The Eruptive History of Death Mountain

A Geological Investigation of a Virtual Volcano Across The Legend of Zelda Series

  • Edward G. McGowan University of Leicester


Enrolment in geology-related courses has declined over the last few decades, in part due to a lack of understanding of the subject and its relevance to contemporary society. Although a popular medium for entertainment, video games also hold significant pedagogical potential to overcome this problem by immersing players in geology-related topics through the portrayal of a broad range of geological disciplines in the medium’s dynamic environments. This paper focuses on volcanology as portrayed in Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda series’ (1986-present) Death Mountain, a recurring volcanic peak in the franchise. Volcanic features in each game are documented and compared to real-world examples to determine the accuracy of how the volcanism evolves over time across instalments in the series. I argue that the volcanic history of Death Mountain provides a reasonably realistic evolution, beginning with volcanic hazards like rockfalls and lava from an active stratovolcano, and progressing over time to introduce hydrothermal systems. Then, during divergent timelines, Death Mountain’s volcanism shifts to either explosive, shallow-water eruptions or to showing evidence of massive explosive activity. Through this, I argue that the popularity of The Legend of Zelda series and the gradual introduction of volcanic features can be used together to change the perception of geology as “boring” and encourage people to study the subject by offering a fun and immersive means to engage with its content.

May 4, 2024