I remember the first time I played it, probably around 1994 at a cousin's house in Neenah, Wisconsin (which also happened to be the first place I ever played Super Mario Bros., but that was years earlier). They were far enough in the game that they could summon the little bird with the flute that could warp you around the map, which made exploration a bit easier, but obviously would have ruined part of the game experience if I had understood the logistics of the world a bit better. But luckily, my future exploration of Hyrule wasn't destroyed by this brief warp-around.
It wasn't until 1999 that I actually owned my own copy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. An acquaintance at school was planning on dumping his collection of Super Nintendo games so he could start saving money for a Sega Dreamcast. I actually ended up landing about 25 SNES games for $35, and while there was definitely some crap like Ballz, Cybernator, and Jurassic Park, another copy of Kirby Super Star made it go down a lot more smoothly. But seriously, the number of terrible games certainly outweighed the classics. The guy was smart though and made me pay an extra $15 for A Link to the Past, well worth it in the end.
The game was certainly tough, I believe I died nearly 100 times my first time through, and I distinctly remember having a bear of a time with the ice palace. Something about getting it all set up perfectly so you could drop blocks through multiple levels. I ended up recruiting my cousins that originally showed me the game for help. Turns out in the Game Boy Advance port, they adjusted quite a few things, including the layout of the Ice Palace.
So, thank you Nintendo for creating A Link to the Past. It played a defining role in my gaming history and still stands out as one of the best games I've ever played. Plus, it gave us this: