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

5. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii, GameCube)

Despite a slow opening with a few too many tutorials, Twilight Princess eventually reveals itself to be the most epic entry in the franchise. Other games did more to innovate in terms of gameplay, but the version of Hyrule presented in Twilight Princess is grand in scope and rich in atmosphere. Every place feels lived in with a lingering sense of history and purpose, a sensation that is further enhanced by some of the series’ most interesting and well developed characters. While series regulars like Zelda and Ganon are well portrayed, newcomers Zant and Midna are quite dynamic as their stories are revealed and your perception of them shifts as come to understand and sympathize with their positions in the larger world. It might not be the best Zelda game, but Twilight Princess is better than most at making you truly care about Hyrule, and Link’s quest to save it. – Andy Hoover

4. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GameCube, Wii U)

It’s hard to believe how many people hated this game before they ever even played it. “Misfire,” “childish,” “misguided,” and a ton more negative adjectives were attached to The Wind Waker by jaded fans and pundits, but by the time the game landed on GameCube, more than a few folks were proven flat-out wrong about it. It might look like a cartoon, but The Wind Waker is easily one of the deepest and most emotionally stirring entries in franchise history. From the mystery of who Tetra truly was, to what laid below the waves of the Great Sea, this was a game just screaming to be explored from beginning to end. Speaking of looking like a cartoon, the cel-shaded visuals were jaw-dropping back in the day, and have only served to help make the game utterly timeless, as a result. The HD re-release on Wii U certainly served to improve upon the foundation of the original, but no matter which version is played, The Wind Waker is a milestone achievement for Nintendo and video game design in general. – Robert Marrujo

3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

A Link Between Worlds is nothing short of a masterclass in game design. Most Zelda games can be praised for their brilliant puzzles, great combat, and exciting sense of exploration but the manner in which it was structured in this 3DS masterpiece is pure genius. The game cleverly teaches you the ropes without ever reducing the action to mere tutorials, all the while opening the world more and more until you realize that everything is open to you with a sense of freedom unprecedented in the series. Add into the equation some more innovative features, such as the item rental and phenomenal art and sound direction, and you have what is easily the one of the best games on 3DS, one of the best games in the franchise, and arguably the best game of 2013. – Andy Hoover

2. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (Nintendo 64)

Majora’s Mask had a tough act to follow when it came to Ocarina of Time, which redefined the industry when it bowed. Miraculously, though Nintendo was keen to latch onto that game’s success by quickly producing a sequel, nothing about Majora’s Mask felt even remotely rushed or unoriginal after only a year of development time. Somehow in that scant span of months, Nintendo was able to produce a game easily the equal of Ocarina of Time, and in the eyes of many is even viewed as its superior. A dark tone permeates the adventure, touching on themes of death and loss that had largely never previously been explored in a Zelda game. Repeating the same 72-hours might have seemed like a needless constraint, but by having players relive the same three days over and over proved instead to be anything but limiting. It was a joy navigating through events, learning the routines of other characters and completing the game’s numerous side quests. Majora’s Mask was equally as memorable with improved graphics and a refined save system in the 3DS re-release, but even without those additions, it’s a game that stands amongst the best ever created. – Robert Marrujo

1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64)

Though there does seem to be a bit of a generational difference in tastes for those who grew up playing A Link to the Past, for almost twenty years now (crazy, right?) Ocarina of Time has been considered the greatest Zelda game ever made. Heck, there are a lot of people who will argue that Ocarina of Time is the best game of all-time, period, and there’s a lot to justify such an assertion. As with the original Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time were both developed at the same time as one another. Designer Shigeru Miyamoto’s vision for the series had outgrown the limitations of 2D game worlds, but with the transition to Nintendo 64 he was finally able to realize the sort of experiences that he could only dream of creating in the past. However, while Super Mario 64 is famous for writing the rule book for 3D games, Ocarina of Time stepped in and perfected it. Innovations like Z-targeting provided a lock-on mechanic that elegantly resolved issues of three-dimensional combat, and the game’s advances in storytelling pushed the entire industry forward. Of course, that’s just a small sampling of what Ocarina of Time did to ensure its place in the history books, and it’s exactly because of that wealth of quality and ingenuity that it sits here as Nintendojo’s top Zelda game of all-time. – Robert Marrujo

Which Zelda game would you have crowned king? Are you outraged Link’s Awakening isn’t on here? Sound off in the comments!

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

  • 1468 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!

  • 742 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?

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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