An elf-like boy-child in green tights? A damsel in distress? A capering, snouted villain? A recipe for cliché, right? Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System, released in 1986, turned out to be anything but.
Design legend Shigeru Miyamoto’s top-down, hybrid action-adventure and puzzle game sent players tramping through the wild, weird realm of Hyrule, a sprawling fantasy acreage chopped into orthogonal sections replete with forests, lakes and mountains, but also areas with geographic quirks like graveyards, movable boulders, money-spawning shrubbery and those nine moody, bomb-filled dungeons.
Best of all, Hyrule was freely explorable, and with its unprecedented battery backup option — the very first ever in a set-top console — you could save your progress instead of having to start from the beginning each time you powered up your NES.