In celebration of Casper getting through one of my most beloved series ever, I was thinking about other Zelda-ish games I thoroughly enjoyed. I love The Legend of Zelda-series, despite not every game in the series appealing to me. It might have something to do with my love for RPGs, but I really love the idea of going on big adventures, solving puzzles, and battling monsters! However, Zelda is not the only series that has done this adventure-genre well. So for all you Zelda-fans, here are other games I believe are definitely worth a look. While it is hard to point out what a Zelda-ish game contains, we can try to make some rules for this:
1: The genre must be action-adventure. RPG-elements are okay, as long as the combat is in real time without taking you away to a separate battle-screen.
2: Exploration must be present to some extent.
3: There must be clear dungeon-like areas to venture through and puzzles.
Also, just as an honorable mention before we start, I was suggested by many of my friends the Soul Reaver games. I do have fond memories of them, but I have yet to finish them all and don’t feel compelled enough to talk about them. If I get the time, I might consider simply doing a series-review for them, but this is the reason they are not considered for the list.
#12 Darksiders 2
We start off the list with a title that is certainly not perfect, mostly due to its technical shortcomings. Darksiders 2 tries to combine elements from Zelda, Prince of Persia, God of War and sprinkle RPG-elements over it. While Darksiders 2 wants to be many genres at once, it actually works very well. It is an enjoyable title with fast combat, intriguing worlds to explore, dungeons that are fun with great platforming, and puzzles that can be good brain-teasers. It surely has its faults, as it is rough around the edges with glitches and minor oddities, and I can’t say the story is good, despite some clever symbolism. However, it is still fun and I can definitely recommend it as a great, yet a bit unfinished game. As a plus: you play as the grim reaper himself.
#11 Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning
One of my favourite RPGs to simply redownload for my PC every now and then to play through, Kingdoms of Amalur is here on this list mostly due to its fantastic combat. Take the decent elements from Fable, have three skill-trees based on warrior, mage and rogue-classes, give it a more Devil May Cry-feel in its combat, and make it into an enjoyable W-RPG. It is an interesting game, which got support from many familiar names, including music from Grant Kirkhope. This one did unfortunately not sell well, which is a huge shame. While the exploration, side-quests, and plot are serviceable, it is how varied and intriguing the combat and level up system can be that made me regard it so highly. Not only do you get a good flow in the combat-mechanism, but combining your style of play can lead to some very cool abilities. Gaining the ability to make chakrams fly around me, then change my tactic to include an earth-shattering hammer, and dodge away with teleportation due to combining warrior and mage-skills, never gets old. It also has replay-value in how you want to play, making it easy to come back to the game since no combination feels useless. I pray every day for a sequel to be announced, but until then: it is always enjoyable going back to this gem in the rough.
#10 The Hobbit
This might the most unknown entry on this list, which is odd seeing it came out when The Lord of the Rings was popular. Based on the book alone, The Hobbit by Inevitable Entertainment can best be described as a linear version of Zelda, where you go from point A to B in linear stages. However, we are presented with clear dungeons, enjoyable puzzles, fun exploration and platforming, decent stealth-missions, and even side-quests throughout the game. The combat is very inspired by Zelda as well, and we are even presented with jump- and spin-attacks. It has a lot of charm to it and while it is not a marvel, it follows the book to a tee and shows that the developers really cared for their product. It definitely is an adventure that I would argue is even better than the beloved book and especially the movies.
#9 Golden Axe Warrior
Just by the picture alone, you can tell this was Sega’s answer to the original Zelda for the NES, but it is thankfully more than just a shallow copy. First of, the presentation is much better, thanks to the Master System’s enhanced capabilities, despite the soundtrack not being as iconic as Zelda’s. Second: we got towns to visit and we have more diverse areas, which makes it much more believable as a kingdom. Third: the story is much more intriguing and we have characters that elaborate more about the world we are in. The game is also in general much more faster-paced and Golden Axe Warrior even implemented magic before Zelda did. It shows that, if you are going to copy someone, make sure you go the extra mile to make it able to stand on its own and improve on its inspiration.
#8 The Story of Thor/Beyond Oasis
The Story of Thor is an action heavy, adventure-game where you take control of Prince Ali (no relations to Aladdin, I think) who has found a golden gauntlet. With this, he can summon different magical spirits based on elements, such as a water-spirit from waterfalls. This is a really neat method of showcasing what elements might come in handy for either puzzles or ways to progress through areas. The spirits can also be helpful supporters for combat, making you have to vary in your approach. While the dungeons and outer environments are very intriguing, everything comes together with Ali’s skills with his knife and other weapons he will eventually get. Doing different kicks, stabs, and even a useful spin-attack, he has a lot to offer in his arsenal of move-sets. This makes the boss battles and even normal fights much more intense and enjoyable, especially since enemies differ greatly from each other as well, and are a threat to be reckoned with. While you will get some additional items such as bombs, it is quite amazing how far you can get with a gauntlet and a butter knife, both in saving the world and as a game-mechanic.
