This Nintendo Classic Was Inspired by ‘Twin Peaks’

The Big Picture

  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is heavily inspired by the surreal and offbeat world of Twin Peaks.
  • The game’s creator drew inspiration from Twin Peaks‘ small-town setting and unique cast of characters when creating the game’s storyline.
  • Link’s Awakening features a similar “it was all a dream” aspect as Twin Peaks, adding some whimsical and distinctive characteristics.


The Legend of Zelda has become a well-known Nintendo classic, having spawned about 19 games and numerous spin-offs, including a TV series and Manga adaptations. The game follows Link, a young man of the Hylian race (which is elf-like) and Princess Zelda who is a mortal reincarnation of the Goddess Hylia. Together they often face off against the demon king Ganon, who acts as the series’ primary antagonist, but other storylines, time periods, and antagonists have been known to drive the story from time to time.

Legend of Zelda is largely considered to be one of the greatest video games of all time, and while it may be hard to pick a favorite out of the many games, there’s one in particular that always tends to stick out among fans and that’s The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Why does this one in specific stand out you may ask? Because it’s heavily inspired by the whimsical, almost fever-dream-like world of Twin Peaks.

Twin Peaks DVD Cover

Twin Peaks

An idiosyncratic FBI agent investigates the murder of a young woman in the even more idiosyncratic town of Twin Peaks.

Release Date
April 8, 1990

Main Genre
Crime

Seasons
3


How Did This Twin Peaks/Legend of Zelda “Crossover” Come To Be?

Twin Peaks made its debut back in 1990 and was created by David Lynch and Mark Frost. The series centers around the quirky town of Twin Peaks, where the town’s resident teenage prom queen has just turned up dead. Heading the case is special agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) whose strange and energetic personality makes him so magnetic to both viewers and the townsfolk. Part of the charm of Twin Peaks was its unique, albeit bizarre, cast of characters that populate the small town. It’s surreal, off-beat, and surprisingly funny at times, and no one saw its success coming. And yet, it changed television forever with just one simple question: Who killed Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee)? It went on to inspire so much media going forward, everything from TV, to movies, and as we know, video games. But how exactly did it come to inspire a Legend of Zelda game?

Link’s Awakening was the fourth entry in the game’s lineup and would go on to change future games going forward, much like Twin Peaks did. In an Iwata Asks interview, Takashi Tezuka shared how the show inspired his vision for the game, saying:

“At the time, Twin Peaks was rather popular. The drama was all about a small number of characters in a small town… So when it came to The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, I wanted to make something that, while it would be small enough in scope to easily understand, it would have deep and distinctive characteristics.”

And that’s exactly what Link’s Awakening was. Sure, at its core it held up to its previous games, but there was an added level of whimsicality to this one that made it stand out. Not just in terms of gameplay, but in the populating characters and the world itself, it was through and through an inspired game.

Nintendo's 2019 remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
Image via Nintendo

Link’s Awakening was unique in not taking place in the land of Hyrule, and also not featuring Princess Zelda. Instead, the game begins with Link waking up stranded on an island called Koholint, which is guarded by a deity called the Wind Fish. In order to escape the island, Link must battle monsters and solve puzzles to find eight musical instruments that will awaken the Wind Fish and allow Link to go home. The aspect of washing up on the shore of a beach is enough on its own to give you the Twin Peaks vibe right off the bat, but that’s not where the inspiration ends.

After washing ashore on the island, Link is taken in by a character named Marin who is utterly fascinated by Link and the outside world. And, after recovering his sword, he is approached by a mysterious owl (sound familiar?) who informs him that the only way to wake up the Wind Fish is to find the eight instruments of the sirens. During a trip to the ruins to uncover the sixth instrument, Link comes across a mural that explains the island is merely a dream world created by the Wind Fish. This is quickly dismissed to be a rumor by the owl, who says only the Wind Fish can confirm or deny such a thing, before urging Link to carry on.

Link is constantly fighting off creatures who are trying to get in his way of recovering the instruments, as they want to control the Wind Fish’s dream world. But of course, Link succeeds and collects all eight instruments and climbs to the top of the mountain, on which the Wind Fish sleeps peacefully in an egg. He plays the Ballad of the Wind Fish which breaks open the egg and allows Link to face off against the final creature (one that takes the form of Ganon and others from Link’s past adventures.) After defeating the being’s final form, the mysterious owl that’s been tagging along reveals itself to be the Wind Fish’s spirit. The Wind Fish then confirms that Koholint is in fact all a dream. When he plays the ballad again, both Link and the Wind Fish awaken and the island and all of its quirky inhabitants disappear as if they were never there.

The “it was all a dream” aspect is where the Twin Peaks inspiration comes in. Although the show didn’t exactly pull that trope on us, it often felt as though the entirety of the show and its going-ons was a dream. It was always so surreal and off-kilter, without any explanation as to why (though what else can you expect from David Lynch?). That’s exactly what Link’s Awakening leaned into. It had just enough aspects of the preceding games to work, but leaned into the weird and whimsical without shame.

It’s easy not to notice the inspiration if you’ve never seen Twin Peaks, as it isn’t completely in your face. But if you know the show and play the game, you’ll likely be able to catch all the little nuances and quirks that make the two so akin, and gave The Legend of Zelda fans a game like they had never seen before.

Twin Peaks is available to stream on Prime Video in the U.S.

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