Why it's on the list: Zelda was one of my white whales; as a longtime fan of the more modern games, I'd always wanted to finish the one that started it all. I've made a few attempts on the Wii Virtual Console, but this was my first time on a PC emulator. And I did it!
How I played it: Nestopia, laptop, Xbox One controller.
When I played it: Early 2017
What I thought:
Although it's obviously not as refined as, and is much much harder than, later Zelda games, this one is still good fun - if you can get past the difficulty. There's a neat sense of exploration - I actually ended up drawing my own map to help me get through it, which was fun in its own way. The items end up being pretty fun to use, especially the boomerang. At one point I did cheat slightly (apart from using a great deal of save states), refilling my rupees in order to buy a potion - I was never going to make it through the last dungeon without one.
It's quite fascinating to look at some of the elements of later Zelda games that show up here. There's the basic dungeon structure - get the item, use it to defeat the boss. The three main characters are there - Link, Ganon, Zelda. There's also heart containers, rupees, healing fairies, and primitive forms of several series main-stay enemies. But you can do the dungeons in any order, there is zero guidance as to where to go next, and (most shockingly of all) there are only two Triforces! If you're a fan of any of the later games, I think it's an interesting exercise to go back and see their roots - because they show through in some unexpected ways.
Once again, if you can find your way past the crushing difficulty, this game is absolutely a good time.