Nintendo's Legend of Zelda series is undoubtedly one of the all-time greats in the video game industry. The legendary action-adventure series continues to be popular even 30 years since its debut. Considering its impact on many games, both AAA and indie, it is no surprise that the beloved series is still relevant today.
The trinity of the key characters Link, Zelda, and Ganon have formed the basis for some of the most memorable adventures in gaming. There have been countless entries on both home consoles and handhelds throughout the years.
But which one reigns supreme? Much debate has occurred over the best Zelda title, and this list is bound to do the same.
Here are the five best Legend of Zelda games of all time
5) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
This was the first 3D entry that didn't just translate the original 2D design flawlessly but also perfected 3D movement. The hero Link must embark on a time-faring adventure to see him face Ganondorf and thwart the evil Gerudo sorcerer's world-domination plans.
From the open fields of Hyrule to the intricately crafted 3D dungeons - this Nintendo 64 technological masterpiece is a journey that still holds up 23 years later.
Ocarina of Time (OOT) introduced a bevy of new mechanics that have become a textbook example for the gaming industry to follow. The Z-targeting design has been employed in innumerable action games, particularly the FromSoft's Dark Souls series.
Horse riding was another mechanic that games like Darksiders 2 have picked up. Given its historical importance, it deserves a place on the list. However, newer entries have since improved upon it. Get your hands on the Nintendo 3DS version for the best way to play OOT.
4) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Released for GameCube in 2005, a year later on the Wii, and remastered for Wii U in 2016, Twilight Princess (TP) is known for its dark tone - both thematically and literally.
With the threat of Twilight Realm's takeover of Hyrule, Link must get to the root of the cause. This journey introduces a new partner, Midna, and new gameplay mechanics like the Wolf Link transformation.
Nintendo aimed for cinematic flair with a creepy tone with this entry, especially with the new villain Zant. It is the same familiar formula introduced in OOT, however, on a grander scale.
The new Twilight Realm exploration also adds variety to the already humungous amount of content, including elements like the Spinner and Iron Boots spicing up dungeon exploration. It isn't an entry much fans talk about, but it is beloved nonetheless.
3) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Another GameCube classic, this 2002 game was berated back in the day for its "childish" cel-shaded visuals. Thankfully, this graphical design ensured Wind Waker (WW) hasn't aged a day, and the game has since become a hit among fans. Set in an alternate timeline of OOT, it replaces the grassy fields of Hyrule for a sea-faring adventure.
After certain events led to the flooding of Hyrule and flourished a new civilization, one young boy from this tribe must battle a new Ganon for the Triforce. With a boat at hand, players will traverse the blue waterscapes and explore isles as well as dungeons for treasures that can help Link on his adventure.
Even among its franchise, it is a unique experience, much less AAA games that rarely target aquatic settings. Like TP, it has since received a masterful conversion on the Wii U and is the definitive version -particularly with the new lighting model.
2) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
The Super NES era is regarded as the pinnacle of 2D gaming; that statement couldn't be truer than with A Link to the Past (ALttP). Acting as a prequel to the original NES games, the threat of Ganon looms once again as the antagonist now aims to spread chaos through the sorcerer Agahnim.
Players traverse between the Light World and Dark Realm, solving puzzles, beating bosses, and collecting new items. It's one of the more complex 2D Zeldas with a non-linear structure. Moving between realms is key to progressing and overcoming challenges, with tons of secrets waiting to be found.
The delightful dungeon variety is still unmatched to this day, even among competitors, and is enough to keep any gamer hooked. Thirty years on, it is an absolute must-play and one of the few examples of a truly flawless game.
1) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Released simultaneously for the Wii U and Switch, Breath of the Wild (BotW) is a very divisive game. After all, it is the least Zelda-esque game in the franchise yet also arguably the best.
While Link has been slumbering for 100 years, