Even the worst Zelda game is still pretty good. But which one is the best? The answer is NOT OCARINA OF TIME because it simply isn’t. So this list is actually something new. Again I am looking at things from a gamedesign perspective and not from a personal perspective. Of course newer releases overwrite older releases. A short personal top 10 will bookend this list again and of course I only count official Zelda games. So without further ado, here we go:
- The Legend of Zelda – Four Swords
Let’s start this list with the worst of them all. And please take note, again, that the worst Zelda game is still a damn good one. But this one falls flat simply because it was never intended to be a full fledged game but rather a bonus feature for the GBA port to A Link to the Past. While looking rather nice, this game is multiplayer only and even the addition of single player on the 3DS re-release can’t do away with the short story, the level based structure or the dumb randomly generated dungeons.
- Zelda II – Adventure of Link
This is the so called black sheep of the Zelda series and it is easy to see why. The shift from action adventure to RPG was not the best idea and it is very formularic and by the numbers otherwise. However this was only the second installment so they’d be forgiven. It still is a nice game but surely not the best title. The level up system was broken and the game is frustratingly hard with tons of unfair parts.
- The Legend of Zelda
The game that started it all aged vey poorly. Despite having brilliant music and giving birth to what we now all love, the dungeon design is bland, the game is way too hard and the overall design is not well thought out. But it is the stepping stone for much greate brilliance.
- The Legend of Zelda – Four Swords Adventures
This game does better what Four Swords tried to do. An overall improvement it is still bogged down by the lack of creativity and the Four Swords formula in general. And the single player portion is still very rudimentary. However, a Wii U re-release could fix the tedious multiplayer part.
- The Legend of Zelda – Phantom Hourglass
The first DS game was a nice attempt at something new but the weak structure and lackluster setting were a drag. It is short with it’s four dungeons and that one dungeon that you have to revisit over and over and over again drags an otherwise solid game back down to the depths of the ocean.
- The Legend of Zelda – Oracle of Seasons/Ages
When these games came out they were hauled as one of the greatest achievements of the GameBoy Color era and it’s easy to mistake them as such. But behind the flash we find the same game twice we already bought for the GameBoy and the N64. While combining Link’s Awakening and Ocarina of Time was a good idea on paper, compared to some other heavy hitters on this list the two connected games are rather bland and uninspired.
- The Legend of Zelda – Spirit Tracks
The second DS outing was much better than the first one. The controls, while still touchscreeen based, were much better and responsive and the structure with the revisiting dungeon was revised – now you don’t have to replay the same thig over and over again. Also the game has better music and more dungeons with clever designs. And you can drive a train. YEAH!
- The Legend of Zelda – Skyward Sword
The only real Zelda game for the Wii (as Twilight Princess doesn’t count and Link’s Crossbow Training is not a Zelda game anyway) It is a brilliant game that could be so much better if it weren’t for the artificial streches the game has and the forced inclusion of motion controls. Battling the Imprisoned three times is a chore. Once was great. The second time was still okay but the third time just sucked. Same goes for Ghirahim by the way. Also there were so many streches in between the brilliant dungeons you knew they just streched it out to boast 60 hours of gameplay on the box. In case of this game, less would have been more. Also, most of the motion controls were forced gimmicks and swordplay in general is annoying.
- The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time 3D
There it is, the game that many claim to be the pinnacle of the Series. So why is it so low on this list? Simply put: It’s just not that perfect. I am talking the 3DS version here because the N64 would be EVEN LOWER! There is nothing wrong with it per se but most people simply love it because it was their first Zelda. But the fact of the matter is that half of the dungeons are bland, the music has its highlights but most of it is a copypaste from A Link to the Past, the structure is a copypaste from the aforementioned game and generally this game is just A Link to the Past in 3D. A technical marvel back in the day but nowadays it is just a great game. Nothing more but certainly nothing less!
- The Legend of Zelda – Majora’s Mask
Talking about a sequel done right. Majora’s Mask is a brilliant and creative vision of the man who would later give us Wind Waker. Pretty much everything in this game is done right. So why isn’t it higher up in this list? Because not even the 3DS release will fixed the few nitpicks one has such as very bland dungeon design, boring bosses and short gamelength. But it is still a fantastic game and one of the darkest yet!
- The Legend of Zelda – Twilight Princess
This game is basically Ocarina of Time in pretty and bigger. But it works. Most gameplay weaknesses have been done away with and the design found its footing in what it was comfortble with. While the Wii version was a wagglefest and a not very good one at that, the GameCube Version still stands the test of time as a brilliant example of CLASSIC 3D Zelda done right.
- The Legend of Zelda – Minish Cap
This brilliant game was overshadowed by the realease of the DS but make no mistake: It is a brilliant game. Pretty much everything you want in your 2D Zelda experience is there. In fact it almost tops even A Link to the Past. However it is VERY SHORT and that is its biggest downfall. So many brilliant ideas don’t last long if the game only has five dungeons in total. It is the shortest real Zelda game – a shame since it is utterly brilliant otherwise!
- The Legend of Zelda – Link’s Awakening
Here we go, this is it, the best 2D Zelda ever. Well except, you know… This game has everything. There simply is no fault with it. the DX Version is even better. Gameplay, design, dungeons, visuals and especially music – everthing shines!
- The Legend of Zelda – Wind Waker HD
As with Ocarina of Time before it, we are talking the remake here. And man is this game brilliant. The best 3D Zelda ever is a masterpiece in its HD version. The GameCube version would have ranked MUCH lower on the list but Nintendo did pretty much EVERYTHING I asked for when a while ago I posted my “How to fix Wind Waker” article and then some. They fixed and tweaked things I had no clue needed fixing. This game is 3D Zelda in perfection. Get it for Wii U THIS INSTANT! It might be a bit short though with its six (seven if you count Ganons Tower) dungeons and if it had one or two more it would be the best Zelda ever but as it is it is still fantastic and a must have!
- The Legend of Zelda – A Link between Worlds
So there we have it, the newest game in the Series. Once again it does everything right. Everything. So why isn’t it number 1? Simple: It does everything right but one thing for the wrong reason: Lorule. You see doing a copy paste job of A Link to the Past is okay if you do a sequel. BUT there is NO excuse WHATSOEVER to do a copy paste job of the Dark World. because that was a mirror of Hyrule. Lorule is just Lorule. So had they gone for a different design in Lorule and not just a copypaste of the Dark World we would have a winner here. But as it is now it’s “just” second place. Which means its ten times better than most other games.
- The Legend of Zelda – A Link to the Past
And here we are, Number 1. No contest, really. This game is the perfect Zelda game. Often copied and never reached this game is ALMOST perfect. As far as Zelda goes THIS is the pinnacle of the series and it probably will stay that way. But it’s okay, you can play it right now on Wii U virtual console. You should actually do that, you know. DO that now!
And that’s the list of Zelda game sfrom best to worst from a neutral point of view. So what about my personal list? Well, as with my Castlevania thingy my personal list is a bit different. Here are my personal top 10 Zelda games:
- Wind Waker HD
- A Link between Worlds
- A Link to the Past
- Twilight Princess
- Link’s Awakening
- Minish Cap
- Ocarina of Time 3D
- Skyward Sword
- Spirit Tracks
- Zelda II (no, really)