The Greatest Game Ever…of the Week: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Last Updated July 7th, 2021

Over the years, the Legend of Zelda series has been host to a collection of incredible games. The series is among Nintendo’s finest properties, and it’s so renowned that you could even make a case for Link dethroning Mario as the company’s mascot. Every Zelda fan has a favorite game — some folks still hold Ocarina of Time close to their hearts while others boldly profess their love for A Link to the Past. You have your Majora’s Mask lovers, and some even go against the norm and hold Twilight Princess in high esteem.

Simply put, all of those games are great. But another shining treasure amongst the series is none other than The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, which had a lot of hype to live up to. Ultimately, that game delivered not only one of the finest installments in the franchise, but one of the greatest games of all time. It’s fitting, then, to dub Wind Waker the greatest game ever…of the week.

Artistry redefined

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Even after over 10 years, Wind Waker is one of the best-looking Zelda games ever created, and that’s not even counting the Wii U HD remake. Throw that one in, and Wind Waker is arguably the absolute best-looking Zelda game, period. The thing that works for it in terms of visuals is that its graphics alone make it feel like a completely different Zelda. It’s a new quest in a new land, and the look of the game reflects that.

I remember being a kid and feeling completely disappointed when I first saw footage of Wind Waker. Once I actually got my hands on it, though, I was instantly won over by the cartoon-like visuals. It was like watching and playing an animated Zelda film. Years later, the HD remaster makes everything look more crisp and colorful — every hue pops more, and there’s this joyful personality to the whole thing.

A new world set in the vast sea

Before Wind Waker, Zelda games mostly saw Link traversing large countrysides, lively ranches, and scorching deserts. That’s not the case here. Instead, your journey takes place across a massive sea that’s just begging to be explored. Rather than a faithful horse, you get a talking sailboat named the King of Red Lions and set sail to the great beyond. The first time you play, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed at the fact that you’re actually setting sail on an ocean that appears practically endless.

You eventually discover that the Great Sea is indeed finite, but even then, there’s plenty to see and discover. Though the sailing in Wind Waker has often been a source for debate, every time I play the game I get completely engrossed in the experience and just enjoy my time sailing. This setting, which deviates from the rest of the series, is one that you can take in at a more leisurely pace. You’ll sail many times and for long periods, and as such it’s best to take it all in and enjoy the adventure.

A memorable tale

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Zelda isn’t exactly known for telling the most diverse stories. The fact remains that, most of the time, you’re a dude wearing green who needs to save a princess from a big, evil guy. That much is true here once again, but it’s the little details that work in the story’s favor.

The unique look and setting of Wind Waker are only further complimented by the evolving story. It’s here that you discover what came of Hyrule following the events in Ocarina of Time — at least according to one of the branching paths in the official timeline. Even then, Wind Waker helps to progress the story along nicely, shedding light on previous events and building upon the lore of the now-sunken Hyrule.

It should be noted that this is among the darker Zelda stories told, despite its charming, colorful look. In an attempt to rid the world of evil, the higher powers of Hyrule flooded the land in the hopes of sealing away Ganondorf. As it turns out, their wiping out of an entire civilization was all for naught, and an elderly-looking Ganondorf reemerges, ready to take what he feels is his rightful place as ruler of all that he sees. Cartoon visuals notwithstanding, that’s a pretty ominous plot and one of the series’ finest chapters.

Adventure in the new world

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When you play Wind Waker, everything is familiar right off the bat despite the new style. That’s because the gameplay doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel for the series. Thankfully, that’s not a bad thing as what you’re left with is a gameplay system that Zelda fans have come to cherish over the years. With the exception of the sailing mechanics, Wind Waker doesn’t play all that differently from its series brethren. There’s no fault to be found in that, though, because the combat, puzzles, and exploration are all phenomenal regardless.

Additionally, Wind Waker is among the easier games in the series. Some may scoff at that, but really, this game is more about the sense of wonder and adventure than a stiff challenge. You set sail, you discover the Great Sea, and you get lost amongst the waves. No, you’re not going to find any overly difficult puzzles, and none of the game’s dungeon’s will take you too long to get through, but the trade-off is a magnificent game world — possibly the best in Zelda history.

The Zelda series’ take on the battle between good and evil will live on for years to come. Even now, Wind Waker has withstood the test of time, and it’s done so in glorious fashion by featuring refined gameplay, adventuresome sailing mechanics, a bold visual style, and a fine plot. More than anything, though, Wind Waker is just a whole lot of fun in the purest sense. As soon as you jump into this oceanic adventure, you’re pulled right in and taken for a ride that’s nothing short of grand and absolutely unforgettable.

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