The Legend of Zelda is one of the most storied franchises in all of gaming. It's right up there alongside the likes of Pokemon, Super Mario Bros., Diablo, Grand Theft Auto, and so many more. But, while every Legend of Zelda game is memorable in its own way, some don't stand out nor shine as brightly as others.
Join us as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Legend of Zelda franchise by ranking all the Legend of Zelda games from worst to best below.
Tri-Force Heroes (2015)
We stand by our decision that every Legend of Zelda game is memorable. It's just that, well, Tri-Force Heroes is the least memorable of them all. This isn't to say that it's a bad game, as it tried to replicate Four Swords titles. The only problem is that it's neither as fun nor as well-executed as the titles that inspired it.
A multiplayer-centric title, Tri Force Heroes has up to three players teaming up together for some co-op fun. This would've been fun except that you can only enjoy the game with other players. This is because the single-player part of the game replaces the other Link copies with Doppels that essentially serve as body doubles, that you can switch to and play as when needed.
As you might expect, the multiplayer component grows old rather quickly and makes the game more troublesome than its worth.
Spirit Tracks (2009)
Legend of Zelda fans gets a bad reputation for being rigid. However, you can't exactly blame them. Many times that the franchise decided to deviate, it wasn't exactly well-executed.
A very good example of this is Spirit Tracks.
The game was released for the Nintendo DS back in 2009. It used touchscreen controls to let players guide Link as he goes from one location to another on a train. Although the dungeons and combat is pretty nice, it lacks the sense of wonder and exploration that the franchise is known for, which is why the game is found so low on our list.
The Minish Cap (2004)
The Minish Cap is a fairly simple and straightforward Legend of Zelda title with an interesting mechanic.
This time around, Link isn't just wearing his green hat for the sake of it. It's actually a living person named Ezlo who is a Picori, a minuscule race of people. Ezlo can then shrink Link down to the same size as he is so that he can go to other places where he normally couldn't.
Unfortunately, other than that, nothing about Minish Cap stands out too much.
While the game remains fun and charming, you probably won't remember much from outside of Link shrinking to the size of an ant and Vaati making another appearance.
Phantom Hourglass suffered from inevitable comparisons to The Wind Waker.
Whereas The Wind Waker took full advantage of the Nintendo Gamecube console, the sequel suffered from being released on the Nintendo DS. This made its own version of the flooded Hyrule feel watered down in comparison, which helped set the tone for the rest of the game.
Sailing on your ship and exploring dungeons, as well as islands, just don't feel as grand when you have technical limitations.
This is probably why the next game in this trilogy, Spirit Tracks, did away with the concept of exploration entirely, and we all know now how that turned out.
Four Swords (2002)
Four Swords was a more modern version of A Link to the Past albeit one that tried to do too much to outdo the classic title.
Packaged alongside the GBA version of A Link to the Past, Four Swords suffered from having players connect four Game Boy Advance to take full advantage of what it had to offer. Not to mention, the randomized dungeons felt more confusing than fresh.
Make no mistake. Four Swords is a great game when you have friends. It's that it's just okay when played on its own.
Four Swords Adventures (2004)
For some reason, Nintendo thought it was a good idea to double down on the multiplayer concept, which resulted in the Four Swords Adventures title for the Nintendo GameCube.
Kudos to Nintendo though, this was actually an improvement. The randomized levels were gone and in their place were hand-crafted dungeons. The graphics were also a lot better, as you can clearly see the influence of Wind Waker's cel-shading as it took full advantage of being released on a more powerful console.
Unfortunately, the multiplayer feature took a backseat as it became even more complicated, requiring players to have a Game Boy Advance and connect it to the GameCube to play with each other.
Talk about tedious.
Adventure of Link (1987)
The original Legend of Zelda title was a groundbreaking release that instilled a sense of wonder and exploration that few others have managed to accomplished, especially at the time. The sequel? Not so much.
Instead of improving on the top-down view and gameplay, Adventure of Link was a side-scroller that played more like a clunky Mario game.
Although the game wasn't without its merits, the experience was muddled by an unnecessarily difficult game, even by then standards, that detracted from the experience and prevented all but the most determined of gamers from enjoying it.
Oracle of Seasons (2001)
Oracle of Seasons was the more action-oriented counterpart to Oracle of Ages' more exploration-focused take.
Now, it doesn't take a longtime fan to understand that the Legend of Zelda games were never really action-oriented titles. Sure, it's always nice to be able to hack and slash your way through enemies, but it's always been the dungeons and the puzzles that have made the games so beloved.
This isn't to say that Oracle of Seasons was bad. It's just that it focused on an aspect that's never really been the draw of the franchise.
Oracle of Ages (2001)
Focusing on the more traditional Zelda elements like exploration and adventure, Oracle of Ages featured some pretty clever dungeons. This is especially worth commending when you realize that it released for the original Game Boy Color.
While it doesn't lean heavily towards combat compared to Oracle of Seasons, it still had its fair share of action sequences that made combat felt satisfying enough. Plus, unlike the shifting seasons of Oracle of Seasons, Oracle of Ages took place across multiple eras.
No matter how you look at it, Oracle of Ages is the superior of the franchise's Game Boy Color releases.
The Legend of Zelda (1986)
This is the game that literally started it all and introduced us to the legendary franchise staples, Link, Zelda, and Ganon, as well as gave gamers the kind of adventure that they never thought that they could have if they simply just went on the off-beaten path.
