After over 30 years, gamers are still going back to Link's roots in these fantastic NES games so let's see which one holds up better.
We'll start this Versus with the big one: gameplay. The Legend of Zelda is a purely overhead action adventure game where you slash your sword and use a variety of items to attack enemies and traverse the world of Hyrule. When you think of classic Zelda games, this is the formula that usually comes to mind. A year later, The Adventure of Link (AKA Zelda II) debuted and it surprised many gamers with its radically different approach to gameplay. Aside from the overhead world map, you battle enemies, explore towns, and traverse dungeons within side-scrolling environments. Plus, it implemented RPG elements where you can level up Link's attack, magic, and life after earning experience points. Of course, I'm only touching the basics but I'll get into more depth in the other categories. Although The Adventure of Link is a unique and challenging experience that's great fun nowadays, The Legend of Zelda established a much more immediately gratifying formula that almost every 2D sequel implemented so it wins here.
Items and abilities
Of course, they wouldn't be Zelda games if they didn't have cool abilities. Firstly, The Legend of Zelda has the awesome boomerang, fun bombs, and Link's legendary bow and arrows. Who could forget finally shooting a silver arrow at Ganon to finish him off? Also, burning trees with candles to reveal secrets, warping with a recorder, using a magical rod to shoot energy beams, and floating around on a raft are cool abilities as well. Meanwhile, The Adventure of Link is much more focused on magic spells and abilities. It's great to cast spells like Shield to receive less damage, Jump to leap higher, Life to restore some health, Fire to shoot fireballs, Reflect to enhance your shield, and Thunder to kill all onscreen enemies. Plus, transforming into a Fairy is both hilarious and super-helpful. Finally, learning the downward and upward thrusts will make you feel like a ninja. In the end, it's clear that The Adventure of Link has the better abilities.
Progressing through these games makes for a couple of very different experiences. The Legend of Zelda literally puts you in the middle of a massive world with no direction and you have to find your way through it while The Adventure of Link begins similarly although it has a stronger sense of direction as much of its world is blocked off until you acquire certain items, etc. As a result, The Legend of Zelda is a more non-linear game so if you enjoy exploring the world for yourself then it'll certainly be more up your alley. That being said, dungeons also play a big role in these games and The Adventure of Link's are elaborate and rewarding to explore complete with incredible boss fights such as Carock, Barba, and Thunderbird. The dungeons and bosses in The Legend of Zelda are memorable but not quite as cool. However, the non-linearity of it is still highly appreciated to this day so The Legend of Zelda wins here.
Hearing the music in both of these games will make any retro gamer smile with nostalgia. The Legend of Zelda's overworld theme and title music are iconic although its repetitive dungeon music definitely gets annoying fast, I'm sorry to say. Thankfully, The Adventure of Link's soundtrack is simply phenomenal with an awesome opening number, fantastic overworld and battle music, chill vibes in villages, and the tunes that play within the palaces and during boss fights are top-notch. When you top the OST off with the amazing Great Palace Theme and an awesome track that plays over the credits, you're left with one unforgettable collection of 8-bit tunes. It goes without saying but The Adventure of Link has the better soundtrack out of these 2 classic Zelda games.
Link and Zelda sure had a couple of epic games to begin their franchise but I have to pick a winner which is...
Winner The Legend of Zelda
Although I love replaying both of these timeless classics, The Legend of Zelda's non-linear world and rewarding gameplay that set the trend for most of the 2D sequels make it stand out as the winner. That being said, The Adventure of Link is a fantastic game in its own right with a killer soundtrack and a super-challenging campaign that's set up in a cleverly unconventional way. I'd like to see Nintendo make another Zelda game in the style of The Adventure of Link because it's the only one like it but I could always play The Battle of Olympus again. Anyway, I have to go assemble the Triforce of Wisdom for the dozenth time.
That's just my opinion. Agree? Disagree? Vote now!