Since 1986, The Legend of Zelda has been a name that’s been synonymous with greatness as it’s one of the most influential and iconic franchises of all time. With every entry, Nintendo reinvents what they have done with the franchise, often in surprising and fascinating ways. With a history spanning over 35 years, it’s no surprise that every fan has their own personal favorite Zelda title. With The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom finally hitting store shelves, let’s take a look back and rank each title. 

Zelda Adventure/Link: Faces of Evil/Zelda: Wand of Gamelon – Phillips CD-I 

During the 90s when Nintendo was teaming up with Sony to make their Nintendo Play-Station, an add-on to the SNES. However, Nintendo would back out of the deal and go with Phillips, who would then back out of the deal again. Because of this, Nintendo let Phillips use Link, Zelda, and Ganon for a series of games during the early 90s and they are without a doubt claimed as the worst games to have ever been made. Zelda Adventure lets players play as Zelda and explored Hyrule as she saved Link, Link: Faces of Evil was a classic Zelda adventure, and Zelda: Wand of Gamelon Zelda once again must save Link. Complete with animated cutscenes and voice acting, which surprised many fans, it’s not hard to believe why it took Nintendo so long to include voice acting in their games.  

Link’s Crossbow Training – Wii 

Links Crosssbow Training

Released in 2007 for the Nintendo Wii, Link’s Crossbow Training is a Zelda title unlike any other. Instead of saving the princess and fighting Ganondorf, you play as Link and your goal is simple: to hone your skills with the crossbow, which utilized the Wii Zapper bundled with the game. Sitting at 68% on Metacritic, Link’s Crossbow Training is often said to have been too short of a game with only nine playable levels, and not many users could get behind on the Wii Zapper that was mandatory to use to play the game.  

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link – NES 

Trading the top-down perspective for a side-scrolling RPG in the vein of Castlevania, Nintendo broke the mold for Zelda games before they could rightly form one with this black sheep of the franchise that debuted in 1988. Sitting at 73%, Zelda II is known for being the most different of the mainline Zelda games, it’s difficult and strange but it brought ideas to the franchise that fans grew to love, most notably Dark Link and Hyrule being a well-built world with NPCs you can talk to.  

The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes – 3DS 

Released in 2015, The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes is a multiplayer-only Zelda adventure that required you and two friends with a 3DS to play. Tri-Force Heroes lacked the conventional Zelda mechanics the franchise is known for at this point: a fantastical story, clever puzzles/dungeons, and a satisfying game that will leave you wanting more. Zelda, Hyrule, and Ganon are also missing from this title. Sitting at 73%, The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes gives players a messy multiplayer and a forgettable campaign that relied on players having two friends that also played the title.  

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – Wii/ Switch 

Originally released in 2011 for the Nintendo Wii, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is often seen as the goofiest and silliest game of the franchise and is known amongst fans as the game that almost killed the franchise as the clunky motion controls deterred many fans from even playing the game. For its 10th anniversary in July 2021 and the game featured a host of quality-of-life updates, mostly allowing fans to turn off the motion controls which proved to be a delight amongst gamers. Sitting at 81% on Metacritic proves that Skyward Sword isn’t exactly a bad Zelda game but it isn’t a great one, though it is a must-play for fans who want to play a title that puts you at the start of the timeline.  

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The Legend of Zelda – NES 

The Legend of Zelda Start Screen

“It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this!” is one of the most quotable lines in gaming history from one of the most influential games in gaming history. Trading in scoring high scores for non-linear exploration across a map that featured eight dungeons and a slew of weapons. The Legend of Zelda set the groundwork for many studios as this title didn’t hold your hand through the adventure and allowed players to figure it out for themself. Sitting at 84% on Metacritic, The Legend of Zelda is a pretty simple game by today’s standards and while it hasn’t stood the test of time, it’s a must-play for any newcomer to the series or anyone familiar to the franchise to revisit. 

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures – GameCube and Gameboy Advance 

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, was unique in that it required players to have three friends to play the title as well as three other Gameboy Advance consoles and a multitude of link cables. Cited as a fun adventure by many who have played it, Four Swords Adventures made good use of the GBAs link cable on the GameCube and allowed friends to work together to solve puzzles and share the experience of a new Zelda adventure. Sitting at 87% on Metacritic, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures offered a fresh take on a new adventure in Hyrule allowing players to share an experience with close friends in the comfort of their own home.  

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening – Gameboy Color/Switch 

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was Nintendo’s first attempt at a portable game for The Legend of Zelda. Originally designed to be a Gameboy port for A Link to the Past, it was later decided in development to turn this game into its own story. Hyrule is nowhere to be found and nor is Zelda, instead, players are washed ashore as Link on Koholit Island to a man and his daughter. Sitting at 87% on Metacritic, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening features great puzzles and exploration in the vein of old-school Zelda adventures from a top-down perspective. In 2019, Grezzo released a remake for the title on Switch, which is the only available Metacritic score for this title.  

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks – Nintendo DS 

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is a sequel to Phantom Hourglass which is itself a sequel to The Wind Waker, though where The Wind Waker had players exploring the high seas in a boat, this title traded the boat for a steam train that players control with the touch screen via the stylus which many found to be more clunky than anything. Sitting at 87% on Metacritic, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks gave players some decent gameplay and a substantially longer story. 

