Zelda clones and offspring

As you may have noticed from a previous post, I recently finished The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, which means I have beaten 10 Zelda games and have 3 to go (not counting the Four Swords spin-off games or the awful licensed games for CD-i).  Now, finishing 3 Zelda games is no small task and it’ll probably be awhile before I’ve actually done so, but I can’t help looking to the future.  When I’ve beaten all the Zeldas, what will I do when I want a Zelda fix but don’t want to replay a previously finished game?  Well, fortunately, there are many Zelda clones out there.  I’ve assembled this list for myself as much as anything but I’ll share it here for those other forlorn gamers that have rescued Hyrule as many times as possible. Note: I am ONLY including the games that by reputation are considered worthwhile. I’m not including any that are generally considered crap because I don’t want to play them!

Note 1: Before we start, bear in mind that I have not played most of these games. So, if I categorize a game incorrectly, just let me know!

Note 2: With each game I will list 2 ratings. The first rating, from GameFAQs, represents scores from amateur reviewers. The second rating, from GameRankings, represents scores from “professional” reviewers. Okay, let’s go!

Part 1: A rose by any other name . . .

Unapolagetic, Unabashed CLONES! These are the games that make little to no effort to hide their Zelda-ish-ness.

Golden Axe Warrior (Master System, SEGA, 1991)
what a terrible cover illustration
I have to start with this game because, OH, GOD, just look at the screenshots!

Yep, this is a major rip-off but fans seem to like it for what it is. Interestingly, this game came out in 1991, five years after the original Zelda was released in Japan. What made SEGA think that, after all that time, they needed their own Zelda clone? And for the Master System, no less, when the SNES/Genesis war was well underway? And how did the Golden Axe property get mixed up in the whole thing? Another interesting note – SEGA never bothered to release the game in Japan.
GameFAQs: 8.3 (3 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Neutopia (TurboGrafx-16, Hudson, 1990)

I mainly started with Golden Axe warrior because it was so blatantly derivative. However, Hudson beat SEGA to the punch by one year with a slightly less derivative offering, story and all. See fo’ yo’ self.

GameFAQs: 8.0 (6 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Neutopia II (TurboGrafx-16, Hudson, 1991)

Hudson didn’t waste any time releasing a follow-up. Both games are supposed to be pretty good in spite of their shamelessness.

GameFAQs: 7.0 (1 review) GameRankings: N/A

Crusader of Centy (Genesis, NexTech/SEGA, 1994)

Unlike the previously-mentioned games, this one supposedly has some original and unique aspects in story and concept, like some sort of animal training and monster philosophy. However, just LOOK at those screenshots.

GameFAQs: 7.6 (7 reviews) GameRankings: 8.0 (1 review)

Part 2: I’m Breathless: Music From and Inspired by the Film Dick Tracy

This section contains games that take the Zelda formula and wrap it up in new clothes. These games have enough of their own feel that they have established their own fan bases, unlike the games in Part 1, whose only legacy is “play this if you want more action in the style of the first Zelda game.” However, all of the games in this section are usually described as, “it’s like Zelda but . . .”

The Battle of Olympus (NES, Infinity/Imagineer, 1988)

“It’s like Zelda but in ancient, mythology-inspired Greece.” More specifically, it’s like the Zelda black sheep, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Reputedly, it’s a bit more action-oriented and less RPG-oriented than its inspiration. This game has some pretty rabid supporters, too.

GameFAQs: 8.3 (12 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Willow (NES, Capcom, 1989)

Oh, look! One of the few games on this list that I’ve actually completed! A year after the film of the same name was released, Capcom managed to finish off this beauty. “It’s like Zelda but in the world of Willow,” which isn’t exactly all that different from the world of Zelda. However, this game is far from derivative and very much has its own identity. There is a lot of item acquisition and there are dungeons, but there’s less of an overworld/dungeon/overworld/dungeon process. The setup is a bit more RPG-ish than most Zelda games. I thoroughly enjoyed the music and revisited certain areas just to hear it.

GameFAQs: 8.5 (11 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Crystalis (NES, SNK, 1989)

“It’s like Zelda but more RPG-ish and with a storyline.” This game does look like Zelda on the surface but its fans, and there are many, claim that it is superior to the original in every way. Maybe so!

GameFAQs: 9.3 (29 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

StarTropics (NES, Nintendo, 1990)

“It’s like Zelda but in a modern setting and with a yo-yo instead of a sword.” This game was developed by Nintendo’s Punch-Out!! team and wasn’t released in good ol’ Japan.

GameFAQs: 8.6 (30 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Zoda’s Revenge: StarTropics II (NES, Nintendo, 1994)

This little-known sequel was released four years later and only in the USA. Poor guy.

GameFAQs: 8.8 (16 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Final Fantasy Adventure (Game Boy, SquareSoft, 1991)

Oh! Another game I’ve actually beaten! “It’s like Zelda but in a Final Fantasy world.” This is actually the first game in the Mana (or Seiken Densetsu) series and bore the title, Final Fantasy Gaiden: Seiken Densetsu, in Japan. At first glance it looks a lot like Zelda but the overall feel is pretty different, with that darker Final Fantasy tone. There are many RPG trappings like leveling up and magic points and the items/weapons acquired throughout the game are more destructive than what you’d normally find in Zelda games (like blades and clubs on chains). I understand the SNES Mana games are less Zelda-ish but this one certainly belongs in Part 2 of this article and I would definitely recommend it.