If remade today with modern mechanics and some improvements, there's no doubt that it would rank so much higher if not at the top.
Then again, it's perfect as it is and we're more than thankful for what it eventually spawned.
Skyward Sword (2011)
Who here loved swinging the Wii Remote around? No one? Yeah, we know.
Skyward Sword may have made playing through a Legend of Zelda more tedious and physically rigorous than most people wanted, but you can't deny that it was a fun game that was good enough to warrant a remaster on the Nintendo Switch.
Twilight Princess (2006)
Twilight Princess might not have been as charming as Wind Waker, but it still had a couple of lovable quirks that make it one of the best Legend of Zelda games ever to release.
After all, what other Legend of Zelda title let you transform into a wolf? How about using a spinner or the many other interesting tools you'd find in the game but nowhere else? The dark side of the world was a unique concept too.
With an HD version available on the Nintendo Wii U that fixed many of the issues that the original suffered from, Twilight Princess can now finally be enjoyed with minimal annoyances.
Breath of the Wild (2017)
We're all fans of all the good things that Breath of the Wild did. You could argue that the franchise was overdue a true open-world concept that let you finish the game however you wanted. Unfortunately, it seems that Breath of the Wild sacrificed a bit in the variety department, with each dungeon and shrine lacking any distinctive quality from the other.
There's no doubt that Breath of the Wild has the most beautiful and alive version of Hyrule in any Legend of Zelda game released.
Unfortunately, it lacked enough of the Zelda feel that could have propelled it way further up on our list.
Majora’s Mask (2000)
Majora's Mask was a more experimental take on the classic Legend of Zelda formula while reusing many of the assets that Ocarina of Time used earlier.
Basically, unlike the preceding and subsequent titles, Majora's Mask has players in control of a Link who has to save Clock Town from impending doom by way of being crushed by a demonic moon. To do this, the players will have to live out the next three days over and over again, all the while making changes to their routine that will stave off the imminent disaster.
Majora's Mask was originally available for the Nintendo 64. However, it has since been updated for the Nintendo 3DS.
We recommend playing the 2015 version if you want an easier time tracking the game's numerous side quests.
Ocarina of Time (1998)
If you've had the unfortunate luck of having to go through the Water Temple stage numerous times, then my sympathies are with you.
The Ocarina of Time served as the introduction of numerous gamers to the Legend of Zelda franchise and is probably the first title that made them throw controllers to the wall in frustration. Luckily, the said Water Temple has been fixed and made a bit easier on the Nintendo 3DS in case you're willing to go through it again or for the first.
In any case, Ocarina of Time might not be the best Legend of Zelda game, but it's one of the most impactful ones.
Many of the techniques that it introduced, such as Z-targeting, world layout, and camera control, has since been used and improved on by other Legend of Zelda games, as well as other games, in general.
Wind Waker (2003)
Wind Waker released at a time when realism was becoming the priority for every game to release. However, instead of going with the flow, it bucked the trend and created a Waterworld-like Hyrule where society has been forced to live on small patches of land scattered all across an expansive body of ocean.
Wind Waker will have you navigating this big and blue world on a talking boat while featuring some of the best-designed dungeons in the franchise. It even managed to tie its story to the Ocarina of Time, which was and still is quite the revelation.
All in all, Wind Waker is considered the best Legend of Zelda game ever for the better part of the decade it was released in.
Link’s Awakening (2019)
The 2019 remake of the classic 1993 title, Link's Awakening, is proof that some remakes can be better than the original.
The classic 1993 title managed to shrink down Link's adventure without making the content feel like a watered-down version. However, as monumental as that achievement was, what the Nintendo Switch re-release did was probably even better. This is because it managed to capture the essence of the same title while giving it a fitting makeover.
As a result, the world of Koholint Island now looks a lot like how many of those who played it more than two decades ago felt how it looked in their rose-tinted memories.
Nostalgic, fun, and just as strange as ever, Link's Awakening on the Nintendo Switch is easily one of the best Legend of Zelda games.
A Link to the Past (1991)
In every storied franchise, there's always that one title that serves as the measuring stick with which other subsequent titles will inevitably be compared to.
For the Mario franchise, that was Super Mario World. For Metroid, that was Super Metroid. For the Legend of Zelda games, it was a Link to the Past.
At the time, A Link to the Past featured top-notch graphics and music with the kind of forward-thinking gameplay mechanics that allow it to be just as enjoyable to play today as it was when it was first released many, many, many decades ago. However, what probably is the biggest strength of this iconic title is its storytelling.
From its unforgettable opening to its mind-boggling scale, A Link to the Past featured a world that's still considered large and immersive by today's standards.
While the original Legend of Zelda may have given birth to the franchise, it was this title that made it legendary.
A Link Between Worlds (2013)
How do you make the gold standard of Legend of Zelda games even better?
Whereas most wouldn't even dare touch on a title as great as A Link to the Past, Nintendo made the bold move of releasing a sequel to the classic title in the form of A Link Between Worlds, which paid off huge dividends.
A Link Between Worlds is a direct sequel to A Link to the Past. It's set in the same Hyrule and Lorule. However, it managed to carve its own place in the Legend of Zelda games by flipping the standard franchise formula on its head and letting players rent classic weapons in an incredibly detailed 3D open world that lets you explore every dungeon however you pleased.
A Link Between Worlds is the best Legend of Zelda game, by far, and it'll probably a while before it's superseded by another game in the franchise.