The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is an action-adventure game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 64. It was released in Japan and North America in November 1998, and in PAL regions the following month. Ocarina of Time is the fifth game in The Legend of Zelda series, and the first with 3D graphics.
It was developed by Nintendo EAD, led by five directors including Eiji Aonuma and Yoshiaki Koizumi, produced by series co-creator Shigeru Miyamoto, and written by Kensuke Tanabe. Veteran Zelda series composer Koji Kondo created the musical score. The player controls Link in the fantasy land of Hyrule on a quest to stop the evil king Ganondorf, by traveling through time and navigating dungeons and an overworld. The game introduced features such as a target-lock system and context-sensitive buttons that have since become common in 3D adventure games. The player must learn to play numerous songs on an ocarina to progress.
Ocarina of Time received widespread acclaim from critics and consumers and won several awards and accolades, who praised its visuals, sound, gameplay, soundtrack, and writing. It has been ranked by numerous publications as the greatest video game of all time, and is the highest-rated game of all time on the review aggregator Metacritic. It was commercially successful, with more than seven million copies sold worldwide. In the United States, it received more than three times more pre-orders than any other video game at the time, and was the best-selling game of 1998 in the country.
A direct sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, was released in 2000. In the early 2000s, Ocarina of Time was re-released as part of The Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition promotional disc for the GameCube and for the iQue Player in China. An enhanced version of the game for the Nintendo 3DS, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, was released in 2011. Both versions feature Master Quest, an alternative version of the game including new puzzles and increased difficulty.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a fantasy action-adventure game set in an expansive environment.The player controls series protagonist Link from a third-person perspective in a three-dimensional world. Link primarily fights with a sword and shield, but can also use other weapons such as projectiles, bombs, and magic spells. The control scheme introduced techniques such as context-sensitive actions and a targeting system called “Z-targeting”, which allows the player to have Link focus and latch onto enemies or other objects.
When using this technique, the camera follows the target and Link constantly faces it. Projectile attacks are automatically directed at the target and do not require manual aiming. Context-sensitive actions allow multiple tasks to be assigned to one button, simplifying the control scheme. The on-screen display shows what will happen when the button is pushed and changes depending on what the character is doing. For example, the same button that causes Link to push a box if he is standing next to it will have him climb on the box if the analog stick is pushed toward it. Much of the game is spent in battle, but some parts require the use of stealth.
Link gains new abilities by collecting items and weapons found in dungeons or in the overworld. Not all are required—Ocarina of Time has several optional side quests and minor objectives that the player can choose to complete or ignore. Completing the side quests usually results in rewards such as new weapons or abilities. In one side quest, Link trades items he cannot use himself among non-player characters. This trading sequence features ten items and ends with Link receiving an item he can use, the two-handed Biggoron Sword, the strongest sword in the game. In another side quest, Link can acquire a horse. This allows him to travel faster but attacking while riding is restricted to arrows.
Link is given an ocarina near the beginning of the game, which is later replaced by the Ocarina of Time. Throughout the game, Link learns twelve melodies that allow him to solve music-based puzzles and teleport to previously visited locations. The Ocarina of Time is also used to claim the Master Sword in the Temple of Time. When Link takes the sword, he is transported seven years into the future and becomes an adult. Young Link and adult Link have different abilities. For example, only adult Link can use the Fairy Bow, and only young Link can fit through certain small passages. After completing certain tasks, Link can travel freely between the two time periods by replacing and taking the sword.
The fairy Navi awakens Link from a nightmare in which he witnesses a man in black armor pursuing a young girl on horseback. Navi brings Link to the Great Deku Tree, who is cursed and near death. The Deku Tree tells Link a “wicked man of the desert” cursed him and seeks to conquer the world, and that Link must stop him. Before dying, the Great Deku Tree gives Link the Spiritual Stone of the Forest and sends him to Hyrule Castle to speak with Hyrule’s princess.
At the Hyrule Castle garden, Link meets Princess Zelda, who believes Ganondorf, the evil sorcerer Gerudo king, is seeking the Triforce, a holy relic that gives its holder godlike power. Zelda asks Link to obtain the three Spiritual Stones so he can enter the Sacred Realm and claim the Triforce before Ganondorf reaches it. Link collects the other two stones: the first from Darunia, leader of the Gorons, and the second from Ruto, princess of the Zoras. Link returns to Hyrule Castle, where he sees Ganondorf chase Zelda and her caretaker Impa on horseback, like in his nightmare, and unsuccessfully attempts to stop him.Inside the Temple of Time, he uses the Ocarina of Time, a gift from Zelda, and the Spiritual Stones to open the door to the Sacred Realm. There he finds the Master Sword, but as he pulls it from its pedestal, Ganondorf, having snuck into the Temple after Link, appears and claims the Triforce.
