Nintendo has created 19 canon games since Zelda debuted in 1986. You may have spent hours testing their classic formula, and days gliding across Breath of the Wild.
Regardless of how many Link stories you have played, you may have an idea of what old and new Zelda games offer.
In essence, it’s a silent protagonist, subtle worldbuilding, adventure, platforming, puzzles, sword & shield gameplay, progression, and a unique charm. Can we find some of that in games like The Legend of Zelda?
Hyper Light Drifter
- Developer: Heart Machine, Abylight Studios
- Publisher: Heart Machine, Abylight Studios
- Release Date: March 2016
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, SteamOS, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS
Hyper Light Drifter is a 2D action RPG. It has lo-fi visuals, a haunting soundtrack, no dialogue, and plenty of secrets to discover. Also, it’s a homage to 16-bit and 8-bit games. Lead developer Alx Preston describes the game as a combination of Diablo and A Link to the Past.
You play as the Drifter, a character with access to long-forgotten technology. You’re exploring the world to help solve the mystery of an unspecified illness affecting the survivors. The world is fully open, and you can free-roam toward dungeons, towns, and other areas.
So, you explore, dungeon-crawl, solve puzzles, unlock gear and tools, and use an addictive and evolving combat system. You have an energy sword for combat, hack&slash action, and a progression system that relies on finding weapons and weapon modules.
- Developer: Capcom
- Publisher: Capcom
- Release Date: December 2017
- Platform: Windows, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Okami HD goes for those of you who loved Twilight Princess. Moreover, the gameplay is like playing as the Shadow Wolf. And even without the similarities and the knowledge of the Zelda game, Okami is a masterful action RPG.
But Okami still has its unique qualities. For example, it has a hand-painted style, a deep and evolving combat system, exciting character designs, and a colorful, folkloric world to explore. Specifically, the game uses a SUMI-e ink art style, and the HD version is a full-screen 1080p of the 2006 game.
You play as Amaterasu, a silent white wolf helping the world against dark spirits and demons. The setting is a semi-open world where the main map connects various hub areas, cities, fields, and dungeons. Yet, the game’s structure is mostly linear, and you have a little companion hinting at the steps you need to take.
- Developers: Thatgamecompany
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment, Annapurna Interactive
- Release Date: March 2012 (2019 for PC and iOS)
- Platform: PS3, PS4, Windows, iOS
Journey shares with classic Zelda games the sense of adventure and worldbuilding through exploration, combat, and puzzles. Journey is a linear 3D adventure featuring gorgeous graphics and stellar storytelling.
The game has no worlds and no dialogue. The story comes through visual cutscenes and adventure. Like so, you play with a silent and nameless-robed figure through a vast desert, towards a mountain, where you discover the ruins of a long-gone civilization.
For gameplay, you can walk, run, jump, and shout. You also wear a magical scarf that allows you to glide and fly briefly. Additional mechanics regarding the scarf allows you to solve puzzles and perform magical abilities.
Shadow of the Colossus
- Developer: Team ICO, Japan Studio
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Release Date: October 2005
- Platform: PS2, PS3, PS4
Shadow of the Colossus is an open-world action-adventure RPG with puzzles, epic storytelling, no markers, and no side content. You play as Wander, a young warrior traveling by horse across a vast territory. The goal is to defeat 16 giants, the “Colossi.”
The whole story revolves around these monsters, as there’re no dungeons, NPCs, or enemies to defeat aside from the Colossi. Each battle is massive, and it’s also a puzzle in itself: you have to combine your tools, weapons, position, environment, and other elements to defeat the monsters.
The title starts at a central point of the map. Here, you’re free to search and fight against a Colossi, and finding each one requires solving puzzles. Your tools include riding a horse, swimming, dodging, blocking, slashing, climbing, and using various tools.
Praey For the Gods
- Developers: No Matter Studios
- Publisher: No Matter Studios
- Release Date: December 2021
- Platform: PS4, PS5, Windows, Xbox One
Praey for the Gods is an open-world action-adventure focusing on surviving a harsh winter and defeating massive bosses. It’s Shadow of the Colossus meets Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Often, you climb these bosses to find a weak spot while surviving the cold and dynamic boss mechanics. Elsewhere, you fight against enemy humanoids, the wilderness, and the weather. Character progressions rely on finding or crafting better tools and weapons.
Aside from combat, surviving takes a large portion of the game. You have to hunt and gather resources from nature you can use to craft supplies like food, water, fire, and clothes.
Ori and the Will of Wisps
- Developer: Moon Studios
- Publisher: Xbox Game Studios, Iam8bit
- Release Date: March 2020
- Platform: Windows, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Ori And The Will Of Wisps is a semi-open 2D puzzle-platformer and action-adventure RPG. Its worldbuilding, NPCs, and setting seem inspired by Zelda, while the combat is a blend of soul-like games with Nintendo’s sword & shield IP.
You traverse with evolving mobility, hack & slash, and magical abilities. Further skills you unlock may open inaccessible areas, as Ori also has “Metroidvania” elements. Additionally, you can develop a hub town by assisting NPCs to unlock further skills, items, and info.
As for plot and presentation, Ori sets a high standard. You play as a silent spirit on a journey of bravery and self-discovery to heal the forest. The experience goes along with a stellar OST, and if you play it on the Xbox Series X, it plays with enhanced 4K graphics and frame rate.
