I got a message from a reader the other day. He noticed that I write a lot of articles about Zelda games (like this one and this one, both about the new Zelda, Skyward Sword). He needed my help.

"A lot of my friends are into Zelda," he wrote to me. "Because I don't actually get what Zelda is, I can't participate in there conversations. It seems like an interesting game, but I just don't get it. I want to play it and I want to get Skyward Sword. Please could you explain Zelda to me? Thanks :)"

Dear reader, allow me five brief attempts to explain...

  • There is a moment in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker when you're sailing across a vast sea and you see a speck in the distance. It could be a small island close by or a vast one far away. You sail toward it, wondering, not knowing if you're about to find a speck to inspect of a mountain to scale. That's Zelda.
  • In Ocarina of Time, or in any game in the series, really, you find yourself in a dungeon, possibly unsure how to open a locked door. You can trust that the people who made the game only allowed you to enter the dungeon because you had everything you needed to get through it (except for one key item that will be in that dungeon and will probably then allow you to access new places outside of that dungeon). In the dungeon, for a moment, you may be stumped. How in the world does that door open? Eventually you will sort it out and find your path... a path that leads you to a room inside of which is a monster. The monstrous boss may kill you, sending you back to the beginning of the dungeon. Your time wasn't wasted. You will discover that something you did while puzzling through the dungeon had opened a path—you hadn't realized this before—and now you can trot from the beginning of the dungeon to the boss battle, none of your time squandered thanks to that masterful architectural clockwork you're inside of. That's Zelda.
  • In the original Zelda, if you burn a certain bush, you'll hear a memorable chime and find that, where that bush grew, a staircase to a surprise. You find it by accident. The next day, at school, you tell your friends about it. That's Zelda.
  • In just about any of the games in the series, you will find the boomerang. Again. And the bow and arrow. And the bombs. You have to rescue the princess, ride the horse (ok, that one's not so frequent), collect the jars, fight Ganon and be reminded how much a red rupee is worth. That's Zelda.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, you spend three game days helping the farmer, the postman, the kid and the mom, the innkeeper, the bartender and, as the clock ticks down and the world is seconds away from destruction, you help two people finally get married. And then... you must turn back the clock and try harder, because that's not heroic enough for a boy named Link, who is destined for even greater things. That's Zelda.


Make sense now?

You can contact Stephen Totilo, the author of this post, at stephentotilo@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.