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap – Gameboy Advance 

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is a pint-sized adventure for Link and is deserving as being the sole Gameboy Advance title in the franchise. Being able to shrink down to the size of a bug or more specifically the Minish, a pint-sized race of people that lives in the cracks and crevices of Hyrule. Sitting at 89% on Metacritic, the childlike charm of The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap shows that even the smallest of adventures can be the most rewarding and epic. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is playable on Nintendo Switch Online with the expansion pass.  

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The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass – Nintendo DS 

Zelda Phantom Hourglass

Sitting at 90% on Metacritic, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is a game that generally all fans agree is a weaker Zelda title. Continuing the story from The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass puts players back in a cel-shaded boat sailing the seas. The biggest drawback of this title was the touch screen on the Nintendo DS. It’s apparent that this title and Spirit Tracks were viewed as experiments for the touch screen and the DS console because, by the time the 3DS came out, the Zelda games didn’t rely on the touch screen at all. 

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds – 3DS 

Sitting at 91% on Metacritic, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a sequel set 100 years after A Link to the Past, Link Between Worlds shook up the conventional Zelda game and allowed players to complete dungeons in any order they wanted to after purchasing the necessary equipment from a rather shady shopkeeper. After Skyward Sword was criticized for being formulaic, Nintendo sought to shake things up with the franchise and this title paved the way for what was to come in Breath of the Wild in 2017. 

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Ages – Gameboy Color 

Originally thought of as a trilogy, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages was released during a time when Pokémon was the newest craze, this duology gave players two different games with two separate stories that Nintendo recommended fans to play both to fully understand the story and get the “true” ending. Oracle of Ages, allowed players to travel through time whereas Oracle of Seasons allowed players to change the season of the game. Sitting at 92% on Metacritic, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Ages gave players two handheld Zelda titles that acted as their own Zelda adventure if you only owned one, but if you were lucky enough to own both, you were able to unlock the true ending to the story set up in the duology.  

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past – SNES 

Zelda A Link to the Past

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is the pinnacle of 2D Zelda titles. After two drastically different entries that started the franchise, Nintendo went back to its roots with A Link to the Past. The saying “third chime’s the charm” is true with this entry as many consider this the definitive Zelda experience. Well-thought-out designs during the 16-bit era, colorful sprites, and impressive entry back to the roots that started the franchise. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past sits at 96% on Metacritic. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is playable on Nintendo Switch Online.  

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – N64/3DS 

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask had a lot to live up to after the release of Ocarina of Time. Set sometime after Ocarina of Time, players take the mantle of Link and venture outside of Hyrule to the very strange and ominous town called Termina. Sitting at 95% on Metacritic, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask gave players the first “Groundhog’s Day” scenario where time is crucial as players only have three days to beat the game and save the town of Termina. It received an HD remaster for the 3DS in 2015 that saw quality-of-life improvements. 

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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker – GameCube/Wii U 

The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker gives players that childlike wonder we all once had. This is a title that instead of giving us Epona to ride around on or transform into a wolf, players got to sail the high seas with a boat that talked to us on our adventure. It’s a classic adventure that’s synonymous with charm and childlike passion. Sitting at 96% on Metacritic, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is a wildly underrated title, often missed out on due to its cel-shaded graphics and cartoony design. It received an HD remaster for the Wii U in 2013.  

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – GameCube/Wii 

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is admittedly the darkest Zelda title and also the only one in the franchise with a T for Teen rating. With an aesthetic that seems to be ripped from a Tolkien novel, Twilight Princess paints a Hyrule that is both mysterious and haunting. Players not only played as Link but were able to transform into a Wolf Link as players would adventure into the Twilight Realm. Sitting at 96% on Metacritic, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a game that many thought was a course correction after the more whimsical The Wind Waker released a couple of years prior. It eventually saw an HD re-release for the Wii U in 2016. 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Switch 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild takes everything players know about The Legend of Zelda and flips it on its head. After Skyward Sword and a failing console in the Wii U, Nintendo was at a crossroads with the franchise. Breath of the Wild was a defining moment for not only Nintendo but also The Legend of Zelda. Breath of the Wild gave players hope again as this is a Hyrule that’s not only ripe with adventure and exploration but allowed players to play the game how they wanted to. Sitting at 97% on Metacritic, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is arguably one of the best Zelda games of all time, many fans consider it the best of the franchise as it offered such a breath of fresh air to a 30-year-old franchise often thought it was running its course.  

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – N64/3DS 

Ocarina of Time

With a 99% on Metacritic, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is highly regarded as the best game in the pantheon of the Zelda franchise. A vastly open and immersive 3D world allowing gamers to play as Link in a time-jumping epic, revolutionary for its time, Ocarina of Time is a breathtaking adventure. It’s hard to believe that Nintendo essentially re-vitalized gaming three times with one franchise. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time stands the test of time and cannot be replicated. It received an HD remaster for the 3DS in 2011 and the N64 version is playable on Nintendo Switch Online through its expansion pass.  

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