The Legend of Zelda series ranked from best to worst

Hey! Listen! Here's the entire Legend of Zelda series ranked from best to worst

The Legend of Zelda series is one of the most iconic video game franchises of all time. Ever since its debut on NES in 1986, Nintendo has consistently delivered awe-inspiring experiences that often define entire console generations. More than a handful of Link’s adventures are amongst the greatest games ever created.

With that being said, ranking The Legend of Zelda series is a challenging endeavor. But we did just that, from the 8-bit era all the way to the high definition open world of Breath of the Wild. Our journey through the history of The Legend of Zelda starts now.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

zelda 900 seeds golden poop breathofthewild screen 003

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild took a ton of risks. Gone were the traditional dungeons, replaced with 120 small-scale puzzle shrines and a handful of slightly larger scale Divine Beasts. With that came the switch to weapons that degraded with use, changing a big part of the core identity of Zelda in the process. Breath of the Wild ushered Zelda into the modern era, bringing Hyrule to a truly open world, a sprawling, lavish piece of land that held a treasure trove of secrets.

These twists in the formula ultimately paid off. Breath of the Wild maintained the series’ almost indescribable sense of wonder while pushing the franchise in a startling, wondrous new direction emphasizing the freedom of exploration. It’s not only the best Zelda game (and Switch game), it’s arguably the greatest game ever made.

2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

the legend of zelda series ranked a link to past screen 2

The greatest top-down entry in the series, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past returned to the basic formula that made the original NES game such a standout experience. Marked by beautiful 16-bit visuals that still pop today, A Link to the Past introduced the concept of parallel worlds into the franchise. There was the Light World, the idyllic lands of Hyrule, and the Dark World, a mirrored version with grim features and altered beings caused by Ganon’s retrieval of the Triforce.

Expertly designed dungeons and smart puzzles that played with the concept of switching between the worlds made A Link to the Past feel ahead of its time. A Link to the Past is the best Super Nintendo game and one of the absolute greatest games of the ’90s.

3. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

wind waker hd imago

Link’s first foray on GameCube was met with some trepidation from fans due to its cartoon cel-shaded art style. We’re unsure why, though, as The Wind Waker is arguably the most visually stimulating entry in the entire series, especially the HD remake for Wii U. Regardless, the aesthetic wasn’t the only aspect that made The Wind Waker shine. Only upstaged by Breath of the Wild in terms of exploration, The Wind Waker sent players across the Great Sea on the King of Red Lions boat. Sailing the high sea was a magical experience and stumbling across new islands always brought fresh delights.

The Wind Waker‘s story is also one of the best in the franchise, as it sees Link go on a journey to rescue his sister. Princess Zelda still makes an appearance, though not in her usual form. The lore in Wind Waker, especially the ending makes it one of the most peculiar and insightful Zeldas. We also reckon that The Wind Waker is the best entry point in the series for new Zelda players.

4. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

the legend of zelda series ranked ocarina time

What more can be said about this N64 classic? The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is widely regarded as one of the best games of all time. Most polls would probably deem it the best in the series. And while we think it’s just outside of the top three, that’s more of a testament to the franchise’s prowess than a sleight on OoT.

Ocarina of Time brought Zelda into the 3D era, making it the most important evolution in the franchise. From the first steps into the open terrain of Hyrule to the moment when Link retrieves the Master Sword from the Temple of Time to the final showdown with Ganon, Ocarina of Time was a true marvel at every turn. It has also aged far more gracefully than most early polygonal games and is every bit as engaging today as it was in 1998.

5. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

the legend of zelda series ranked link s awakening

Link’s Awakening, the first handheld entry in the franchise, morphed from a port of A Link to the Past into the weirdest entry in the iconic series. Featuring cameos from Kirby, a SimCity character, and 2D sidescrolling sections where Link hops on Goombas, Link’s Awakening had an experimental vibe to it that simply oozed charm.

Awakening swapped Hyrule for Koholint Island while retaining most of the core mechanics and progression seen in A Link to the Past. It was converted into full color in Link’s Awakening DX on Game Boy Color and is currently being remade for Nintendo Switch with a new 3D art style that looks relentlessly adorable.

6. The Legend of Zelda

the legend of zelda series ranked

“It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this,” the old man said. And with that, Link started his journey as a hero. Link’s first adventure, The Legend of Zelda introduced NES owners to a gameplay loop that would change the way we thought about video games. Unlike most subsequent entries in the franchise, the original offered very little direction and allowed players to discover the dungeons in basically any order they pleased. The Legend of Zelda remains a masterpiece.

7. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

the legend of zelda series ranked majora s mask

Majora’s Mask is the grittiest Zelda game and its overall sense of unease is apparent from the opening cutscene. Set in Termina, Majora’s Mask felt like an alternate reality Ocarina of Time, one in which Link had to save the world from a different threat, the Skull Kid. Majora’s Mask played with time in an interesting way, as the game has a perpetually moving clock. At the end of three in-game days, the moon crashes into Termina.

The cycle could be reset with the Ocarina, but the perceived time limit gave Majora’s Mask a different sense of urgency. Couple the time mechanic with the bevy of masks that Link could wear, including a few that let him shape-shift, and Majora’s Mask offered a new spin on The Legend of Zelda. Majora’s Mask remains something of a cult classic amongst Zelda fans, and it proved that Nintendo could sufficiently rework the tried and true series formula in the 3D space, just as it did in 2D.

8. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

best gba games minish cap

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap swapped Link’s iconic green cap for Ezlo, a magical anthropomorphic hat that was also green. With Ezlo’s powers, Link could shrink down to the size of the Minish, and explore areas from a very small perspective. The mechanic made dungeons, the overworld, and even towns a joy to explore and uncover secrets.

Add in Kinstones, which when matched altered a specific part of the world, and The Minish Cap introduced just enough new features to make it feel like an entirely fresh Zelda adventure, complete with wonderful characters, an interesting story, and a reworked version of Hyrule.

9. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons

the legend of zelda series ranked oracle ages seasons

Using a Pokémon-esque release model, Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons launched simultaneously on Game Boy Color. They appear as one entry on this list because together they formed one, overarching story. Impressively, however, they were two completely different games.

Seasons gave Link the ability to change the seasons (of course) with the power of a magical rod, and the Harp of Ages sent Link to a world called Labrynna. The two experiences complemented each other quite well, with Ages focusing the brunt of its time on puzzles and Seasons featuring more action. To see the final ending, you had to work through each of the game’s dungeons. The Oracle games are tremendous and often overlooked in the grand scheme of Zelda history.

10. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

The-Legend-of-Zelda-A-Link-Between-Worlds-screenshot-14

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is the best Nintendo 3DS game, which is saying a lot considering the strength of the library. Top-down, but in beautiful 3D, this sequel to A Link to the Past traded one (huge) ingrained mechanic. Rather than finding new items in dungeons, Link rented and eventually bought them from a shopkeeper.

The change didn’t delight everyone but it let you approach each area differently, deciding which items would suit you best in the moment. Link could also merge into walls to move about in 2D, a mechanic that bore some resemblance to The Minish Cap. It felt more like an extension of A Link to the Past than a completely new experience, but that’s not really a complaint.

11. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Zelda Twilight Princess HD: Wii U vs GameCube vs Wii Frame-Rate Test

Both a launch game on Nintendo Wii and a swan song for the GameCube, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess brought the franchise back to the “serious” look of Ocarina of Time. Like others in the series, Twilight contained a parallel dimension, in which Link could turn into a wolf. The Twilight Realm is probably the darkest set piece in Zelda history.

Though Twilight Princess was an excellent game, it finds itself in the back half of this list mainly because it didn’t feel nearly as innovative as some other Zelda games. Yes, it still had the series’ magic, and the dungeons were excellent, but it felt safe. However, it is the only Zelda game to feature proper motion controls as a primary means for controlling Link.

12. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

the legend of zelda series ranked spirit tracks

The second of the two Nintendo DS Zelda games, Spirit Tracks retained the cel-shaded cartoon visuals and isometric, 3D perspective. Spirit Tracks subbed in a steam train for travel across the overworld, a mechanic that we enjoyed quite a bit.

The dungeons were interesting and the touchscreen controls remained as solid as they were in Phantom Hourglass. It’s a great game, but the DS easily holds the crown for the Nintendo system with the worst Zelda games. “Worst” being relative, of course.

13. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

best wii games the legend of zelda skyward sword

MotionPlus sucked, and sadly The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was the marquee game that was supposed to get the Wii remote adapter off the ground. Marketed as a more fine-tuned way to use motion controls, Skyward Sword proved that laborious motion controls simply aren’t fun, especially in a game like Zelda.

Skyward Sword is the first game in the Zelda timeline, so it’s a worthwhile play for all Zelda fans. But the controls really, really dampened the experience. It’s quite a shame, as Skyward Sword could be much higher on this list with a proper control scheme (Nintendo Switch port, please).

14. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures

best gba games four swords thumb

It’s almost unfair to compare the GameCube’s Four Swords Adventures to traditional Zelda games. It falls in the Zelda timeline, though, so it’s here. The cooperative experience let you and three friends control Link (each wearing a different colored tunic) in action-oriented episodes in the pursuit of taking down Shadow Link.

