Jeremy enjoys gaming when not helping manage the college he graduated from.
What Are the Best The Legend of Zelda Games?
As someone who grew up with most of the Zelda titles, I've enjoyed traversing Hyrule's lands numerous times throughout my years. Discounting the CD-i atrocities, Zelda's adventure games have long offered consistent quality and vast worlds to explore, testing player's wits with puzzles and sword skills in combat.
With numerous impressive Hyrulian outings, picking just ten favorites wasn't easy. Still, mixing critical consensus with my own preferences, these are the ten best Legend of Zelda games of all time!
10. Majora's Mask
Available on: Nintendo 64, 3DS (remake), Virtual Console (Wii and Wii U)
The sequel to Ocarina of Time remains remarkably engaging for only having a year's development time. While it's not as grandiose as most Zeldas (there are only four true dungeons in the entire game), what sets Majora's Mask apart is its eerie atmosphere. You've got this giant, creepy moon about to crash on a world named Termina (from the word "terminal", meaning ending), and everyone's basically handling their incoming doom in different ways as you relive three days over and over in an effort to change the land's destiny.
If that weren't bleak enough, you steal the form of various deceased individuals using the game's trademark mask system, letting you inhabit the bodies of a Deku Scrub, Goron, and Zora. Throw in a wealth of optional quests and believable side characters, and you've got a darkly charming oddball of the Zelda franchise.
9. Four Swords Adventures
Available on: GameCube
An entire game based on the Four Swords multiplayer mode of the A Link to the Past's GBA update, Four Swords Adventures could be played solo, but was best enjoyed with up to three friends. You cooperate through a variety of unique levels, utilizing teamwork (and treachery when you needed a laugh) as you control your color-coded Links.
With not as deep as some titles, FSA long remained the definitive multiplayer Zelda romp. Its biggest fault lies in the complexity of actually playing multiplayer, as each player had to use a GameCube-Game Boy Advance link cable alongside an actual GBA (rather than just letting you do split-screen). Still, this system avoids the common tether problem of many co-ops, letting players split up and explore different areas if they like.
8. The Minish Cap
Available on: DS
Minish Cap offered a welcome return to 2D action, borrowing Wind Waker's aesthetic. Companion Ezlo (your cap) delights thanks to his humorous dialogue, the numerous kinstone side quests sprinkled throughout were engaging, and the gimmick of shrinking to minuscule sizes lets you explore several environments from two different perspectives (a staple of the Zelda franchise). We also see new villain Vaati, receiving the nice occasional break from Ganon as the antagonist.
In addition, Minish Cap doesn't possess a magic meter, something I always enjoy since it gives you constant access to your tools; you don't have to conserve your best weapons for bosses. Well, bombs and arrows are still of limited supply, but you carry dozens of those at once, so you know what I mean.
7. Skyward Sword
Available on: Wii, Wii U
Despite requiring players to use motion controls (and possess a Wii MotionPlus upgrade), Skyward Sword delighted fans with its mix of aerial and land explorations. When you're not soaring through the realm with Loftwing, you're engaging in engrossing sword play mechanics or utilizing new items like Link's whip.
Although the forced controls may deter traditional gamers, Skyward Sword offers engaging history on the origins of both the Master Sword and Hyrule, plus a solid balance between classic Zelda gameplay, and new elements to surprise series veterans.
6. A Link Between Worlds
Available on: 3DS
Not a remake yet drawing much inspiration from its source material, A Link Between Worlds pays homage to the classic A Link to the Past, while introducing enough fresh mechanics to stand on its own. You now traverse Hyrule and Lorule instead of the light and dark realms, similarly adventuring in 2D and rescuing the seven sages.
Rather than obtaining items in dungeons, Link rents them from a merchant, a surprisingly effective system to explore. Furthermore, players don't have to worry about depleting ammunition, as it's doled out using an energy system that replenishes over time. The ability to blend into walls offers new engaging puzzles, and the more open-ended world lets players tackle several dungeons in any order they wish.
