The Hyrule Warriors games are great, but they’re definitely not the standard Zelda formula fans love. And with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity fresh off the presses, you may be craving a more traditional Zelda experience. Fortunately, there are loads of great titles from other developers that take inspiration from the Zelda series.
RiME is a peaceful title about exploring an ancient island full of ruins and secrets to uncover. Enjoy the beautiful world while interacting with the local fauna and solving puzzles scattered about. All the while, you get to learn more about the backstory of the unnamed boy you play through the various collectibles you’ll find during your playthrough.
Taking its cues from Breath of the Wild, Pine drops the player into a massive open-world where humans are at the bottom of the food chain. You’ll explore a wide variety of biomes and structures, all while dealing with the other civilizations that inhabit the island. There’s plenty of items to collect and craft and secrets to uncover, and the story plays out in an interesting way while making sure you play an active role in it.
Hyper Light Drifter (PC/Switch/PS4/Xbox)
In this beautifully pixelated tale, you get to play a mysterious drifter exploring a diverse world full of intrigue. The storytelling is cryptic and told solely through the environment, and the Zelda inspiration becomes clear when you see the gameplay. The combat is fast-paced and based around quick sword strikes and smart dodging. All of this comes together to deliver a satisfying game with some of the best pixel art in gaming.
Hob follows the Zelda formula pretty faithfully, but it has enough of a unique flair to differentiate itself. The cartoony 3D visuals give the world plenty of character and also open the door for more vertical movement than most top-down games. In this game, you’ll explore, solve puzzles, and fight enemies—what could be more Zelda than that?
Darksiders II (PC/Switch/PS4/Xbox)
While the Darksiders series certainly has a different tone than Zelda, it still takes plenty of cues from the series—most notably, the dungeon-based progression system that’s seen throughout the entire game. There’s also some excellent hack n’ slash combat and loot systems to keep you engaged as you progress through the game.
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King (PC/Switch)
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is immediately recognizable as a Zelda inspired title, with everything from the animations to how combat works paying homage to the series. But this isn’t some cheap copycat—Blossom Tales was praised for taking the classic Zelda formula and including many new ideas, along with some all-around great dungeon design.
Ittle Dew 2+ (PC/Switch/PS4)
As a sequel to the already critically acclaimed Ittle Dew, it’s no surprise that Ittle Dew 2 is another faithful reinterpretation of the Zelda formula. With new items, a cutesy art style, and excellent level design, this game is sure to please fans of the Zelda series, both new and old. There’s plenty of content in the game, with seven dungeons you can tackle in any order, plus multiple unlockable dungeons that turn up the difficulty.
Moonlighter is a beautifully detailed adventure with plenty of stuff to achieve—it even throws in some roguelite mechanics for good measure. You manage a small shop, selling loot from the procedurally generated dungeons you explore every night. There’s a large variety of weapons and items that you can obtain, either from the local townsfolk or treasure chests. Even the inventory system in Moonlighter manages to be unique, with an interesting puzzle element where you have to be careful about how items are stacked.
Collection of Mana (Switch)
The Mana series were revolutionary titles when they were first released, boasting impressive visuals and unique action-oriented RPG combat. And now you can play the whole series through the Collection of Mana on Switch. While the first game, Final Fantasy Adventure, is a bit dated, having originally been released on Gameboy, it’s still a solid game. And the other two games hold up excellently compared to modern top-down RPGs, so regardless of whether you’ve played these games before or not, this collection is a great pickup.
If you don’t own a Switch, then the Trails of Mana remake (the third and final game in the series) is available on PC, PS4, and Switch. It changes things up dramatically from the original title, turning the top-down adventure into a third-person 3D one, but the heart and soul of the game are still there and as great as ever.
Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Sea (PC/Switch/PS4/Xbox/Android/iOS)
Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Sea doesn’t do much to convince you it’s not a Zelda knockoff. Everything from the level design, perspective, and even the main character’s design make that pretty clear. Despite that, Oceanhorn still manages to be a game worth playing due to how effectively it recreates the Zelda formula. For fans of the series, this is a great title to play if you want to feel at home.
Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Sea does have a sequel in Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm which focuses on third-person action and, on the whole, brings more fresh ideas to the table. However, it’s only available on Switch and iOS devices.
This post was written by Eric Schoon and was first posted to www.reviewgeek.com
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