So The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has finally launched worldwide on the Nintendo Switch/Wii U. Critics are going nuts for it, and it’s currently sitting pretty at 97 on Metacritic.
With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of all the Zelda titles I’ve played, ranked from worst to “OMG this is the best!”
So without further ado, let’s get right to it.
14. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
I’ll be honest; I’ve not played much of Zelda II, and I’ve only recently tried to get into it properly after getting my hands on the Mini NES, but from what I have played of it, I can tell that it’s really not my cup of tea. The side scrolling enemy encounters work fine enough, but when I’m trying to make my way around the overworld only to find 3 goblins flank me from nearly every direction, it feels like the random encounters featured in old-school RPGs that I don’t much care for. Still, I can see how some aspects have influenced more recent games like Shovel Knight, so I can’t hate it completely.
13. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
This one hurt. A lot. I was so excited for Skyward Sword – Twilight Princess left me on a glorious high, and I was eager to see what Nintendo could do next with some proper Wii motion controls. Instead, Skyward Sword led me on a largely linear path, completely at odds with what Zelda has tried to do its entire lifetime. Exploring some interesting dungeons and the ever charming Skyloft did little to alleviate any ill feelings toward the game. Many people do love it though, so don’t take my word for it.
12. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
I was a huge fan of the aesthetics utilised in several Zelda games starting from Wind Waker – the cartoony graphics were a breath of fresh air amongst all the gritty, realistic games on the market at the time. By the time Spirit Tracks came out on the DS though, I was kind of done with it. I enjoyed it in its own right, but I was ready for something fresh, and unfortunately Spirits Tracks was too similar to Phantom Hourglass to be a truly engaging entry. Elderly Niko was adorable though.
11. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask/3D
Oh God, I’m going to get slaughtered for this… Yeah, I wasn’t a huge fan of Majora’s Mask. I’m not alone though – it’s certainly proven to be one of the more divisive entries in the Zelda canon. It was a brave departure from Ocarina of Time, but sadly little of the game connected with me in a meaningful way. I enjoyed roaming around the brand new Termina region, but I think the constant three-day cycle subconsciously made me anxious the whole time, dampening my enjoyment of the game.
10. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
I’ve not included Oracle of Ages into this entry, simply because I haven’t played it. Oracle of Seasons was a solid title on the Game Boy Color. I really appreciated how the environment changes according to the seasons, opening up new pathways or allowing you to use certain items. Since Seasons is quite heavily focused on action, I would like to give Ages a try at some point, since it could potentially push this one a bit higher up the list. As such, I found the game enjoyable enough, but average.
9. The Legend of Zelda
There’s something about older games that I find instantly attractive – there’s no bullshit, no convoluted introduction or tutorial, just simple enjoyable gameplay. In The Legend of Zelda‘s case, you’re thrust into an open world filled with tough enemies and no guidance on where to go or what to do. It’s been cited as the primary influence for Breath of the Wild, and judging by my initial playtime, it’s clear the new title borrows heavily from the original’s survival mechanics.
8. The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap
The final game developed by Capcom’s subsidiary Flagship, Minish Cap was a bizarre entry in the ‘toon’ Zelda series, but I can’t help but find myself enamoured by the gorgeous pixellated graphics that still look great to this day. Becoming the tiny size of the ‘Minish’ opened up new, unique gameplay mechanics and made familiar foes take on a whole new formidable presence.
7. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
The first entry on the DS, Phantom Hourglass boasted some initially off-putting touch screen controls. But once I got used to controlling Link with a stylus, I found a lot of enjoyment in exploring the many unique islands, much in the same vein as Wind Waker. The only thing that really dampens the experience for me is returning to the Temple of the Ocean King so many damn times throughout the game. It was interesting at first, but soon outstayed its welcome.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time/3D
Ocarina of Time is a very special game. For a lot of people, it’s still the pinnacle of the series, and frequently cited as the best, most important game of all time. I’ve found it’s aged quite a lot in the years since, and as such it’s probably not as high on this list as it once might have been – but there’s so much to enjoy here. From exploring the initial Deku Tree dungeon to riding the fields of Hyrule on the back of Epona, its influence on the gaming industry cannot be ignored.
5. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
This was an important entry in the franchise for me. After being so disappointed with Skyward Sword, I felt deflated and ready to ditch the series completely. Then along came A Link Between Worlds to save the day, 22 years after A Link to the Past. Boasting an updated version of the same overworld, A Link Between Worlds flirted with the idea of allowing you to explore wherever you like at your own pace with the ability to borrow relevant items from the rather irritating Ravio. It was wonderful to visit this world again after so long, and being able to merge into certain walls gave a new perspective on environments that I’d once been so familiar with.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess/HD
Twilight Princess was a return to a more realistic Hyrule after the experimentation seen in Wind Waker, but it presented an equally beautiful region to explore. It bears a striking resemblance to Ocarina of Time, featuring many of the same environments such as Zora’s Domain and Kakariko Village. The ability to turn into a wolf was not to many people’s taste, but it nonetheless presented a new, unique twist on the now familiar gameplay. Midna is one of my favourite characters in the whole series, and the game featured arguably some of the best dungeon designs ever.
3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (GBA)
This will always place high in my rankings. Whenever I go on a long flight or train journey, I always take my GBA with me so I can start A Link to the Past from the beginning, again and again. It was one of the last Zelda games to truly respect the player, with minimal handholding and some devious dungeon and enemy designs. Flipping over to the Dark World for the first time was a revelation, presenting a brand new, dangerous take on a world that you thought you’d conquered.
2. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker/HD
Up until recently, The Wind Waker was unquestionably my favourite Zelda game. Perhaps the most divisive title in the entire series, the cel shaded graphics caused a rift between Zelda fans, with many folks berating the game for appearing ‘childish’. It turned out to be one of the most ambitious, charming and unique games of all time. Exploring the vast Great Sea created a freedom that I had yet to experience in a Zelda title at that point, with dozens of islands simply bursting with imagination. It features some truly wonderful, memorable characters from the fearsome pirate Tetra to the dancing Elvis Presley lookalike Tott. I thought that nothing could top this… which brings us to our number one spot.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
What else could possibly take the crown? Breath of the Wild delivered on everything Skyward Sword failed to, and then some. The moment Link steps into the vast open-world is revelatory – you can go literally anywhere. Harking back to the very first title in the series, Breath of the Wild lets go of your hand completely, allowing you to explore at will, fulfil side-quests and even take on the final boss Calamity Ganon just mere hours into your adventure, should you choose to. It’s the new standard for Zelda games, open-world games and adventure games altogether.
So there you have it! As you can see, there are several titles missing that I’ve yet to get around to. Though I probably won’t waste my time with the Four Swords games, since I have no friends (whimper!). Anyway, if you disagree with this list, do let me know what your favourite Zelda game is!