Shigeru Miyamoto On Why The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Is Revered

By Ishaan . March 11, 2011 . 6:03pm

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64 (1998).


A lot of people consider The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to be one of the best games ever made, but ask Zelda creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, as to why that is, and he may not have an answer for you right away.


Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata, posed the question to Miyamoto in another recent “Iwata Asks” interview, this time dealing with Ocarina of Time 3D for the Nintendo 3DS. One reason for Ocarina’s popularity, Iwata personally feels, is that it contained a lot of “first experiences” for its time.


“The foundation lies in the puzzles that have appeared in The Legend of Zelda franchise since the first game,” Miyamoto suggested, on his part. “It’s taking that traditional series material and skillfully transposing it to 3D that really makes the game The Legend of Zelda. When we took series elements and used 3D composition, things just got more and more interesting.”


The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D on the Nintendo 3DS (2011).


“It was the most primitive, and the freest. That’s all there is to it,” he continued. “It isn’t that subsequent games lost that freedom, only that the games which were put out later simply had more things which needed to have attention paid to them.”


“Of course,” he said, “even Ocarina had traditional elements dating up to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the Super Nintendo, so it wasn’t completely free. It’s just that it was the first 3D Zelda game, and we were able to explore what would be most interesting about making it in 3D without worrying about much else. I think that may be a big part of it.”


Miyamoto feels that, in this sense, Ocarina of Time is similar to the first Star Wars movie (commonly dubbed “A New Hope”). It isn’t that the movies that followed it weren’t good, but being the first of its kind made it special.

  • This game is definitely one of my favourite games.

    “It was the most primitive, and the freest. That’s all there is to it,”. Yeah, was certainly its charm back in the day. In various aspects, it’s a template for a majority of the RPGs that came after it.

  • It was my first zelda game, i rented it and beat it.

    but i have more of an attachment to majoras mask since i owned it and did more playthroughs of it

  • Zero_Destiny

    Yes, Mr. Miyamoto I can definitely vouch for that. Everything just clicks and is magical when it’s your first time. The old “underdog” kind of ideal. It’s new and fresh and exciting. I definitely feel that new excitement every time I played this baby. Can’t wait to buy it yet again. :D

  • Exkaiser

    Mm, I was never big on Ocarina, even back before Majora’s Mask came out.

    But, hey, the remake looks pretty nice! I can appreciate it even if I’m not a fan of the game.

  • Tokyo Guy

    At the risk of saying “it’s obvious”, it’s a perfectly valid point. The only real reason the N64 was as successful as it was, in retrospect, seems to be because of the first experience type scenario. Mario 64 was the first game of its kind basically, and thus even though the Playstation and Saturn released earlier, it was ultimately Nintendo that had the first 3D action adventure game. Likewise, Zelda was the first real 3D Action RPG/Adventure.

    When you look at most of the other software on the N64 however, nothing was really that memorable or special. I think the lack of selection in the Virtual Console store even servers as a testament to this belief.

    On a side note, the other day I was playing Yoshi’s Story on Virtual Console and it suddenly stuck me how “experimental” the game was. There is a certain quality about the game that is uniquely distinctive to the Nintendo 64. At the time it was great, but looking at it now the game seems somewhat unrefined, unpolished, and as I said, experimental.

    As a final comment, it’s really sad that Nintendo is yet AGAIN re-releasing this game. How many times now have we gotten Ocarina of Time? The original, then the re-released version with Master Quest, then the Virtual Console version, and now a 3DS version. Am I the only one who feels the company should make a NEW 3D Zelda game for the 3DS? And I don’t mean a gimmicky one like Spirit Tracks, I mean a real one like Ocarina of Time. Why is it these games must be for home consoles only?

    • Well basically handheld legend of zelda games are improving first 2D then they changed with the DS maybe ocarina of time 3DS is just a test just like how Atlus is testing HD consoles with catherine before they make Persona 5

      • Tokyo Guy

        Well I for one would love to see a new 2D Zelda game, like the old ones.

    • What’s “gimmicky”? Explain to me what this means.

      • Tokyo Guy

        Ah by that I was referring to the fact that the DS games are entirely touch based and, most significantly, both involve a gimmick by which you travel: the ship and then the train. You are welcome to disagree with my calling this a gimmick, but I think you can see where I’m coming from.

