When he was looking to create a new game for the Famicom Disk System — an add-on for the NES that never launched outside of Japan — designer Shigeru Miyamoto built a prototype in which two players could make their own dungeons, and then explore their friend’s creation. The exploration proved to be the most fun part, so Miyamoto and his team scrapped the creation tools and went ahead building a world of mountains and forests and lakes that players could traverse. They called it Hyrule. The game would eventually become The Legend of Zelda, a defining game for Miyamoto, Nintendo, and gaming in general.
“We named the protagonist Link because he connects people together,” Miyamoto explains in the book Hyrule Historia. Since the original Legend of Zelda first launched 30 years ago today, Link has starred in many adventures, each one like a retelling of an ancient fable. The core ingredients are almost always the same — you have a hero named Link, a princess named Zelda, and a villain named Ganon. But other aspects are changed, resulting in a new twist on a familiar formula. Over the past three decades Link has explored oceans and dungeons, partnered with pirates and fairies, and battled countless octoroks and skulltulas.
And the legend doesn’t look like it will end any time soon, with three games due to launch in 2016, including the next big adventure on the Wii U. Here's a brief timeline of the legend so far.
Correction (February 22nd, 2016): This article originally stated that the original Legend of Zelda was never released on the Famicom Disc System; it was, though only in Japan.