So the other day I was having a conversation about fun games on Steam with a friend of mine. He mentioned Binding of Isaac, and I replied with a stark “meh.” The conversation then transitioned into what I’m going to talk about right now: Is the Binding of Isaac a copy-paste of Zelda 1?
This is probably one of the biggest criticisms that the Binding of Isaac has gotten over time. The truth is, I’m going to be blunt, it is. There are so many things to say, but I’ll start with the important things first: Core Gameplay. Now, at it’s core, Zelda 1 is a Action/Adventure Dungeon Crawler. So is Binding of Isaac. Zelda 1’s action is fast paced, and offers quick movements with a projectile sword beam (if your health is full). The Binding of Isaac does essentially the exact same thing, just a bit more streamlined. Your main form of attack is a projectile weapon, you have quick and fast movements, and in both games, the action is constant in order to achieve a certain flow. This is not a coincidence, dear readers.
Also, yes, I know that they both have many of the same items, but those aren’t essential to the core gameplay, so I’m not going to bother with those just yet. Anyway, the point is, from the way that the Binding of Isaac presents each room of it’s dungeons to it’s pacing, it basically matches Zelda 1 in about every way. However, that’s not it. This isn’t even mentioning the similar HUD, or the similar items.
With all of this, you’d just say these are similarities, or maybe even just inspired traits, but I implore you to indulge, dear readers, in some arguments against this. Most people will only say that just because a game has arrows, bombs, or a similar HUD that it’s a copy of Zelda 1. That’s the thing, though. You can’t think of all of these elements individually, it’s imperative to see all of these elements as a whole. Only then can you see what you don’t need to be a critic or designer to see: that the Binding of Isaac’s gameplay is just a skin-edit of Zelda 1’s dungeon crawling, at it’s core, with obvious differences.
With all of this, to conclude, it comes right down to a matter of opinion. I personally thought that because of this, among other things, that Binding of Isaac was very mediocre, especially for Edmund McMillen’s normal quality of work. However, that’s not to say it’s bad. I still enjoyed this game, regardless of it, but the fact is that even with all of this, copying what Zelda 1 did isn’t a bad thing, as I love Zelda 1 to death. If you ever outright disowned Zelda 2, this game can be an easy substitute.
Also, this whole thing is probably just my overanalyzation showing, but whether or not you agree comes down to what you, the reader, thinks. If you don’t see what I mean when I say what I do in this article, play both games again, with this article in mind, and see what you think then.