VR Zelda Month: Top 10 Minigames

VR_Zelda_Month

Much like the Final Fantasy series, The Legend of Zelda has offered up some pretty memorable minigames over the years. Though there has never been anything quite approaching the scale of the Golden Saucer or Blitzball on offer, each of the titles provides a handful of ways to break up the regular pattern of dungeons and enemy slaying, and usually for some kind of worthwhile reward. These are my favourites, not counting enemy fighting trials.

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VR ZELDA MONTH DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s scary. Respectful disagreement is welcome.
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10. Trendy Game – Link’s Awakening

There is just nothing like a good old fashioned crane arm game, particularly if the grand prize is a Yoshi doll. When the game – and yes, that prize – shows up in a Zelda game no less, you best believe that game is gonna be played until those unforgiving pincers close around that doll’s soft green head. Best. Believe. I suppose the other prizes are cool too, but having that doll achieves much more than just the fulfilment of a weird cross-franchise Nintendo dream. It happens to be the key to one of the lengthiest and most memorable sidequests in Zelda history.
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9. Letter Sorting – The Wind Waker

Deceptively difficult for a Zelda minigame, the letter sorting job you can take on The Wind Waker‘s Dragon Roost Island is a rigorous test of reflexes and concentration that really makes you earn its rewards. The cursor defaults to the bottom middle symbol and you have to flick the control stick in the direction of the stamp symbol that appears on the letter you are handed while hitting a button as quickly as you can. One thing is for sure: It’s certainly the largest amount of mail-related stress I’ve ever experienced in a videogame.
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8. Treasure Chest Game – Ocarina of Time

Pure, blind chance – this is what defines the Treasure Chest Game from Ocarina of Time (the one from Majora’s Mask was a completely different entity). Pay a fee, flip a coin, pick a chest, and hope you find a key to move onto the next 50-50 room – unless you have the Lens of Truth, of course, which allows you to cheat and see what’s inside each chest before you open it. Still, I had to go cold turkey on this bad boy on my last OoT playthrough in order to reach ten heart containers before becoming an adult, and it certainly was a thrill. An expensive thrill.
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7. Sinking Squids – The Wind Waker

I cannot look at this picture or hear the mention of the Sinking Squids minigame from The Wind Waker without hearing the enthusiastic cry of “Ka-PIIIIIIM! Spleesh” in my head. Yes, as much fun as this battleship-style minigame is to play, the eccentric personality of its patron Salvadore overshadows any inherent gameplay element. The resourceful entrepreneur appears in more than one location throughout the game, repeatedly acting out and providing sound effects for his minigames, to the immense benefit of his customers and indeed anyone playing The Wind Waker.
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6. Bombchu Bowling – Ocarina of Time

Bombchus have already made one of my lists this month and most of the reasons for that come from this minigame. A bright, psychedelic target stares you down while you ready your Bombchu. You light its fuse, wait until your path is free of spiked enemies, and release. The mechanised wonder zig zags forward with great haste… and runs into a snarky cucco, who proceeds to shrug off the explosion and stare at you, daring you to try again. So you do. Again and again until you hit that sweet spot, which reveals a more difficult target and so on and so forth. To snake past that cucco is a victorious feeling indeed.
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5. Lake Hylia Cucco Glide – Twilight Princess

Known officially in the game as “Falbi’s Flight by Fowl”, the cucco-gliding minigame from Twilight Princess takes the traditional property of holding a cucco – namely a brief glide – to its logical and most enjoyable extreme. The gigantic and picturesque Lake Hylia serves as the setting for a leisurely yet purposeful glide from a high platform to a distant floating island with segmented rewards. Temporary flight by cucco had always been fun before TP, but never had it been quite this gratifying.
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4. Hammer Tag – Four Swords Adventures

Four Swords Adventures features an entire unlockable area packed with competitive minigames for up to four players, but the best of the lot is Hammer Tag, a cut-throat game of what essentially equates to a slightly more brutal form of tip/tag. The rules are simple: The Link with the hammer is “it”. All other Links must try to avoid being hit by the hammer, but if someone does fall victim to the blunt force trauma, he or she become “it”. At the end of the time limit, the person who was “it” for the least amount of time wins. Alternate dimensions, obvious bottleneck points on the map, spawning Force Gems and the inability to roll all ensure that crazy shenanigans will ensue.
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3. Shooting Gallery – Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask

The N64 Zelda games both feature an incredibly addictive first person archery minigame called the Shooting Gallery which forces the player to better his or her score in pursuit of lucrative rewards. Shooting moving rupees and/or enemies in a life-sized diorama is the name of the game and the game is not easy. Any misses whatsoever are punished by the unforgiving time limit, but the fundamentally satisfying feeling of piercing a pesky target – as well as those aforementioned rewards – keeps you coming back again and again until the job is done.
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2. Fishing – Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess

The image of Link holding up a newly caught fish on a green background is just synonymous with Ocarina of Time for me, even though it is a completely optional experience. I don’t quite know why it sticks out in my mind so much – perhaps because the effort put into the mechanics of the activity are so noticeably different from the main game, or perhaps because catching that massive fish chilling by the log is just so difficult. Regardless, fishing is an immersive world all its own that was expanded to great effect in Twilight Princess – but you already know how I feel about that wonderful place.
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1. Rollgoal – Twilight Princess

Sword slashing, aiming and even fishing are all irrelevant – this, ladies and gentlemen, was the best use of the Wii Remote’s unique functionality that Twilight Princess had to offer when it first hit Nintendo’s fledgling console as a launch title back in 2006. This devious collection of addictive and increasingly more difficult ball-rolling mazes can be played at the fishing hut on the Zora River and requires some very careful tilting and more than a few frustrating moments of failure to complete. But those failures always feel like they’re your own fault, which is the minigame’s biggest triumph.

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Honorable Mentions
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Dodoh’s High Dive – Skyward Sword
Skyward Sword is admittedly a little light in the memorable minigame department, but the freefalling distraction on Fun Fun Island is its best nonetheless. The hyper-colourful ring targeting plummet makes as good a use of motion controls as just about any other part of Skyward Sword and it encourages replayability if you fail to reach the score target through the existence of other, minor prizes to be won along the way.

Goron Target Range – Spirit Tracks
On-rails target based minigames where chasing high scores is the ultimate goal have appeared many times throughout the series, and one was always bound to appear in Spirit Tracks given its central game mechanic, but the Goron Target Range is still notable for just how well it executes the concept. Great control, varied design and absolutely fantastic music are the main reasons it works so well.

Goron Race – Majora’s Mask
The Gorons deliver again with a smart use for the Goron Mask’s ability to allow you to roll around really really fast. Outside of the Goht boss fight I mentioned in my last list, this is the only way to get something tangible out of your well-honed rolling skills. It isn’t easy, as hitting one obstacle will stop you dead in your tracks and force you to build momentum from scratch again, but that reward – a brand new bottle filled with gold dust – is oh-so-worth the trouble.

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