The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is an action-adventure game developed and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It is the third game in The Legend of Zelda series and was released in 1991 in Japan and 1992 in North America and Europe.
A Link to the Past focuses on Link as he journeys to save Hyrule, defeat the dark lord Ganon, and rescue the descendants of the Seven Sages. It returns to a top-down perspective similar to the original The Legend of Zelda, dropping the side-scrolling gameplay of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. It introduced series staples such as parallel worlds and items including the Master Sword.
Instead of using the side-scrolling perspective introduced by Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past reverts to an overhead perspective similar to that of the original The Legend of Zelda. While A Link to the Past still uses mechanics and concepts from the original game, it also introduces new elements and innovations. For instance, arrows are now separate items, as bombs are in the original, instead of using a Rupee to fire an arrow. A Link to the Past also takes concepts from The Adventure of Link, such as the Lamp. Control of Link is more flexible than in previous games, as he can walk diagonally and can run with the aid of the Pegasus Boots (Known as Pegasus Shoes in A Link to the Past only). Link’s sword attack was improved to swing sideways instead of merely stabbing forward; this gives his sword a broader range and makes combat easier. Link swings his sword as the default attack in future Zelda games, although stabbing is also possible in the later 3D incarnations.
Recurring items and techniques were introduced in A Link to the Past, such as the Hookshot, the Master Sword, the Spin Attack, and the Pegasus Boots. Heart Containers that increase the player’s maximum health (hit points) are present, but many are split into “Pieces of Heart”, four of which make up one Heart Container. Most of them are well hidden, adding replay value to the game. All dungeons are multi-level, requiring Link to walk between floors and sometimes fall through holes to land on lower levels.
A Link to the Past is the first appearance of what would subsequently become a major Zelda trademark: the existence of two parallel worlds between which the player travels. The first, called the Light World, is the ordinary Hyrule. The second is the Dark World that was created when Ganon corrupted the Sacred Realm. The Dark World is a decaying version of Hyrule. Each location in the Light World corresponds to a similar location in the Dark World, usually with a similar physical structure but an opposite nature (e.g. a desert in the Light World corresponds to a swamp in the Dark World, a peaceful village in the Light World corresponds to a dilapidated town of thieves in the Dark World).
Link can travel from the Dark World to the Light World at almost any outside location by using the Magic Mirror, and can travel back to the Dark World again from the same location using a temporary portal left behind on the map at the point where he reappears in the Light World. Otherwise, Link must use hidden warp locations throughout the Light World to travel from the Light World to the Dark World. Travel between worlds allows for puzzles in A Link to the Past that exploit structural differences between the Light and Dark Worlds, as Link may travel to otherwise inaccessible areas in one world by warping from parallel but accessible locations in the other world.