If you put together a group of gamers and ask for their top 5 SNES list, I guarantee this game makes the top 3 on 90% of the lists.
A massive game that wasn’t overwhelming, it built upon the overhead, action RPG-ish elements of the first game and added new weapons, items and secrets. You could roam around for hours and still not find that heart piece you were looking for. The game was challenging without being frustrating, you might die a couple of times before you figure out the right pattern for a boss.
The story (via Wikipedia)
A Link to the Past is a prequel to the original The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link. At the beginning of the game, a young boy named Link is awakened by a telepathic message from Princess Zelda, who says that she is locked in the dungeon of Hyrule Castle. As the message closes, Link finds his uncle ready for battle, telling Link to remain in bed. After his uncle leaves, however, Link ignores his uncle’s command and follows him to Hyrule Castle. When he arrives, he finds his uncle seriously wounded. Link’s uncle tells Link to rescue Princess Zelda from her prison, giving him a sword and shield. After his uncle dies, Link navigates the castle and rescues Zelda from her cell, and the two escape into a secret passage through the sewers that leads to a sanctuary.
Link is told by a man in the sanctuary that Agahnim, a wizard who has usurped the throne, is planning to break a seal made hundreds of years ago by the Seven Sages. The seal was placed to imprison a dark wizard named Ganon in the Dark World, which was once the Sacred Realm before Ganon invaded, obtained the legendary Triforce and used its power to turn the realm into a land of darkness. Agahnim intends to break the seal by sending the descendants of the Seven Sages who made the seal into the Dark World. The only thing that can defeat him is the Master Sword, a sword forged to combat evil. To prove that he is worthy to wield it, Link needs three magic pendants. After retrieving the pendants, Link takes them to the resting place of the Master Sword. As Link draws the sword from its pedestal, Zelda telepathically calls him to the Sanctuary, informing him that soldiers of Hyrule Castle have arrived. Link arrives at the Sanctuary moments after the soldiers have vacated, where he learns from the dying man that Zelda has been taken to Hyrule Castle. Link goes to rescue her but arrives too late; Agahnim sends Zelda to the Dark World. Link then defeats Agahnim in battle but is subsequently also sent to the Dark World.
To save Hyrule, Link is required to rescue the seven descendants of the Seven Sages from dungeons scattered across the Dark World. Once the seven maidens are freed, they use their power to break the barrier around Ganon’s Tower, where Link faces Agahnim again. After Link battles Agahnim for a second time, Ganon rises up from Agahnim’s body, turns into a bat, and flies away. Link chases him, finally confronting him inside the Pyramid of Power in the Dark World. After a battle resulting in Ganon’s demise, Link touches the Triforce and restores Hyrule to how it was before Ganon intervened.
What makes this game so cool is the intriguing plot, memorable cast of characters, dope music and the size of Hyrule. You finally get your bearings in the light world when you’re taken into the dark world, an element that would be duplicated in games that followed. I remember reading the comic in Nintendo Power in hopes of catching a hint. Before the internet days, you either had to buy a strategy guide, ask a friend or figure it out yourself. The internet would have saved me hours of backtracking but hey, at least I beat Ganon. I shot him with an arrow! In his face!