8) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
A very satisfying Zelda adventure, but didn’t quite measure up to the rest. It’s been awhile since I’ve played, so my memory is a bit foggy, but one thing I remember well is the slow opening sequence. I’ve tried to play this game again, but I usually stop before the first dungeon. Opening aside, Twilight Princess did do a lot of things right. It introduced some fun new items (ball and chain for example) and had some of the best boss battles in the series. I also enjoyed Wolf Link and thought it added a unique feel to the game; I also became quite enamored with Midna.
Overall, Twilight Princess took a step in the right direction story wise. It did fall short by trying to follow in Ocarina of Time’s footsteps, but managed to create some moments of its own. Infiltrating the Hidden Village and the Argorok battle are two great examples of creating moments. Hyrule is huge and probably the biggest in the series, but there isn’t much to do on the overworld map. Zant was also a neat villain, at first. His aura was ultimately ruined by the game’s final twist and made his existence less threatening. Not the best Zelda adventure, but nowhere near the worst.
7) The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Link’s Awakening was the first Zelda game to grace handheld systems, and it was absolutely mind blowing. There was nothing quite like playing this grand Zelda adventure on the Game Boy back when it was released. Everything you loved about A Link to The Past and The Legend of Zelda was brought over to the game; add a touch of personality, and Link’s Awakening created an identity of its own.
There were eight challenging dungeons, a variety of creative bosses, new and familiar items, puzzles galore, and a large, dense overworld map. A Link to the Past also has a story unique, and for the first time, didn’t put a focus on rescuing Zelda. Instead, Link washed upon the shores of this new world, Koholint Island, and was tasked with waking the legendary Wind Fish in order to return to Hyrule. Link’s Awakening even brought back some sidescrolling elements. As a whole, Link’s Awakening is a unique, magical journey that features a stranger in a strange, yet somewhat familiar, land.
6) The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
This is the most underrated Zelda game in my opinion and is one of my favourites to play over and over again. There are a number of reasons why I think this game is really good, so let me just list a few.
The Minish Cap has an absolutely fantastic overworld map that is complemented by some interesting new items for the series. Mole Mitts allow you to dig through the environment and the Cane of Pacci allows you to fill holes with magic, which can then be jumped in to help you reach high ledges. Other notable items include: the Roc’s Cape which allows you to jump and glide over gaps and the Gust Jar which allows you to grab items out of reach or even put out fires. At times, the overworld map has a Metroid feel to it because there is plenty of backtracking and you will need certain items to pass obstacles.
Of course, the main gimmick in play during The Minish Cap is the ability to shrink and pass through small crevices. You will be using this technique quite a bit in the game and it forces you to think about new ways to pass through the map and dungeons alike. Shrinking is made possible with the Minish Cap, which is explained throughout the story.
A lot of things are explored in The Minish Cap story such as the legend of the four swords, the back story of the Piccori and main villain Vaati; who happens to be my favorite villain (that’s not Ganon of course) in the series. The Minish Cap also has an incredible soundtrack that features some great remixes of old tunes and amazing new tracks. There are other elements that make The Minish Cap interesting like Kinstone fusions, sword techniques, and collectible figurines.
Overall, Minish Cap should be praised for continuing to support important Zelda elements while trying some new things. Sure, the game isn’t as long as others in the series, but in my eyes, this is the best portable Zelda.
5) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Finally, we come to Link’s latest adventure, Skyward Sword. This game brought a lot of elements to the Zelda series that I absolutely adore, but a few things hold it back from being a truly magnificent adventure.
I absolutely love the characters from Skyward Sword. Each character has a blossoming personality and at times it felt as if you were actually creating relationships with them. Nintendo executed character development in Skyward Sword with 100% perfection in my opinion. Skyward Sword also has a ton of different and new environments to explore. Areas like the wondrous Ancient Cistern, expansive Skyloft, the amazing Faron Woods, and the Lofty Pumpkin as prime examples. These areas were great because they offered a ton of things to see and do; from treasure hunting and sidequests galore, the world of Skyward Sword offers it to you. Skyward Sword also happened to have other awesome elements like Wii Motion Plus sword control, upgradable items, and potions with effects other than healing.
There’s a ton of other good things to say about Skyward Sword like the music and whatnot, but it failed to impress me in a couple of ways. There are plenty of repeat bosses, a lack of interesting items, and a few less than stellar dungeons. Skyward Sword also suffers from a painstakingly long opening sequence; four hours to the first dungeon in a Zelda game is downright boring. Skyward Sword’s overworld was fun, and as promised by Nintendo, felt like a dungeon itself, but I would have liked more dungeons as well.
Lastly, after you finish the first six dungeons or so, the game slows to a halt and forces you to complete three of the worst “quests” I’ve ever experienced in a Zelda game. I will stop bitching about Skyward Sword now, because not everything was bad. It brought a lot of awesome elements to the series and is a better adventure than eight other Zelda games.
