Nerd alert: This post will make little sense if you’ve never played a Zelda game. Feel free to read anyway, but I suggest stepping up your game and playing Ocarina of Time right now.
I get deeply nostalgic when I reminisce about eight-year-old me, slouched in front of my family’s 27" CRT, shoving fistfuls of Cheerios into my mouth and immersing myself into the magical world of the Zelda franchise. I remember even at that young age, reflecting on how awesome it was to be homeschooled. While all the other kids were learning useless things like “making friends” and “communicating,” I was investing in real matters like saving the princess and childhood sleep deprivation.
Now, nearly 20 years later, I realize that the Zelda games were more than just games for me. They were a significant factor in shaping my moral foundation. Since I can’t possibly encapsulate the bajillion ways living vicariously through Link made me a better person, here are just 10 life lessons off the top of my head:
1. Money is almost never the answer
Having enough money is rarely a problem for Link. That's not to say a few extra rupees can't make certain challenges easier, but it's never really the proper solution. It doesn't matter if Link needs a boat, a train, a horse, a grappling hook, a boomerang or an ocarina, the right answer is always to explore further and help others. Actually, Link was originally incapable of carrying over 255 rupees. I whole-heartedly believe the game designers share my anti-materialistic grounding, and that the limit had nothing to do with an 8-bit storage limit.
2. Be a good listener
For the past 25 years, Link has been the Hyrule's greatest listener. He never speaks a word, but is always there to listen. His open ears help him save Hyrule, make tons of friends, slay kidnapping jerks and become BFF’s with the princess. Link is so good at listening he attracts attention-starved companions who never stop asking for him to listen.
3. Consider your legacy
This hefty Zora king seems pleasant enough until he has to scoot over to reveal a hidden passage behind him. His laborious ass-saunter is so pathetic and slow it has become part of video game legend. Not only is his girth so immense that it completely conceals a hallway, it also takes him nearly a minute to shimmy a few feet. To top it off, he chooses to sit in the source of his city’s water, filtering it all between his pantless legs. Be like Link and get famous for being a hero, not for being like this weird, Jabba look-alike.
4. Dress for the occasion
While Link sports his green tunic and leathery kicks most of the time, he knows when an occasion calls for him to shake it up. He can be spicy with a crimson tunic and some hover boots, or keep it cool with an aqua tunic and some iron clogs. On Link’s adventures, a wardrobe malfunction isn’t just embarrassing, it means almost certain death. Real consequences for a lack of style.
5. It’s dangerous to go alone
While it’s a bit sketchy to trust the advice of an aging hermit chilling in an empty cave gifting swords to children, his words ring true. Let’s be honest, no hero does it alone. Link’s success isn’t entirely his own. He has hundreds of friends, companions and items that help him fulfill his destiny as the chosen one, including this 8-bit Gandalf in a red kimono.
6. We have limited time
Majora’s Mask is a 3 day race against the clock to stop a terrifying, polygonal moon from crashing into Link’s home of Hyrule. Link has to live every moment to the fullest and milk the precious time he has. I distinctly remember 10-year-old me pondering “what would I do if the moon was going to crash into Earth in three days?” That was of course only after I thought “sweet Jesus that moon looks like Gary Busey.”
7. Always have the proper tools
Without his trusty gear, none of Link’s adventures would be possible. Much like real life, a majority of challenges in Link’s travels are impossible to overcome without the right equipment. As a young adult, realizing that your “gear” is more likely to be a Lenovo Thinkpad than a long-distance hook shot can be sad times, but I got over it by playing even more Zelda.
8. Always step up to a challenge
Link lives the honey badger lifestyle. No matter how daunting a boss or puzzle, his unwavering bravery always prevails. This also taught me that the greater the challenge, the greater the reward.
9. Don’t abuse animals
Meandering into the peaceful Kakariko village, the first thing any young gamer notices is the abundance of chickens. What he/she doesn’t know is that the chickens of Hyrule are the most vengeful, overpowered monsters in Hyrule. Making chickens more agressive and powerful than most bosses was definitely a strong pro-PETA message from Nintendo.
10. Water levels always suck
No explanation needed. This is just an absolute truth. Mario, Zelda, Sonic, Donkey Kong, and Banjo Kazooie all proved it. Nuff said.