While we don’t know if The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will see its rumored, months-long delay, we still won’t get our hands on it for a while. In these dark times, we have no choice but to turn to the games outside the Zelda series that attempt to ape what it does best.
Typically, these experiences feature a vast overworld, some variation on dungeons, and tons of tools to aid you on your journey. And while Zelda clones have been a thing since their inspiration debuted in 1986, this list focuses on the best ones currently available on modern or semi-modern platforms.
Quite possibly one of the most beautiful games to ever see the light of day, Okami had the misfortune of launching just a few months before 2006’s The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. And on top of the bad timing, Twilight Princess also features a premise very similar to Okami. While you fill the shoes of Link as with any Zelda adventure, Twilight Princess also traps you in the body of a wolf for long stretches. When given a choice between two wolf-infused Zelda-style adventures, most gamers opted for the real thing.
Since its lackluster launch, Okami has gone on to achieve the status of “beloved cult classic.” Though the adventure lingers on a bit too long, Okami’s focus on gradually bringing life to a dying world makes this Zelda clone unique and worthwhile. And thanks to its timeless, cel-shaded art style, it still looks great an entire decade later. If you want a long, Zelda-style game with a heavy focus on Japanese mythology, look no further than Okami.
Okami is currently available on the PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo Wii. You can also pick up the 2012 HD remastered version for the PlayStation 3.
For years, Zelda fans clamored for a “dark” version of their favorite series, and they kind of got what they wanted with Twilight Princess. But Darksiders amounts to the darkest take on The Legend of Zelda to date. Case in point: Darksiders opens with angels and demons waging war with each other on earth, which means “apocalypse” to anyone assuming a puny mortal form.
Though it entered the world in 2010 as the first game from a newly founded studio, critics took to Darksiders as a slightly more grim variant on the typical Zelda experience. And to help sell this atmosphere, Darksiders features designs supervised by notable comic artist Joe Madureira. The result is a great start to a series that unfortunately may not see a third game thanks to the closure of publisher THQ. Still, they left behind two worthy Zelda clones that are definitely worth your time.
Darksiders and Darksiders II can be found paired together in THQ Nordic’s Warmastered Edition, available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
3D Dot Games Heroes
Most Zelda clones at least make some attempt at disguising their inspiration, but not 3D Dot Game Heroes. Simply put, it exists as a big, beautiful tribute to the original The Legend of Zelda, right down to the cryptic hints given to you by bearded hermits hiding away in caves. 3D Dot Game Heroes even tries to approximate the look of old school games, but with a high-tech twist. The game composes every character, monster, and environmental object out of 3D blocks, yet they’re lavishly lit and shaded at the standard you’d expect from a PlayStation 3 game.
3D Dot Game Heroes goes beyond pure tribute, though, and remains a good game in its own right. Think of it as what The Legend of Zelda creators would make in 1986 if they had the power of a PS3 at their fingertips, instead of being held back by the limitations of 8-bit hardware. 3D Dot Game Heroes features the same focus on exploration and experimentation as Link’s debut adventure, but set within a vast overworld, containing some pretty huge dungeons. And, to top things off, 3D Dot Game Heroes comes from Silicon Studio, who went on to make classic Final Fantasy throwbacks Bravely Default and Bravely Second. If anyone knows how to properly pay tribute to the classics, it’s these folks.
Unfortunately, you can only play 3D Dot Game Heroes via its physical PlayStation 3 release. That said, a used copy shouldn’t set you back too much.
Beyond Good & Evil
A common, loud refrain you’ll hear from gamers during every annual E3 convention: “WHERE IS BEYOND GOOD & EVIL 2!?” The original, which released in 2003, sort of came out of nowhere, though its creator stands as one of the industry’s more notable figures. Beyond Good & Evil comes from the mind of Ubisoft’s Michel Ancel, otherwise known as the guy who created Rayman and the Raving Rabbids. And Beyond Good & Evil ranks up there with Ancel’s other creations: It’s a compact little Zelda-style adventure with a strong female lead—which isn’t always the easiest thing to find in gaming.
While Jade stands as a fine protagonist, what really makes Beyond Good & Evil special lies in how it teams you up with memorable partner characters for the sake of solving puzzles. It plays out a bit like the few dungeons in The Wind Waker that do the same thing, but with a bit more personality thanks to some memorable voice-over work. Ultimately, Beyond Good & Evil surprised the hell out of us, which is why we’ve been waiting so impatiently for a sequel these past 13 years. If you’ve never played the original and don’t know what all the hype’s about, you should be happy to know it holds up pretty well today.
Beyond Good & Evil saw a digitally released HD remake in 2012, which stands as the best way to play it. You can play it on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and also on the Xbox One.
Where 3D Dot Game Heroes tried its best to copy the finer points of the original The Legend of Zelda, Alundra feels more inspired by A Link to the Past. And that’s essentially what this original PlayStation game amounts to: A souped-up take on Link’s Super Nintendo adventure, but with more of a focus on puzzles. And even though Alundra exists as the oldest entry on our list at nearly 20 years old, its 2D graphics still look fantastic. (Unlike the polygonal sequel, which aged like fine milk.)
Though Alundra’s elf-like appearance may veer a little too close to Link, his game contains a premise different than The Legend of Zelda. In the game, you jump into people’s dreams, which serve as dungeons, full of enemies and puzzles. Be warned, though: Alundra can be a deviously challenging. Zelda games have their tough moments, but Alundra basically feels like a Zelda sequel set on “hard mode.” If you’re up to the challenge, though, Alundra makes for a worthy copycat that still manages to do some new things with an established formula.
Though you can always dig up an original PlayStation disc, it might be easier to nab a digital copy of Alundra on the PlayStation Store. Once you download Alundra, you can play it on your PSP, PlayStation 3, or Vita.