These 10 Best Zelda Games remind us that Link can take criticism and exceed our expectations. While Nintendo has already said that there is a new Wii U-exclusive title in the works, the HD remakes of Wind Waker and Ocarina of Time, along with a long-awaited sequel to A Link to the Past, the big N is placing a lot of weight on Link's shoulders. Sure, we know Ganon is pulling the strings nearly every single time, but that won't stop us from unsheathing the Master Sword and saving Hyrule in our list of the 10 Best Zelda Games!
The Legend of ZeldaNintendo Entertainment System
Starting off our list of the 10 Best Zelda Games is the title that started a revolution in the action-adventure category. With battery-backed memory, the original Legend of Zelda provided a gaming experience which was exceptionally longer than most other Nintendo titles at the time. The in-cartridge memory allowed players to save their progress as they tried to collect all of the pieces of the Triforce. It also started the old habit of Link being a silent protagonist.
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/AgesGame Boy Color
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages were released simultaneously as a sort of swansong to the Game Boy Color. Each acted as mirrored versions of the other. Progressing through one title would give you passwords to use in the game. By implementing the passwords into the other title, you find the real plot between the two where Twinrova (the twin Gerudo witches) attempt to resurrect Ganon. Nevertheless, the Oracle series built upon the mechanics of both the original NES title and A Link to the Past, while at the same time adding its own splendid mechanics to the Zelda franchise.
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish CapGame Boy Advance
The Minish Cap tried to revolutionize the trademark top-down perspective of the Zelda franchise, and it did this in an amazing manner. Using the power of Ezio (no, not that Ezio), Link was able to shrink himself down to minuscule proportions (get it? minuscule, Minish Cap?). For a Game Boy Advance title, The Minish Cap looked amazing, played amazing, and is one of the best handheld Zelda titles ever made. It was also an excellent precursor to the Four Swords series.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DXGame Boy Color
Link's Awakening DX was an optimized, Game Boy Color version of the original Game Boy title. And for a Game Boy title, Awakening contributed to the Zelda name in spectacular ways. In particular, the innovations made towards the Game Boy's limited controls (it basically had the same layout as an NES controller), were intuitive. You were able to assign tools and weapons (including your sword and shield), to the B and A buttons. Depending on the combination, you were able to use both weapons in tandem. Pressing both the bow and bomb at the same time would result in Link firing an arrow with a bomb at its tip. Or, Link could dash and jump consecutively in order to quickly navigate Koholint Island. Its sad and bittersweet ending reminded us to truly appreciate the courage each Link has ever had in facing so many perils.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between WorldsNintendo 3DS
A Link Between Worlds is the first new handheld Zelda in years and takes place six generations after the events of A Link to the Past. It puts us in familiar territory as Link battles the forces of evil in two different worlds, Hyrule and Lorule. Our timeless hero must brave the dangers of the dark world of Lorule to save the Seven Sages from the clutches of an evil wizard named Yuga who's bent on resurrecting Ganon.
With its inventive puzzles, callbacks to previous Zelda games and amazingly smooth gameplay, A Link Between Worlds is a joy to play for both veterans and newcomers to the Legend of Zelda series. And because of this, it really is a link between worlds.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward SwordWii
In the middle of our 10 Best Zelda Games list is the title which attempted to be the big origin story. In this earliest title in Zelda chronology, we find many histories to Hylian lore. For example, we find the ancestors to the Zora people and even why Link and Zelda's lineage have always encountered an immense evil trying to steal the Triforce. Gameplay-wise, Skyward Sword was amazing for its swordplay. Using the Wiimote Plus, Link's sword would exactly match how you were holding the controller. This led to amazing mechanics and a combat system that was much more in-depth than the rest of the series.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight PrincessWii, Nintendo GameCube
At first, a certain number of gamers were rather unhappy with Wind Waker's cel-shaded graphics (cel-shading was still a relatively new concept when it first came out). Gamers were expecting that the only way to follow up Majora's Mask was with a title starring an adult Link. While Wind Waker was not that game, Twilight Princess was. The first in the series to receive a T for Teen rating, Twilight Princess was much darker than its predecessors. It also built upon the dark world mechanics from A Link to the Past by incorporating the Twilight Realm, where everything is corrupted and Link is forced to change into a wolf (again, similar to the bunny form from A Link to the Past). The AI of the enemies was smart, the Wiimote-sword controls were unique, and its story was amazing. We'll never forget that second-to-last boss we fought before Ganon.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HDWii U
A lot of players missed out on Wind Waker because of its exclusivity to the Nintendo GameCube. While a percentage of players did not like Wind Waker's cel-shaded graphics (it's a video game.. who cares if it looks "cartoony" as long as it plays amazingly well), we felt that Wind Waker could not have been made any other way. Sailing for on and on may have gotten boring after a while, but everything else in Wind Waker was amazing and kept us ridiculously addicted. For those that have unfortunately missed out on Wind Waker the first time around, we consider the Wii U's HD remake to be the best version of this Hylian sailor story.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3DNintendo 3DS
You knew it had to be here, but were probably surprised to see that it was the 3DS version to have made it! The Ocarina of Time represents a cornerstone of gaming history where Link made the proper transition to 3D gameplay. We could go on and on about how much of an experience Ocarina of Time was, but we'd rather spend that time in telling you that the 3DS version is the definitive way of playing this masterpiece. The water temple was, arguably, one of the only major flaws to the game on the N64 (and was one of the most annoying dungeons in Zelda history). Well, the touchscreen controls allow you to switch between the regular and iron boots, back and forth, whenever you'd like, instead of having to pull up the pause menu each time. Throw in the Master Quest remix and a boss challenge mode, and The Ocarina of Time 3D is the best 3D Zelda experience that the series has to offer.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the PastSuper Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy Advance
Topping off our list of the 10 Best Zelda Games is the title to have redefined it all and established Link as a Nintendo powerhouse. Just as we said that Super Mario World is the greatest Mario game of all time, A Link to the Past is its Hylian counterpart. We consider the top-down perspective to be synonymous with A Legend of Zelda, and A Link to the Past is the perfected version of this format. This title had it all. Just when you thought Agahnim was slain and the day was saved, boom, you end up in the dark world, where Ganon's wish came true and everything went to hell. A Link to the Past built upon the core mechanics of the NES titles in amazing ways, all atop a great story. We cannot wait for its 3DS sequel, A Link Between Worlds. But in the meantime, we'll remember A Link to the Past as being the greatest Zelda title of all time.