4) The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Majora’s Mask is a game that you either love, hate, or struggle to understand. I have, at various points throughout my life been in all three categories. Majora’s Mask takes place in Termina, a land that Link accidentally stumbled upon. Early on you discover that a moon is hanging overhead and is threatening to demolish the entire planet. The kicker here is that you have just three short days to save Termina. This is what drives Majora’s Mask, this ominous setting that promises doom. You have 72 hours to save Termina, but that isn’t enough time and this is where the main gameplay element appears.
Majora’s Mask takes place throughout a three day cycle in which you have the ability (with the Ocarina of Time) to return to the first day to continue your quest. This three day cycle will continue until you either save Termina, or the moon brings demise to the land. Even though Majora’s Mask was created using the Ocarina of Time engine, it is an adventure unlike Ocarina in almost every way.
Majora’s Mask also offers plenty of unique features like the ability to don masks (OK, Ocarina did this, but not at this level) that give Link special abilities, including the ability to transform into a Goron, Zora, and Deku Scrub. After transforming into one of these races, Link’s abilities would change to match his new body. For example; Zoras are masterful swimmers, so Link now has the ability to gracefully traverse water. Dungeons in Majora’s Mask are also built to accompany Link’s new skills while wearing these masks. There are also a ton of meaty side quests that add a sense of depth to Termina. You get to know the characters throughout your journey, help them with their personal issues, and save their homeland.
As the title suggests, the Majora’s Mask also plays a key role in this game; actually, Majora’s Mask is the main villain. You discover that the mask has the ability to control its host, but also has a few surprises of its own.
3) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
One thing that should be praised in the Zelda series is the developer’s ability to change the game while making sure it retains key elements. The Wind Waker is an incredible adventure across a flooded Hyrule. To travel throughout Hyrule, Link must ride in his trusty sail boat, King of Red Lions, to visit the numerous islands in the game. There are literally islands everywhere and exploring the vast Great Sea makes this game stand out the series. Link also gets the ability to control the wind (with the Wind Waker of course) which can be used to help make your sailing a little easier to control.
One thing that turned some fans away was the art style. At the time, everyone was expecting Nintendo to create something that looked realistic; instead they got this cel-shaded cartoon look. Looking at Wind Waker now, I think that using a realistic style would have changed the game and we would never have got the masterpiece that is The Wind Waker.
When I first played The Wind Waker, I had recently just got back into gaming after a four year hiatus (more on that later maybe) and this game felt fresh to me. It retained everything I loved and remembered about Zelda, but took a new, ballsy approach that instantly won me over. I have to also point out the game’s strong soundtrack; it is probably the most different in the series and rarely relies on past games. I love the Wind Waker, it got me back into gaming a little bit and showed me that there was more to gaming than just graphics.
2) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
I battled back and forth to try and put A Link to the Past in the number 1 spot, but after a recent revisiting, it didn’t live up to the image that I held. I still absolutely adore A Link to the Past and it was the first Zelda game that I ever finished. I remember the pounding of my heart, a sweaty flushed face, and the shakiness of my hands as I fumbled furiously with the controller when fighting Ganon. It was an outstanding moment for me as a kid. I was just about to beat the crap out of this game after spending weeks, days, hours, and minutes exploring Hyrule. It was about to come to its glorious conclusion and I was in control. Memories like this remind me of why I’m a gamer today.
A Link to the Past is simply one of the greatest games ever created. It took what The Legend of Zelda put forth and created an absolute gem. It created a lot of staples for the series like a larger variety of helpful items and upgrades, heart pieces, amazing dungeons, the theme of duality and more.
Aside from being known for creating the perfect Zelda formula, it also stands out for taking advantage of the Light World/Dark World concept by making it a necessity to travel between both worlds. From its opening screen to its golden ending, A Link to the Past could stand up to any game ever created, even the next game.
1) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
As predictable as the number 1 spot is, Ocarina of Time can only find one place to rest in my opinion. It is without a doubt one of the greatest (if not the greatest) video games ever created. It took elements from A Link to the Past, added a kick ass narrative, and propelled them into a 3D world of wonders. Like Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time is a trailblazer for 3D adventure games that would follow; its main contribution is making combat less clunky by adding a targeting function.
There are plenty of things I could say, but you’ve heard them a thousand times before. Awesome dungeons, amazing items, radical story, totally tubular overworld; everything about the game made it a masterpiece.
Like A Link to the Past, I enjoyed Ocarina of Time during a pivotal part of my life; hmm… just realized that almost all Zelda games somehow help write new chapters of my existence. As I was saying, Ocarina of Time came when I was beginning Jr. High School and when I moved into a new home. I’ll never forget that November when exploring The Lost Woods for the first time was a magical event in its own right. Running home from the bus stop, pretending I was Link and actually completing an impressive rolling dodge to avoid an incoming snow plow (true story) just to get that N64 controller in my hands. I also remember trying to print a 500 plus page guide from GameFaqs, but alas, the ink ran out.