Everyone has their favorite Zelda and a preset order. But if you had to make a Top 10, what would they be?
The Legend of Zelda is one of the most important sagas in the video game world. Capable of transforming the medium with its new installments and setting a path for the rest to follow, the Nintendo saga does not have the sales of Mario, but it has an almost unmatched prestige when it comes to presenting each game that is published in some of the consoles of the Japanese brand, whether portable or desktop. The concept of adventure from the hand of Miyamoto and Tezuka 35 years ago has been reinventing itself according to the moment and the specific context. Who are the best Zelda in history?
The answer does not have an absolute truth. As with so many other mythical series such as, without going any further, Final Fantasy or Resident Evil, each one has their favorite games starring Link. And let’s not talk about the order in which we place them. The moment in which we play them, the impact they had on us or that game replayed years later that makes us surface all kinds of feelings end up marking our personal opinion about which The Legend of Zelda is better and who follows behind.
In the middle of the week of the 35th anniversary of the Zelda saga we find that we are missing important news for the series. Nintendo announced the arrival of Skyward Sword in HD format and with the possibility of playing with traditional controls, but we have no further details of an announced Breath of the Wild 2 that has not been spoken of again, nor of the recovery of several games of the saga that are not present on Nintendo Switch. While we wait for more news throughout this 2021, we review the best games of the series.
In this article we are encouraged to offer another of those personal lists, easily reorganized according to the prism in which it is looked at. But here we leave a top of the 10 best The Legend of Zelda.
This top was originally published in March 2020 and has been updated on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the saga
10. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
The Oracle of, made up of Ages and Seasons and which were initially planned as more installments, are relevant games within the saga. For the alliance between Nintendo and Capcom, and for introducing us for the first time to Hidemaro Fujibayashi, current director of the series in Breath of the Wild and who premiered with these laptop installments. We could have chosen the complete series, but if we have to choose, it is better to stay with Ages, a much more complex game, with much more elaborate pre-dungeon sequences, more challenging dungeons and some comings and goings through time that we are not relatives. Although it is best to play them together and discover how they connect with each other. Two of the names that many hope to see again soon on Switch, either as recovered for the online subscription or, who knows, in the form of a remake as happened with Link’s Awakening.
9. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Skyward Sword is undoubtedly one of the most controversial games in the Zelda saga and with the greatest capacity to polarize users. For some, a masterpiece equal to the best. For others, a disappointment with a control that did not quite convince. The reality is that Skyward Sword represents Nintendo’s third and final attempt to surpass Ocarina of Time. If Wind Waker tries it through exploration and Twilight Princess through scale, Skyward Sword wants to do it through combat. One of the key hallmarks of the saga has always been to exploit the tools that each console offers to each new installment, and Skyward Sword is the game that wants to take the control of the wiimote to another level. It offers us a combat full of options and patterns to follow that becomes the axis of the adventure (and offers some of the best sword fights in the saga), some unique objects such as the telescope and an interesting plot-level charm for being before the prequel to the entire universe. The presence of some elements such as breakable objects or the energy bar would later explode in Breath of the Wild, but they already left their mark in this game of beautiful graphics with that touch of watercolor. All this with a structure different from other games, with surprising pre-dungeon areas and with some obvious errors, from a tremendously intrusive Fay to an excessive linearity for the saga. We will see if the HD version, in addition to the resolution and traditional control, also dares to reduce the intrusion of Fay in too many moments of the game. Maybe.
8. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
The Nintendo 3DS game, halfway between the tribute, the remake and the reboot of A Link to the Past, decided to start breaking chains that would later be totally shattered in Breath of the Wild. With the same map -Dark World included- of the Super Nintendo title, Aonuma and company decided to create a new adventure, a much fresher revival and with a rhythm rarely seen in the series. The ability to rent objects and therefore use them whenever we want and go to the dungeons in the order we want gave almost absolute freedom to the development benefited by two differential characteristics for the occasion: the first, the Ravio bracelet, which it allowed us to become a moving oil painting and to reach impossible and never seen places. His contribution to the puzzles inside and outside the dungeons is key to the success of the game. The other outstanding feature, the rhythm and fluidity of somewhat shorter temples, but more intense and with a constant use of our skills. For the memory is the Ice Temple with its ten interconnected floors, a use of verticality more than interesting and also of perspective, because although it may not seem like it, the game also remembered to take advantage of the 3D so reviled throughout the Nintendo 3DS life. Time passes and it consolidates itself as one of the great experiences of the saga: direct, agile, surprising.
7. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Twilight Princess responds to the wishes of some fans – no less – who when they saw the technical demo of Space World from the early 2000s, they dreamed of an Ocarina of Time with the graphics and potential of the new Nintendo console. But the one that came was Wind Waker, a game that has won over time. Years later, it was decided to take up that idea of a more mature and realistic heir to the Nintendo 64 title. The challenge of Twilight Princess was enormous, and they wanted to respond to it on a scale: everything is much larger and larger. The color palette, the structure and tone of the adventure, as well as a Link, already a teenager from the beginning, marked a distance from the previous installments and also a development that was overwhelming by extension and size. You only need to see the first temple (Forest), with huge bridges and rooms. Or the search in large spaces for the clusters of light with Link Lobo and the combination of the two worlds. With some of the most spectacular combats (the battle in the skies against Argorok), some of the best bosses of the saga (Babalant, Stallord), and surely the best companion we have ever had, Midna, Twilight Princess is one of the favorites for a large part of the public. And reasons have plenty.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
Surely if we put aside the debate that can generate the “absent” in this list, the first great open battle is in which game is better: Wind Waker or Twilight Princess. The reality is that both have enough virtues to get ahead, but here we are left before with Wind Waker and our great journey sailing the seas of the new world. It was a shocking title for the unexpected – after the Spaceworld of the early 2000s – but also for how it knew how to reinvent the concept of adventure and how it created an expressive and alive world like few others, to which the soundtrack with Celtic touches of command Kondo is one of the best in the series. An expressive Link like never before, an artistic section that endures the type more than 15 years later and the deku sheet as an object that stages that feeling of freedom when exploring were part of its charm. The exploration took advantage of the dungeons, less present than in other installments, and although it is true that the game suffers in the final section due to the search for the parts of the triforce (fixed in part in the HD version), it manages to compensate with an epic final battle like few others.
5. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
We enter the top 5, another of the debates that are easily opened by seeing who is and who is not. In this case, Link’s Awakening, the first portable Zelda, is among the best in the series and there are no shortage of reasons. What began with an attempt to port A Link to the Past in portable format ended up leading to a hilarious world in which several members of Nintendo worked in their spare time. A game that its protagonists never thought Nintendo would accept. But he did. Link’s adventure in Koholint has a unique sense of humor and features characters from other worlds. Is that Yoshi doll? Don’t you look too much like Mario? Did you change my name to THIEF because I stole an item from the store? The hand of Yoshiaki Koizumi in the construction of the plot of the Big Fish, of the characters and their interactions, is the first great milestone of this figure that ended up being linked to the Mario saga after Majora’s Mask. But Link’s Awakening doesn’t just shine outside the temples: inside them it also hits the spot with mechanics like jumping, 2D stages, or surreal final bosses. Good use of the Game Boy’s meager screen and its transitions is still witchcraft. And it continues to perform at a high level to this day. Let them tell but to its remake on Switch, one of the titles with the most charisma and a high level design that shows how, despite being from 1993, it keeps all its genius intact.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Aonuma didn’t want to get involved in Master Quest or making new dungeons for the Ocarina of Time version because he believed they had given their best. He wanted something new and they gave him a year of time. From the game engine of Nintendo 64 and the experience with the title Majora’s Mask came out, a direct sequel that narrates the events of Link as a child, lost and turned into a child Deku by Skullkid, a young man bewitched by Majora’s mask. The radical change of location to Clock Town and Termina was just the first stone of one of the most different – and darkest – Zeldas we’ve seen. We had 72 hours to save the world from the fall of the moon, the work of the mysterious mask, and to achieve this we had to play with time, rewinding or advancing according to the moment with our ocarina. The use of time and the pressure of it offered an anguish that we had to know how to manage. But the best was inside the City. The secondary missions, the work and grace of Koizumi, were of a brilliance never equaled in the saga. We were collecting customs and actions of the characters according to the hours and days. And we helped them and solve their problems thanks to the bomber notebook. Sequences like Kafei’s plot are well worth the whole game. Outside, four large temples -there is the work of Aonuma- with transformations thanks to the masks that provided new game mechanics, some of them such as the Tower of Stone, of a memorable invoice for the use of all the masks and your connections in endless rooms. A demanding, different game – more agile in its 3DS remake – and wonderful.
