January is a tough time for me. Seasonal depression can zap loads of power from of us — doubly so for these of us who wrestle with depression yr spherical. And regardless of video games not requiring a lot power, my personal motivation to play tends to plummet within the winter months. The fall at all times brings a flood of new video games, and I can by no means appear to complete all those I need earlier than the subsequent yr’s games begin popping out.

Even as I play games I’m actually having fun with, like Yakuza: Like a Dragon or Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, my eyes begin to glaze over. I spend a lot time in my personal head that instantly I’m dropping the thread in final yr’s biggest hits. And so, each January, I flip to a collection I already know properly: The Legend of Zelda.

The want for one thing previous

Banjo Kazooie v. Mario 64

Banjo & Kazooie throughout their opening theme track
Image: Rare

January has been my retro month for years now. After days of making an attempt to muster pleasure for something new, I fall again on Zelda, Banjo-Kazooie, Ratchet & Clank, Kingdom Hearts, Metal Gear, or a quantity of different franchises I do know properly. These retro games fluctuate in age and complexity, however none of them come near the open-world, system-laded extravaganzas of 2020. I like a fancy sport — I spend most of my workweek writing about Destiny 2 and different MMOs — however they’re an excessive amount of for me after I’m too depressed to even sit on my sofa with out taking a nap.

Games like Banjo-Kazooie work for me as a result of I do know them backwards and forwards. I don’t must assume a lot after I replay, so it doesn’t matter if my thoughts wanders or my focus dims. Any kind of progress is an achievement over falling asleep once more, and my auto-pilot helps maintain me on monitor. I don’t must spend my time determining which abilities I wish to unlock for Banjo or which pair of shorts I wish to equip to improve his stats. I take bear and hen for a spin and maintain going till I’ve collected all the pieces.

I like Banjo-Kazooie, however I’ve been enjoying it because it got here out in 1998 — I’ve found all there may be to find. When it involves exercising my mind, that’s a bit of an issue. But the Legend of Zelda collection is comparatively new to me, having skipped the franchise solely till 2013 after I first beat A Link Between Worlds. I’ve since gone again quite a few instances to replay the Zelda collection, however my reminiscence of every particular person sport isn’t as clear as Banjo. And it’s that elusive mastery — nevertheless small — that makes Zelda good for clearing my head.

Why Zelda works for me

Ocarina of Time Zelda

Ocarina of Time artwork
Image: Nintendo

I’ve fallen for every Zelda sport for its distinctive charms, however nothing helps me refocus my love of games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.

Ocarina of Time is an intricate puzzle, and whereas I enhance each time I play, I nonetheless overlook the precise order of operations. I at all times misremember the way to gentle the primary flame in Death Mountain and I’m at all times lacking a key within the water temple. Those moments of forgetfulness mix with moments of triumph.

It took me studying a information to get the hearth arrows the primary time, however now I keep in mind precisely the place I want to face after I shoot the solar in Lake Hylia.

Replays of Ocarina of Time at the moment are 80% auto-pilot and 20% puzzle fixing for me. That first 80% helps me push by the in-between dungeon sections with muscle reminiscence, however that leftover puzzle fixing helps me refocus my mushy depression mind. Every time I fall by the ground within the Bottom of the Well, I curse to myself, swearing that I do know this — like a dad who drove by someplace 5 years in the past so he refuses to ask for instructions. It’s a jolt of frustration — the great type — that helps resuscitate my lifelong ardour for games.

When the winter depression hits, I at all times discover simply the correct amount of discovery hidden within the corners of a sport I do know very properly. Ocarina of Time is my go-to sport for that sort of discovery, however the Zelda collection shares sufficient DNA that Majora’s Mask, Twilight Princess, and A Link Between Worlds fill the same void.

The Legend of Zelda games have straddled the road of snug and stimulating for me since I first began enjoying them in school. They’re right here for me now, coming off a troublesome yr for all of us, and so they’ll be right here for me once more in 2022.