Immortals: Fenyx Rising
- Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Release Date: December 2020
- Platform: Windows, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series
Fenyx Rising looks like a Breath of the Wild copycat. Here, you play as a human hero in the realm of the Greek Gods. Zeus chooses you to defeat a Titan threatening both gods and humans.
You play in an open world with cartoony and cel-shaded graphics. The gameplay allows you to block, parry, dodge, and slash to defeat enemies and bosses. You also unlock “Godly” abilities and skills with collectibles you find, and these skills become part of your move set via new button combinations.
Also, the game focuses on puzzles and explorations. There’re many “temple”-like locations in the world, as they require you to use tools and skills to solve puzzles. These temples, as well as exploring the world, reward collectibles you can use to improve your HP, Stamina, damage, and other key stats.
- Developer: Acid Nerve
- Publisher: Devolver Digital
- Release Date: July 2021
- Platform: Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch
Death’s Door is an action-adventure isometric RPG. You play as a Reaper, an employee of a bureau that delivers souls to the next life. The plot starts with a quest to track down a stolen soul in the realm of the dead.
Here, you’ll learn a fast-paced hack & slash combat with a top-down perspective. You use melee, ranged, and magical abilities to defeat beasts and demigods with overlapping battle mechanics. These include dodging, skill trees, gear, tools, and physical puzzles.
The map design is similar to Zelda’s, but it’s hand-drawn. The world is a semi-linear open world, wherein you often have a single path, but it feels like you’re making a discovery. By the way, the silent Reaper will uncover the plot by exploring dialogue, areas, and dungeons.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
- Developer: Nicalis
- Publisher: Nicalis
- Release Date: July 2011
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, SteamOS, PS4, PSVita, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii U, New Nintendo 3DS
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a rogue-like dungeon-crawler. It’s also a remake of The Binding of Isaac, an indie title by Edmund McMillen. The new version offers co-op either locally or online.
The game follows Isaac, a young boy trying to escape his murderous mother, who believes God sentenced his son to death. The setting features depressing and bleak randomly-generated dungeons, corridors, and rooms. Still, these areas will remind you of classic Zelda dungeons and castles.
As a rogue-like dungeon-crawler, you “run” a series of levels, as far as you can, until you die and go back to the beginning. Lastly, you fight with RPG shooter mechanics and unlock skills, weapons, and tools on each run.
Nobody Saves the World
- Developer: DrinkBox Studios
- Publisher: DrinkBox Studios
- Release Date: January 2022
- Platform: Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5
Nobody Saves the World is a charming, hilarious indie title. It features fast-paced 2D action RPG with a top-down perspective and hack&slash combat. It looks like classic Zelda games, focusing on procedurally-generated labyrinthic puzzles.
You play as “Nobody,” an unforeseen hero who learns the ability to shape-shift. As you play, you’ll unlock new shape-shifting forms, each bringing a set of buffs and abilities. You can also mix and match shapes with skills and buffs of other forms.
Similarities include a silent character, a dream-like world, and quirky NPC characters. Also, there’re not many side quests in the title, but there’s a rogue-like element: when you die in a dungeon, you’ll go back to the start of the area.
- Developer: Pixpil
- Publisher: Chucklefish
- Release Date: September 2021
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Nintendo Switch /li>
Eastwards is a story-rich action-adventure RPG game with a comedic tone, charming characters, and pixelated graphics. It focuses on lo-fi exploration and fluid combat across a semi-open map and a linear story full of secrets.
You play as a hardworking miner, traveling with a young girl, looking to find a place to live happily in a vast wasteland. These are John and Sam, and you can swap between them at any time for combat and puzzles.
The title focuses on lo-fi exploration and fluid combat. You have various melee abilities and psychic powers you can develop over time. Also, you can use multiple weapons, like a frying pan or a flamethrower. Similarly, puzzles are easy but greatly satisfying.
- Developer: Runic Games
- Publisher: Runic Games
- Release Date: September 2017
- Platform: Windows, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Hob is a puzzle platformer action RPG with a fluid combat system. It’s also an open-world title with a beautiful world to explore. It’s a short game about mending a planet through the puzzles you solve, and the enemies you defeat.
The exploration opens up after the small area of the game’s introduction. Then, as the story flows, you’ll be able to deviate from puzzles, platforming segments, and more. The game will reward you with power unlocks and extra puzzles.
Then, the combat system relies on four simple actions. You can punch, slash, charge, and roll. You can unlock advanced combat movements and find items to improve your health and energy. All in all, progression is quite similar to Zelda’s titles.
- Developer: Supergiant Games
- Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
- Release Date: July 2011
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, Xbox 360, Xbox One, iOS, PS4, PSVita, NIntendo Switch
Bastion is a hand-painted action-RPG game with unique storytelling by a successful indie company developer. Like Zelda, the protagonist is a silent vehicle for the story. But a narrator guides you through the game and reacts to your actions.
The title is linear, though. You explore dozens of hand-painted areas and discover the secrets of a surreal catastrophe that shattered the world. Your job is to stop the event, the Calamity.
From a top-down perspective, you wield a growing arsenal of weapons you can upgrade and battle against savage beasts. The game will reward you with reward opportunities if you play with finesse and if you go towards a New Game+.