5. The Wind Waker
Available on: Gamecube, Wii U (HD remaster)
With its focus on island traversal, Wind Waker granted players a beautiful return to Hyrule decades after Ocarina of Time's events. Stellar boss fights, a bigger personality to Zelda (in her role as Terra), and an actual family for Link help this one stand out from the crowd.
Despite an annoying fetch quest near the end and controversy over its new art style, Wind Waker remains a vibrant quest with an epic score, fun locations, and several historic callbacks to Ocarina of Time.
4. Ocarina of Time
Available on: Nintendo 64, 3DS (remake)
Long hailed as one of the best games of all time, Ocarina proved Zelda could not only endure but excel in the transition from two to three dimensions. A breathtaking setting and soundtrack accompany this gem, and we were all captivated when Link drew the Master Sword and advanced to his adult self, letting you explore Hyrule's world seven years into the future.
Ocarina also introduced fan-favorite Sheik as well as horseback riding on Epona, to this date one of the most rewarding sidequests in gaming. Just be ready to hear Navi (your fairy companion) yell "Hey, listen!" enough to explain why Link wanted seven years of peace and quiet.
3. Breath of the Wild
Available on: Switch, Wii U
Breath of the Wild was a huge gamble, breaking Zelda tradition with its open world format and numerous deviations. Thankfully, the risk paid off, and we were treated to an epic adventure with more freedom than any Zelda title yet, featuring breakable weapons, numerous puzzle solutions, dynamic weather, and much, much more.
Both the most recent and bestselling game on this list, Breath of the Wild remains a must-play update we didn't know we needed.
2. A Link to the Past
Available on: SNES, Game Boy Advance, Virtual Console (Wii and Wii U)
Generally considered the pinnacle of birds-eye-view Zelda, A Link to the Past provided an amazing adventure that holds up despite its 1991 release date. This title introduced the classic Master Sword, let players switch explore the paralleled dark and light realms, and featured a greater plot than prior titles, setting the standard for Zelda's impressive storytelling.
With several new weapons, many of which would become series staples, A Link to the Past remains one of gaming's all-time highlights. Plus, if you played its update on the GBA, you were also treated to the multiplayer-only Four Swords title as a bonus!
1. Twilight Princess
Available on: Wii, Gamecube, Wii U (HD remaster)
Twilight Princess offered a modernized update that drew from Ocarina of Time but is very much its own game. Link's ability to shift into wolf form was memorable, Epona made a grand return, new character Midna was a devious treat, combat was excellent, and since it released on two different systems, players could pick between motion and traditional controls.
If I must critique, I'd state that new villain Zant ends up as a disappointment despite a promisingly eerie start. Aside from that, Twilight Princess remains the 3D Zelda peak with multiple control schemes, beautiful graphics, and no magic meter to limit your arsenal.
Other Great Zelda Games
Here are some honorable mentions who deserve a shoutout. Oracle of Seasons, Oracle of Ages, and Link's Awakening remain classic hand-held titles for retro fans, Hyrule Warriors offers a fun Dynasty Warriors experience outfitted with a Zelda aesthetic, and the original title itself deserves a mention as a gem (especially considering its 1987 technology).
The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition is also an excellent GameCube entry that offers the original, Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link, Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, and a Wind Waker demo in one potent package. But for now, as we eagerly await more of Link and Zelda's future exploits, vote for your favorite title and I'll see you at our next gaming countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on November 04, 2019:
Definitely, those still hold up! I got hooked after the GameCube's special collection that came with the first two Zelda games plus Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, and a Wind Waker demo.
Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on November 03, 2019:
I came to comment on this article before realizing I already did a year ago. Have another comment - Zelda is awesome! I haven't played that many of them but my mum is a great fan. My favorites would either be Ocarina of Time or WindWaker. Keep up the good work!
Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on October 29, 2018:
I haven't played all these ones, but Windwaker has a lot of nostalgic value for me. I also replay Ocarina of Time every year or so. Zelda is awesome, thank you for this great article!