How a video game popularised a 12,000+ year old instrument: A look back at the Ocarina
ocarina zelda real replica
In 1998 Nintendo unleashed what would become one of the most beloved video games of all time: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The Zelda series had claimed its place among the all-time greats but the first foray into full 3D graphics had jaws dropping to the floor (and gamers from around the World scrambling to grab a copy).

The story is one which you find in many other Zelda titles. A young boy, Link, is called upon a quest to save the princess Zelda from the evil-doings of Ganondorf (if interested you can read the full story). Needless to say the game changed the way we played video games because up until that point many games were linear or very limited in your ability to explore the game world.

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OoT, on the other hand, handed the gameplay over to the player. It gave them vast, open Worlds to explore complete with dungeons and puzzles galore. There were numerous side quests to be had.

One thing that stuck out about the game – above all else – was an inclusion of an instrument not many had heard of before … yet has been around for most of modern humanity.

This instrument was the ocarina.

Within the game you were given the ability to play songs that would affect the World and your placement within it. A song could start a rain storm to help you grow plants. Some helped your character warp to different areas of the World. While others, like the Song of Time, allowed you to go forwards and backwards through time itself.

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The ocarina instantly became one of those items on the wish list for serious Zelda fanatics.

But …

There wasn’t much to be found when you began searching around your local hobby/game shop nor could you find something worthwhile online. Nintendo didn’t want to cater to this affection of the ocarina but that didn’t stop the instrument from reaching its fans.

Online retailers like songbirdocarina.com are one of several businesses that have seen the allure of the ocarina. The faithful recreations of the instrument Link must use to navigate and overcome the forces of evil in Ocarina of Time are quite astounding.

Likewise, variations of the ocarina can be found through suppliers like SongBird Ocarinas. You can find ones which have been catered to the inner Zelda fanboy such as the ‘Hylian Shield Ocarina’ which is a smaller version of the instrument but looks like the very same shield Link uses throughout the better part of the game.

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The love for this instrument doesn’t stop at its production, either.

There are thousands of videos available on YouTube of Zelda fans playing their favorite songs from the series (and not just limited to OoT). There are also many different sites where you can find song sheets and tutorials for learning to use an ocarina, too.

For what was a 12,000 year old instrument which fell out of favor with much of the World – it’s quite interesting to see its renaissance through one of the most beloved games of the N64 era.

Admit it – you’ve thought about getting one at some point, didn’t you? What’s stopping you from living up that nostalgia trip?