The Zelda Games That Weren't Really "Zelda" Games

Illustration for article titled The Zelda Games That Werent Really Zelda Games
Total RecallTotal RecallTotal Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

If you want to get canonical, Skyward Sword will be the 14th game in the Legend of Zelda series. But it's not the 14th Zelda game ever made. Not when you count these spin-off games!


For a long time - and excluding the CD-i titles that were more bootleg than spin-off - Nintendo was perfectly happy releasing Zelda games as, well, Zelda games. Big adventures, starring Link and Zelda, full of exploration, combat and puzzle-solving.

Then, in 2002, that changed.

Capcom felt the need to spice things up a little. As many of you know, the company behind games like Resident Evil and Street Fighter also worked on a number of Zelda games, releasing titles on the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance while Nintendo was busy with console games like Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask and Wind Waker.


What would follow would be a number of Zelda games that, while sometimes using the worlds, sometimes using the characters and sometimes even using the storyline of "proper" Zelda games, had little in common with the primary adventures of Link, Princess Zelda and the evil Ganon, especially in terms of structure and game design.

In other words, they're what we'd call spin-offs.

Scroll through the gallery above to see what came next!

In 2002, Capcom's handheld port of classic SNES Zelda game A Link to the Past included a little treat: a bonus game, packed in on the cartridge, featuring a multiplayer adventure called "Four Swords".

Carrying the new (and controversial) art style from Wind Waker, Four Swords allowed between two to four players link up their Game Boy Advances and play through a co-operative series of maps and boss battles.

It was a blast, so much so that Nintendo revisited the concept in 2004 on the GameCube, fleshing the game out with a full "campaign" mode and two-player "deathmatch" in "The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures".


While these games are considered "canon", the fact they have little in common with the structure of "proper" Zelda games clearly marks them as spin-offs.

The next Zelda spin-off game would be released in 2006 on the Nintendo DS, and it was...a little out of left-field. Of all the Zelda characters Nintendo could have chosen to base a game around, from wizards to knights to villains to Kings, they chose...Tingle. The money-mad, very eccentric little man who has both amused and frustrated Zelda fans since 2000's Majora's Mask.


It was called "Freshly-Picked Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland". Seriously. And while it starred Tingle in a quasi-fantasy setting, it actually stuck fairly closely to the standard Zelda formula of combat, dungeons and exploration, only this time instead of trying to save the world from evil, you're guiding Tingle on his journey from boring, regular man to crazy little green fairy. And helping him get rich along the way.

Freshly-Picked Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland is one of he best-looking games on the DS, and was also surprisingly funny considering it stars one of the regular series' most annoying (if ultimately lovable) characters. For some reason, though, the game was never released in the US, despite appearing in European stores a year after its Japanese release.

In 2007, Tingle would again star in a Zelda spin-off, this time the limited Japan-only release of "Tingle's Balloon Fight". Available only to Club Nintendo members, gameplay was much the same as the original Balloon Fight, only now you controlled Tingle, who is up against the "fighting spirit" of the "Bosom Oak".

Again in 2007, the first Zelda spin-off for the Wii was released, in the form of "Link's Crossbow Training". Bundled in with every unit of the Wii Zapper sold, it was little more than a glorified tech demo, but using the character designs from Twilight Princess it was at least a pretty one!

In 2009 a short, sweet little DSiWare compilation was released called the "Dekisugi Tingle Pack". Hey, what do you know, another spin-off, another Tingle game. In this case, though, they were games (including simple gambling and fortune telling), along with basic applications like a calculator. This was only ever released in Japan.

Our final spin-off was on shelves in 2009, with the Japanese release of a sequel to Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland. Called "Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love", it played similarly to the first game (albeit with a new touch-screen-only interface), only this time it ventured a little farther away from the Zelda universe, instead taking Tingle on a journey with characters that were essentially the Tinman, Lion and Scarecrow from The Wizard Of Oz.


Sadly, Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love has never been seen outside of Japan, as unlike its predecessor it didn't even receive a European release.

And that's it! Not just for the story of Zelda's spin-off games, but for our week-long celebration of all things Zelda, in honour of the series' 25th anniversary. Hope you enjoyed it!


Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

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Luke Plunkett

Just a note: I toyed with the idea of including the "BS" games, as some consider them to be spin-offs, but since they're essentially just remakes of the first games I left them off.