        I wouldn’t go and say they weren’t “real” games as people did with Kirby’s Epic Yarn, but IMHO they were disappointing. Don’t forget that story about how Spirit Tracks in particular, was thrown in the bargain bin almost immediately upon release, offering the idea that the Japanese public didn’t care for it either.

        Anyway I would personally like to see a 3DS Zelda game akin to Ocarina of Time yet completely new.

        • Yea, but the fact of the matter is you effectively DID call them not real by saying you wish they’d release a real game like Ocarina. I just wish you hadn’t worded it that way…it’s so close-minded. :(

          edit: Urgh, OK, you know what… Now I’m annoyed, so I’m going to ramble. I understand Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks weren’t perfect and both had their flaws. That said, I found nothing wrong with the touch controls at all, especially in Spirit Tracks (you’re welcome to disagree), but even if you didn’t like them, that doesn’t stop them from being “real” games.

          Seriously, why would you word it that way? It’s like you’re closing off the very idea of a game not using a traditional control scheme. Personally, while I freaking hated the train in Spirit Tracks, I also thought it had the best Zelda in any of the games so far, and that includes Ocarina.

          She was cute (genuinely, not in a creepy way), she was funny, she was a capable co-op partner, and you had more than enough control over her while solving puzzles and fighting in dungeons. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Spirit Tracks was the most interesting Zelda we’ve had since Majora’s Mask, and everyone that complains about how Zelda games don’t do anything new needs to play it. :/

          • Tokyo Guy

            Ah, Ishaan you seem to be venting your anger with the “anti-Zelda” crowd towards me, as when push comes to shove, you’ll find I don’t actually disagree with anything you mention. The reason I wouldn’t start arguing that the game wasn’t a “real” installment was that it DID feel like Zelda. The combat, the items, the dungeons, the overworld, etc. And I had very little complaint about the touch based control mind you, it wasn’t traditional but it was well implemented.

            My own personal dislike of the two DS games was the ship and the train. Ironically the ship was actually more fun if only because the sea was so vast and thus you weren’t confined to a literal path i.e. the train. I really don’t know why Nintendo felt the need to design the pair in this way but it did, and that’s that.

            What I really want is a new 2D top down Zelda game to be honest. I want a new game like Triforce of the Gods/Link to the Past. That game was seminal at the time, much as how Ocarina was in its day. But I think you can agree that far more work went into Ocarina than it did the DS installments, as the scope of the two (three) are vastly different. To this end my complaint is that I want a full blown Zelda game with console-level production values on the 3DS.

          • I think they might have wanted to “streamline” (that didn’t work out so well, did it…) the overworld transportation, which is why they did the train. I agree, the ship was more fun, heh.

            Console-level production…I think Spirit Tracks was very close if not entirely at the level of production of a console game. To me, it felt meatier than Twilight Princess, which I personally think is a pretty shallow game after you’ve played through it once. There’s nothing to find in the overworld, barely any sidequests to do, the characters all feel like foils, and they went and ruined Zant by making him out to be some kind of spoilt kid…

            I’m not disagreeing with you in that it’d be nice to see an entirely new portable Zelda (I will say that I’d prefer it to be 3D, rather than top-down 2D though…I still have the older ones to replay for that – Oracle of Ages is my favourite), just that I think they did try to create a full-blown game with Spirit Tracks. To me, that game said a lot of things…like perhaps not having Miyamoto too involved with Zelda makes it more interesting, even if it makes the game suffer in certain ways.

            As for “gimmicky”…this is just my opinion, but I really do think that word has no meaning anymore. Every game is gimmicky in some way. Portal has a “gimmick.” Twilight Princess has a “gimmick.” Nearly every game out there has some kind of gimmick, so I really don’t get why we bother to use that word any more at all…

          • Tokyo Guy

            Sorry there is no room left to reply to your more recent post.

            Twilight Princess…well I think that the game suffered from the lack of content you mentioned because instead of adding it, the programmers were too busy trying to make everything work for the Wii. A shame really, all the more so because I personally hate any game that makes use of the Wii’s horribly imprecise controls and thus believe it or not, I actually played the Gamecube version of TP. (Not sure about overseas but IIRC the game was never sold in stores here; it had to be ordered directly from Nintendo). I really think that, had TP remained a Gamecube-only title, it would have ended up far more “complete”.

