Today, almost everyone refers to all of the Zelda games by their subtitle, but that wasn’t necessarily so in the earlier days. To this day, I still think of “A Link to the Past” as “Zelda III” and always have to pause and say the subtitle instead when talking to a fellow gamer or streaming for an audience.
After hearing the name “Zelda III” out loud, I sometimes get laughs or confusion from other players, so I thought I’d explain it all briefly in a handy article for easy reference.
I’m not alone, actually – many other gamers my age still refer to A Link to the Past as “Zelda III” out of habit. A large part of it is that magazines at the time called it “Zelda III” even though it had a subtitle. This led everyone to call it that on playgrounds, in homes, at workplaces, etc. Basically, for a short period, “Zelda III” was what almost everyone called it, at least for short.
A similar thing happened with “Link’s Awakening” and “Zelda IV”. My recollection is that this numerated title didn’t stick around nearly as long, so it’s rarer to hear anyone refer it to as “Zelda IV” these days.
Lastly, the same thing happened with “Ocarina of Time” and “Zelda 64”. At first, a few places actually called it “Zelda V”, but I don’t think that lasted very long at all. I never heard anyone call it that either.
If anything, though, the game was known widely as “Zelda 64”, probably because so many other games had “64” in the title: Super Mario 64, Star Fox 64, Mario Kart 64, etc. But once Majora’s Mask was released on the Nintendo 64 too, “Zelda 64” probably didn’t make as much sense to use anymore.
In the late 1990s, I recall Majora’s Mask being called “Zelda 64 Gaiden”. Some fans and at least one magazine even called it “Zelda 2”, as if no other games had existed before Ocarina of Times release.
I feel that around 2000 is when all the subtitles started to really take hold, because it was hard to keep count anymore and the games weren’t being numbered anyway. It makes me wonder what number the latest game would be now if we kept the numbering scheme.
Anyway, I just thought I’d share these little snippets of player history for easy sharing and reference. If you have any memories to share or any other scans, let me know. I’d like to add to the above image galleries from time to time!