With limited time and budget, I wanted to maximize my gaming experience with something I am familiar with and enjoy.
by Stephanie Klimov
The sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was initially announced at E3 2019. Years have passed, and Nintendo has provided minimal information. Since that announcement, fans have received a rebooted Link’s Awakening as well as Skyward Sword: HD. While fans from all walks of life wait with bated breath (no pun intended) for the next mainline release, how can we scratch that Zelda itch?
Although there is no such thing as a “Zelda-like” (yet), many people often describe video games that are similar to established franchises, such as Dark Souls. Quite often, I would hear people describe some video games as Zelda-like, which I found helpful in my search for other titles to play. With limited time and budget, I wanted to maximize my gaming experience with something I am familiar with and enjoy.
So, what makes a game Zelda-like? The Legend of Zelda series focuses on exploration (even in a linear game-play style), puzzle-solving, and adventuring in a fantasy setting. This includes venturing through dungeons, discovering treasures, partaking in collect-a-thons or trade sequences, and battling bosses. Many other titles have borrowed one or several elements from Zelda throughout the years, and it’s no wonder a certain fan-base flocks to those games.
Let’s review some examples, both new and old. Some can feel like a carbon-copy, while others simply capture the essence of Zelda. You can utilize this list anytime between Zelda game releases when you experience that itch for a grand adventure.
Beyond Good and Evil: An Oldie But Goodie
Beyond Good and Evil is a third-person action-adventure video game where you play as a photojournalist named Jade who is recruited by the IRIS network to expose an alien conspiracy. The setting is a blend of both science-fiction and fantasy. Jade can attack with a melee weapon or maneuver around her environment stealthily, all while she collects photographic evidence.
Throughout Beyond Good and Evil, you solve puzzles and even play mini-games. Essentially, you traverse a creative landscape as you take on a task that leaves the fate of the world in your hands. If that doesn’t sound like Zelda, I’m not sure what will. Because it was released in 2003, it’s available on older consoles such as the PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, and GameCube, but it is also available for PC.
Fun Fact: AZP recorded an episode talking about Beyond Good and Evil. Check it out.
Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos: A Rogue-Lite Twist to Zelda
If you look up Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos, you will be inundated with reviews that will have “Zelda” mentioned somewhere in there. This is a top-down, pixel-art-style game that is filled with color and heavy on the fantasy theme. Like Zelda, this game has dungeons and a thrilling overworld brimming with things to discover on your way to saving the land of Tasos. It is worth noting that it is described as a rogue-lite and could also be played with up to four players.
It is a relatively recent video game, releasing back in February 2021 for PC and Nintendo Switch.
Fun Fact: In a bonus episode on Patreon, AZP speaks with the developers of Rogue Heroes!
Okami: Capturing the Essence and Beauty of Zelda
This is another classic that many harken to The Legend of Zelda franchise. It shares many similarities in structure as an action-adventure title imbued with side quests and a world that encourages exploration. As you play through Okami, you will find elements of platforming, puzzle-solving, and combat.
What I find the most striking about this game is the cel-shaded, watercolor art-style. The graphics are gorgeous, and as you run around a game steeped in Japanese mythology, you can’t help but think of The Wind Waker. This game was initially released in 2006 on older consoles such as PS2 and PS3, but it is also available on the PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
Death’s Door: A New Sheriff in Town
Released in July 2021, Death’s Door has become one of the most recent Zelda-likes. Many who have picked up this title have immediately associated it with the Nintendo franchise due to its quintessential formula of overworld traversal and dungeon crawling. This action-adventure game requires fighting baddies, solving puzzles, and taking down some serious bosses.
There are some stellar RPG elements as well. So, what is Death’s Door, exactly? It is a top-down game where you play as a soul-collecting crow, also referred to as a “reaper.” Ultimately, you must open Death’s Door. Your character is equipped with a sword and bow and arrow, but as you develop new abilities (including magic) or obtain new items, you can progress through the story. If you’re looking for a traditional Zelda experience in a game that maintains its own identity, check out Death’s Door.
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King: A Loving Tribute to 2D Zelda
This game is ripe for fans who want to relive the 2D Zelda experience, and once again, if you look up game reviews, almost every single one will mention its likeness to our beloved series. Available on the Nintendo Switch, Blossom Tales is already on the same console as Zelda.
You must save the kingdom as a knight named Lily–an evil wizard has cast his brother, the King, into a deep slumber! There are four dungeons to battle through, but there is no shortage of side quests and exploration in the overworld. Although most things experienced in Blossom Tales are akin to Zelda, I do appreciate how the story unfolds. The game literally plays out because two girls ask their grandfather to tell them a story…
Fun Fact: A sequel called Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince is set to release sometime in 2022 .
Immortals Fenyx Rising: Greek Mythology Mixes with Breath of the Wild
This 2020 action-adventure game will quench the thirst of those who specifically want to experience a more modern Zelda experience. If you want to experience Breath of the Wild but want to just change the setting and cast of characters, Immortals Fenyx Rising’s gorgeous open world beckons.
This game is steeped deeply in Greek mythology as you play as a soldier named Fenyx. Similar to Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, the game exists via a conversation between Zeus and Prometheus. Fenyx must traverse the world and free cursed gods from Typhoon’s curse. This game is equipped to give you that Breath of the Wild experience, down to a stamina meter when climbing and manipulating objects to solve puzzles. Even the vaults you stumble upon could be comparable to shrines. There have been criticisms peppered here and there about the cheesy dialogue or possible lack of challenge in some aspects; however, if you do your research and understand what you’re in for, Immortals Fenyx Rising could be a solid substitute while waiting for the next Zelda game.
Immortals Fenyx Rising is a Ubisoft game available on all consoles, including the Nintendo Switch.
Tunic: The New Indie in Town
As of this posting, Tunic has not been released. Slated for March 2022, many gamers have seen the trailer and already peg it for an amazing Zelda-like. It is an isometric action-adventure game where you play as a fox who must adventure through a gorgeous land battling baddies and collecting items that will help solve puzzles and progress the game. The graphics are pleasing to the eye as well. Of note, this Tunic currently is set for release only on Xbox and PC.
RiME: Exploring Grief with Art
In RiME, you play as a boy who meets a fox-like spirit on an island filled with mystery. With a focus on solving a series of environmental puzzles, you make your way to a massive tower. All the while, the boy slowly recalls the events prior to washing ashore on the island. Although this is not a heavy-handed comparison to a Zelda game, the emotional journey throughout five levels is not one to miss.
You can find RiME on most consoles, including the Nintendo Switch.
The list of Zelda-likes can continue for quite some time. Here are more games you can check out as a potential appetizer:
Garden Story–-Save your home from the Rot as a courageous little grape!
Binding of Isaac–-A rogue-like with dungeons, bosses, and powers, all unique to each playthrough
Ocean’s Heart–-An indie adventure game with RPG elements and love for exploration
Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion–-An epic quest... as a turnip.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale–-A whimsical inspiration from 2D Zelda games with a wonderful message
Darksiders series–-Dungeons, bosses, and puzzles galore
Psychonauts series-–Endearing and quirky
Horizon Zero Dawn–-Traverse a post-apocalyptic world as Aloy to discover her past
Shadow of the Colossus–-Battle massive creatures in a vast world
Genshin Impact-–“Free-to-play” open-world RPG
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin-–Fantasy title with Zelda-inspired battle mechanics
Author’s Note: I want to extend my thanks to my fellow writers at Another Zelda Podcast for providing several of these games to add to my list–-especially Celeste, Shane, and Dan.
Follow Stephanie on Twitter.