Link’s Awakening is a game about cutting grass

I’ve always hated cutting grass. It’s a chore that’s only done in the heat and humidity of summer, and it’s quickly undone by the plant’s habit of growing back. However, cutting grass on Koholint Island is a different story. On Koholint Island, I happily volunteer.

Let’s not beat around the bush: the island’s main settlement, Mabe Village, has an issue with its plant life. Most of the town is a finely manicured example of proper lawn care, but there’s a large area in front of the town’s only shop that could use some professional attention. That’s where I come in, with my sword, to save the island from an overgrown eyesore.

Maybe it’s the instant gratification of a clean screen after around a minute of slashing. Maybe it’s because, on Koholint Island, there’s a real chance for cut grass to instantly turn into money. Whatever the reason, Game Boy’s The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening brought out the groundskeeper in me, and any time my quest brought me back to Mabe Village, I made the job my first priority. Looking back at that period of my life, that kind of consistency would’ve been important.

In second grade, my parents gifted me an ice blue Game Boy Pocket, along with Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins and Link’s Awakening. Around the same time, my grandmother—my father’s mother—began an extended stay in a nearby hospital. I’d play both on the drive, wish I were playing either on the walk through the intimidating hospital, and boot one right back up in my grandmother’s room while adults spoke of procedures and medications.

I remember finishing Super Mario Land 2 in a hospital room, and exploring some of Koholint’s dungeons under that same florescent light. The memory that sticks out the most, though, is cutting grass. I’d hoard rupees and use the currency to keep my items well-stocked via the aforementioned shop. I’d also work to feed my habit of playing Trendy Game, a crane machine game of skill that yielded key side quest items.

However, even with a full inventory and an empty Trendy Game, I continued to cut grass. Sometimes I’d even pull out my shovel and dig under my freshly trimmed plot. It was a simple task compared to the combat and puzzles that made up the bulk of Link’s Awakening, and it became a cathartic experience.

Then, one day, the conversation turned to discharging my grandmother and bringing her home to live with us. It was a change we weren’t prepared for. Her mobility was extremely limited and she required a large amount of care, so she took up residence in our living room and we all made adjustments. My mother and father altered their schedules and took on the responsibilities associated with caring for an elderly loved one. I never really invited friends over and, when I was home, I spent a lot of time with handheld systems and games like Link’s Awakening.

Don’t misconstrue things—I loved my grandmother, and I enjoyed spending quality time with her, especially when we’d watch wrestling together on Monday nights. However, it led to an unorthodox slant to parts of my childhood, and one way I found comfort was through my gaming hobby. I visited unique places. I saved entire planets of people. I cut the grass. I cut so much grass. So, when I booted up the 2019 remake of Link’s Awakening, the first thing I did after I picked my sword up from the sandy beach of Koholint will come as no surprise.


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