Happy 35th Anniversary, The Legend of Zelda. The series has provided some of gaming’s best moments as well as staples of the landscape such as Z-targeting. But as we sit here on the eve of gaming royalty hitting level 35, the old-age question once again surfaces: Which Zelda is Best?
Read on to find out in our completely (un)official rundown.
Which Zelda is best?
22. Link’s Crossbow Training
Link’s Crossbow Training isn’t so much a game, more a tech demo and a means for Nintendo to shift some plastic Wii accessories. In all fairness, it isn’t a terrible experience, just a shallow one. Still, something had to be at the dregs of the list!
21. Triforce Heroes
Triforce Heroes is an amicable enough experience if you have friends to play with. It can be played alone, but it isn’t really all that enjoyable. As an aside, it looks utterly charming, utilising the assets from A Link Between Worlds.
20. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Zelda II is very much the black sheep of the family. It ditched the top-down view of its predecessor and instead opted for a side-scrolling gameplay style. In all honesty, it’s not a horrible game it just feels a little disconcerting to play now, with the staple of 2D games now well and truly set in stone.
19. Four Swords Adventure
Four Swords Adventure once again (although, technically, many moons prior) sees the franchise try to provide a cromulent multiplayer experience. Once again, it’s a mixed bag. Unlike Triforce Heroes, however, Four Sword Adventures plays perfectly fine as a single-player title and on top of that, the story is memorable to boot.
18. Oracle of Ages/Season
The Oracle games are neat. The way in which they linked together to allow Nintendo to attempt to recapture the Pokemon model with their MVP was consumerism at its glorious best. In 2021 they don’t look particularly great and could greatly benefit from a Link’s Awakening-Esque remaster. Hopefully better though. Surely it’s only a matter of time, right?!
17. Link’s Awakening
Speaking of Link’s Awakening, here it is. Not a bad game, in fact, it’s a weird, wonderful and altogether other-worldly title. But there’s no getting away from the fact that the remaster on Nintendo Switch is deeply flawed. Link’s Awakening shows its 3DS roots from the outset – with a startlingly jarring frame rate and a weird depth-perception filter applied to everything not directly centred around Link. Considering this title struggles so fervently, on a console that is home to Breath of the Wild, Doom Eternal and Luigi’s Mansion 3, to name but a few of the breath-taking experiences available is unacceptable.
16. Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition
We probably wouldn’t have included this title, had Nintendo not released AoC. Regardless, it’s a riotous romp through the Hylian timeline, with a goofy story that offers fan-service a-plenty.
15. Cadence of Hyrule
Who’d a thunk it? when Cadence of Hyrule was announced, nobody could have envisioned Nintendo allowing one of their darling IP to be handed over to an indie game studio for a mash-up of epic proportions, but that’s exactly what happened. In fairness, the beat-bopping gameplay of Crypt of the Necromancer and god-tier music that The Legend of Zelda has provided over years is a match made in heaven.
14. Phantom Hourglass
Picking up in the same timeline as Wind Waker, and sometime after the events of that game, Phantom Hourglass utilised the DS in ways that furthered the gameplay. The touchscreen control scheme might not have been to the taste of all, but this humble hack found it to be infinitely moreish. The central castle mechanic certainly grew irksome later in the game, but all that aside, it would be great to see this on Nintendo Switch at some point and would give Nintendo an excuse to license a flip-grip model.
13. Spirit Tracks
Spirit Tracks, as a sequel to Phantom Hourglass, was more of the same but offering refinement. Set even further in the future of that timeline, the great ocean had dried up and the land was now abundant. Gone was the boat and in its place, a delightful train. Instead of the central castle mechanic, there was instead a central tower that was infinitely more accessible and far less convoluted. We’d love to see a new entry in the series. There, we said it!
12. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Be honest! When we all played Breath of the Wild back in 2017, did any of us think it would be the middle part of a trilogy? I certainly did not. Age of Calamity takes the frenetic button-bashing gameplay formula of the Warriors games, adds in a BOTW aesthetic and furthers the story of 2017s GOTY with some lovely cinematic pieces. It goes without saying that the action is over-the-top and as a result, provides thrills-a-plenty on the way to its curious climax.
11. The Legend of Zelda
The game that started it all, 35 years ago. The Legend of Zelda is a marvel of a game, even today. The vast, open-world offers not just exploration, but also a grande sense of scope. There’s no hand-holding, no lengthy tutorials, just an old man with a sword who warns of the dangers ahead and offers a companion for adventure-aplenty.
