I’ve been waiting a long time to share this list of the best Zelda games with you all. This series has stuck with me since I was around 6-years-old. I grew up with Link and Zelda, acting out adventures in my mind long after I switched the N64 or Game Boy off.
I considered buying a Master Sword letter opener once, but I had to stop myself…
Yes, if you haven’t picked this up already, then I’ll say it plainly. The Legend of Zelda series is my favourite game franchise of all time. The adventures are timeless, and it doesn’t matter how many times Nintendo re-release old games, I’m always the first to buy them.
From the incredible characters to the mind-blowing adventures, the best Zelda games are more than just video games to me. They’re like a favourite book and movie rolled into one, with a legendary storyline and brilliant visuals that are both immersive and enchanting.
But which are the best Zelda games in my collection? Well, It’s a tough one to call…
… who am I kidding; I’ve had this list in my mind for years now!
Make the treasure chest opening noise, grab your hook shot, and let’s begin.
Table of Contents
A Link Between Worlds kicks off this compendium of the best Zelda games of all time!
This 3DS classic provides NES top-down style action with all the modern Zelda features that we’ve come to know and love. Puzzle solving, epic scenery, and the Master Sword. ‘Nuff said.
Link boasts a very special trick in this game; the ability to move between worlds by passing through cracks in walls, otherwise known as portals.
Yep, I’m excited just talking about it!
Link is the master of pulling tricks and items literally from up his sleeves, and this new skill of travelling between the worlds of Hyrule and Lorule is cooler than cool.
Like the Upside-Down in Stranger Things, Lorule is a dark and dismal place filled with mysteries. Instead of a Dema-Gorgon, however, Link must stop the evil Yuga.
Yuga is the one that gives Link the ability to turn flat in the first place. That back fired a little bit, didn’t it!
The hook shot and bow return as well as new items like the hammer for pounding everything in sight. It’s a great game and the perfect title to kickstart this list!
I’m not going to lie; I’m a home console Zelda fan first and foremost. Still, Spirit Tracks and the other handheld titles in this list are so good that they more than deserve a place in the line up.
Spirit Tracks has one of the most unique gameplay styles in the Legend of Zelda canon and makes gamers think differently while playing.
Players move link around using the stylus rather than using the D-pad. Heck, the stylus does everything in this game. It’s an extension of Link’s arm, selecting weapons, slashing enemies, and controlling the train as it moves along the Spirit Tracks.
I’m still not sure why Nintendo made Link a train conductor, but I love it all the same!
There was a time when I was a little unsure of the cell-shaded graphics first used in the Wind Waker. I say ‘a time’; it was about 14 seconds before I got stuck into the game. The cell-shaded theme works perfectly in this smaller handheld adventure and pays homage to the success of the GameCube classic.
Speaking of the Wind Waker, Spirit Tracks happens in the same timeline. It’s placed 100 years after Link and Tetra’s adventure and their outing together in the Phantom Hourglass.
I won’t bore you any more with my nerdy timeline facts, but you can find out more by purchasing Hyrule Historia, the best book in my bookcase!
Majora’s Mask takes the 8th spot in this list of the best Zelda games of all time.
I’m going to make a lot of enemies here, I know. Still, I have to speak the truth, and the truth is that this just wasn’t my favourite Zelda adventure.
Believe me when I say that there is very little that separates any of the games in this list, and I do still think this is an awesome game. The time changing system just didn’t sit that well with me back when the game first released, and for me, it wasn’t as good as Ocarina of Time.
My opinion changed when I bought the 3DS version however. Older, wiser, and with more patience, I began to realise why this game was such a hit, and the updated graphics were super appealing too.
The 3DS offering dropped fifteen years after the original N64 cart hit store shelves. With stereoscopic graphics and gyroscopic features, it certainly breathed a new lease of life into a game some players may have skirted over.
Playing as the Goron and the Zora were always my favourite parts in this game. Interacting with the various NPCs while wearing different masks brought lots of unique responses, and the main story is incredibly well thought out.
Characters from Ocarina such as the Happy Mask Salesman, Skull Kid, and Darunia’s Ghost also appear, giving fans of the game lots of Easter eggs to search for. It’s a great title, but I just like the others more.
It might surprise some of you to know that The Minish Cap wasn’t produced by Nintendo. I know; just take a minute to get over that shocker before moving one.
Capcom grasped the Four Sword by the hilt and charged to victory with this game. They certainly proved they had what it took to make an epic Link Adventure, and Minish Cap deservedly takes the 7th spot in our list.
For those of you who haven’t played Minish Cap, it’s like a cross between A Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening in terms of gameplay style. The levels are similar, though the mechanic of becoming smaller to the converse with the Minish or ‘Picori’, an entirely new people in the Legend of Zelda canon, is both refreshingly different and fantastic.
