The Legend of Zelda RANKED: All Mainline Home Console Entries Rated

We have no idea what to expect from The Legend of Zelda’s 35th Anniversary except ‘Breath of the Wild 2’ information and release date. Whilst Nintendo could finally port over ‘The Wind Waker HD’ and ‘Twilight Princess HD’ to Switch, there’s no guarantee. 

From its debut on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986 to its current open-world incarnation on Nintendo Switch, the series has remained popular for 35 years. Here is every mainline home console Zelda game, ranked. We won’t be including any re-released, remasters or multiplayer titles.

9: The Adventure of Link (1987)

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To (tri)force Link into the spotlight, Nintendo tried a side-scrolling platformer adaptation. Whilst it sold well for its time, critics and fans also took note of the missing core Zelda mechanics.

Originally released for the Famicom Disk System, it would take nearly two years before The Adventure of Link would be released in North America and beyond.

In the current Zelda timeline, The Adventure of Link and Breath of the Wild are the only games to follow from the original NES title.

#8: The Legend of Zelda (1986)

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Where it all began. The franchise’s first entry opted for a pseudo-open-world structure that felt revelatory for the time. The Legend of Zelda featured a panel by panel design that allowed developers to give players an open-world feel.

Inspired by Peter Pan, Shigeru Miyamoto opted for the now-iconic elf ears and a pointy hat so Link would stand out from other characters in-game.

#7: Skyward Sword (2011)

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Skyward Sword was the scapegoat of Nintendo’s motion control obsession and one of the last titles to be released on the Wii and served as an origin tale of sorts for Link, Zelda, The Master Sword and Demise/Ganon. 

It featured a beautiful watercolour design and a brilliant plot but failed to offer standardised controls which meant the entire thing felt too gimmicky for much of the Zelda fanbase. The Wiimote syncing issues during its gameplay demo at E3 2010 probably didn’t help.

Skyward Sword spent six years in development, bested only by Breath of the Wild. 

#6: A Link to the Past (1991)

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Link's Super Nintendo debut improved on the classic in every way. The colour palette, enhanced audio and inventory management are just a handful of improvements. The Master Sword made its debut here, but if Link goes to its location before initially entering the prison, it’s not there.

Players can also fight a glitched bouncing villager head if they’re into that sort of thing.

#5: Twilight Princess (2006)

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First releasing on the Wii, with a GameCube version dropping weeks later, Twilight Princess is Nintendo giving fans what they wanted.

Players wanted a realistic Legend of Zelda title during The Wind Waker's reveal at the Nintendo Spaceworld convention in 2001. The game is still well regarded, even with Sheika being cut from the game during its lengthy development process.

Interestingly, Twilight Princess is the only Zelda game where a Cucco won’t fight back. Players gain control of one if hit enough times.

#4: Majora’s Mask (2000)

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Aonuma, Miyamoto, Koizumi and the development team created Majora’s Mask in just two years, leaning on the template from Ocarina of Time.

With a time manipulation theme; Link sets out to stop a plummeting moon from destroying Termina, with a time limit throughout.

Did you know that the happy mask salesman is based on series creator Shigeru Miyamoto? It’s a double Easter egg with the tribute featuring a Mario mask on his backpack.

#3: Wind Waker (2002)

Whilst Nintendo catered to fans with Twilight Princess; The Wind Waker consequently proved that Nintendo knew how to handle their IP. Holding the fourth title to receive a perfect score in Famitsu magazine, The Wind Waker is above all a fan favourite.

This is despite a controversial reception when first revealed, as fans felt that Toon Link didn’t embody the franchise’s appeal as much as a more realistic version would have.

The majority of The Wind Waker soundtrack is made up of remixed versions of previous Zelda themes. For example, Dragon Roost Cavern is a remix of Dodongo’s Cavern from Ocarina of Time. 

#2: Ocarina of Time (1998)

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Ocarina of Time was Link’s first adventure in a 3D game space and has become iconic for how advanced it was for its time. It added the Ocarina, a musical instrument, a hub area in Hyrule field, and plenty more that became staples of the series.

Based on the Mario 64 engine, Ocarina of Time split The Legend of Zelda timeline into three parts.

This game is pivotal in both lore and development of future Zelda titles. An expansion titled URA Zelda was planned for the Nintendo 64 Disc System before being cancelled. It would have featured remixed dungeons and permanent damage.

#1: Breath of the Wild (2017) 

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Acting as both a launch game for the Nintendo Switch and the final nail in the coffin for Wii U, Breath of the Wild returned to the series’ open-world gameplay roots.

With the technology available to achieve this, Breath of the Wild changed how fans look at the Zelda franchise. It was delayed twice, to 2016 for gameplay enhancements and to 2017 for a Switch release. Thank Hylia for repeat delays though, as it’s number one on our list for its huge, immersive world and never-ending experimentation.

Every mainline title so far in the Legend of Zelda has its place in the series canon, albeit loosely. Let’s hope some of these gems end up on Nintendo’s current flagship console so every generation can enjoy.

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