1998’s Ocarina of Time is a pivotal game in The Legend of Zelda series. For one, it’s where the series’ timeline splits into three different branches. It’s also when Nintendo’s long-running adventure game franchise split into two major styles: 2D and 3D.
The 3D games have come to be viewed as the “main event,” the big-budget, 50-hour affairs that come around once every 5 or 6 years. Meanwhile, the 2D games have taken on a bit more of a “filler” role, in that they typically enjoy a shorter turnaround time and help keep the series active while the next 3D game is in development.
Given the shorter development times and lower budgets of the 2D games it makes sense that Nintendo is more prone to experimenting with different ideas while creating them. Whether that experimentation comes in the form of touch controls, or multiplayer, or non-linear structures, very few 2D Zeldas are alike. This works out in everybody’s favor because it helps keep things interesting, and also because the constant cycle of experimentation with the 2D games has saved the series’ bacon on several occasions.