15 Things You Might Not Know About The Legend of Zelda

Even if you spent hours with the iconic gold cartridge loaded into your NES, you can probably still learn a few things about Link’s epic adventure.

1. NINTENDO DIDN’T THINK THE GAME WOULD BE POPULAR IN AMERICA.

Although The Legend of Zelda had garnered positive feedback in Japan, Minoru Arakawa, the president of Nintendo’s American division, expressed doubt that U.S. players would have the patience for such a complex and challenging game. Arakawa was particularly concerned over the text-heavy game’s reliance on its players’ willingness to read!

2. THE STORY WAS INSPIRED BY ITS CREATOR’S CHILDHOOD.

Game design icon Shigeru Miyamoto borrowed from his own history to dream up Hyrule, the setting of The Legend of Zelda. He developed the game’s enchanted forests while thinking of his youth in a small village near Kyoto, where he spent much time exploring the nearby woodlands. Moreover, Miyamoto modeled the puzzling nature of Zelda’s many dungeons on his maze-like childhood home, which was riddled with indistinguishable paper doors.

3. IN SOME WAYS, ZELDA WAS DESIGNED AS THE “ANTI-MARIO.

You might be familiar with another Nintendo game that hit American shelves just a few months before Zelda: Super Mario Bros. The company, and in particular designers Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, developed the original Zelda and Mario outings simultaneously, working hard to ensure that the two felt very different. Where Super Mario Bros. was in every way a straightforward mission, Zelda was meant to confuse and provoke creative problem solving.

4. PRINCESS ZELDA HAS A FAMOUS NAMESAKE.

Despite being conceived in Japan, Zelda’s titular princess was named after a native Alabaman. Miyamoto confirmed that Zelda Fitzgerald—novelist, feminist, and wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald—was the inspiration for his Hyrulian heroine’s handle.

5. THERE IS SIGNIFICANCE TO LINK’S NAME, TOO.

Originally, The Legend of Zelda was meant to be a game that spanned in-universe time periods, beginning in the canonical “past” and ending up in the “future,” with the Triforce acting as a mode of transport between them. The series hero’s unusual moniker was meant to symbolize his role as a link between the eras.  But Nintendo’s current position is that he is a “link” between the player and the game.

6. SEVERAL OTHER ELEMENTS WERE DROPPED FROM THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF THE GAME.

Early incarnations of The Legend of Zelda were intended to include the option to design your own dungeons (ultimately scrapped when Nintendo realized that navigating existent dungeons was a lot more fun than building ones from scratch). Additionally, the original Japanese version of the game opened with the player receiving his or her sword outright, as opposed to earning it upon completion of an early cave level.

Another element that did not carry over to American game play from the Japanese version of the game was the inclusion of a working microphone. The device famously came in handy in defeating an enemy called Pols Voice, a rabbit-like ghost that inhabits several dungeons. The microphone, as suggested by the game’s instruction manual (which stated that Pols Voice “hated loud noises”), allowed players to defeat the creature. Without the availability of this option on the American console, however, the manual’s aforementioned tip was simply confusing.

7. MIYAMOTO TOOK AWAY THE SWORD AS “PUNISHMENT” FOR GAMER COMPLAINTS.

When Miyamoto caught wind that early test players were disgruntled by confusing game play and unclear objectives, he decided to up the ante by forcing players to earn Link’s sword via triumph over a complicated cave level before beginning the adventure in earnest. Miyamoto predicted that such a mystery would give a clear first mission and prompt communication between individual players, with successful strategies spreading by word of mouth.

8. THAT SAID, YOU DON’T ACTUALLY NEED THE SWORD TO COMPLETE MOST OF THE GAME.

Technically, you can get through the bulk of The Legend of Zelda without use of Link’s sword. The only component that requires its use is the final boss battle against Ganon, who can only be harmed by this weapon.

