Top 10 Legend of Zelda Games
At last! We are almost at the launch day for the Nintendo Switch and, just as importantly, the next chapter in the Legend of Zelda series: Breath of the Wild. I have tried to keep my Breath of the Wild experience as pure as possible, but I have heard a few rumblings from early previews and the game might just live up to the hype.
The Legend of Zelda games have been a major staple in my gaming world ever since I played Link to the Past way too many years ago. There is something about the exploration, puzzle solving, and yes, even the story that draws me to each game of the series. Today, I will be going over my Top 10 Legend of Zelda Games. I will admit, it wasn’t an easy task to narrow the list down to just 10, but here we go.
Top 10 Legend of Zelda Games
10. The Minish Cap
One of the things I love about the Zelda series is the different perspectives they have in a game. The Minish Cap didn’t explore different timelines, but rather size. The game allowed you to shrink to a small size to complete puzzles and dungeons. This allowed you to explore the same area twice from a completely different perspective. It also introduced the Gust Jar, which is one of my favorite items in the Zelda series.
9. The Legend of Zelda
The one that started it all ends up here on my list. I think it is the hardest game of the Legend of Zelda series. Not only was death expected, but even finding the dungeons was no easy task. I love a difficult game, something that forces me to work for it, but the game finds itself this high on the list because there is a fine line of difficult and frustrating. The Legend of Zelda finds itself falling more on the frustrating side for me.
8. Wind Waker
Blasphemy I hear you say! I know that Wind Waker for me isn’t as high as you might find on other people’s list. While I love the artstyle and gameplay, the vast ocean just felt empty to me. Also, I don’t feel that the dungeons were all that memorable. What puts this game above the others on this list is the characters in the game. From our hero’s grandma to the band of pirates, each adds more to the story with each interaction.
7. A Link Between Worlds
As a direct sequel to Link to the Past, A Link Between Worlds had some big shoes to fill. It managed to do that quite well. While most people remember the major ability of being able to merge with the wall, I liked how this changed the traditional progression of Zelda games. You could rent any item you wanted and clear a majority of the dungeons in any order. It is this game that started the gears turning for the gameplay we will experience in Breath of the Wild.
6. Oracle of Season/Ages
While I will never fully forgive Nintendo for not putting both of these games on one cartridge, I still have to put the combination of these two games this high on the list. They took the gameplay and graphics from Link’s Awakening and created two games that interacted with each other. This allowed you to play an alternate version of each game and the ability to gain or upgrade items. With this connectivity, it gave players the chance to play a different experience within the same game.
5. Twilight Princess
This game has its issues. A horribly long intro sequence and I think some of the weaker side quest in the series, however it is the dungeons in Twilight Princess that makes this game climb this high on the list. Most people point to Snowpeak Ruins as the best, while I agree with that assessment, the City in the Sky, Goron Mines, and the Lakebed Temple are almost as good. There is a great sense of scale with all dungeons in this game. They all use vertical space well and have puzzles and challenges that forces you to think about other things then just the enemies you will face.
4. Ocarina of Time
The N64 system did an amazing job taking classic franchises of the NES and SNES from 2D to 3D. Ocarina of Time was one of those and a clear watershed moment for the series, and for 3D open world gaming in general. Ocarina of Time gave the player the freedom to explore in ways that were never possible before. One major gameplay breakthrough was the use of Z-targeting that allows the player to have Link focus and latch onto an enemy or other objects. This is what allowed the 3D space to work. If we had no direction or way to focus on specific items, the game would of been a mess.
3. Majora’s Mask
Coming out just two years after number 4 on this list, Majora’s Mask took the another right turn. It introduced a three day cycle and focused on using masks giving you unique abilities to progress through the game. While the masks were interesting, the three day cycle was the true star of the game. This created a much more difficult game to play because so much of what you did was tied to this element of the game. I welcomed that challenge and loved it.
2. Link to the Past
Link to the Past abandoned the side scrolling visuals from Zelda II: The Adventures of Link and went back to the top-down perspective. This is the game that truly changed all Zelda games after it. Introducing a parallel world theme that was used in many games listed above as well as the famous Master Sword. The story was solid enough to be rehashed over many games in the future, but it was the depth of the world of Hyrule that made this game so special. There are heart containers and unique items to find. I have beaten this game at least ten times over my last 15 years and I never tired of it.
1. Link’s Awakening
It might be a surprise to some to find the first portable Zelda game at the top of the list. The first time I completed Link’s Awakening was one of happiest I have ever been after defeating a game. The game decided to go away from the traditional settings of the first three games of the series by being set away from the lands of Hyrule, without princess Zelda, and no Triforce to be found.
Instead, Link finds himself on an island where he needs to wake up the Wind Fish to escape the island. The overworld is small in comparisons to other games, but that doesn’t take away the depth of the world. There are layers of secrets and side missions that the player can discover along the way in an area they had previously explored. The story has always grabbed me more than any other in the series. Instead of saving the world, the player is saving themselves from the dream world they have entered after a shipwreck. It is that self reliance that stuck with me when I first played the game and every time since.