With the release of the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I’ve decided to begin a brand-new adventure by ranking each mainstream Zelda game, leading back to 1986. This list does not include handheld titles or Breath of the Wild.
Yeah, I wasn’t going to bring handhelds into this list, but I’m going to wander off-track a bit because Four Swords Adventures had it’s moment on the GameCube. Four Swords Adventures is not the same game as Four Swords for the GameBoy Advance, but the game mechanics are almost identical.
Four Swords initially made it’s debut on the GameBoy Advance and required multiple copies of the game, multiple players to co-operate simultaneously, as well as a link cable to connect each device. Four Swords Adventues inevitably made it’s debut on the GameCube, while completely separate from Four Swords, it not only called for GameBoy Advance to GameCube Adapters, but multiple players, each with an adapter, each with a GameBoy Advance. The campaign was capable of performing a single-player mode, but that was equivalent of playing Mario Party by yourself. It’s just no fun.
When we look at the Legend of Zelda in 2017 as an action role-playing game, it’s hailed with extreme praise with legendary titles like Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Breath of the Wild. Well, back in 1987, Zelda took an approach that began lingering into the territory of Final Fantasy meets Castlevania. It would transition a player as soon as a battle initiated and the game was a side-scrolling adventure, which was a significant departure from it’s predecessor.
7. The Legend of Zelda (1986)
The Legend of Zelda was a defining moment that introduced me to a passion for gaming. It’s iconic statement (as mentioned above) can still be seen across the Internet. It’s legendary music set the stage for many Zelda games to come. It’s dungeon music really induces a response of the tension within me, as though I was treading into an area of pure trouble.
The Legend of Zelda was a truly open-world experience that provided no guidance to assist you in your journey. You couldn’t just refer to Google at the time, which meant that it was extremely easy to get lost.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011)
Skyward Sword is an amazing achievement with mixed reviews, ranging from a “Masterpiece” by IGN, to an underwhelming technical mess by GameCritics.com. Across the board, it did extremely well, earning Best Wii Game of 2011 on MetaCritic.
Skyward Sword had an immensely intriguing plot and there were times when I’d get a chuckle from jumping off high cliffs, only to sit back and watch Link land flat on his face. It was developed in a time when Nintendo had a huge admiration around the Wii Motion Plus and allowing the player to control Link’s arm through direct movement of the controller. As the controller uses infrared to translate your movements, alternative sources like lights could interfere, making combat a challenge. Also, as an individual that advocates for people with disabilities, Skyward Sword was a game that people with certain physical limitations wouldn’t get the benefit of playing to it’s greatest potential.
5. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000)
Majora’s Mask is a direct sequel to Nintendo’s masterpiece, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. After defeating Ganon, Link winds up in a parallel world from Hyrule called Termina, and is pitted with an impossible task; to cease the destruction of Clock Town in just three days. Your entire game is on a clock, in which you can use the Ocarina of Time to reset the clock, but lose non-essential items and experiences made during your travels. Majora’s Mask was an amazing technical achievement that was re-released for the GameCube and Virtual Console, then remastered for the Nintendo 3DS.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2000)
When I look back at all the companions Link has befriended on his adventures through Hyrule, I’d put Midna as one of the most memorable. When I refer to the word companion, I’m referring to characters like Navi, Tatl, or the King of Red Lions. Midna didn’t possess the annoying qualities of Navi, nor was she a recreation of a previous companion. I’m referring to you, Tatl. Midna was an original character with her own backstory and a mysterious charm about her that felt like she belonged in the game.
In the heels of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, we saw releases like Oracle of Seasons, Oracle of Ages, Four Swords, The Wind Waker, Four Swords Adventures, and the Minish Cap. Twilight Princess was a refreshing return to Adult Link, providing a darker experience and loads of plot points that expand on Ocarina of Time. Koji Kondo truly out-did himself by providing some of the most incredible tracks in the Legend of Zelda franchise.
3. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2002)
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is a game that takes everything you know about The Legend of Zelda and asks, “What if?”. What if Link wasn’t there when Hyrule needed him? What if evil prevailed? The Wind Waker brings you in so deeply that you truly develop a connection for each character introduced.
The Wind Waker takes a step back from the recognized graphical interface and introduces a cell-shaded variant known as Cartoon Link. It also possesses an incredible combat system, accompanied by some of the best instrumental music in the series.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is, if not, the most recognized game in the Legend of Zelda universe. It is a masterpiece in storytelling and character development, in which everything you look at is an iconic symbol of astonishing development. In-fact, the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has a mod community based around providing numerous improvements to things like sound and graphics.
While the game has it share of nags, from Navi’s “Hey! Listen!”, to Kaepora Gaebora, who comes in rather opinionated, the result is an immersive adventure and a staple in gaming achievements.
1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991)
I’m a sucker for the Super Nintendo because games like Super Mario World and A Link to the Past have aged ridiculously well and hold a special place in my heart. Link to the Past was one of my earliest memories in gaming that possessed gameplay and story that was so inexplicably powerful. It was a return-to-roots that hadn’t been recognized since The Legend of Zelda in 1986, improving the open-world concept to a degree where the world felt alive.
In a time prior to the PlayStation, the Super Nintendo brought some incredibly immersive experiences, bringing me back to some of the most memorable experiences of my childhood.
I can’t count the amount of times I’ve wandered up Death Mountain, only to be looking at the Lost Woods below. The interface was so rich at the time, the bridge actually made me a bit nervous of heights. The music had a complementary accompaniment to each environment. Dungeons didn’t feel like a copy from previous ones, as it did in The Legend of Zelda (1986). At the beginning of the game, I’d be holding myself up inside after Link’s Uncle wanders off, waiting to see if he came back. Link to the Past didn’t place expectations on the player and provided a beautiful open-world that has aged extremely well.
That’s it! We’ve reached the conclusion of The Legend of Zelda: 9 Mainstream Games Ranked. As I haven’t played through Breath of the Wild, I can’t comment on where I’d place it, but based on it’s reception, I am eager to play it. What would you rate in terms of mainstream Legend of Zelda games? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.