Seven years later, an older Link awakens in the Sacred Realm and is met by Rauru, one of the seven Sages who protects the entrance to the Sacred Realm. Rauru explains that Link’s spirit was sealed for seven years until he was old enough to wield the Master Sword and defeat Ganondorf, the sorcerer king of evil, who has now taken over Hyrule.
The seven sages can imprison Ganondorf in the Sacred Realm, but five are unaware of their identities as sages. Link is returned to the Temple of Time, where he meets the mysterious Sheik, who guides him to free five temples from Ganondorf’s control and allow each temple’s sage to awaken. Link befriended all five sages as a child: his childhood friend Saria, the Sage of the Forest Temple; Darunia, the Sage of the Fire Temple; Ruto, the Sage of the Water Temple; Impa, the Sage of the Shadow Temple; and Nabooru, leader of the Gerudos in Ganondorf’s absence, the Sage of the Spirit Temple. After the five sages awaken, Sheik reveals herself to be Zelda in disguise, and the seventh sage. She tells Link that Ganondorf’s heart was unbalanced, causing the Triforce to split into three pieces. Ganondorf acquired only the Triforce of Power, while Zelda received the Triforce of Wisdom and Link the Triforce of Courage.
Ganondorf appears and kidnaps Zelda, imprisoning her in his castle. The other six sages help Link infiltrate the stronghold; Link frees Zelda after defeating Ganondorf, who destroys the castle in an attempt to kill Link and Zelda. After they escape the collapsing castle, Ganondorf emerges from the rubble and transforms into a boar-like beast named Ganon using the Triforce of Power, knocking the Master Sword from Link’s hand; with Zelda’s aid, Link retrieves the Master Sword and defeats Ganon. The seven sages seal Ganondorf in the Dark Realm; still holding the Triforce of Power, he vows to take revenge on their descendants. Zelda uses the Ocarina of Time to send Link back to his childhood. Navi departs and young Link meets Zelda in the castle garden once more, where he retains knowledge of Hyrule’s fate, starting with Hyrule’s decline.
Ocarina of Time was first shown as a technical and thematic demonstration video at Nintendo’s Shoshinkai trade show in December 1995. Nintendo planned to release Super Mario 64 as a launch game for the Nintendo 64 and later release Ocarina of Time for the 64DD, a disk drive peripheral for the system that was still in development. Issues regarding performance of the 64DD peripheral led to development being moved from disk to cartridge media, and thus the game would miss its scheduled 1997 holiday season release and was delayed into 1998. They planned to follow its release with a 64DD expansion disk.
Throughout the late 1990s, the Nintendo 64 was said to lack hit first-party games. Next Generation wrote that “Nintendo absolutely can’t afford another holiday season without a real marquee title” and that Zelda was “one of the most anticipated games of the decade”, upon which the Nintendo 64’s fate depended. In March 1998, Ocarina of Time was the most anticipated Nintendo 64 game in Japan. Chairman Howard Lincoln insisted at E3 1998 that Zelda ship on time and become Nintendo’s reinvigorating blockbuster, akin to a hit Hollywood movie.
Customers in North America who pre-ordered the Ocarina of Time received a limited-edition box with a golden plastic card reading “Collector’s Edition”. This edition contained a gold-colored cartridge, a tradition that began with the original Legend of Zelda (1986) for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Demand was so great that Electronics Boutique stopped pre-selling the game on November 3, 1998.
Several versions of Ocarina of Time were produced, with later revisions featuring minor changes such as glitch repairs, the recoloring of Ganondorf’s blood from crimson to green, and the alteration of the music heard in the Fire Temple dungeon to remove a sample of an Islamic prayer chant. The sample was taken from a commercially available sound library, but the developers did not realize it contained Islamic references. Although popularly believed to have been changed due to public outcry, the chanting was removed after Nintendo discovered it violated policy of avoiding religious material, and the altered versions of Ocarina of Time were made prior to the original release.