Thanks to Link’s new Minish Cap ‘Ezlo’, Link boasts shrinking powers that enable him to explore new places with his cantankerous guide. Ezlo coincidentally looks exactly like Link’s usual hat with a birds head on the end.
Link usually has someone close by to guide him; Midna, Navi, Fi, though Ezlo is one of my favourites. He isn’t as annoying as the others and is comical as well as helpful.
Can you push back the darkness (a recurring theme in Zelda games), defeat Vaati, and restore the Picori blade?
I think you can, and you know you should!
It’s funny that I’ve picked Skyward Sword next as this game comes before the Minish Cap in the alternate Zelda timeline.
Yes, that’s the kind of thing that I find ‘funny’. I need to get out more…
This game has had a bit a resurgence thanks to Nintendo announcing the release of Zelda Skyward Sword Switch this Summer (or Summer 2021 if you’re reading from the future). With perfected motion controls and the ability to use links sword via the right-joycon joystick, it promises to be the ultimate handheld-hybrid adventure.
The original title perfected the slashing motion controls first used in Twilight Princess too. Slicing Bokoblins and pushing back attacking enemies using the Wiimote and Nunchuck felt too cool, even though the swimming levels were an absolute nightmare!
Ghirahim, the weird villain dude in the pic above, also makes my list of top Zelda baddies. He looks a little as though he should be in an 80’s New Romantic band like Duran Duran, but don’t let the swish hairdo fool you.
This guy’s one tough cookie and means business!
Skyward Sword had some good features, but the frustrating tear-collecting levels stopped it from ranking higher in this list. I don’t know how many times I died trying to play through those sections!
The Loftwings, falling down into the different levels, and the features that would become integral in BOTW such as the sackcloth and the stamina pods were all brilliant, however.
It’s the first Zelda game where running took a precedence over continually rolling everywhere, and it’s the last title to feature the traditional ‘gain weapon, kill boss, new area, repeat’ method of play.
The Wind Waker takes the 5th spot in this list of the bet Zelda games of all time!
As I mentioned above, I was a little uneasy about the cartoony stylings of the Wind Waker before I slotted it into my GameCube. It seemed a little sacrilegious to change the existing style…
But after about 30 blinks, I was hooked.
The game itself was a triumph. Almost every copy in my county sold out in a heartbeat apart from the dual disc copy I bought from a second hand store. It hadn’t even been played, an unwanted gift perhaps, and it came with the Ocarina of Time Master Quest bonus disc.
I later bought the HD version for the Wii-U which blew my mind. Who knew that this game could look any better. Far from being childish and cutesy, the new stylistic choice allowed for interesting features such as the purple smoke when enemies are killed, and the cool look of the pig-like Moblin guards in Ganon’s castle was epic!
Everything is a little larger than life, including Link’s mysterious talking boat.
Ganondorf returns as the antagonist in this title. He’s looking for Zelda and capturing all girls who look like her. Link’s sis gets snatched up by a bird, and he boards a ship with Tetra to go and save her. There’s a talking boat to guide you, lots of sailing on the ocean, and some bad-ass bosses to defeat.
Give The Wind Waker a go NOW; don’t delay!
Link’s Awakening was always great for the GBC, but the Nintendo Switch version turned it up to 11 in my opinion. I said as much in my Link’s Awakening Review and still love replaying this updated adventure months after it came out.
Whether playing on the DMG, GBC, or Switch, this game is fantastic from start to finish. As it was never intended to be an official Zelda title in the early days, some characters from the Mario series such as Goomba’s and shy guys appear as bad guys.
Think of it as an official unofficial crossover… if that makes sense.
Rather than exploring the realm of Hyrule, Link’s Awakening takes place on Koholint Island. What hasn’t changed is the ‘find dungeon, gain weapon, kill boss’ mechanic used in previous Zelda games pre-BOTW.
The Switch Version is my favourite by far as it looks stunning. Koholint looks incredible and the graphics really do our green-garbed-hero justice.
Battle Moblins, take a chain-chomp for a walk, and kill bosses with three hits just like in the good-old-days. Yep, it’s a classic alright and one of the best Zelda games in my collection.
Twilight Princess was the last truly classic Zelda game, in my opinion. Ok, so Skyward Sword was technically the last, but there’s just something about The Twilight Princess that felt Ocarina-esque.
The story was superb, there wasn’t as much diving between different parts of the world, and the motion controls weren’t as much of a feature which wasn’t that big of a deal to me anyway.
This game was the last title made for the GameCube and one of the first to appear on the Wii. The Twilight Princess HD disc for the Wii-U makes buying the Wii’s successor 100% worth it, if only for this and Wind Waker HD! The graphics on the HD edition are just phenomenal!
