~Subset~ Zelda II: The Adventure of Link Level 1 Runs (NES) - RetroAchievements/guides GitHub Wiki


  • Estimated achievement difficulty: 10/10
  • Approximate amount of time to master: 3-50 hours depending on skill
  • Minimum number of playthroughs needed: 4 (1 for each run)
  • Number of missable achievements: 0
  • Does difficulty affect achievements?: Not applicable
  • Hardest achievement: Thunderstruck


This Zelda II: The Adventure of Link subset consists of 4 challenge runs. The first three allow only one skill to be leveled throughout the entire play through, but does not have any other restrictions. There is nothing especially notable about these runs are they are no different than vanilla play throughs, although they are clearly more difficult because of limited stat increases.

The Xarnax Run is a challenge which is essentially a minimalist run. It is named after the first person to provide on stream proof that the run is possible, Xarnax42. Players of the Xarnax Run challenge are only allowed to obtain the minimum required items, spells and upgrades to complete the game. This requires creative routing and exceptional game play to pull off. It is among the most difficult challenges on RetroAchievements. You will also need to use the quit out feature to avoid leveling up at certain points in the run. To quit out, press Start to enter the spell/equipment submenu. Next, on controller 2, hold Up and press A. This will bring you to the Continue/Save screen and reset your exp to zero upon resuming gameplay whether you continue or choose to save and play later.

The following lists detail which upgrades are permitted and which are banned in the Xarnax Run:

Permitted upgrades

  • all 4 Magic Containers
  • level-2 and level-3 Magic
  • Glove
  • Hammer
  • Raft
  • Boots
  • Flute
  • Jump spell
  • Fairy spell
  • Reflect spell
  • Thunder spell

Banned upgrades

  • any Heart containers
  • level-2 or higher Attack or Life
  • level-4 or higher Magic
  • Candle
  • Cross
  • Magical Key
  • Shield spell
  • Life spell
  • Fire spell
  • Spell spell
  • Up Thrust
  • Down Thrust


The achievements require the following linked hash:

Zelda II - The Adventure of Link (USA) + Zelda II - The Adventure of Link [Subset - Level 1 Runs] abc9f94f97c712b22bcdd2c04ac9ecb8


Patch is available at https://github.com/RetroAchievements/RAPatches/blob/main/NES/Subset/10311-ZeldaII-Subset-Level1Runs.zip

Xarnas Run demo VOD


The achievements for the Xarnax Run are ordered in such a way to guide players through the recommended routing. Many of the achievements can be done out of order, such as item collecting, however there are some deviations which will make progress especially difficult due to limited keys and limited uses of Fairy magic. Additionally, Three-Eye Rock Palace should be completed first the other palaces can all be completed without a required level up. In this palace, the player will get both of the only permitted magic upgrades as it is impossible to avoid them due to earning experience points from bosses. Doing other palaces first will force an unnecessary upgrade due to the how many experience points Barba gives.

To avoid accidentally ruining a save attempt, a trigger icon for the final achievement will always be present in the bottom right of the emulator to let you know that you are meeting the run requirements. If at any time the icon disappears, this is in an indication that you've obtained a disallowed upgrade and should immediately reset without saving.

A few important tips for the run are as follows:

  • Any time you quit out, select SAVE. There may be times when Exp gains (after placing gems or killing bosses) may actually carry over after a quit out. If you save and if that does happen and you cannot quit out fast enough again, you'll be able to simply the game and reload without issue.
  • Limit the enemies you kill to only the ones that are absolutely necessary. You must manage your exp gain throughout this run.
  • Use Fairy to avoid dying any time it is necessary. Dying with magic you could have used is a wasting it. Often times Jump or Fairy likely could have allowed you to survive for another few rooms.
  • Be prepared to quit out immediately after placing gems and especially the sequence after defeating Thunderbird (you do not want to have to repeat the fight due to a botched quit out). It is very easy to do if you are prepared since all you need to do is pause the game then take your time to initiate the quit out.
  • If you do kill too many enemies prior to defeating a boss or placing a gem, quit out and start fresh. Any items or keys you obtained prior to the quit out will be retained. This can be very helpful when you must deviate from the most direct path to get an item or key.
  • Keys are limited, but they are not extremely tight. If you are short a key, use Fairy to bypass doors until you find a key, then quit out. This will ensure you keep the key and didn't have to use it on any unnecessary doors. Be careful to not waste keys though as they are not unlimited.
  • I highly recommend watching Xarnax's run linked above in the resources. It will help significantly with the palace routing.
  1. Name your file XARNAX (This was a measure put in place to ensure that each of the subset runs unlocks only their appropriate achievements.)

