With a series like The Legend of Zelda, you are bound to get a variety of opinions regarding which games are the best. For most of us, the usual suspects will find a place somewhere around the top of our listings, but some titles get lost in the mix. For that reason, I wanted to rank the series from the worst (Number 16) to the best (Number 1), and partly because we won’t get our hands on another Zelda game for quite some time. First, here’s one important ground rule; only main series games are being ranked, this means No CD-i games, no Satellaview games and no Link’s Crossbow Training. So here we go, The Legend of Zelda series ranked from number 16 to number 1.
16 & 15) The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition
I commend Nintendo for trying something different with the Zelda series, but I just didn’t like it much. If Zelda were developed as an arcade game, this is how I imagine it would play. Its style is focused more on action and less on the adventure elements that make the Zelda franchise enjoyable. Sure, there are familiar surroundings and weapons, but it just isn’t enough for me personally, and I didn’t like carrying one weapon at a time.
There is next to no exploration, few upgrades, and a lack of urgency. Four Swords Anniversary should have at least had an online mode added; not to mention that it’s near impossible to find the equipment necessary to enjoy Four Swords Adventure on the GameCube to its fullest. Nice effort put forth, and I’d like to see Nintendo revisit and revise the idea, but just not for me until that happens.
14) The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
ChuChu! Wait a second, that’s not the sound a train makes. What’s that you say? ChuChu is an enemy from the Zelda series? OK, so my jokes are lame, but so is Spirit Tracks. It almost got ranked last, but for giving a more traditional Zelda experience, it received a little bump in the rankings. I thought the train gameplay was cumbersome and just doesn’t gel well with the series. The spirit flute was also tricky to use and felt nearly broken.
Spirit Tracks does have some cool elements that I did enjoy. It told a good story and actually feels like a fresh point in the overall timeline. I like how they incorporated Zelda’s fate into the gameplay by allowing you control of Phantoms. It also brought over the awesome stylus control scheme from Phantom Hourglass and had a fantastic soundtrack to boot. Though, coming from a Zelda fan who has played everything (except the CD-i/Satellaview games), I thought Spirit Tracks was a pretty mediocre experience.
13 & 12) The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
OK, so out of all the Zelda games that could have come next, it had to be this set unfortunately. I believe these games are great, but I thought the next game deserved just a tiny bit more recognition. Both Oracle games carried over the awesome portable formula seen in Link’s Awakening, but added elements to make each feel unique. Oracle of Ages features time travel while Oracle of Seasons allows the manipulation of seasons. Both mechanics change the overworld which makes exploring each game a lot of fun. Ages is more of a puzzle based experience, while Seasons is a more combat heavy game. Finding and equipping rings to change Link’s stats was also an enjoyable feature.
What am I missing here? Oh yeah, of course; both games can be linked together to form one big adventure. After finishing Oracle of Seasons (for arguments sake), you get a password that could be used in Oracle of Ages. Doing this would essentially link the adventures together. You even get to fight a new final boss, which most of you will recognize. It may have been difficult to do this as a kid on a small budget (I never got to experience it until years later), but it’s a rewarding experience and something I’d like to see Nintendo bring back for the 3DS!
11) Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Yes, Zelda II is better than the pair of oracle games – at least in my opinion of course. There are two main arguments that I’d like to present to back up my opinion. First, Zelda II is without a shadow of doubt the most unique Zelda experience in existence. It was the first Zelda game to explore sidescrolling, a leveling system, magic, and strategic sword fighting combat. All of these features combined make Zelda II feel like one of a kind, plus some of these things (magic and strategic sword fighting) would play a big role in later Zelda titles. I honestly feel that this formula worked absolutely fine, and while I do prefer the traditional Zelda game, I would love to see Nintendo revisit these ideas.
Secondly, Zelda II is a game from my childhood, so there’s no doubt that nostalgia plays a big part in my decision. Its retro graphics and amazing chiptune soundtrack bring back memories of sitting in front of a glowing TV and fighting the boss of the first palace. Know what I remember the most about that first palace? I was having fun! I can still play Zelda II to this day and have fun. For being nostalgic and unique, Zelda II definitely deserves the number 11 spot on my list.
10) The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Phantom Hourglass is the better of the two Zelda games on the Nintendo DS. There are several reasons for this, but mostly because sailing is much more fun and open ended than those awful, restrictive train tracks. Phantom Hourglass also has a more interesting sidekick character (sorry Zelda) in Captain Linebeck. Its dungeons are more memorable and the puzzles were better; an example would be the one that forces you to close the DS. Believe it or not, I was stuck on that for days and felt embarrassed when I discovered the solution; yes, I had to consult a guide.
Contrary to most opinions, I didn’t mind navigating the Temple of the Ocean King. It challenges you to learn the layout, and by design, also encourages you to find shortcuts. One thing that both games got right was the control scheme. I know a lot of people would prefer traditional controls, but after a slight learning curve, these controls work fine. Phantom Hourglass even gives you the option of seeking out Spirit Gems to power up Link; one of which gives you quadruple attack power. There are more comparisons I could make to Spirit Tracks (like Phantom Hourglass having better bosses), but I feel that I’ve explained my stance enough to move on to number 9.
9) The Legend of Zelda
Here’s where the legend started and for that reason alone the number 9 spot is extremely fitting. The Legend of Zelda is a game that created a franchise. A lot of gamers first stepped foot into the series with this game and it’s an instant classic for all the reasons I’m about to list.
At the time, no other game created a sense of wonder quite like The Legend of Zelda. Its expansive map held cryptic secrets around every corner and baddies on almost every screen. There is also an admirable set of items for Link to collect which set this game apart during its era.
The Legend of Zelda is often praised for allowing you to choose your own adventure, never are you forced you to follow a linear path. If you wanted to tackle Level 3 before Level 1, you can do so. Fancy seeking out secrets, or heart containers? By all means, take your time and enjoy the land of Hyrule. It suffers partly for its cryptic “where exactly do I go” moments, and using the sword effectively is difficult and feels incredibly dated. However, as a whole, The Legend of Zelda is a game that can easily be revisited today.