I Am Error: Zelda II’s Existential Crisis Explained

Zelda II I Am Error
Zelda II and its legendary, if mightily confusing, “I AM ERROR”.

Nintendo’s Zelda franchise is, arguably, the most celebrated in gaming history. Critically acclaimed, always brilliant, inventive, intelligent, and creatively inspired, the series has a massive cult following. It’s the very best in action adventure and RPG gaming, with 1998’s The Ocarina of Time widely considered the Best Game Ever. We’re not going to argue with this statement.

In the games the player takes control of the protagonist Link, and you typically head off on an adventure. You explore major worlds and solve complex puzzles with an emphasis on creativity and exploration; you really do need to be smart to play them.

The NES original is a gaming landmark (which introduced the Save option so prevalent to this day), but each incarnation has given the games industry a major boot up the backside, with the likes of A Link To The Past, Link’s Awakening, Skyward Sword, and Twilight Princess showcasing to the world what video games are truly capable of. Art!

I Am Error

The series is typically surreal and wonderfully weird in the way Nintendo has well and truly mastered. There are many moments which could be considered, but video game lore has long been in awe of a moment in the NES classic Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1987).

This game’s a bit of a weird one as it deviates massively from the series’ norms. Largely a 2D platformer, its staggeringly high difficulty level has infuriated many gamers over the years, but there’s one character who left a generation massively perplexed.

Link comes across him in a small town (in the game you can talk to characters in an attempt to progress through the game, although they often spout useless information), but when you talk to him he announces simple: “I AM ERROR.”

Error
Error.

What was up here? Was it a typo? Had there been a translation problem? Was Error suffering an existential crisis? Was he a manic depressive?

At the time Japanese developers often did their translations in-house, with some hilarious results. In the NES era it wasn’t uncommon to have utterly bizarre screens of text which made no sense to English audiences, although these days everything’s a lot more professional and such errors rarely occur, but in ’88 (when the Western version was released) most people assumed Error was an error. Which is apt.

As a result, Error grew into a mythical figure, and with the advent of the internet he became a popular meme. It’s since transpired it is his name, and it isn’t some sort of weird malfunction (although some media sources maintain it’s a translation mistake).

Regardless of the truth, it hasn’t stopped cosplay fans from dressing up as Error to celebrate one of gaming’s most cryptic mysteries. We, too, would like to celebrate Error’s existence. He may be stupid and weird, but he’s Zelda stupid and weird. Which is ace!

Legacy

Nintendo - I am Error
Indeed.

It’s grown into quite the legend and Nintendo even references it in its 404 pages. As you can see in the image above. The Angry Video Game Nerd has, of course, briefly mentioned Error, and there are even t-shirts and the like out there.

Heck, people even come dressed up as Error to cosplay events. Thusly, we must conclude Error is indeed no error. He’s a welcome addition to the totally mental world of video games. Marvellous!

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