Despite all the technological advances in the almost-18 years since Ocarina of Time’s debut on the Nintendo 64, it still dwarfs its competition . It was revolutionary in so many different ways and despite the fact that it is almost 20 years old, it still holds up incredibly well. It is not only one of the best games ever, it is the greatest game ever made, even among Zelda games, which is no small feat. Zelda isn’t just one of the premiere Nintendo franchises in the west; it is one of the premiere franchises in the west. There are a multitude of different reasons that set Ocarina of Time apart from both Zelda games and current-generation games alike, but none more than the perfect balance that the game maintains between gameplay and story.
Ocarina of Time introduced a revolutionary gameplay mechanic that has been emulated to this day, even in other Zelda titles: music. The Ocarina as a gameplay mechanic was ingenious, and just one of the reasons the game was so innovative. The music itself in the game was fantastic too, and it is arguably Koji Kondo’s best score out of every game he’s worked on. Ocarina of Time also brought Zelda into 3D, building off of what Super Mario 64 did, but with a vastly improved camera system and Z-targeting, which was unheard of at the time. It was implemented flawlessly, and again, developers still emulate this facet of the game to this day. Being revolutionary doesn’t necessarily make a game stand the test of time though.
What makes Ocarina of Time so great is the fact that it is able to maintain the perfect balance between gameplay and story. While the story may seem rather simple when it’s broken down to its basic roots, it is a story that resonates with us all. A lonely youth sets off on an adventure and conquers an unspeakable evil, making friends along the way and ultimately saves the day as a chosen hero. We are all the “chosen” ones in our own lives, as we are the center of our own experiences, so this aspect of the game is not far off. Everyone at some point in life feels like they are somehow different, like they don’t fit in, as Link does in the beginning of Ocarina of Time; or at least, that’s what I projected onto him. Stories are how people make sense of their lives, dating back to the ancient Greeks, and Ocarina of time boils this down to its absolute basics, which is one of the reasons it is such a great story. It’s not convoluted or over complicated; it serves its purpose, and does so in miraculous fashion to the point where any and everyone can relate to it.
The second reason why Ocarina of Time is still the greatest game of all time, of course, is the gameplay. The Ocarina/music gameplay mechanic still is one of the best in all of gaming. Z-targeting is still used in games to this day, and using your sword and shield simultaneously in combat is both a lot of fun and works incredibly well. It was one of the first instances this was used in a console game, especially with the move to 3D. The characters are memorable and the minigames are abundant along with plenty of sidequests, giving the player a lot to do.
The dungeons are still some of the best designed in the entire Zelda series, and beyond that, all of gaming, with dungeons such as the Spirit Temple and the Forest Temple standing out as some of the best (although there are definitely more.) The puzzles and dungeons are so well designed, and although yes, the Water Temple was a bit difficult, isn’t that what makes it so great? It was so rewarding to finally beat that temple! The boss battles are nothing to take lightly either; they are astounding and still distinguish themselves as some of the best out there, with Twinrova, Phantom Ganon, Volvagia, Ganondorf, etc.The final boss Ganon still maintains his spot as the greatest final boss of all time and the atmosphere, not only concerning these bosses but the game in general is also one of the things that makes it so fantastical. It is also, simply put, a lot of fun to play. Figuring out puzzles is fun. Combat is fun. The story is fun yet serious at the same time. It has that classic Nintendo vibe that no other game has been able to emulate since.
Forget the Metacritic scores and the Gameranking scores, although the game is still up there as one of the best on both of those sites. Ocarina of Time is still the best game ever made. Its balance of gameplay and story is unprecedented, succeeding equally in both aspects and telling a tale that is timeless in the hearts and minds of us all. The gameplay revolutionized 3D gaming as we know it, although that is not why it is still the best game ever made. The gameplay stands up to this day, even in the 3D remake for the Nintendo 3DS. Story, gameplay, and fun is what makes a game so incredible, and Ocarina of Time does all of these things masterfully. Despite the countless games that have come out since then and the number of Zelda games that have come out in the past 17 1/2 years, Ocarina of Time still dwarfs them all. It’s the greatest game of all time, hands down, which is incredible considering the amount of time that has passed.