So I'm currently watching this subtitled documentary on the Zelda series (eep, 700+ MB!) and it brings back memories.
I mean as a D&D gamer, I've been reading all these stories about people discovering the game back when it was just the red box and the like but I wasn't yet born back then. For Zelda though, I was just in time. I was fiddling with an Atari joystick when I was three but the console that I spent hours playing was the Famicom (NES in the US).
Now I never really got to finish the original Zelda game. As a seven year old or something, I found it too hard! The game was quite arbitrary yet looking back at it and playing it again (this time armed with FAQs!), I find it to be quite a sophisticated and enjoyable game. But what impressed me the most was that it did so with the meager memory an 8-bit console had. Of course I never would have discovered Zelda if it weren't to my subscription to Nintendo Power magazine. They had a walkthrough for the second quest and when I was reading it, I thought, crap, Zelda has a second quest! For those unfamiliar with the game, the second quest was basically a revamp of the game once you finished it, with enemies more difficult and the secret locations scrambled. I vaguely remember finishing another Shigeru Miyamoto game, Mario, and one you finish the game, you can choose to play it again albeit with more difficult enemies. Second quest was like that.
I did own the second Zelda game though, The Adventure of Link. I was able to play it thanks to a game converter which enabled me to play the NES version of the game on my Famicom. Again, never finished it on my own but a friend played through the entire thing and I used his saved game to finish off Link's doppelganger at the end (does that count?).
When the Super Famicom rolled out, I was one of the people who bought it, mainly to play Street Fighter II. My younger cousin however had Zelda: A Link to the Past and it was awesome. Just like in the documentary, I found cutting grass to be enjoyable. =) It was also by playing Zelda: A Link to the Past that I was tempted to write a fanfic on my 386 computer (using, wait for it, WordStar for DOS). And then my cousin saw me doing it so he started writing fanfic too!
Unfortunately, the Super Famicom was the last gaming console I owned (well, not really, I had a Sega Megadrive and Sega CD but you know, they were in the same generation and I used the latter as a glorified CD player) and I never really followed Link's adventures in the GameBoy or the GameCube. Still, if there's a big incentive to get a Wii, it's to play all those old Zelda games again...
(Of course to this day, I'm weirded out that the name of a game isn't named after the protagonist but the heroine who you're supposed to rescue, yet she doesn't appear in every game... Imagine Mario being named Princess Toadstool instead and we've have games like Princess Toadstool Kart or Princess Toadstool Paint.)