When a franchise lasts 25 years, it really gets around. Zelda is no exception, and its history is as colorful as its games are impressive. Here, I want to look at the wonderful things which have nothing to do with the games.
First, the Legend of Zelda cartoon. This was produced alongside the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, and, although I definitely remember watching the latter, I am not sure if I ever saw Zelda in cartoon form. If I did, this would have been my first introduction to the franchise (and perhaps why I have repressed that memory):
Second, the Zelda CD-i games. In the mid-'90s, Nintendo thought it was a good idea to give Philips permission to use characters from The Legend of Zelda for their new game system, the CD-i. It proved to be an extraordinary failure, and I honestly cannot imagine why:
The animation is in a class of its own, you actually get to play as Zelda, and these are unequivocally some of the funniest things I have ever watched. Alas, poor CD-i.
(and anyone wondering why Link is still a silent protagonist need only watch the above videos)
Alright, let's move onto some fanworks. This next video is a flash movie from the days when Newgrounds was my joint. All things considered, this one aged pretty well; Ganon's monologue about Nabooru actually turned my nostalgic chuckle into a full laugh.
I liked this series because SASSY NAVI. Aaaaaand yeah.
Moving onto the slightly more modern and less embarrassing Youtube scene, this is a really impressive and genuinely haunting rendition of the "Song of Healing":
Here's another thing I found a few days ago. I may be biased, but I love when music that does not have lyrics is given lyrics for the sake of comedy.
Oh, I linked this on Facebook, but it deserves another mention here. Consider the following: What if Zelda were made into a movie directed by John Hughes? A. It would be awesome, and B. It would look something like this:
Finally, perhaps my favorite affectionate parody of Zelda is The Legend of Neil, a webseries which takes the "dude gets transported into a video game" trope and has a shit-ton of fun with it. The premise is what hooked me right away: Neil gets stuck in The Legend of Zelda after he auto-erotically asphyxiates himself with an NES controller in the midst of drunkenly masturbating to the fairy that heals Link. It's crass, but surprisingly well-written, professionally crafted, and often hilarious. Plus, you can tell that the creators were true fans of the original game. Their recreation of Hyrule and its residents, while obviously limited by the resources of a webseries, plays extremely well off of the low budget effects and costumes. Unfortunately, I cannot embed the videos here, but all three seasons are collected on this page. I recommend watching them sometime when you do not have a final exam the next day (after stumbling upon it, I ended up watching the first two seasons [which were all that existed at the time] back to back one night during finals week last spring, which, while not my smartest move, speaks to how engrossing the series is).