            What angered me about the DS games was the lack of dungeons, and lack of challenge. I for one, didn’t care for the simplistic nature of the dungeons with only the most basic, elementary puzzles to be had. It really felt like Nintendo was either overly catering to small children or else it was convinced the game was too difficult with the touch based controls that it would be unreasonable to include a challenge. (I mean seriously, the monster variety even…)The main dungeon in Phantom Hourglass just proved to be absurdly repetitive to the extent it’s difficult to conceive how anyone at Nintendo deemed it acceptable. Spirit Tracks was better in that you could control the phantom.

            As for the transportation issue, I saw it much more as a desire to use the touch-based idea for every possible situation. It would be too troublesome to traverse a giant world map with the stylus, thus the decision was made to, as you said, streamline the transportation. Spirit Tracks was just silly though given how linear it became. Initially I had hoped we would be able to create our own train lines anywhere and everywhere but alas that didn’t come to pass.

            What prevents the DS installments from surpassing TP in my book, was their aforementioned brevity and simplicity.

          • Twilight Princess’ Wii optimization came much later (over halfway into the game’s development cycle) I believe, and wasn’t as much of a problem as you might think. They did struggle with the controls until they figured them out, but the game’s problems stemmed from Aonuma’s inability to guide the title as its producer early on. This is stuff he mentioned at a GDC talk if I recall correctly…I don’t remember which year it was.

            To be honest, I don’t know what went really wrong with TP. I doubt we’ll ever find out, since that boat has long since sailed. Then again, perhaps we’ll hear something about it in an Iwata Asks for Skyward Sword or maybe a GDC 2012 post-mortem. Both are likely, come to think of it. But yea, TP was pretty disappointing after you completed it once.

            As far as PH goes, I agree the temple was repetitive and annoying after the first few hours. I have to disagree about the dungeons in Spirit Tracks, though. ST has some of the most maddening puzzles I’ve ever encountered in Zelda…especially now because you need to cooperate with Zelda to solve them. Maybe we’re just good at solving different kinds of puzzles, but Twilight Princess never gave me a hard time with puzzles. ST, on the other hand, was INFURIATING (in a good way). It’s actually the reason my DS Lite has one of its hinges broken…I got so mad at one of the ST dungeon puzzles, I shook it really hard in anger and the hinge came flying off…

            I don’t know…I think the DS games very much have their place. We wouldn’t have gotten crazy Ghost-Zelda without Spirit Tracks, and I think ST’s greatest asset was that it tried to break away from the typical Zelda formula.

            I’m looking forward to an original 3DS game like you, though. I kind of hope it’s halfway in between a traditional Zelda game and something more off-beat like Spirit Tracks. It’s kind of pointless if both console and portable Zelda amount to the same thing in my opinion…

          • Tokyo Guy

            Hmm…I wasn’t aware of the timing issues in converting the game. Though I think a lot of the details and such with respect to side quests and additional content would come towards the latter half of the project, as the initial phase is more the general planning and creation? So to this end I could still see the change in platform as disruptive of the game’s design and production.

            The funny thing is that I really didn’t have a complaint with TP. You mentioned it lacking certain things and being somewhat shallow. For me, all Nintendo games contain X% of content which I have no interest in ever trying to do because of a general lack of interest. It might have to do with my being 28 because when Mario 64 came out I got all the stars, yet by the time Mario Sunshine came out I had zero interest. But anyway, I only play these types of games once.

            With respect to the game’s director and his apparent incompetence, unfortunately this is the norm with traditional Japanese companies. People who are totally unqualified for a position are promoted, almost always because of seniority. As a result you have these talented, ambitious younger people who are being subdued by older “hacks” so to speak, that don’t deserve their title and in fact would never have received it were they in a western company. This is a large factor in deciding to work for a traditional company versus a western one here. I don’t know if Aonuma fits into this category however if he does, there’s your explanation.

            As for a 3DS original title, chances are it will involve 3D something. Though really I fail to believe that the 3D element will ever become anything tangible. All it seems to be good for is adding a trivial aspect of depth to a game. You would need to literally make a 2D game and then optimize it for the 3D creating an effect like Paper Mario whereby the depth has actual significance. But the problem is the game would never work because in order to make use of the 3D you would need to REQUIRE it to operate in 3D all the time, yet the second you turn off the effect the game would be “broken” in that it would be a standard 2D game.