  2. Obtain the Magic Container in the cave south of the North Castle

  3. Obtain the trophy in the cave in the Tantari Desert. Return the trophy to the girl in Ruto and learn the Jump Spell

  4. Visit Bagu in the forest near the Moruge Swamp to receive permission to cross the river in Saria

  5. Obtain the hammer in Death Mountain (recommend quit out after obtaining)

  6. Obtain the medicine in the cave in the Moruge Swamp

  7. Return the medicine to the old woman in Mido and learn the Fairy Spell

  8. Obtain the Magic Container in Death Mountain (recommend quit out after obtaining)

  9. Obtain the Glove in Midoro Palace. You should not have picked up a key by this point. You will be utilizing Fairy to bypass several doors and save several keys for other palaces. Take the normal routing to the Glove, but use Fairy to bypass the first locked door. Pick up the key in the room with the lava pit. As you approach the next elevator, refill your magic with the red vial hidden in the monster head statue on the wall. As you head left again, you will use a key to unlock a door as you continue toward the Glove. When you reach the room with the Glove, once again use Fairy to bypass the door. After obtaining the Glove, quit out to reset your location back to the North Castle. You should have passed 3 locked doors, using Fairy for 2 of them and 1 key that you obtained in this palace for the other. You should have zero keys when you leave.

  10. Obtain the Raft in the Island Palace. You should enter the Island Palace with no keys. Use the statue at the entrance to refill your magic by hitting it. If a red Iron Knuckle appears, leave the palace and reenter and retry. Survival will be difficult in this palace, so utilization of Fairy and magic refills are important. It is safest to traverse the first room with Fairy. Continue along the top path and retrive the key in the outdoor area without killing the red Iron Knuckle (he can be hit many times and pushed back to the wall with the key and jumped over). Return to the elevator, descend and head right. Unlock the door with the key you recently obtained and continue right. Unlike the demo video, I recommend skipping the key in the lava pit room (unlike the demo video) and instead just use Fairy to bypass the locked door guarding the Raft. You should have passed 2 locked doors, one using Fairy and unlocking one. You should have zero keys when you leave.

  11. Rescue the missing child on Maze Island

  12. Retrieve the Magic Container on Maze Island

  13. Obtain the Boots in the Maze Island Palace. Take the normal routing to the Boots

  14. Obtain the Flute in the Palace on the Sea. Grab the key at the vertical wall where you need to cast Fairy to pass. Continue on until the room with falling blocks and the key. This key is difficult to get without up-thrust, so try to break stacking blocks in such a way to get the key. Otherwise, it is possible to break blocks above Link without up-thrust if you swing your sword at the very top of your jump. It's a little tricky, but doable. Do not miss the red magic refill bottle in the room with several orange Iron Knuckles. Make your way to the Flute and use Fairy to bypass the door, then quit out. You should have zero keys when you leave.

  15. Obtain the Magic Container in New Kasuto

  16. Learn Thunder in Old Kasuto

  17. Go to Parapa Palace to obtain three keys. First head right at the bottom of the first elevator and use Fairy to pass the door. At the next elevator, go up and head right and pick up the two keys you will find. Quit out after obtaining the second key. Go back to Parapa palace and this time head left at the bottom of the first elevator to retrieve a third key. Quit out and return to the North Castle. You should now have three keys.

  18. Go to Three-Eye Rock Palace and refill your magic at the entrance. Travel down the elevator and unlock the first door and use either Jump or Fairy to traverse this room (you should have two keys left). In the next room, push the blue Iron Knuckle into the pit and fall down this repeating pit until you are back in the starting room over on the right side by the statue. Hit the statue to refill your magic, if you spawn a red Iron Knuckle, fall back into the pit and fall several times until you are back in this room. When your magic is full, fall into the pit twice then go right and unlock the next door (you should have one key left). Avoid killing enemies by pushing them off the screen or bypassing them through another method. Traverse the lava room with the Fairy spell and unlock another door before heading into the Rebonack fight.

This fight is very difficult. While mounted, Rebonack can be hit with a jumping crouching stab from the front or as you falling down behind after jumping over him. Both windows are quite small and this fight will likely require significant practice. Once dismounted, the best time to attack him is to jump over the first attack in a new volley and do a jumping standing attack which he cannot block.

You WILL be forced to select an upgrade after this fight due to the amount of Exp earned. Select Magic level-2.

