Now, when we think of The Legend of Zelda, we think of a lot of things. There’s the dungeon crawling, the magical items, and, of course, the mcguffin hunting. But when you boil down the series into its base parts, I think it becomes obvious that A Link to the Past is what we think of when we think of The Legend of Zelda.
That’s not to say it’s the best Legend of Zelda game. It’s my personal favorite, but “best” is a really subjective term and I’d never try to tell anyone that they’re wrong about their own favorite. What I mean when I say “definitive” is that it most clearly sums up what a Legend of Zelda game has to be in order to be a game of that series.
It defined the way the series would do dungeon crawling, as well as the way the series would lay out its enemies. It also showcased the story that would become the cornerstone for every Legend of Zelda game since.
So next time someone asks what a Legend of Zelda game has to be in order to be a Legend of Zelda game, sit them down in front of A Link to the Past.