To further back up my ramblings above, Twilight Princess was the best selling game in the Legend of Zelda Series up until Breath of the Wild released back in 2017. It outsold Ocarina of Time by a whopping 900K copies!
Hyrule field looks incredible in this adventure too. After the deviation from the usual Zelda locations in the Wind Waker, it was nice to see Hyrule Castle and Death Mountain again with their new looks. And walking around Hyrule Castle Town chatting with NPCs felt great!
Midna is a great guide throughout the game, and the wolf segments in the shadow realm are brilliantly thought out. I can’t say enough good things about this game. Grab a Wii-U, call in sick, and play like your life depends on it!
Believe me when I say I never thought I would be placing Ocarina of Time second in a list of the best Zelda games of all time. I’ve been ranking Zelda games in my brain since I first played Ocarina and it’s always come out top.
Until recently, that is.
Ocarina of Time had a huge impact on me as a kid. It created my yearning for adventure, my love of fantasy novels, and the desire to write them myself. I read every Nintendo Magazine article about it as a kid, scoured guides, and lived and breathed the game even before it released.
Whether playing on the N64 or the 3DS, the adventure is spectacular. The storyline is immense, and Ganondorf remains my favourite villain of any film, game, or book to this day. Riding Epona for the first time, seeing Adult link holding the Master Sword… it takes me back!
Ocarina of time is the game that I use as a bench mark for how good other adventures are. The weapons, the characters, the boss battles; everything about it is perfectly crafted.
It’s no wonder everyone classes it as the best video game of all time!
Ocarina has some of the greatest side quests too, missions to find bottles or bigger wallets etc. And that final showdown with Ganondorf and Ganon; I could play that over and over without getting bored.
Favourite boss battle other than Ganon? Twinrova. Favourite shield? Mirror shield. Favourite weapon? Din’s fire. From fishing to fighting fire-breathing dragons, this game has everything.
But, in 2017, another game released that did the impossible. It knocked Ocarina off the top spot.
Breath of the Wild is the best Zelda game ever released. There, I’ve said it.
This open world Zelda adventure revolutionised the Zelda game format forever. Scenery can be climbed, rain affects surfaces, you can do anything; seriously, do I need to say anything else?
It’s a Zelda game, but not as we know it. Weapons break, you can go ANYWHERE, and upgrading armour is now possible. Honestly, I didn’t know that Zelda games could be improved upon, but Breath of the Wild knocked every other title in the series out of the park.
Sneaking up on enemies, hunting for food; ok, I’m just listing things that I do in this game now.
The world is so vast that sometimes I just ride around on my giant horse looking for things I haven’t spotted before. From mythical dragons to the deadly Lynels, the storyline is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.
The puzzles in the shrines took Zelda-brain-teasers to a new level as well. Using these as a method of increasing either health or stamina was a nice touch, and the side quests such as Tarry Town and other immersive missions linked to the main storyline such as grabbing the Thunder Helm from the Yiga Clan were blooming’ marvellous.
Yep, I love Breath of the Wild, and I can’t wait for a new Zelda game to topple it in the coming months. We’ve already had a Skyward Sword HD announcement, but I’m holding out for BOTW2!
What is Zelda?
Zelda is the secondary character in The Legend of Zelda series. She is the Princess of Hyrule and uses her powers in her many altercations with Ganondorf and a host of other evil villains.
Zelda games follow Link, the green-garbed hero wielding the Master Sword, the blade that seals the darkness. These action-adventure games marry puzzle solving with combat and collecting features and feature exclusively on Nintendo consoles.
When Did The First Zelda Game Come Out?
The first Zelda game titled ‘The Legend of Zelda’ released for the Japanese Famicom in disk form back in February 1986. A cartridge version dropped in America and Europe almost a year-and-a-half later in 1987.
How Many Zelda Games Are There In Total?
There are 19 games in the main Legend of Zelda canon, with a total of 46 games consisisting of spin-offs and remakes releasing over multiple consoles.
Some of these titles such as Link’s Crossbow Training, one of the best Wii games and in my opinion a grossly underrated title, are great stand-alone adventures!
How Much Do Zelda Games Cost?
Zelda games can cost anything from $49.99 through to $20,000 for a sealed, graded Ocarina of Time collectors edition.
New copies of Breath of the Wild tend to sell for around $49.99, while old unboxed NES and SNES games sell for around $10-$30 depending on the condition of the cartridge.
How to Play Zelda Games On PC?
The best way to play Zelda games on PC is by using an emulator such as Project 64.
Project 64 is one of the best N64 emulators on the internet and works on all windows and android-based machines. Providing you have a ROM file of your Zelda game, this emulator allows PC users to play Zelda games on non-Nintendo devices.
N.B: Retro Dodo does not condone illegal ROM downloading or the distribution of ROM files through any medium. Please check the legality of file downloading in your region.
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Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 33 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.