Playing Zelda on the Amazon Fire Platform
I noted in a recent post that The Legend of Zelda: Breathe of the Wild was taking up my gaming time lately, but I’ve gotten a little inspired and want to try to play every Zelda game that can be played on the Fire platform. Obviously this means emulators, and my baseline is to start with RetroArch.
Games You Can Play on All Fire TV Devices
The Legend of Zelda (1986)
The original game in its shiny gold cartridge that every kid my age coveted once they learned of its existence is still one of my favorite games of all time. I may not be a speed runner, but there was a time when I could beat both quests in relatively short order, just walking through the dungeons, never dying until it was time to pound Ganon with silver arrows. The gold cart and my original NES and controllers sit in our playroom, ready to go, but this is about playing on one of my Fire TV devices.
If you’re like me the first place you’ll go is to a NES emulator, and Nestopia on RetroArch is one of the best around, so you’ll start there. Then you’ll load the ROM, play for a while and think “let’s see, I want to save my game” and realize that you only have one controller and can’t save, because you have to use the second controller to save except after deaths. If you hit that snag, there’s a great solution — because The Legend of Zelda and a lot of original NES games were ported to the Game Boy Advance as part of the Classic NES Series in 2004. Load up mGBA and you can play the Game Boy Advance version, which allows you to save with one controller since it’s a personal game system.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1987)
Like the original NES Zelda, you need a second controller to save games in Zelda II. The solution here is the same if you don’t have 2: load up mGBA and you can play the 2004 Game Boy Advance version, which allows you to save with one controller since it’s a personal game system.
In case you’re wondering, this game is way more of a pain than you remember. I had completely forgotten how frustrating it was 30 years ago, probably because so many games were really hard. Back in the NES era, saying you’d beaten a game was a big deal. Many people never could play through the best games of the day even with ridiculouss numbers of hours put in. Castlevania, Zelda II, Ninja Gaiden, Contra without the cheat, these are all games that I played for hours and hours but never quite beat. You will almost certainly rage quit this game at some point.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991)
It’s obviously when you play SNES Zelda (I’m using Snes9x on RetroArch) that they were still kind of figuring out what they wanted out of the Zelda franchise. Adenventure of Link had played more like Castlevania (another NES hit) with its 2D platforming combat than it had the original Zelda, and as mentioned above, it was punishingly hard by today’s standards.
A Link to the Past gets back to something more like the original, and is basically nothing in comparison to Zelda II in difficulty.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (1993)
In 1993 Nintendo released the first portable Zelda on the Game Boy. Compare that to today where Nintendo’s new console is a superpowered tablet computer and the release title is a direct port of the Wii U’s grande finale, Breathe of the Wild, and it seems a little weird that mobile Zelda was once low res and spinach green. My advice: skip straight to the 1998 Game Boy Color adaptation: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.
Maybe that’s not the purist answer, but Nintendo seems to have spent half a decade basically rereleasing Game Boy games on the Game Boy Color, and I’m personally OK sticking to the GBC versions using Gambatte on Retroarch. Here’s a shot I found comparing the two:
And Now it Gets More Complicated
Up to this point, we’ve played a dozen years of Zelda using whatever Fire TV you had, even the 1st Gen Fire TV Stick. Now that we’ve reached the Nintendo 64, you’re going to need more power.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
Once again I’m going to suggestion breaking with your initial inclination and suggest going with a later release. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Master Quest is an expanded version of Ocarina of Time. Nintendo originally planned to launch Zelda 64 on their drive system, but it flopped in Japan and never made it to the US. Ocarina of Time got cut down for cartridge release, and that game is the one most of us so fondly remember. The Master Quest version ROM was included on a disc for the Gamecube in 2003, and gets you closer to what Nintendo really envisioned for the game.
Of course, you’re going to need power to emulate the N64, so the 1st Gen Fire TV Stick is completely out. Then you’ll need to pick an emulator. The coolest new N64 emulator (paraLLEl) uses Vulkan, a low level 3D programming API that is supported by the 2nd Gen Fire TV, but not the other devices. The paraLLEl emulator is based on what is traditionally the best N64 emulator, Mupen64Plus, and that’s probably the place you should start.
One of the things I read is that the Master Quest version renders at a higher resolution, and I kind of have gotten down a rabbit hole here, as I’ve successfully rendered high resolution and low resolution and want to expand on this. I’ll be expanding this post as I get more info pulled together here.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000)