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Urges You Can't Resist Satisfying In Zelda Games

For over 30 years, millions of players worldwide have traveled the world of Hyrule in its various forms in their never-ending quest for adventure. Through brightest day and blackest night, across forest and sea, these worlds have given those players everything they've searched for and more. And after all that, players are bound to pick up a few, uh, quirks. Actually "quirks" is the wrong word. More like habits. Actually, "habits" is the wrong word, too. More like undeniable pathological compulsions.


It makes perfect sense of course. You spend enough time with a specific gameplay mechanic, and it starts to bleed into your everyday digital life. But no series has fostered urges with more regularity, and across so many different activities, as Zelda. What we've got here is a list of the best of the best, the things you can do in Zelda that you just can't resist, and we don't even want to bother trying.

Smashing every clay pot in sight

As much as we, as humans, are able to appreciate the hard work and artistry it takes to create pottery, one of the great paradoxes is just how delightful it is to watch all that lovely work get destroyed with gleeful abandon. Funny enough, there really isn't a whole lot of Zelda's worlds that you're able to interact with that isn't specifically trying to kill you or there for one particular item to use. That very fact is probably why throwing clay pots at a wall and the delicious shatter sound that follows are one of life's tiny, easily obtainable thrills.


What's really impressive is how it's a thrill in EVERY Zelda game where it's an option, but Link's Awakening in particular really makes it a special treat, since you have to find a Power Bracelet before you can even lift those big boys. But Nintendo knows that little hit of joy is worthwhile, which is why there's always that one room in every game that's just all pots and nothing else. You can just hear Eiji Aonuma saying "You're welcome" every time it happens.

Trying to play music on the ocarina

It seems unfathomable now that stuff like Rocksmith, Thumper, and basically Harmonix's entire output as a studio exist, but once upon a time, the idea of using a video game to make legitimate music was a laughable impossibility. It certainly wasn't something anybody expected out of a Zelda game (though let's not even try to pretend the Recorder tune isn't indelibly burned into every old-school gamer's brain). But the second players get their filthy mitts on the titular Ocarina of Time in the N64-era game, suddenly, everybody's inner Zamfir comes out. 


Sure, there's a good half-dozen songs the game will teach you in order to solve puzzles, but it's a guarantee: if Nintendo tracked stats back then, the percentage of playtime dedicated solely to playing Zelda's Lullaby without triggering the little "you played song!" animation would be enormous.

Annoying the cuccos

It's a simple fact of Zelda that if it can be picked up, it will be thrown by somebody, somewhere, at some point. The only reason it's not a huge deal is because not everything is nearly as satisfying to toss as those clay pots are, save one major exception: cuccos.


In defiance of every ounce of decency and humanitarianism one might have, there is nothing quite like picking up one of Zelda's many free range chickens and watching them flap around helplessly. Hey, blame Nintendo for making the poor birds actually useful, allowing you to float off ledges and making whole activities where you have to toss them back in pens for cash money prizes. Of course, Nintendo is also well aware that players might get mean with the poor chickens, which is why anyone who tries to hit them enough — no matter how hungry you might be at any particular moment — is always going to be in for a rude, Hitchcockian awakening.

Being a lawnmower

Combat's one of those elements of Zelda that's always been there, and always been serviceable, but there isn't that same sense of oomph that one gets from using your sword in, say, Ninja Gaiden, Dark Souls, or Devil May Cry. It's just not that kind of game, and that's okay, really.


Still, using your sword does have its innate charms; Zelda and Zelda 2 had that sweet laser sword you get when all your hearts are full, for example. But the best feeling is still one of the simplest: walking into a huge field of bushes and shrubs, charging up your spin attack, and doing the best gardening job ever. 

It could be that the Spin Attack is just one of those endlessly satisfying moves in gaming — especially in Smash Bros. — or it could just be that oddly soothing ASMR noise of the grass being felled en masse. But really, the best thing is how, especially in the 3D titles, Link's just SO MAD at that grass when he swings.

Doing a flourish after every kill - The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

For a series that's not really about the combat, there are still those special moments where Zelda really does achieve a level of awesome that most games only wish they could. It's only right that the comparatively gritty Twilight Princess has awesome built right into every fight. Just after you've knocked an enemy down, but before they go poof, hitting "A" on your Wiimote causes Link to sheathe his sword like a boss


Yes, it's incredibly cool the first time. But you know what's really cool? Doing it every time

Of course, one does have to contend with the exact timing, because what's not cool is doing a sweet flourish when you've still got two enemies behind you that you haven't even put a dent into yet. To paraphrase one of the oldest rules of the internet: the flourish might be cruise control for cool, but even on cruise control, you still have to steer. 