The exploration and discovery typically seen in the franchise wasn’t on display, but it was still a fun game to play with friends. Plus, it let you battle your friends to see who was the best Link. That was pretty darn cool.

15. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

the legend of zelda series ranked ii  adventure link screen 3

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is an oddity, and not just because its title didn’t start with “The Legend of Zelda.” After the success of the original, Nintendo decided to significantly alter the formula for the direct sequel. It subbed the top-down perspective for sidescrolling and had an integral emphasis on RPG tropes. The Adventure of Link is probably the most trying game in the series as well as the most divisive. It’s good, but some of Zelda magic was lost in this transition.

16. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

the legend of zelda series ranked screen shot 2019 02 22 at 3 24 07 pm

Phantom Hourglass came before Spirit Tracks. It had the same art style and a Steamboat for travel instead of the train. Together they are two sides of the same coin, but Phantom Hourglass had less engaging dungeons. For that, it finds itself at the bottom of our list in terms of traditional Zelda games.

17. The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes

the legend of zelda series ranked screen shot 2019 02 22 at 3 27 12 pm

For starters, why is Triforce two words in the title? Tri Force Heroes is not a bad game, but it’s the only Zelda game on this list that we wouldn’t call “good.” Like Four Swords Adventures, Tri Force Heroes had a co-op emphasis, letting you play with two other friends on Nintendo 3DS to complete its individual levels. You could also play solo and swap between characters, manipulating them to complete the puzzles. Either way you play it, Tri Force Heroes isn’t a memorable experience, nor is it one you’ll be particularly compelled to even finish.

Gaming

Nintendo Labo: VR Kit has a ton of games you can play with starting April 12

Nintendo Labo: VR Kit has a plethora of games to play after you're done building the Toy-Cons. From an on-rails alien shooter to a deep sea photography adventure, here's what you can play with Labo: VR Kit. You can even make your own games.
Deals

The best Nintendo Switch deals and bundles for March 2019

Looking to score Nintendo's latest console? We've smoked out the best Nintendo Switch deals right here, including discounts on bundles that feature must-have games like Super Mario Odyssey, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Zelda: Breath of…
Gaming

Last gen had some hits! Take a look at the best PS3 games of all time

Choosing the right PlayStation 3 game can be a conundrum, especially when there are nearly 1,500 titles to choose from. Thankfully, we've rounded up the best games to have ever made it to the platform.
Gaming

The best of the last generation: Our 50 favorite Xbox 360 games

The Xbox 360 thrived during a generation where games were plentiful. Here's our list of the best Xbox 360 games of all time, including all game genres and even a few special indie hits.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Gaming

Here's our Champion's guide to picking the best character in Apex Legends

Apex Legends' use of heroes with different abilities helps separate it from other battle royale games. To help you choose your legend, we've put together a legend guide detailing their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.
Gaming

Get Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice for free when buying an Xbox One

You can get Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice for free when buying an Xbox One from Newegg. Eight different bundles are available for this deal, so you can walk away with Sekiro and another game such as The Division 2 or Anthem.
Gaming

How to break Posture and deal a Shinobi Deathblow in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is an incredibly difficult game, and managing the Posture system is a key part of improving and tackling the latest From Software title's most challenging sections.
Gaming

Here's what we know about the Dark Souls developer's next game

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the latest game from Dark Souls and Bloodborne developer From Software. Here is everything we know about the new game, including its setting and combat changes.
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in Destiny 2: Forsaken

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Gaming

Here's a look at how the Epic Games Store is sizing up to the competition

The Epic Games Store has picked up exclusives left and right since its launch last December. From AAA games like The Division 2 to wonderful indies like Hades, the Epic Games store has an impressive library of exclusives.
Gaming

Master Shinobi combat with our Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice beginner's guide

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is one of the hardest games of the generation, and it can be overwhelming, even for those who have played From Software's other games. Here is what you need to know to get started.
Gaming

World of Warcraft's allied races will make you want to start a new character

The Horde and Alliance are seeking new allies in their struggle for control of Azeroth. Whether you pledge your allegiance to the Horde or Alliance, we've got a guide to help you unlock every allied race that's coming in Battle for Azeroth.
Computing

Nvidia faces attacks from AMD, Intel, and even Google. Should it be worried?

Nvidia announced an expanded array of RTX server solutions designed to leverage the power of ray-tracing at GTC 2019. The effort will help Nvidia take on Google's Stadia in game streaming with GeForce Now, and the company's investments in…