it on the List.
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