At its heart, the Legend of Zelda series is all about exploration, growth, and discovery. In each game, you are let loose in a vibrant, daunting, and exciting world. There, you are encouraged to conquer this world through the mastery of its dungeons, the slaying of its beasts, and the purging of its darkness.
In total, there are 29 Zelda games; this is a lot, so picking favorites can be difficult. In this list, we are going to go over the ten best Legend of Zelda games out there. It's important to note that there is no universal 'best', everyone is different, and gaming interests can be subjective. These games are lauded by most Zelda fans and make good starting points if you are new to the series.
These entries are presented in no particular order.
Updated January 17, 2023 by Jacqueline Zalace: The Legend of Zelda franchise is one of the recognizable video game series. We've updated this list with the games that continue to be timeless, years (and decades) after they were released.
10 Twilight Princess
Twilight Princess did a lot of things right: its dark tone came along at just the right moment; it was available to GameCube owners as well as those lucky enough to have the (at the time) brand new Wii console; it was also a return to the beloved Ocarina of Time formula of traversing a vast green world of plains and forests on horseback, after the grand departures that were Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is darker than many games in the series, quite literally taking you to the Dark World. Along with a memorable cast of characters, such as Midna, Twilight Princess earns a spot as one of the best Legend of Zelda games out there.
9 The Minish Cap
A somewhat overlooked and forgotten game in the series, and unfortunately hard to find these days, The Minish Cap is still one of the best-looking games in the series. Some fans prefer the more subdued colors and gritty tones of Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, but many consider the Zelda series is at its best when its colors are bright and its animation is cartoonish.
Elements like this guarantee that the game garners a wider audience; its aesthetic also stands the test of time for far longer. This charming little game, which takes many of its cues from A Link to the Past and has a far less annoying sidekick than Navi or Midna, is the game in the Zelda series most deserving of the word ‘charming’. It’s a delight to look at and a delight to play.
8 Link’s Awakening
Link's Awakening can be simply described as dreamy, taking us away from Hyrule to a strange island that has a giant egg on a mountain. The original game released in 1993, but in 2019, we were given a remake for the Nintendo Switch, allowing gamers new and old to experience the island of Koholint.
This game takes a step back from the typical Legend of Zelda format, providing a breath of fresh (island) air for you to enjoy.
7 A Link to the Past
The Zelda series has arguably had three big hits that have become instant classics since its inception: Ocarina of Time for the N64, Breath of the Wild for the Switch, and A Link to the Past for the SNES. This game was the pinnacle of 2D Zelda, the culmination of everything Nintendo learned as it built and built game after game.
While it’s clear to see the path taken from the first Zelda game to here, the leaps in music and visual quality, the direction the art and animation were taken in, the sharpened combat and movement mechanics, the emphasis on using items and tools for world traversal, all of this has led to what still stands as one of the best games in the series. And it truly hasn’t aged a day.
6 A Link Between Worlds
The spiritual successor to A Link to the Past was released on the 3DS and improved on the first game in almost every respect. It took everything that made A Link to the Past a timeless classic and built on its map design, its gameplay mechanics, its art style, its character designs, everything.
Everything here is bigger and better and to this day, the game remains too much of an underdog, especially as it preceded the giant success that was Breath of the Wild. This game is gorgeous, though, with fluid mechanics, a perfect pace and length, and an emphasis on imaginative and curious exploration and playing around with the world.
5 Ocarina of Time
Ocarina of Time has topped more than one ‘Best Game of All Time’ list since its launch in 1998, and remains a favorite game for countless gamers the world over. The game is fantastically designed, with a beautiful musical score, memorable supporting characters, a fantastic time-travel mechanic that mixes up the tone and the story perfectly, and fluid exploration and combat gameplay (especially for its time).
Upon release, Ocarina of Time was flawless, making it one of the best Zelda games out there. This is also a good first game to play if you are new to the series.
4 Majora’s Mask
This wild departure from Ocarina of Time, a game which took the tried-and-true formula of the Zelda series and made in 3D, has long been touted as a favorite for many fans of the series. Majora’s Mask is a direct sequel to Link’s first 3D outing and is easily one of the most sinister games in the series.
Working on an anxiety-inducing three-day time limit in which the player must save a twisted and strange world from being crushed by a big scary moon with a face on it, all wide eyes and gritted teeth. The game features masks, ominous carnival music, and awesome transformations. It’s easily one of the most fun, flamboyant, and flavorful games in the Zelda series to date.
3 Breath of the Wild
The success of the Switch in 2017 can be attributed to its genius design and its fantastic launch with one of the best Zelda games ever made: Breath of the Wild. This game took the series back to its very beginning, when the player was let loose into a world accessible all at once, given a few tools of survival, and told to go conquer.
The feeling of traversing, discovering, and learning the world is unparalleled, and the ingenuity the game encourages is as boundless as your imagination. It's been quite some time since Breath of Wild released, but it's still one of the all-time best open world and Zelda games out there.
2 Wind Waker
Next, we have Wind Waker. Like Link's Awakening, this game mixes up the classic Zelda formula, taking us to the wide open seas on a talking boat named the King of Red Lions. Although this game doesn't follow the typical format of the series, with Zelda as a princess in distress, we get to see Tetra, a reincarnation of Zelda.
This game stands out in terms of its animations, character designs, and soundtrack. Its ocean traversal is fun; its characters are alive with personality; the feeling of conquering the winds and traversing the open seas is an adrenalin-filled feeling that many other games fail to capture.
1 Hyrule Warriors
Last but not least, we have Hyrule Warriors. Warrior-style games (called Musou) focus on hack-and-slash combat, where you will need to defeat large waves of enemies. Additionally, Warrior games boast an impressive roster, with unique characters. The original Dynasty Warriors games have inspired tons of spin-offs, including two Hyrule Warriors games.
These games bring us to Hyrule and reintroduce us to familiar characters, in a more action-packed setting. The first Hyrule Warriors is packed with hundreds of hours worth of content, and the second game, titled Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity occurs just before the start of Breath of the Wild. The game takes place in an alternate timeline, but we are given the chance to see what exactly happened before Link was locked away in slumber for 100 years. Although Hyrule Warriors are not part of the main series, they are refreshing and incredibly fun to play.
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