Like many people, The Legend of Zelda series has had a profound effect on my life as a gamer. The experiences that I have had with this game series has shaped not only what I prefer in a video game but also how I like to traverse through games as a whole. Since the original Legend of Zelda, the transparent character progression void of simple experience points simply powering you up, with better weaponry and health items, has always been my favorite way to truly feel like a badass ready to take out the ultimate enemy. Throughout the series, there have been several ups and downs, and down thrusts, but it consistently hasn’t disappointed.
This is my Top Ten favorite games from The Legend of Zelda series.
#10 – Four Swords Adventures – Gamecube
There are not many Zelda games that gamers generally have no knowledge on, however Four Swords Adventures is the main anomaly of the series. Whenever I bring up this game most people say, “Isn’t that the one you have to have 4 players with GBAs and cables to play?” It’s weird how confused people are as there is a pretty amazing single player game tucked away in the multiplayer misinformation madness. You control all four Links as a group and it’s a very unique and refreshing experience for the series. My only gripe is that the game is completely linear, so much as the game is broken up into chapters. The graphics and overall feel of the game, however, is in the style of an upgraded Link to the Past, which is an amazing little touch.
#9 – The Wind Waker – Gamecube / Wii U
(Prefer the HD remake on the Wii U)
The Wind Waker was first hated by fans, then loved by them, for it’s cell shaded graphics and animation. I felt that it was a weird step for Nintendo, but I went into the game with an open mind. I definitely wasn’t disappointed as for the first time all of the characters were able to display emotion due to the use of cartoon like graphics. I also liked the fact that you essentially sailed the ocean with pirates and cannon balls fights. Definitely a much different experience than your typical land based adventures from the other games.
#8 – Twilight Princess – Gamecube / Wii
(Prefer the Gamecube Version)
Twilight Princess is often hated on by the general Zelda fan for it’s deviation from the strict Zelda formula and for it’s convoluted story. I, however, feel like the addition of the twilight mechanics adds a fresh new take on a historic franchise and is much welcomed; making this a much darker and mature feeling game. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a huge fan of the Wii waggle mechanics, so I usually play the, much better, Gamecube version. One thing that is cool about this game is both versions are actually distinct experiences due to the fact that for some reason the developers decided instead of swapping Link’s character graphics and animations to show left or right handed sword action, they actually mirrored the entire world! This means that if you play the game on each system you will have a unique experience.
#7 – Oracle of Ages / Seasons – GBC
Both games in the oracle series are a great little side story in the franchise and since they both culminate in a battle against one common enemy, I always associate them together. These are the first games not produced by Nintendo to get their blessing and they are basically spiritual successors to the storied Link’s Awakening; also a portable outing. Each Oracle game focuses on a different aspect of a Zelda game with Ages being action oriented and Seasons being based more on puzzles. They are both excellent iterations that need to be experienced by all fans.
#6 – The Minish Cap – Gameboy Advance
The Minish Cap is an often overlooked iteration into the storied franchise. This is most likely due to the talking cap that many people see as annoying. I, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed this title and feel that it stands on it’s own sporting some great SNES style graphics and awesome scaling effects. To me being able to shrink yourself and see the world in a different way was a really cool way for the developers to create awesome immersive puzzles. The giant enemies also reminded me of Giant World in Super Mario Bros 3; which is never a bad thing.
#5 – Link’s Awakening – Gameboy / GBC
(Prefer the DX version on the Gameboy Color)
Link’s Awakening has the distinction of being the first Zelda game that I actually owned and didn’t rent. I remember getting this game while on vacation with my family and wow was I sucked in. Link could not have hoped for a better introduction to a portable console. Everything felt like a real adventure and not a partial one, as most original Gameboy games felt like. The fact that for the first time you weren’t in Hyrule meant that you were in store for new and unique experiences while still holding true to the overall Zelda feel.
#4 – The Legend of Zelda – NES
The original classic game is a severely overlooked entry point for the series when talking about Zelda games. One of the first cartridges that actually allowed you to automatically save your progress, it does a great job of making you feel lost and giving you a sense of familiarity at the same time. Once you have played this masterpiece, it feels like home the next time you pop the gold cartridge into your system. It’s definitely a rite of passage for all game lovers worldwide.
#3 – Ocarina of Time – N64 / 3DS
(Prefer the 3DS remake on the New 3DS system)
I had trouble deciding if I was going to put this game or the NES original as number 3, however the fact that this game had a huge impact during my teenage years combined with this being the first Zelda game that I preordered earns it a special place in my collection and on this list. Everyone is quick to praise and judge Ocarina of Time for many things it does right and even the limitations present on the Nintendo 64 system itself. But judging this game solely on the immersion that it gives you not only in the story, but the world itself is what makes this game a classic.
#2 – A Link Between Worlds – 3DS
The simple connection between A Link Between Worlds and the SNES masterpiece that is A Link to the Past boosts this one up. The nostalgia that gets stirred up whenever I fire this game up ensures it will be one of my upper tier games. One thing I like with this one is Nintendo finally smartened up and added a hard mode option for those of us that are quite skilled at the series. Let’s hope they continue that with newer iterations.
#1 – A Link to the Past – SNES
Given the fact that A Link to the Past is my favorite game of all time should make it no surprise that it’s also my favorite Zelda game. To me Zelda 3 sets the standard for what a Zelda game should feel like, look and how it should play. It is basically an upgraded version of the NES original taken to the max. The obsessive collection aspects are amazing and you really feel powerful each time you get a new item or gain more life. Everything about this game is masterful and it will maintain this top position likely forever, unless another game in the series does it better which is highly doubtful this late in the series’ lifespan.
There ya have it, my Top Ten games in main cannon The Legend of Zelda franchise. Now I didn’t include major hacks or remakes that differ from the original so there is definitely room for an entirely different list. While there are some games missing that others would put in their Zelda list, they just didn’t connect with me like these top ten. Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear why in the comments!