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Zelda 35th Anniversary: Why Zelda is Nintendo’s Star Wars

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This past week, The Legend of Zelda celebrated its 35th anniversary. Any series that lasts that long must have something special going for it. Why has the Zelda series captured our imaginations and never let go, when so many other early NES franchises have disappeared into the mists of gaming history?

Part of the answer lies in the games themselves. Ever since the very first installment, Zelda games have combined satisfying combat with clever puzzles, and explorable overworlds with devious dungeons. Zelda games often have memorable music and gorgeous graphics. And yet, you could say the same thing about plenty of other series, from Dragon Age to God of War. What makes Zelda, specifically, feel like a timeless cultural institution?

After thinking it over, I’ve come to the conclusion that “cultural” is the operative word in that sentence. Zelda feels distinctly different from other video game stories because it’s not structured like a video game story. It’s structured like a story that humans have been telling ourselves over and over since the dawn of our species: the monomyth. And if “monomyth” doesn’t sound familiar, don’t worry: You’ve heard it, too, probably more times than you realize.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

What is the monomyth? 

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