The lights are on
We finally know when we’ll be playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. What’s a little unclear, however, is how die-hard Zelda fans are going to hold themselves over until March 3 hits.
Sure, there’s always the option of replaying a favorite classic entry or finally getting around to one you’ve never played before, but if you’re looking to play games that are like Zelda without actually playing a Zelda game, you have plenty to choose from.
Check out our picks of recent games that draw heavy inspiration from the Legend of Zelda franchise, and if you have any Zelda-inspired favorites of your own, leave your recommendations in the comments below.
Hyper Light Drifter (PS4, Xbox One, PC)The decidedly darker color palette might not look like Hyrule, but the gameplay, exploration, and combat of Heart Machine’s debut title all feel right at home alongside Link’s retro adventures. Rather than focusing on dungeons, Hyper Light Drifter bases its structure instead on exploring areas to open a path to a maddeningly difficult boss fight. Though the difficulty spikes cause frustration at times, Hyper Light Drifter provides a beautiful and satisfying experience aimed at fans of series like Zelda.
Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas (PS4, Xbox One, PC, iOS, Android)Of all the games on this list, Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas might be the closest to an entry from the Legend of Zelda franchise. The game has the looks of Wind Waker and the gameplay style of A Link to the Past while featuring a soundtrack by Nobuo Uematsu that gives us a glimpse of what a Zelda game might sound like if the legendary Final Fantasy composer took the reins from Koji Kondo’s team. While the puzzles aren’t quite as fulfilling and the dungeons don’t feel as clever, Oceanhorn delivers the feeling of playing a Zelda game without committing to too long of an experience.
Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition (PS4, Xbox One, PC)Though both Darksiders games take elements from Zelda titles, Darksiders 2 relies more heavily on its inspiration from Nintendo’s classic franchise. From a more intentional dungeon setup to newly acquired items playing a large role in the solving of puzzles, Darksiders 2 wears its Zelda inspiration on its sleeve. The game also builds on mechanics you’ve learned in the past to create increasingly complex puzzles and rooms. Just don’t expect to enter a world resembling Hyrule.
Dragon Quest Builders (PS4, Vita)The Dragon Quest franchise doesn’t traditionally have a lot of crossover with the Zelda series gameplay-wise. While on the surface, the concept of Dragon Quest Builders may more closely mirror that of Minecraft, you quickly learn that the quest structure, combat, and sense of guided exploration is much closer to that of top-down Zelda games. It also probably doesn’t hurt that the builder looks an awful lot like Link.
Ōkami (PS3, Wii, PS2)Even going beyond the familiar structure of Ōkami, so many elements play off of one another to create a Zelda-like experience. The combat, the targeting system, and the visual aesthetics all come together to deliver an experience able to delight any fan of 3D Zelda games. However, you might want to start playing now if you want to get through it before Breath of the Wild hits; Ōkami is a pretty long game.
3D Dot Game Heroes (PS3)This nostalgic adventure takes several elements from Zelda beyond the visual style. The conventions that Zelda fans will recognize include a sword that gets special powers when you’re at full health, dungeons full of puzzles and enemies, and the collection and utilization of items like boomerangs and lanterns. This homage to the Zelda franchise even includes a quest to recover six magical spheres that were stolen from the kingdom – a plot point similar to those used in multiple Zelda titles.
Chronos (Rift)Thanks to its quiet release exclusively on Rift VR headsets, you probably haven’t played Chronos. That’s a shame, as by all accounts, it’s a great title that borrows from both Zelda and Dark Souls while forging its own identity. While it is a strong virtual reality game (it even took home Game Informer’s “Best Virtual Reality” award in 2016), its developers didn’t shoehorn gimmicks to take advantage of the new platform’s capabilities. Instead, Chronos plays like a solid third-person action game that just happens to be in virtual reality.
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