Continue right and fall down the pit, then Fairy to go right into Barba's room. Barba is not nearly as difficult as Rebonack, but will require understanding of how to dodge his fireballs. After defeating Barba, as soon as Link releases the gem at the statue, immediately pause and quit out. Do not wait for the gem to actually place itself nor for the Exp to award to begin. If when you continue, the Exp bonus tries to award, simply quit out again and that will reset it.

  1. Go to the Palace on the Sea, you should have one key. Traverse the palace via normal routing and defeat Gooma. The Jump spell will make dodging Gooma's attacks easier. After defeating Gooma, make sure to quit out as soon as link release the gem. You should have zero keys after completing this palace.

  2. Return to lost child to Darunia and learn the Reflect spell

  3. Return to Midoro Palace, head down the elevator twice then go left to retrieve a key. Return to the elevator, go down again and go right to retrieve another key then quit out. You should have two keys.

  4. Go to the Maze Island Palace and head left at the bottom of the first elevator and head to Carock via normal routing. Use keys on the first two locked doors you encounter and Fairy on the last one. You will likely have to die to refill your magic so that you can cast Reflect to defeat Carock so make sure you have enough lives. The Carock fight is RNG based, but you will have the best chance at survival by getting to the right side of the screen and face left while crouching. Once Carock is defeated, quit out as soon as Link releases the gem. You should have zero keys left.

  5. Go to the Island Palace again and head straight to Rebonack. In the room before him with the different paths, you must choose the bottom path and use the jumping attack technique previously described to break the blocks from below near the blue Iron Knuckle. Hopefully you can break both on the same jump, then allow the Iron Knuckle to fall down to your level. Push him back and jump up (you will need a running start) to bypass him. The red Iron Knuckle must be killed to pass. Defeat Rebonack using the same strategy as in Three-Eye Rock Palace and quit out upon Link releasing the gem. You should have zero keys left.

  6. Go to Midoro Palace and use Fairy to bypass the doors leading to Helmethead. Defeat him and quit out upon Link releasing the gem. You should have zero keys left.

  7. Go to Parapa Palace and use Fairy to bypass the doors leading to Horsehead. Defeat him and quit out upon Link releasing the gem. You should have zero keys left.

  8. With a saved game, get all the 1-Ups in the game at this point and head toward the Great Palace. On the trap rooms in the lava flows, I could not figure out how to screen wrap exit them like the demo video, so instead, I recommend fighting blob enemies on the trap tiles. These fights are still deadly, but survivable with a little luck, cast Fairy immediately and go for an exit. You have to do this at least three times and will almost assuredly die several times. This is why collecting the 1-Ups is useful at this point. If you run out of lives, do not Continue, reset the game and reload so you can recollect the 1-Ups.

  9. Once you reach the Great Palace, you will restart here any time you continue. You will have to take a non-standard route and take advantage of a difficult damage boost opportunity. This will be extremely challenging and require two full trips since you will have to quit out after defeating Thunderbird due to the Exp gain. Follow the demo video for routing, being especially careful around fire birds and bird knights. The damage boost is quite difficult to do without some practice. I highly recommend creating a save state and practicing it in softcore mode. Notice where Link is standing and how high he jumps when the enemy spawns that will be used to damage boost. The running and timing of the jump is important as is the turn back to the left near the top of the jump. Unfortunately, you only get one attempt per life and this is near the end of a very difficult palace. Practice it until you feel comfortable attempting it for real.

Defeating Thunderbird is very tedious and requires you to do it without being hit. Attempt to get Thunderbird into a pattern where he will dip down toward the middle of the screen allowing you to two get two or three this per cycle. One hit from him will kill Link, so this will require perfect for about 90 total hits.

When Thunderbird is defeated he will give you 1,000 exp which you cannot afford to take. As soon as the final hit is dealt to Thunderbird, immediately maneuver to the middle of the room and await the key drop. Depending on how much exp you previously gained (hopefully near zero) you will have to cancel either one or two upgrades before stabbing the key and IMMEDIATELY pausing so you can quit out. If you wait a bit too long until 700 Exp has been absorbed, you will not be able to quit out and will have to defeat Thunderbird again. Trust me, you do not want this. It's not especially difficult to do this, but it will be something that you must be prepared for after a grueling battle. Practicing with a save state is probably worth it just so you don't blow it when it matters.

  1. After quitting out, select Continue and traverse the Great Palace again to reach Dark Link. Fortunately, this fight is not too difficult as Link can crouch on the far left side of the screen and stab Dark Link successfully. Sometimes Dark Link will jump onto Link and damage him which is unfortunate, but fairly often he will go entire fights without doing that. Dark Link only takes 8 hits regardless of your attack level. Defeat him and you will have earned one of the most difficult badges on RetroAchievements. Congratulations!