#7 Beyond Good and Evil
You might have expected this one higher on the list, since I gave it so much praise in my review. That is because, while it is similar to Zelda, it is not as close to it as the other games on the list are, making it hard to recommend fully in the same regard. That being said, I have already gushed over how amazing this game is, but to give a small summary: it knows how far it needs to go with its concepts. It has so many qualities, a fantastic story, entertaining combat, intriguing exploration, fun side quests and even includes enjoyable stealth-missions (which even Wind Waker could not). This is a wonderful game that shares a lot of the same qualities as Zelda, but has also enough personality to stand on its own, making it hard at times to see it as similar as The Legend of Zelda. Beyond Good and Evil, is definitely its own legend.
#6 Soleil/Crusader of Centy
Another game I have talked about before and one that takes inspiration from one of my favorite games ever. Soleil was released for the Mega Drive and shares many resemblances to A link to the Past, but with plenty of twists. One of the key-elements, are animal-companions that give our hero secondary abilities and you can even combine their effects for special conditions, which is fun to experiment with, both for exploration and combat. While the combat, puzzles, and the light platforming are very enjoyable, what especially struck me about this game, is how much it reminds me of Undertale at times. It is quite impressive how well the storytelling is and to actually be able to talk to the creatures in this world, makes you feel more connected to nature than most games I have played. It even made me question: am I the real monster here?
A game similar to Zelda that also got released on the NES by Nintendo themselves, Startropics came out late in the console’s lifespan, which left it buried by the sands of time. Nowadays, it has grown more in popularity and is a highly regarded title, something I am very happy to see. Going for a grid by grid-setup, Startropics has very unique movement that is stiff, but the platforming, puzzles, and combat works thanks to the levels designed around the character’s moveset. This makes it feel tile-based instead of turn-based. If you have seen battlemaps used for RP-sessions, think of using that restricted patterns in real time, but balanced to make it work. Everything is designed with this in mind, making it a fantastic experience from beginning to end. I just hope it will get some kind of a reboot or a new installment one day. I mean even Kid Icarus got that!
Set as a spiritual sequel to Landstalker and Ladystalker on the Sega Megadrive, Alundra for the PS1 is definitely a huge step forward. Not only are we switching from one console to a much more powerful one, but we have huge environments where creative puzzles will be a major focus. Combat is certainly important and well implemented with enemies having strengths and weaknesses, but these puzzles can be devilish as they are very demanding. We even have to deal with some fast platforming and it’s all enjoyable as well. Interestingly, since you play as a dreamwalker, you can enter dreams of people who have been affected by strange nightmares. By having dreams and memories being a huge part of the tale, Alundra deals with heavy themes of loss and despair, which can be heart-shattering, and are both artistically and maturely told. This is a wonderful brainteaser that will keep you up at night.
Such a beautiful game. Made by Clover studio, now better known as Platinum Games, Ōkami came out late for the PS2, but got thankfully remade for both Wii and PS3. It is a fantastic adventure. Focusing on mostly puzzles and exploration, most will involve the power of the brush. Without giving too much away, you will be able to use the brush to fill in, create, and remove objects within this world. It is also very interesting in its setting with storytelling based on eastern lore and religion, making it both serious and humorous. I was almost hesitant to put it on this list, because of the battle-arenas. However since you are not transferred into a battle-segment and the game simply sets up walls around the place you already are in, I would say this one still counts. There is so much to talk about with this entry, from the fun combat to the intriguing idea of returning life to the land, but to be short: everything in this game is beautiful.
#2 Seiken Densetsu 3
There is so much to this one, I don’t even know where to start. You can choose 3 out of 6 characters at the start, each with different storyline and personality. They will react to each other and events throughout the game, have their own play-styles, and can even be upgraded between 6 different classes, giving the game tons of replay value. The combat is based on Secret of Mana’s, but much more fast paced thanks to neglecting the stamina-bar and giving your companions better AI. Dungeons are great to explore, solving light puzzles is fun, and even better: you can play with 2 other buddies. An incredible display on why it is dangerous to go alone. It only came out in Japan, so maybe you must get on your favorite search-engine to find a better way to play this gem. Unless you speak Japanese of course.
I love this game. The third game in the “Gaia”-trilogy, has everything that makes it a fantastic entry. Great puzzles, fast and complex combat, beautiful visuals, a personal story, and items to help you traverse through the environmental obstacles, it has everything I was looking for that could come even close to be as legendary as Zelda and much more. Your goal is not, however, to just to go from temple to temple, kill everything, and solve puzzles in the name of good, because you are resurrecting our world. Yes, as in Earth! I won’t spoil how, but let me just say this is from the developers of Actraiser and Soul Blazer, so you can imagine that they wanted to expand upon their world-construction idea, and they did. It is great to see how much you matter in the world, making clearing the temples and dungeons even more rewarding.
So these are my favorite games that have the same feel as Zelda, but again: this is only my personal list. Please share with me more games that I have not mentioned, since there is a chance I haven’t played it! Also, being such a huge fan of the legend, I never get tired of more similar games!