Link’s Awakening is not a challenging game, but it can be a little abstruse. Originally released for the Game Boy in 1993 and overhauled for Switch in a delightful remake that’s out this week, the fourth Zelda is full of secrets, mysteries, and weird quirks to discover. Here are some tips to help you leave no stone unturned on Koholint Island.
The most important tip I can give you is that the game’s big trading quest, which seems optional, is actually mandatory. This quest, which tasks you with going around and exchanging favors with the residents of Link’s Awakening’s world like Paul Giamatti in Billions, starts off with a mini-game in the opening area. Go to the southeast corner of the village, play the crane game, and get the Yoshi doll. You’ll be able to trade that to someone in the village for another item, which you’ll be able to bring to someone else for another, and so on and so on until, like 14 trades later, you’ve gotten the final object, which you can use in a few different ways.
The game will give you hints along the way, but here’s a helpful guide if you just want to know how to do it.
The items Link finds on his adventure are used to interact with the environment and solve puzzles. Just be aware that sometimes you might need to use two items simultaneously to get past certain areas. (This was a novel idea back in 1993.)
It’s available in the village shop, and it might seem at first like an optional item, but just like the trading quest, it’s actually mandatory!
Once you’ve purchased a shovel, the village shop will replace it with a bow. At this point you might get sticker shock. It’s over 900 rupees, which is more than most Koholint apartments cost per month. Just like the shovel, the bow is necessary to complete the game, as you need it to get a key in the game’s eighth dungeon. (Technically, you can beat that dungeon without that particular key, but rather than stressing about which keys you’re using where, it’s easier to just get the bow.) Fortunately, there’s a way to get it without paying—you just have to grab it from the shelf, stand in the corner of the shop so the shopkeeper watches you, and then dash out the door before he can turn his head around and see you leave. It might take you a few tries, but you can do it.
Just don’t go back into the shop...
At one point, you’ll be asked to give up one of your items in order to get something else. (We’re being vague to avoid spoilers here.) You should do this. Here’s the catch: Unlike in the original version of Link’s Awakening, you’ll be able to re-buy your item for 300 rupees if you go back to that area. So do that, too.
Once you’ve finished the third dungeon, you can head back to the village and enter the Dream Shrine to pick up Link’s trusty Ocarina. Do this as soon as you can. It’ll make your life a little easier.
Once you exit dungeon four, swim to the left and enter the first cave you see. If you have your Ocarina, you’ll get something that will be extremely helpful throughout the rest of the game.
Often, Zelda games will stick optional rooms and hidden treasures behind cracked walls that you can blow up with a bomb. Link’s Awakening actually makes a lot of these areas mandatory, particularly in dungeons, so don’t miss them. (Look out in dungeon seven for one that’s particularly easy to miss.)
Hidden across Koholint Island are a couple dozen Secret Seashells that you can take to the game’s Seashell Mansion for prizes. Once you’ve gotten 10 or so, the Mansion will grant you a Seashell Sensor that lights up every time you’re near a new shell. This is super helpful and brand new for the remake of Link’s Awakening.
It’s in the game’s first area, Mabel Village. You’ll also want to have done the trading quest at this point.
Eventually, you’ll have to fight a a bunch of shadow bosses, each of which is weak to only one or two items. There’s no indication of who’s weak to what, so just experiment. And don’t forget that magic powder...