It’s a very exciting time to be a Zelda fan, as it always is when a new game in the series is slated for release. It’s been a long wait since the last console installment in the legendary franchise, as it’s been four long years since Twilight Princess hit shelves, but thankfully we’ve had multiple games in between to keep us from cracking. Two new handheld games in the form of Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, and the entire backlog of Zelda games from the NES, SNES, and N64 have finally been released on the Virtual Console. Still, it’s not enough.
That’s why I’m making this list. We’ve got less than a year (hopefully) before Skyward Sword gets an official release and if you’re anything like me you’ve already burned through the Virtual Console offerings, and are ready for something fresh. Something new. Something different. These five clones should give you exactly that: a break from Hyrule so you don’t get burned out on saving the princess before it’s time to go back to work next year, while still offering very similar experiences so you don’t get rusty while waiting.
While it can certainly be argued that 3D Dot Game Heroes isn’t really good enough to be considered one of the “best” Zelda clones, it is certainly the cloniest. Just from looking at it, it’s easy to see the similarities to Zelda classics like A Link to the Past, but the similarities run much deeper than that. Gameplay, story progression, level structure, and most notably the overworld theme all feel ripped right out of a Zelda game. And even if it isn’t necessarily a truly great game, its quirky homage to classic gaming earns it a spot on this list.
During the 16-bit era, gaming’s golden age, there were tons and tons of action RPGs comparable to Nintendo’s flagship adventure franchise, and one of the best was Beyond Oasis.
Sure there were more highly acclaimed titles like Secret of Mana, but I like this one better. It’s got much more charm, very fun combat, and has aged much better than you may assume. Plus, if you haven’t already played Secret of Mana there’s something seriously wrong with you. Kids these days.
Darksiders is my current obsession. I’m falling in love with the lore, the characters and the look of the game. It’s like Zelda in a post apocalyptic Earth wasteland that is now a battlefield for the guardians of heaven and hell. There’s also a lot more blood.
Sure the combat, while stylish, can get awful repetitive at times, but the excellent combination of great visuals, music and adventure-driven gameplay is enough to keep Zelda fans occupied throughout the campaign’s length.
What’s that? You’ve never even heard of Neutopia? Not surprising, this one is certainly a bit of a gem. It was released for the Turbografx-16 way back in — what’s that? You never owned a Turbografx-16? Also not surprising. Luckily this little treasure can be found of the Wii’s Virtual Console for the measly price of $6.
It’s probably one of the best pre-Link to the Past Zelda clones out there, and its mix of quirky music and solid adventuring make it a very fun game to play through. And unless you’re one of the six people who have already played this game, I recommend checking it out.
My choice to include Okami as a Zelda clone will likely offend a few gamers out there, but come on. That’s exactly what it is! It may be one of the most highly stylized, freshest, most engrossing and incredibly unique experiences out there, but it was certainly heavily influenced by the Zelda franchise. You play as a wolf named Amaterasu who has the ability to paint objects on the screen to assist you in your adventure, a mechanic that is in heavy use in other games nowadays. Okami was easily one of the most entertaining and innovative experiences of the last console generation. Come to think of it, it’s one of the best games this generation as well! Too bad so few people played it…
There you have it! These five games should be more than enough to keep you entertained while you wait for Skyward Sword and the 3D remake of Ocarina of Time next year. And don’t worry if your favorite Zelda clone didn’t make my list, just leave your choice(s) below to increase the amount of games Zelda addicts have to choose from in the coming months. Either that or just call me an idiot. Whichever you are most comfortable with.