            I am still at a loss as to how the 3D effect on the 3DS is a useful feature beyond an initial sense of amusement. And the fact that Super Monkey Ball 3D can’t even be played in 3D if you use the motion sensor kind of serves as a reminder of how limited the use of the technology is. Sorry I’m getting off topic.

    • well it’s not like they’re only going to make the OoT remake for 3DS. I highly doubt this will be the last Zelda game for the series on 3DS.
      Going with “Star Wars” theme, I must say, “I find your lack of faith disturbing…”

  • Soma

    Likening Ocarina of Time to Star Wars, eh?
    For some reason I pictured the end of Ocarina of Time ending with Ganondorf saying, “Link … I am your father!”

    • Link DOES always seemed to be raised by aunts and uncles and whatnot…

      • Soma

        They never really do explain Link’s parents in any of the games, do they?
        It could totally make sense that Ganondorf is his father!

  • The man’s exactly right. Majora’s Mask is a far more sophisticated game but the nostalgia goggles are on too tight, so this fact is not recognized often. I suppose the sensation of experiencing your first 3D action/adventure game that actually controlled intuitively proves too difficult to ignore. How disappointing.

    • Majora’s Mask gave me a whole new different feeling than OoT, i can’t say Majora’s is better, but hell, everytime i remember it, it gives me the feeling of one creepy, great, a REALLY mysterious game, really different from OoT i think they did a great job with that sequel. It still feels really unique, i can pretty much put it a little below OoT in the level of greatness.

      As for the others, or at least twilight princess… Since that game was a way to get close to OoT game again, it was cool, but it just wasnt the same xD lol… so yeah, it surely is because it had a lot of first times for it’s times, not only that, but had great and colorful characters, an interesting story, even if the whole point of the game wasj ust go collect stuff (medallions/stones), there were so many things between them that made Hyrule a great, full of it’s own culture, folkloric place.

      And dont even get me started with the great tunes that were made with the ocarina, all the uses it had, oh, and all those duets with that mysterious harpist Shiek ;). (well, if someone played smash bros. they already know who this harpist really is xD)

      I dont think i will ever forget any place of Zelda OoT, kokiri forest, i just think about the name and i already have it’s soundtrack in my head, the gorons, the zora’s i remember all those place so well, ganondorf’s village… And how everything changes when you go to the future… Simply fantastic. The bosses…. Enemies, tools, there were so many new things…

      I dont even remember how was called the first town in twilight princess… nor i remember that many towns either… Just the one with the castle… and the one that is close to what i think is the fire temple (the second temple of the game?) if memory serves me right.

      It’s a shame things like this happen xD

      • andref

        I agree with you completely on OoT, I still find myself humming the ocarina tunes to myself and I love humming the forest song and Zelda’s lullaby oh and can’t forget Eponas song either. For me I’m tied between Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask but I side with OoT a bit more because you actually affected the world in the end such as changing the dark world of the kokiri forest as an adult back to its vibrant self permanently instead of the interesting but temporary changes brought to the different areas in Majora’s Mask

  • Yeah I have to agree that Majora’s Mask did seem better to me when I played it. It has an incredible story and gameplay, it’s one of the darkest(if not the darkest) Zelda games out there, and it seems to have more character development and sidequesting.
    Still, Ocarina of Time was the reason why I’m a Zelda fan now, so kudos to that game.

    • puchinri

      This, all the way. Even though MM is my favorite, OoT is what pulled me into the franchise (and has a special place in my heart).

    • Aara_Malik_Davoodi

      I don’t know….Minish Cap was pretty dark

      • LOL xD

        yeah :P, but you just can’t beat the ginormous freaking moon that brings nightmares every night lol. That thing flippin’ scares me.

    • Guess I’m fortunate to have gotten into N64 late in its lifespan. Played Ocarina first but then I played Majora like a week later and it was like WHOA HOLY CRAP THIS IS WAY BETTER, totally crapped on my memories of playing Ocarina, made the game totally forgettable

  • Thanks for OoT Nintendo, I really appreciate what you’re trying to do but Majora’s Mask needs some love too… Don’t forget !! ;)

  • hush404

    I can admit, seeing link in 3D for the first time really does have something to do with it… but that said… it was also the simplicity of the world and the game story as a whole that wrapped gamers up.

