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10 Best Zelda Games

This list of the 10 best Zelda games covers the finest the Legend of Zelda series has to offer in the 25 years of Link rescuing Princess Zelda over and over again.

In 1986, we first encountered a boy in a green tunic as he set off to save the Princess Zelda. It’s been over 25 years, and some great Zelda games, and the poor princess still manages to get herself caught in the clutches of some evil wizard or in the path of a marauding demon.

The formula is as old as old as the hills, but in its 16 iterations, each Legend of Zelda game has been able to put a unique spin on the “save the damsel in distress” trope.  That is why the Legend of Zelda franchise has stuck with us all these years. No matter how many times Zelda gets herself into a jam, we’re always willing to jump back into Link’s boots to solve some puzzles and occasionally play a sweet ocarina lullaby to get her back.

We’ll be honest, it wasn’t as easy deciding on the 10 best Zelda games ever, and there were plenty of arguments and debates among the staff. We think we came up with a pretty solid list.

Here’s are the 10 best Zelda games ever.

10. Phantom Hourglass

A direct sequel to Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass catapults players back into the Great Sea to help Link save the enchanting pirate named Petra. This title for the Nintendo DS took full advantage of the touchscreen and split screen capabilities of the handheld console. The stylus was used for everything from attacking to simply walking around. The dual screens allowed for easy exploration with a map on one screen, but would use both to provide you with a wider view of the landscape when it came time for the inevitable boss battle. The inventive control scheme and playful adventure helped Phantom Hourglass just sneak into the top 10 list.

9. Minish Cap

Another odd entry into the Legend of Zelda franchise was the Minish Cap for Gameboy Advance. The control scheme and top down view were the same as old handheld Zelda titles, but the graphics and sound were so much more crisp. The addition of the Minish Cap and the ability to shrink down to minuscule size added a whole other dimension of gameplay as well as some fascinating palaces to explore. Who would have thought that there could be a whole dungeon housed in a bookshelf somewhere in Hyrule?

8. Oracle of Seasons

Part of a pair of games released for the Gameboy, Oracle of Seasons was a fantastic addition to the lore of Zelda and makes our list of the 10 best Zelda games. It copied Link’s Awakening’s top down look and control scheme while adding the Rod of Seasons which allows players to manipulate the time of year in order to progress through the game and save one of the great goddesses of Triforce.

7. Skyward Sword

Skyward Sword was the first Zelda game made entirely for the Nintendo Wii and this definitely shows in beautiful looking graphics and fully orchestrated score. The developers also jumped at the chance to wring every movement out of the Wii Motion Plus remote. Each enemy was a puzzle of movements and intricate sword slices. Even some of the keys in the dungeons needed to be manipulated around like a puzzle piece. Small annoyances with the Wii-mote aside, there was nothing more exhilarating than flying around floating islands on a giant bird and skydiving into one of the three realms on solid land to defeat the evil lurking there.

6. Link’s Awakening DX

The Legend of Zelda was one of the few games that gracefully made the leap to the Gameboy without missing a beat. Link’s Awakening began lie as a port of A Link to The Past until it took a large detour around Princess Zelda, the divine Triforce, and even Hyrule itself. It grew into its own rollicking adventure that Zelda fans had never seen before. It is still amazing that all of Koholint Island and the eight instruments to wake the Wind Fish could be housed on such a tiny cartridge in your pocket.

5. Twilight Princess

Next on the 10 best Zelda games list is probably the most dark and moody entry to the franchise, Twilight Princess once again embraces the parallel world mechanic set forth in A Link to The Past. The land has been divided up between the light and the ever encroaching twilight realm full of monsters and malevolence. The Twilight looks eerily menacing with its pixelated facade when juxtaposed to the lush natural landscape of the rest of the world. The Twilight isn’t all that’s menacing, Midna herself cannot be trusted and seems to have her own agenda. Even though a tinge of darkness and cynicism crept into this game, like all other Zelda adventures, it still leaves you hopeful.

4. Wind Waker

Never to become stale, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker breaks from form once again to present gamers with a brand new experience in which to save the Princess. Many mocked the cartoonish people and cell-shaded art direction, but, Wind Waker was once again able to breath some fresh sea air into the franchise. It was a joy to simply sail from island to island in search of the necessary bric-a-brac to save Princess Zelda. The open ocean rewarded curious players with a surge of excitement about what could lay just over the pixellated horizon.

3. Majora’s Mask

This 10 best Zelda games entry is considered to be one of the black sheep of the franchise, but following hot on the heels of Ocarina of Time, it was inevitable that it would be unjustly overshadowed and dismissed. Majora’s Mask did not play it safe and copy the formula of previous success, but instead forged its own path down a very strange road to place where the moon with a menacing grin was falling and Link was doomed to relive the same few days over and over. In addition to time shifting, Link could change shape and inherit abilities from each of the ornate masks scattered throughout Termina. It may not have taken place in Hyrule and Zelda may have only been glimpsed in a flashback, but this game’s unabashed quirkiness and incredible design made it endearing enough to land near the top of the list.

2. Ocarina of Time

If A Link to The Past defined the look and feel of a classic Zelda game, then Ocarina of Time defined The Legend of Zelda in three dimensions. From its gorgeously expansive representation of Hyrule to its emotionally engaging story, Ocarina of Time showed everyone that video games were not just time wasters, but immersive entertainment on par with the best of any other medium. It expanded what could be done on the N64 and pushed the bounds of storytelling by melding together an incredible score with complex plot full of high adventure and time travel. No other game has garnered as much praise from critics and it continues to sit in the hallowed halls of gaming’s great triumphs.

1. A Link to The Past

The number one game on our 10 best Zelda games list was the absolute peak of the classic Legend of Zelda look and feel. The top-down view of Hyrule is unmistakeable and the parallel world game mechanic has appeared in almost every game since. But most of all, the game was memorable. Each player remembers entering the sacred meadow where the Master Sword was kept and slipping it out of the stone like Arthur’s Excalibur. Each dungeon felt different and held a immense set of challenges meant to test the player’s problem solving skills as well as the dexterity of their thumbs. This game felt epic and truly gave the Legend of Zelda legendary status among gamers.

NEXT: Read a List of the 100 Greatest Games Ever

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