The Legend of Zelda has seen plenty of interpretations, but at the core of each game (more often than not) is a young hero struggling to break the cycle of the past. With each Zelda game comes familiarity--that's part of the charm--but rarely does Nintendo opt to play with the series' formula as readily and gleefully as it has with A Link Between Worlds.
This handheld adventure weaves together the best elements of the series--exploration, puzzles, and beautiful, considered combat--with such flair and panache that you'll be thinking of Hyrule's nooks and crannies long after you shut the lid on the 3DS. Its core feature, the ability for Link to turn into a painting and traverse the walls, throws open a whole new perspective that makes you look at Hyrule in a new way. The dungeons pay homage to predecessor A Link to the Past, but each carefully constructed corridor is a bountiful, fresh experience for newcomers and veterans alike. You could define it as a sequel, but that wouldn't do it justice: A Link Between Worlds is so much more than that.
It's the most imaginative title in the series for a good long while, and a game so quintessentially Nintendo that it reminds us why we love them so much. Whereas Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword felt burdened by the series' lofty and weighty history, A Link Between Worlds feels revitalized, spurred on, and freed by it. If only all games could ripple with as much excitement and imagination as this one.