The Legend of Zelda is a series rich with history, fantastic level design and epic moments, adored by millions of fans across the world. From its humble beginnings on the NES, to the evolution into the 3rd dimension and beyond, the Zelda franchise has managed to evolve with the times, yet still remain the same at its core. This is what has kept this series so close to my heart, ever since my fledgling days in 1998.
This article reflects my top 8 all time favourite Legend of Zelda games. I must stress, however, that I came into this spectacular series in 1998 and did not experience the famous NES and SNES entries until much later on.
And with that out of the way, let’s go.
For the sake of this article, original games and remakes have been treated as one.
#8 The Legend of Zelda (NES, 1986)
And so we begin, the first entry in the series is also the first entry in my top 8. This was the first truly open world game of its time and provided players an unprecedented sense of scale and challenge. The game was astonishingly challenging and also established elements such as dungeons and items that would go on to become series staples.
Skyward Sword is quite a divisive game amongst Zelda fans. On one hand you have a beautiful art style that makes the most of underpowered hardware. On the other hand you have motion controls that, while they work most of the time, sometimes they can feel awkward and unresponsive. On a positive note, the games story focuses on origins of the Master Sword and features some of the best bosses in the series.
#6 Minish Cap (GBA, 2005)
This is the first original game on this list not developed by Nintendo; this game was made by Capcom. Minish Cap makes this list due to it being a little bit different while still keeping the classic Zelda charm. A collectible item in the game called “Kinstones” allows you to collect and trade with NPCs to complete side quests. It’s a great system that rewards exploration, but isn’t detrimental to the game as a whole. The game’s “gimmick” is that Link finds a magical enchanted hat called Ezlo, which allows him to shrink down and explore the minuscule land of the Minish people. It’s a cool new way to explore certain areas that were once inaccessible to Link.
#5 A Link Between Worlds (3DS, 2013)
A link between worlds takes the familiar overworld of A Link to the Past and injects new dungeons and items into the game. Another difference between a Link Between worlds and it’s sister title is the introduction of a brand new painting mechanic. Link can press up against a wall or flat surface to access new areas. This gameplay mechanic allows a multitude of extra ways to traverse the land, and also provides fun new boss strategies. It also allows for some truly brain teasing dungeon puzzles.
#4 Twilight Princess (GCN/Wii/Wii U, 2006 and 2016)
Twilight Princess will always be remembered in my eyes as the single greatest E3 reveal reaction in history. The games scope is massive, and it was the first time since 1998 we saw a fully-grown version of Link, something that fans had been clamouring for. The game dealt with some very dark themes, something which the series has not seen since, and it also allowed you to play in Link’s beast form for the first (and only) time. Dungeon design is at an all-time high in Twilight Princess and you’ll find yourself scratching your head more than once at it’s multi-layered, multi-level puzzles.
#3 Wind Waker (GCN/Wii U, 2004 and 2013)
Remember earlier when I said Skyward Sword was divisive? Nothing even comes close to what Wind Waker received upon its reveal. After the release of Majoras Mask, fans were eager to see what the power of Nintendo’s new GameCube console could deliver. They were not pleased when it was shown that Zelda would be taking a more cartoonish approach, focusing on a cell-shaded art style rather than photorealistic graphics, and so “Celda” the game was dubbed.
What followed was one of the most epic adventures I have ever experienced. One which has scope that no other Zelda has come close to since, a truly grand sense of adventure.
#2 Ocarina of Time (N64/3DS, 1998 and 2011)
Here marks my entry into the series. Ocarina of Time is an absolute classic and a must play for any gamer. The games establishes Zelda in a 3D space for the first time, introducing battle systems that would go on to be the standard for the genre. The character relationships, the dungeons and pacing of the game is simply sublime, no wonder many consider this game to be one of the greatest games ever created.
#1 Majora’s Mask (N64/3DS, 2000 and 2015)
“You have met with a terrible fate, haven’t you?”
Majoras Mask is my favourite Zelda game of all time. The game takes the assets created for Ocarina and re-purposes them into a completely new game. The game introduces masks as a mechanic; these masks can be bought, received as rewards or even found hidden within the world. They allow link new abilities and transformations while he wears them, such as hopping over bodies of water as Deku, speeding around the overworld as Goron, or swimming the seas as Zora.
The game also employs an expanded time system which covers three in-game days (about 20 mins each). Across these three days, characters will go about their daily lives as per schedule, and at the end of it all you reset the clock a la Groundhog Day and go back to the beginning. Sometimes you will receive a task such as delivering a letter to the postman in order for the Mayor to find his lost son, or maybe a burglary happens at 11pm on the first day and you need to be there to stop it. Everyone in this game has an agenda, and I find that utterly fascinating.
– Written by Chris Massara