10. Ocarina of Time: Master Quest
Master Quest was essentially the series’ first hard mode. The main difference is found in the dungeons which have been redesigned to be more difficult. Master Quest was available on the GameCube with certain copies of The Wind Waker. It was also unlocked upon completion of the 3D remaster of OOT on 3DS.
9. Twilight Princess HD
Twilight Princess is a game that is at times divisive. Originally released on the GC, alongside the Wii U, with the entire game mirrored on the latter to accommodate the right-handers of the world (Link is famously a lefty, after all) the HD Wii U remake saw the best of both worlds. The game was displayed as intended and motion controls very much alive. A great game with a story slightly darker in tone and some truly creepy moments too.
8. A Link Between Worlds
A Link Between Worlds sees the Hyrule of A Link to the Past re-imagined and re-explored in a title that uses the 3D effect in intuitive ways, all the while, recapturing the magic of its predecessor whilst remaining its own beast. ALBW also saw Anouma-san deviate from the tried and tested linear dungeon progression we’ve all come to know and love/loathe. With the introduction of rent-able key-items, you could essentially play the game in your own way. Providing you have the Rupees!
7. Majora’s Mask
It speaks volumes for the quality of the series that a game this good is only the SEVENTH best Zelda title! Majora’s Mask saw assets reused from Ocarina of Time and applied to a new game world, Termina. While the faces of the NPCs were familiar, there was no comfort to be taken from this. With the moon set to descend upon the world in 72 hours, a time-travel mechanic allowed you to start the three-day cycle all over again, but with certain progression aspects saved. Majora’s Mask features some of the series very best bosses and the dungeons are right up there too.
6. The Minish Cap
The Minish Cap, which was developed by Capcom, saw Link shrunk to minuscule proportions in this 2D top-down title. MC is an absolutely adorable game, full of charm, ingenuity and a joyous story to bind it all together. Surely a contender for the HD remake treatment. Who knows, perhaps we’ll see the Minish make an appearance in Breath of the Wild 2?
5. The Wind Waker
When The Wind Waker was revealed, it caused ripples throughout the masses of great-unwashed for being a kids game. Even the most odorous of the ruffled ruffians would have been won over within the first hour of a game that just oozes charm. While the dungeons aren’t great and the game is clearly unfinished, it remains a timeless classic. Also, messages in bottles. RIP Miiverse.
4. Ocarina of Time
What. A. Game. Ocarina of Time is a game that every self-respecting gamer should play, regardless of their affiliations or genre preferences. It’s a masterclass in game design with a story for the ages! At the time, an absolute triumph and while it hasn’t aged particularly well, and feels dated and cumbersome to play (yes, even the 3DS remake) it will forever remain a quintessential piece of gaming history.
3. Skyward Sword
Skyward Sword tells the origin story of the holy trinity of the series and it’s no surprise that such decadent source material provides some of the best story moments in the Zelda franchise. A gorgeous watercolour aesthetic (which should look stunning in HD, FYI), the series’ first fully orchestrated soundtrack (which slaps harder than Chris Brown at a Rhianna lookalike party) and memorable NPCs aplenty elevate Skyward Sword to the upper echelons of gaming greatness. The addition of traditional controls in the upcoming HD remaster will hopefully bring this title to the masses. Now they just need to do something about The Imprisoned…
2. A Link to the Past
A Link to the Past is just a masterful video game that pushed the SNES to new levels and with it, set in place many of the tropes we associate with the series today. People often say that Ocarina of Time is the most important game in the series. I’d argue that it’s A Link to the Past for its perfect blend of exploration (and with it, discovery) gameplay, a 16-bit soundtrack that still resonates, pixel art and sprites that put modern-day indie devs to shame. Also, magic powder. Furthermore, Turtle Rock is one of the very best dungeons in the series.
1. Breath of the Wild
It was delayed and delayed. Features that were shown off were dropped to accommodate the simultaneous Wii U/Nintendo Switch, the lack of traditional dungeons came at the chagrin of many, the voice acting was a bit naff and the non-linear-construct of the memories made the story content feel a little tacked-on.
Regardless, Breath of the Wild is a monster of a game that allows the player – you – to take everything in and play it your way. Never before, and not since can we remember a game that instigated so many water-cooler moments. Everyone and their Grandmother have an anecdote, often about how they achieved the same results in-game through wildly different means. Breath of the Wild is a giant playground that just so happens to be set in our favourite game-world. Even today, players find new tricks and glitches to further their experience. When BOTW2 does eventually drop, it’ll have to be a behemoth of a game to eclipse its predecessor.
And there we have it. That’s our list of the Zelda games, ranked. What do you think? Do you agree? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you’d move around.