The Legend of Zelda games help aid my seasonal depression

January is a tough time for me. Seasonal anxiety can zap a great deal of energy from folks — twice as so for those people who have a hard time with anxiety all year. And in spite of computer games not needing much energy, my own inspiration to play tends to plunge in the winter season. The fall constantly brings a flood of brand-new computer game, and I can never ever appear to end up all the ones I desire prior to the next year’s video games begin coming out.

Even as I play video games I’m actually taking pleasure in, like Yakuza: Like a Dragon or Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, my eyes begin to glaze over. I invest a lot time in my own head that unexpectedly I’m losing the thread in in 2015’s biggest hits. Therefore, every January, I rely on a series I currently understand well: The Legend of Zelda.

The requirement for something old

Banjo Kazooie v. Mario 64

Banjo & Kazooie throughout their opening signature tune
Image: Uncommon

January has actually been my retro month for several years now. After days of attempting to summon happiness for anything brand-new, I draw on Zelda, Banjo-Kazooie, Cog & Clank, Kingdom Hearts, Metal Equipment, or a variety of other franchises I understand well. These retro video games differ in age and intricacy, however none come close to the open-world, system-laded extravaganzas of 2020. I enjoy an intricate video game — I invest the majority of my workweek discussing Fate 2 and other MMOs — however they’re excessive for me when I’m too depressed to even rest on my sofa without sleeping.

Games like Banjo-Kazooie work for me since I understand them up and down. I don’t need to believe much when I replay, so it doesn’t matter if my mind wanders or my focus dims. Any kind of development is an accomplishment over dropping off to sleep once again, and my auto-pilot assists keep me on track. I don’t need to invest my time determining which abilities I wish to open for Banjo or which set of shorts I wish to gear up to update his statistics. I take bear and bird for a spin and keep going till I’ve gathered whatever.

I enjoy Banjo-Kazooie, however I’ve been playing it because it came out in 1998 — I’ve found all there is to find. When it pertains to exercising my brain, that’s a little an issue. However the Legend of Zelda series is reasonably brand-new to me, having actually avoided the franchise completely till 2013 when I initially beat A Link In Between Worlds. I’ve since gone back numerous times to replay the Zelda series, but my memory of each individual game isn’t as clear as Banjo. And it’s that elusive mastery — however small — that makes Zelda perfect for clearing my head.

Why Zelda works for me

Ocarina of Time Zelda

Ocarina of Time art
Image: Nintendo

I’ve fallen for each Zelda game for its unique charms, but 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 while I improve every time I play, I still forget the exact order of operations. I always misremember how to light the initially flame in Death Mountain and I’m always missing a key in the water temple. Those moments of forgetfulness blend with moments of triumph.

It took me reading a guide to get the fire arrows the first time, but now I remember exactly where I need to stand when I shoot the sun in Lake Hylia.

Replays of Ocarina of Time are now 80% auto-pilot and 20% puzzle solving for me. That first 80% helps me push through the in-between dungeon sections with muscle memory, but that leftover puzzle solving helps me refocus my mushy depression brain. Every time I fall through the floor in the Bottom of the Well, I curse to myself, swearing that I know this — like a dad who drove by somewhere five years ago so he refuses to ask for directions. It’s a jolt of frustration — the good kind — that helps resuscitate my lifelong passion for games.

When the winter depression hits, I always find just the right amount of discovery hidden in the corners of a game I know very well. Ocarina of Time is my go-to game for that kind of discovery, but the Zelda series shares enough DNA that Majora’s Mask, Twilight Princess, and A Link In Between Worlds fill a similar void.

The Legend of Zelda games have straddled the line of comfortable and stimulating for me because I very first began playing them in college. They’re here for me now, coming off a challenging year for everybody, and they’ll be here for me once again in 2022.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.