9. THE GAME SHARES ELEMENTS WITH A FEW OTHER FAVORITES.

Although Miyamoto toiled to keep The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. as distinct as possible, there is at least one minor example of crossover. The “Piranha Plant” enemy best known as the pipe-dwelling pest that litters the original Super Mario game (as well as most subsequent games) rears its head at a few points in Zelda.

Zelda returned the favor to the Mario franchise, lending Super Mario Bros. 3 the sound effect for its world-hopping magic whistle. The sound was developed in association with the recorder device found in The Legend of Zelda.

10. THE TRIFORCE IS MODELED AFTER THE JAPANESE SYMBOL MITSUUROKO.

Present in every Zelda game, the three-triangle symbol is actually modeled after the emblem of the Hōjō clan, a tremendously powerful family in 13th- and 14th-century Japan. The emblem was known as the Mitsuuroko, which translates to “the Three Dragon Scales.”

11. NINTENDO ALMOST WENT WITH A DIFFERENT THEME SONG.

The game’s creators originally intended to use French composer Maurice Ravel’s composition Boléro as the score for the game, but Nintendo couldn’t nab the rights to the number. As such, brilliant in-house composer Koji Kondo whipped up what is now one of the company’s most beloved tunes.

12. EVERYONE WHO WORKED ON THE GAME WAS CREDITED UNDER A PSEUDONYM.

Well, except for executive producer Hiroshi Yamauchi. It was not particularly uncommon practice at the time for game designers in Japan to receive attribution via moniker as opposed to their proper names, due to companies’ fear of talent poaching. Miyamoto is credited as “S. Miyahon,” Tezuka as “Ten Ten,” Kondo as “Konchan,” and programmer I. Marui as “Marumaru,” among others.

13. THE DUNGEONS FIT TOGETHER QUITE NEATLY.

Every dungeon in Zelda’s main quest bears a distinct shape, generally befitting that of its namesake (i.e., “The Lion” is shaped like a lion). That said, all nine dungeons, when fit together onscreen, add up to a perfect rectangle. This isn’t simply a nod to Nintendo’s particularly anal-retentive players, it is a means of compacting console data.

14. ZELDA WAS THE FIRST GAME TO FEATURE A COMPLETE “SECOND QUEST.”

While other games, particularly Super Mario Bros., offered the option to replay a more difficult version of the same game that differed only in details like the number of villains populating levels, Zelda was the first to offer a completely different second terrain on the same cartridge. You don’t even have to beat the game to access “Second Quest.” You can reach it immediately by naming your game play file “Zelda.”

15. SOMEBODY BEAT THE WHOLE GAME IN HALF AN HOUR.

On February 27, 2015, a user known as “Lackattack24” completed the entirety of The Legend of Zelda (minus the “Second Quest”) in 30 minutes and six seconds.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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22 Creepy Cryptids From Around the World

Belgian painter Pieter Dirkx's interpretation of the Mongolian death worm.
Belgian painter Pieter Dirkx's interpretation of the Mongolian death worm.

According to Merriam-Webster, a cryptid is an animal "that has been claimed to exist but never proven to exist." But as Bigfoot believers and Loch Ness Monster enthusiasts are often quick to point out, it’s pretty difficult to prove that something doesn’t exist. Plus, it’s much more fun to indulge in the idea that giant sea monsters and hairy humanoids are roaming the uncharted corners of the planet.

On this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is taking viewers across time and space to unearth legends about lesser-known monsters that, again, haven’t been proven to not exist. Take the Mongolian death worm, a lamprey-like nightmare that supposedly lives in the Gobi Desert and radiates a poison so strong that you could die just by standing near it. If you’re an ill-behaved child or a Catholic who scarfs down steak every Friday during Lent, watch out for the Rougarou, a Louisiana-based werewolf that sniffs out those two demographics.

Learn about more fearsome, fascinating cryptids of all kinds in the video below, and subscribe to the Mental Floss YouTube channel for future episodes of The List Show.