GameFAQs: 8.8 (26 reviews) GameRankings: 8.2 (6 reviews)

LandStalker (Genesis, Climax/SEGA, 1992)

“It’s like Zelda but with an anti-hero, platforming, and an isometric viewpoint.” This one also has pretty rabid supporters.

GameFAQs: 8.7 (15 reviews) GameRankings: 8.7 (2 reviews)

Beyond Oasis (Genesis, Ancient/SEGA, 1994)

“It’s like Zelda but in a middle-Eastern setting and with brawling.” One reviewer described the game as a mash-up of Zelda and the Streets of Rage series. Sounds like a nice change of pace!

GameFAQs: 8.1 (13 reviews) GameRankings: 8.4 (3 reviews)

Legend of Oasis (Saturn, Ancient/SEGA, 1996)

The sequel to Beyond Oasis, but now with “Legend of” in the title to make the Zelda connection clearer. Thank you for that!
Now that's a big kick!
GameFAQs: 7.7 (3 reviews) 7.8 (3 reviews)

Alundra (PlayStation, Matrix/Sony, 1997)

“It’s like Zelda but in 32 bits and with some jumping.” The main character is even elfin in appearance.

GameFAQs: 7.9 (32 reviews) GameRankings: 8.5 (11 reviews)

StarFox Adventures (GameCube, Rare/Nintendo, 2002)
Dinosaur Planet
If you hadn’t already guessed, this game is “like Zelda but with the StarFox cast and conventions.” Here’s how it came about. In the N64 days, Rare had made something of a habit of making high-quality “clones” of Japanese Nintendo games. Super Mario 64 begat Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 and Mario Kart 64 begat Diddy Kong Racing. Eventually, Rare decided to make a Zelda game for the N64, entitled Dinosaur Planet. Shigeru Miyamoto got a look at it, noticed the protagonist was furry, and commanded Rare to convert the game into a StarFox installment for the GameCube. Anyway, the gameplay is Zelda 64 to the core, with the L-button aiming, button mapping and auto-jump. After this release, Rare and Nintendo divorced.

GameFAQs: 7.7 (66 reviews) GameRankings: 8.0 (80 reviews)

Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy (PlayStation 2/Xbox/GameCube, Eurocom/THQ, 2003)

The general consensus is that this game is like Zelda but in ancient, mythology-inspired Egypt. The main innovation is the addition of a jump button.

PlayStation 2 version – 8.6 (8 reviews) 7.9 (33 reviews)
Xbox version – 8.0 (2 reviews) 8.1 (21 reviews)
GameCube version – GameFAQs: 8.0 (9 reviews) 7.9 (25 reviews)

Beyond Good & Evil (PlayStation 2/Xbox/GameCube/PC, Ubisoft Montpelier/Ubisoft, 2003)

The protagonist is a photographer of some sort and the setting is kinda sci-fi. I don’t know much else but it’s always described as a Zelda clone. It has developed a really fervent cult following and was respected by the critics. Supposedly, a sequel is on the way.

PlayStation 2 version – GameFAQs: 8.1 (34 reviews) GameRankings: 8.7 (57 reviews)
Xbox version – GameFAQs: 9.1 (27 reviews) GameRankings: 8.8 (52 reviews)
GameCube version – GameFAQs: 8.9 (33 reviews) GameRankings: 8.8 (43 reviews)
PC version – GameFAQs: 8.9 (9 reviews) GameRankings: 8.3 (23 reviews)

Okami (PlayStation 2/Wii, Clover Studio/Capcom, 2006/2007)
doggy
Unlike most of the games on this list, Okami enjoyed a pretty healthy marketing and hype push. Interestingly, it came out in the same year as a high profile Zelda release, Twilight Princess, and the reviews often described it as a “Zelda-killer” or as having “out-Zelda’d Zelda.” Pretty big talk! So, yeah, it’s like Zelda but in an ancient, mythology-inspired Japan, and the protagonist is a divine dog. The game was especially praised for its beautiful, painting-like visuals. This was the last game Clover Studio developed before Capcom dissolved them and the principal members left to form Platinum Games. There’s a sequel on the way for DS.

PlayStation 2 version – GameFAQs: 9.5 (52 reviews) GameRankings: 9.2 (75 reviews)
Wii version – GameFAQs: 8.9 (27 reviews) GameRankings: 9.0 (47 reviews)

Part 3: All in the Family

This section is a quick overview of games that bear superficial similarities to Zelda and are probably influenced by Zelda but are not by any means clones and that break out of the mold in several meaningful ways. Perhaps I will write more about these games at a later date but for now I’m including the following in this category.

Mana series, including Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3, Sword of Mana, and the bastard stepchild, Secret of Evermore.

SoulBlazer series, including SoulBlazer, Illusion of Gaia, and Terranigma.

