The best Zelda games are likely to differ depending on who you’re talking to, how old they are, the weather that day, and the placement of Jupiter in Pisces, or however modern-day astrology works. Despite the fluctuations that anyone’s opinion may have, we’ve thought really hard about this list, okay?
It’d be easy to just list every Zelda game and call it quits, but that’s not how things work around here, or hopefully anywhere, so we’ve broken the dozens of Zelda games down into just five entries. We’re also going to give a shout-out to the Hyrule Warriors games, because they’re fun, they make for excellent co-op games, and frankly, they’re everything video games should be. With that out of the way, here’s the list.
Best Zelda games
- N64 (Launch)
- Nintendo Switch Online
At the top we have the best, and also one of the most unusual, Zelda games: Majora’s Mask. Majora’s Mask was released around a year and a half after the incredible Ocarina of Time (which didn’t make the list, sorry). Zelda games follow a very familiar formula a lot of the time, but this sequel looked at that tried and tested style, laughed, and then just dumped so much trauma on all of us, especially those who played this as a kid.
Majora’s Mask puts you in a horrific three-day cycle where your aim is to stop the moon, which has a big old scary face, from headbutting Termina, where the game is set. It also traps you in the body of a Deku Scrub, and you can eventually transform into other forms by ripping your face off or putting new one’s on. Each of the three days plays out in the same way, but you can interact and alter the stories of a huge number of NPCs as each day plays out, before you rewind time to rinse and repeat. The aim is to save not just the world, but the people in it, but it’s a tough thing to manage.
Breath of the Wild
- Nintendo Switch (Launch)
- Wii U
Not a huge surprise that this one would be on the list, is it? Breath of the Wild, and there’s a pattern here, redefined what a Zelda game could be. Suddenly the classic dungeons and item-driven mechanics are gone, and you’re given every tool you can possibly want almost straight away.
Breath of the Wild is as close to a full-blown actual adventure as any Zelda game has come. Every single step leads to some new mystery, whether that’s getting you one seed closer to a big old poop, or finding a dragon that’ll bombard you with electricity. It’s just a chonky sandbox to play around in, and while Tears of the Kingdom builds on this intensely solid foundation to create something even more impressive, we've not had enough time with it for the game to dethrone Breath of the Wild.
- Gane Boy (Launch)
- Game Boy Color
- Nintendo 3DS
- Nintendo Switch (Remake)
Actually, every game on this list plays with your expectations as a Zelda fan, so we’re going to stop mentioning it now. Link’s Awakening, both the original that came out *checks Wikipedia*, 30 whole years ago (we’re so old), and the Nintendo Switch remake with one of the coolest art styles out there, are exquisite.
Link’s Awakening does follow a more traditional Zelda style of things, but it’s just full to the brim of oddity. You awaken on a beach, and that’s basically all the backstory you get. From there, you go through plenty of awesome dungeons, but will also run around and get to meet a pet called BowWow, which is very clearly a Chain Chomp. It’s a truly wonderful Zelda game, and the remake only builds on the whimsy and joy that this game can bring.
Oracle of Ages and Seasons
It’s a damn crime that these games aren’t available on modern consoles, because they’re truly sublime. Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons are a duet of games that were released back in 2001, and have you playing as Link who ends up yeeted into a mysterious dark forest on his way to Hyrule Castle.
One of the coolest mechanics in both of these games is the ability to change the world itself. You can change the weather in Seasons, and switch between the past and present in Ages, and this would have a direct impact on the world around you. A lot of puzzles required you to figure out which season or time period you needed to interact with, and then mix and match those together to find a proper solution. Also, you can use a special password in either game that you get from completing the other for an entirely different ending. These games are infinitely charming, and if you ever get the chance to play them you should.
Cadence of Hyrule
We’re not sure anybody was actually expecting this particular game, but when Nintendo approaches a developer and gives them the keys to Link and Zelda, it’s only natural they’d jump at the chance. Cadence of Hyrule comes from the mastermind developers behind Crypt of the Necrodancer, and basically turns the classic Zelda formula into a rhythm game.
Learning the intricacies of each character, and mastering the music-based gameplay, is something that few other games can really offer. This twist on Zelda is one that stands above nearly all-over weird genre mash-ups, with only the excellent Mario + Rabbids games coming close. Seriously, go and play this game right now, and then also listen to the soundtrack. You can do it the other way around too. We’d be happy either way.
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