Top Ten: The Legend of Zelda Games

The staff weighs in with an updated list for the 30th anniversary!

By Nintendojo Staff. Posted 02/22/2016 10:00 5 Comments     ShareThis

As has been made plain with Nintendojo’s comprehensive retrospective of the Legend of Zelda series, a lot of games can accumulate in a series over the course of 30 years. When it comes to Zelda, though, there’s not a single, true lemon in the bunch, which makes ranking them a difficult thing to do. Is Spirit Tracks better than The Minish Cap? Should Majora’s Mask rank higher than The Wind Waker? It can make a person’s head hurt trying to figure it all out, but that’s what Nintendojo is here for, to help you avoid those sorts of headaches. We took the cranial discomfort upon ourselves and, in honor of the series’ 30th anniversary, have put together a special edition of the Top Ten Zelda games!

10. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

Skyward Sword starts off our list here at number ten. The title revolved completely around the Wii MotionPlus peripheral, which allowed for nearly 1:1 mapping of player movement using a Wii Remote. For the first time, fans were able to swing Link’s sword as though they were actually the hero himself, with the vast majority of Skyward Sword’s puzzles and boss fights designed around precision control of the Blade of Evil’s Bane. While the narrative was intriguing because of its canonical role as the first Zelda game in the official timeline, what really made it sing was the heartwarming connection between Link and Zelda. Both characters felt incredibly humanized, making Link’s quest one of the most personable in series’ history. Along with some clever new puzzles to engage in thanks to the expert implementation of MotionPlus, Skyward Sword is a great example of how Nintendo’s commitment to hardware manufacturing is a big part of why the company can produce such exceptional software. Outside of some shortcomings in the latter third of the game (oy, that backtracking) and the letdown of flying, this is a title tailor-made to showcase what Wii was truly capable of, and a reminder on the series’ then-25th anniversary of why the franchise continues to be so loved by fans. – Robert Marrujo

9. The Legend of Zelda (NES)

The game that started it all. A boy, a sword, and a mysterious land packed with monsters and dangers, puzzles and secrets. While Super Mario Bros. is rightfully viewed as one of the most important video games ever made, The Legend of Zelda is arguably in a dead heat with that title in terms of historical significance. There had been flirtations with exploration games like this before, perhaps most notably Atari’s Adventure, but truly, between the music, freedom to roam, open-ended gameplay, and genuinely revolutionary puzzles, no one had seen anything like The Legend of Zelda before. The impact that the title had on the video game industry was seismic; there would be no Final Fantasy, no Dragon Quest, nor countless other RPG and adventure games were it not for this seminal work. Even today, despite its comparatively simple graphics and play control, the allure of poking around every nook and cranny of Hyrule remains; it’s an enduring legend, indeed. – Robert Marrujo

8. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

Zelda II is technically the sequel to The Legend of Zelda, but A Link to the Past was only the second time that players were able to adventure through Hyrule from the overhead perspective established in that NES original. It was a wise design choice, as the change in vantage points thrust players into A Link to the Past’s ridiculously engaging world in a way that a 2D view wouldn’t have been able to accommodate. From the opening of the game it was obvious to fans that something special awaited them; watching the rain fall was a sight to behold, setting a mood of dread as Link made his way from his humble home to the foreboding Hyrule Castle and the mysterious voice speaking right into his head. The rest of the game was equally compelling, establishing series mainstays like Kakariko Village, the Master Sword, and more. Perhaps most important was the introduction of the Light and Dark Worlds, a concept which would go on to inform the themes of duality that the series continues to explore to this day. A Link to the Past remains an astounding piece of game design that truly cemented Zelda as one of the marquee franchises in the video game industry. – Robert Marrujo

7. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (GameCube)