3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
The leap that A Link to the Past made with respect to the first The Legend of Zelda is one of those that inevitably impacts, since it laid the foundations of the saga and improved absolutely everything that had amazed us with that first installment of NES. The title that begins to introduce the mythology of Hyrule and that establishes the contrast of realities / planes that has always accompanied the saga since then: Hyrule vs Dark World. With him, the dungeons went from a single line of action to several floors where the rooms had different paths to follow and the floors themselves, vertically, also connected. He also played smartly in what we know as pre-dungeons, the way to the temples. Without the Pegasus boots we could not get the Mudora book, and without it, it was impossible to enter the Desert Palace. That fluidity between inside-outside actions is maintained in a title that was overwhelming: once we had all three pendants and defeated Agahnim, we discovered that we had not finished the game. Rather, it was now that it really began. The soundtrack, the complexity and inspiration of the temples of the World of Darkness and the management of objects that are the basis of the saga did the rest. A timeless Masterpiece.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
In 2017 came the game that finally broke the chains. We said at the beginning of the report that Nintendo sought to overcome Ocarina of Time through exploration (Wind Waker), on a larger scale (Twilight Princess) and combat (Skyward Sword). There is no consensus that he succeeded, although everyone may prefer other games than those mentioned, as is logical. So Nintendo, with Fujibayashi directing from Skyward Sword, decided to break with the past. He already flirted with it in ALBW and Breath of the Wild was a total ode to freedom, partly recalling the essence of the first NES installment and looking for its own path. That freedom of movement is borrowed from the outset, and it is decided to break the dungeon concept that marked the development in 3D games, since Ocarina of Time. Here, Hyrule is the great dungeon. Freedom is such that soon after you start they tell you that Ganon is in the castle and is your goal. Go whenever you want. And the player does something unheard of, escapes from his true goal. You don’t want to beat Ganon because you don’t want him to finish.
It also changes the concept of Open World that we knew where the challenge begins on a map that indicates absolutely nothing. The NPC that indicates a mission does not mark you on the map where it is. It’s up to you to explore it. The world of Breath of the Wild is not a space where you eliminate marks of objectives, but rather wants your journey through it to be a key playable part, not a transition zone. His freedom also lies in the use of weapons and the abilities of the Sheik stone to create our own path and our way of meeting challenges. The weapons serve to, together with the physics engine, let the imagination fly. Solve shrines in unique ways and reach the top of mountains in ways not even the developers envisioned. As we improve Link’s attributes, we hunt and cook and equip ourselves with better weapons and shields. All this with a combat system full of options and versatile as few while we use elements such as wind, fire, ice or electricity in multiple ways. Breath of the Wild broke schemes, and it is true that the absence of large dungeons or those first hours with short-lived weapons are criticizable. But Breath of the Wild plays another league. Time will tell if it is the new number 1. At the moment we want to rest it, although sometimes there are many of us who doubt whether to give it the throne. But it’s the most important The Legend of Zelda game since Ocarina of Time.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is for many the best game in history, and it is undoubtedly one of the most influential games in the video game industry. Nintendo made the leap to 3D with the revolutionary Super Mario 64, but time was advancing and large-scale proposals and productions were coming out that were advancing towards a new video game concept. This was not about moving a platformer from 2D to 3D, but about moving what were the great adventures of young boys to epic epics for older teenagers. And that marked an OOT that had before it a blank canvas to create whatever they wanted as they wanted. They were going to be pioneers. The revolution started from the ground up, with key design decisions ranging from the use of the lock on so common today for combat, marking an enemy and being able to fight by moving around them. Also with an intelligent interaction of our environment: the contextual button A for different actions depending on the moment, or the use of different perspectives such as the first person for the slingshot and the bow with arrows.
All this, together with the distribution of objects in the C buttons, the camera fixed and in optimal operation most of the time or the automated but not excessively simplified jumps made everything flow perfectly. From that blank canvas that was the concept of 3D adventure, some of the best dungeons of the saga were born, capable of playing with different levels, with the ability to identify new secrets by changing the view, interacting with the elements and with structures nothing linear. The famous Temple of Water, which in addition to three floors had three levels of water and therefore multiplied the paths and the options of advance, is the best example.
But the special halo of Ocarina of Time is not only found in the purest elements of gameplay. It is also in the world that is presented to us, with its races (goron, kokiris, zoras, gerudos), with the interaction and missions of various characters, from the Lon Lon Ranch to the mask game, passing through exchange missions that goes from the simple egg to the Biggoron sword, the use of the day and night cycle present in the game or Epona, the backtracking present thanks to new objects such as the hook and, of course: the game of two realities in the form of present and future. That Link that grows 7 years, the ones that passed between ALTTP and Ocarina of Time. A memorable game, with a unique soundtrack where the music -via ocarina- is also integrated into the gameplay. And where challenges were designed that still today have not been overcome in terms of ingenuity. For many the best game ever and the number 1 in the saga, for now.
This top has been prepared by the Meristation coordinator, Salva Fernández and author of the book “Zelda, behind the legend” and does not have to coincide with the general feeling of the Meristation team.