Charting the entire map - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

There's something relaxing about setting sail across the sea in a video game. More than likely, it has to do with a distinct lack of having to actually do the work of judging the wind, maintaining sails, prepping fenders, inspecting for leaks, watching the cooling water, and getting over that one time you had a panic attack watching All Is Lost on Netflix. There's none of that in gaming.


So, with Wind Waker's big mechanic being a boat with a talking dragon mast, the game is pretty much inviting you to go sailing around the world in search of fortune and glory, or, at bare minimum, charting the entirety of the map. It's a couple hours work, and yet, every single one of those blank spaces that flips over blue is a joy.  Well, it's a joy up until you run into typhoons. So many typhoons. So many.

Cooking everything - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild is very much a game that invites players to test the boundaries of what's possible in nearly every single way one can imagine, and a lot of folks have done mind-boggling work going full MacGyver in trying to break the game right from the get-go. If you haven't watched any of those world record speedruns where folks have been beating the game in a half-hour, clear your schedule: they're bananas.


Not everybody needs to go full Wile E. Coyote to mine near infinite amounts of fun out of the game, though, as anybody who's spent the better part of an hour tossing random ingredients into a frying pan can attest. You really just can't help waiting with anticipation to find out what delectable three-Michelin-star entree the pan spits back out and wheter it's actually useful in any way whatsoever. Usually, it doesn't turn out to be of much value, but just the mere fact that the game has you thinking like a chef, and that it's still as compelling as it is, says something. Plus, if nothing else, "put roasted peppers in everything" is one of those rules a lot of folks should take out into the real world more often.


Gambling your life away - The Legend of Zelda

As much as people like to (rightfully) harp on loot boxes and microtransactions in modern games, at the very least, when you throw your hard earned real-world money down in Overwatch or Apex Legends, you're getting at least some minor return on investment. Once upon a time, gamers would only be so lucky. Imagine having 250 rupees, walking into a secret room, and losing every last penny in five minutes. You might have to shoot the game with a rifle like a clay pigeon.


That's exactly the kind of one-armed-bandit madness everyone could expect out of the first Legend of Zelda, since the gambling rooms allowed you to select a rupee and hopefully win some cash instead of losing your life savings. And yet, walking away just never felt like an option. It's like the lottery: hey, you never know. Push come to shove, you still get to keep your tunic and sword. That's better than Vegas.

Killing everything with the Dominion Rod statues - The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

The Dominion Rod is a bit of an oddity as far as Legend of Zelda items go. It's one of only a scant few major items in the series that you use in only one temple, and it's useless outside of it, except for the whole owl statue thing after you give Shad the Sky Book. Though in fairness, they wouldn't want you using that thing outside the Temple of Time when having hammer-wielding statues to bash everything in sight is an option. 


Once you've got the rod, it's impossible to resist sending your giant protectors to wallop everything, whether you need to or not. And why wouldn't you; you had to beat a Darknut to get the rod to begin with. If you're still alive after that, you deserve to treat yourself. And by treat yourself, we mean beating enemies with giant hammers and big stone fists forever and ever.

Riding everything into battle - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

One of the best things about Breath of the Wild, from a sheer design standpoint, is that forests and valleys feel like living, breathing places where more than just NPCs and enemies live. There's a whole ecosystem out there, full of creatures large and small that will treat Link with all of nature's dispassion and apathy.


What that means in a game whose whole design ethos is "you can do anything", though, is that trying to use every four-legged animal under the sun as your own personal Uber is absolutely an option. Sure, any old loser can find and register a horse; but when you ride a grizzly bear into a fight, not only do you get to strike immediate fear into the hearts of your enemies, but the stable guy's reaction when you try to register one is priceless every single time

Taking Bow Wow for a walk - The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

Bow Wow's whole existence in Link's Awakening begs questions, like why a batty little old lady has a Chain Chomp for a pet, how she even found one, why there's little ones wandering all around, and how in the name of all things holy did that thing breed to begin with. None of those things matter, however, once Link is made to rescue the poor thing, and he repays the favor by devouring everything in your path


Link's animals will always mean the world to players in general, but real talk, have you ever been able to wander the countryside while Epona feasts upon the flesh of those who dare defy you? Not unless Epona is hiding a deep, dark secret, but that's the beauty of just wandering everywhere with Bow Wow attached to your heels. The lure of Extreme Dogwalking is just too great to pass up over and over again. Just, uh, maybe don't tell Madam Meow Meow what he's been eating.