It’s tricky trying to do something new with a series as steeped in history and tradition as the Legend of Zelda, but Four Swords Adventures pulled it off with ease. While the game marked the first time in years that a Zelda title had gone back to the overhead view of The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past for a home console release, that’s about as conventional as Four Swords Adventures got. The focus here was on multiplayer, allowing up to four players to team up and tackle arcade-style, objective-based stages. Gone was an open world, side quests, and towns to traverse, replaced instead with concentrated doses of the gameplay that fans knew and loved. It was ingenious, and whether played alone or with friends Four Swords Adventures was a lovely reimagining of the Zelda formula. Nintendo has played around with the structure of this game in the more recent Tri Force Heroes, but Four Swords Adventures is still the king of multiplayer Zelda games, and one heck of an entry in the series despite its rebellious changes. – Robert Marrujo

6. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (Game Boy Advance)

Capcom and Nintendo’s lone original Game Boy Advance Zelda game was woefully under appreciated when it debuted over a decade ago, but for those who played it then and in the years since, it’s hard to find many who wouldn’t put it right up there with the best home console installments of the series. The Minish Cap saw Link shrunk down to the size of a pea, with the hero pitted against a villain other than Ganon for a change. Capcom also introduced a number of new items and weapons that wouldn’t be seen again until Skyward Sword, like the Gust Jar and Mole Mitts. Along with its addictive Kinstone trading, this was a Zelda game that dripped with originality, mimicking the look and tone of The Wind Waker on GBA without coming across as a watered down version of it. The Minish Cap remains a stunning accomplishment on the part of Capcom; though Nintendo still played a role in the game’s development, the title was nonetheless a rare chance for another studio to stand head and shoulders with the House of Mario. – Robert Marrujo

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5 Responses to “Top Ten: The Legend of Zelda Games”

  • 1357 points
    penduin says...

    The top-tier Zeldas as far as I’m concerned are Link to the Past, Link’s Awakening, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. Ordering amongst these is pretty much impossible and irrelevant.

    In the second tier, I’d put Wind Waker and the NES original.

    Third tier: probably Twilight Princess, Link Between Worlds, and Skyward Sword.

    That only makes a top 9, so, let’s see… I suppose I’d put up the Oracle series next, making it a top 11. Close enough!

    Thumb up 1
  • 592 points
    OG75 says...

    Dear Nintendojo, It appears nefarious tricksters have hacked your website and re-arranged your top 10 Zelda list. Either that, or you jumped the gun releasing this list before April 1st. :)

    Some examples of the hacker’s shenanigans:

    A.) The number one game in the Zelda franchise has been moved to your number 8 spot.

    B.) They’ve placed one of the easiest games in the franchise in your number 3 spot (while brilliant in every way described, this game can’t be forgiven for its total lack of challenge in EVERY department; no chance of death ever and puzzles for pre-schoolers.) Otherwise a pleasant romp for sure.

    C.) A “Four Swords” game has crashed the party at your number 7 spot. Surely somewhere the Oracles are spinning in their graves… And they’re not even dead! Even the Game & Watch Zelda that wasn’t mentioned in your retrospective (or was it?) is scratching its head.

    Just being cheeky. Love the list! Everyone’s is different, right?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5
    • 0 points

      I just realized Link Between Worlds was #3. LOL. I enjoyed it, but…WAY too easy. It didn’t live up to Link To The Past for sure, but was a fun game while it lasted.

      Thumb up 0
  • 0 points

    A Link To The Past will always be #1, with Link’s Awakening right on its tail. For me, anyway. When it comes to the Zelda games, I tend to put them two categories: 2D and 3D. If it was a list with those two categories, I suppose the #1 3D title would be Ocarina or Wind Waker. Hard to decide, since it took me 16+ years to finally finish Ocarina, and then finally on the 3DS. The game just never grabbed me, but it is a great game nonetheless.

    Thumb up 0
  • 0 points

    What about Phantom Hourglass? A direct sequel to Wind Waker. That game was fantastic, dumped over 70 hrs into that one. But again, my bias is showing. Like with Tri-Force Heroes, will buy it eventually; but most likely never play it. Zelda should stay single player, in my opinion.

    Thumb up 0

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