    You were sent on a quest to find friends and stop evil. While that may stay true for each Zelda game following it… you didn’t have to deal with traversing maps in a boat, or spending a big chunk of time as a wolf… or riding a ghost train… it didn’t gimmick you into believing it was more than it was. It simply laid out a story where you were the hero and took on the forces of evil.

    I find the more gimmicks they try to add to change the experience, be it talking hats, talking boats, ghost trains or even weapons like that flying bug bomb thing shown in Skyward Sword… just ends up piling crap on a formula that wasn’t broken. Cheapening the experience and thus not measuring up to the standards people see from Ocarnia or even Majora’s Mask.

  • fallen

    I’m surprised how many people here are saying OoT was their first Zelda! Don’t tell me I’m getting old… i-i

    • Don’t worry you’re not. My first Zelda Links Awakening. =D

      • fallen

        Praise be to the Wind Fish! *breathes sigh of relief*

  • karasuKumo

    I’ve only played Twilight Princess and Phantom Hourglass but loved them both! I played the one on the Gameboy but was a small kid so didn’t really know what to do haha.

    This would probably be one of the only reasons I’d buy a 3DS before 2012 :). I’ve usually decided what new console to favor before they’re released but I have to honestly say that both the NGP and 3DS look amazing.

  • thebanditking

    I am going to agree with the last part. It was the era and timing of this release, 3D worlds and movement within them was in its infancy;this was one of the first to prove it could be properly done and at this scale (which might be the most important part). It was quite amazing at the time, many 3D games were still in scripted levels but OoT’s open exploration and huge(for its time) world seemed almost limitless and daunting, that feeling was never achieved in a game before. Games that encourage my natural love of exploration are few but those that actually reward me for it are even fewer (for me the only other times I felt this way was with DQ8, Wind Waker and FF7). The story of this game was also unique for the series and for me was one of the most surprising (next to Wind Waker which I loved).

  • I’d have to disagree with Miyamoto. It’s not so much the nostalgia factor of seeing Link in 3D for the first time, for me and many of my friends, it was the relationships Link made with the characters. I can name so many characters from OoT (Ruto, Saria, Malon, Deku Tree, JabuJabu, Impa, Sheik/Zelda, etc) and the same goes for Majora’s Mask. But with Twilight Princess, Wind Waker, and the DS games, I can’t name many memorable characters. The games became more about item hoarding and the puzzles and less about the interactions Link had. For example, Link enters Jabu Jabu for the Zora’s Sapphire, but has to save Princess Ruto first in order to obtain it. Even though it was a rather frustrating and difficult dungeon, the best part about it was that Link wasn’t just a big name hero saving the world, he was helping the other people that you would meet in the future and that would progress the story. And that’s it. That’s why I love OoT and Majora’s Mask: The plot isn’t driven solely by the need to defeat a massive evil, but also by the want and need to help the individual tribes and characters at certain points of the game.

    • Something that sold me on the plot of Ocarina was the fact that you were able to see all Link’s friends and all the characters 7 years later. It was so interesting to see how everything turned out after that period of time.
      Unlike how games like Chrono Trigger handled time travel, this game was time travel in a shorter period of time, and seeing all the characters grown up or changing was so memorable to me.

  • whatevs, the masses are always wrong, no point in trying to figure out why. super maro bros 3? ocarina of time? WRONG! ya’lls are just blinded by nostalgia because real gamers know that wario land is the best mario game and majora is the best zelda game so go shove your nostalgia somewhere else you sick freaks!

    • Don’t do this ever again.

    • Okay…Majora’s Mask is a pretty good Zelda game but if it weren’t for Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask never would have existed. Now how about you take that into consideration next time you try and say “real gamers” know that Majora’s Mask is the best Zelda because -again- without Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask never would have seen life in the way it did. I’m sure it would have been created but it wouldn’t be the same since Ocarina of Time wouldn’t have been it’s predecessor.

  • Should have known everybody would be tailcoating MM, since it’s “hip” to be say that’s a better game, despite the fact that dungeons are fewer, lamer and the bosses less inspired. OoT is the better game.

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