Shining series, including I’m not even sure which games el oh el.

Zenonia series, the series that’s dominating on iPhone of late.

END

I’m glad that all these clones exist because there are too many elements that the Zelda games hold onto with unnecessary stubbornness.  Why is the setting always medievel-Europe-looking’?  Why is the star always a little, elfin, blond boy?  Anyway, you have your orders. As for me, I still have to beat three more Zelda games before I can seven dig into the list. If you disagree with my categorization, let me know. If you love one of the above-mentioned games and think I should play it first, let me know. Goodbye.

14 responses to “Zelda clones and offspring

  1. miloprometheus

    I liked this article a lot….it looks like it took a million years to get all those images alone. Though I’m hardly a video game expert, I would recommend checking out Secret Of Mana first out of these games, because I have a lot of nostalgia for it.

  2. i agree with greg. secret of mana is an old favorite. it’s the best, however, if you can get 2 other people to play it with you.

    also… i remember star tropics being fun, and i really want to play battle of olympus. do you know if faxanadu is supposed to be any good?

  3. The Granstream Saga can also be considered part of the Soul Blazer series. Same themes, same dev teams. It sucks though.

  4. I just finish beating mass effect 2. This sequel comes with awesome graphics compare to the first one. Here’s a somewhat short review on mass effect 2. The game starts very shortly after the previous one and Shepard is now a human hero. A very cool thing is that if you have your save file from the first game this will affect many things in the sequel depending on the decisions you previously took.

    Mass effect 2 is more of the same but with many great changes such as you no longer have an inventory like in most normal RPG’s. You’ll get very quickly tired of hearing “probe away” while scanning a planet for resources. The sequel is a lot more of a first-person shooter than the previous game. In fact I would say this one is more of a first-person shooter with a very well done and detailed storyline with great realistic party members. The new delay between shooting that was overheating previously is now simply reloading your gun like in most first-person shooters.

  5. You never know how many games or “clones” of games you’ve played until there’s a list that puts it into perspective. Thank you for making me feel old. el oh el :)

  6. Nice article. I hadn’t heard of many of the 2d games mentioned, and will try a few. Can anyone recommend any other 3d (PS2-era) Zelda clones? That’s what I’m hunting for, really…

    I would also highly recommend the PS2/GameCube/Xbox/PC video game adaptation of “The Hobbit” — it’s very Zelda-like, but fully and competently voice acted, full of good little puzzles and decent combat and reasonably faithful to the book it’s based on. It’s solid too; it doesn’t suffer from lack of polish on things like collision detection, plot flow, or anything else really.

  7. Beyond Good and Evil has no leveling, two currencies. Item acquisitions and HP boosters/scale is pretty much Zelda-ish. You collect boosters for both your car and protagonist. Some levels have a companion, to whom you MUST sacrifice one or two Hearts (only named differently), each Heart is 2 or 4 HP (can’t remember exactly), Hovercraft’s HP is treated the Zelda-ish way too.
    Due to water connecting most of the game, you can say it’s Wind Waker in sci-fi and with a girl.

  8. PurpleNinjaGirl

    Don’t forget 3D Dot Game Heroes!
    This one pokes fun at itself for being so derivative… but with or without originality, I still enjoyed it more than a lot of the recent Zelda titles.

  9. When I wrote this article, 3D Dot Game Heroes either hadn’t come out yet or was brand new. It does look appealing but I ain’t got no PS3. I think I’m on the same page, though, regarding recent Zelda games. I think Nintendo is kind of retreading old territory and losing its charm. I think some of the indie games clearly inspired by Nintendo series have outshone the recent, official releases in some series. I’m talking about games like Braid (influenced by Mario) and Shadow Complex (practically a Metroid clone).

  10. ATrueblood 27

    I agree I miss the magic of poppin in the newest Zelda or Metroid and being so immersed I thought Imay actually find the Master Sword in the woods of the farm I grew up on I am 90% thru Skyward sword and nothing so far has even remotely stirred any emotion not to say its story sux its great and original but there aren’t any memorable moments but very interesting to see the beginnings of thee lineage of thee Hero andPrincessZelda’s orign

  11. NameThatNobodyTakes

    I think you have missed “Blood Omen Legacy of Kain” and “Legacy of Kain Soul Reaver” which both play pretty much like a Zelda game. You complete many dungeons and the powers you receive let you access optional parts of the world map that were inaccessible without the powers. The subsequent games in the series however were pretty linear and were more like hack and slash games.

    Anyway, nice list. I haven’t seen many efforts to categorize “Zelda-like” games. Some of the games I have never heard before, I will make sure to check out most of them as I think that Zelda’s formula is great but sadly hasn’t been attempted by many developers.

  12. thanks for the article! was looking for some good zelda-like games to play. just the type of info i was looking for!

  13. Someday I’ll update this article and incorporate some of the games that have been suggested in the comments. For now I will mention that there’s a new Zelda clone on iPad/iPhone called “Oceanhorn” that’s getting some good reviews.

  14. Also, some other Zeldalikes to be added include “Legacy of Kain”, “Monkey Hero”, and some of the Goemon games.

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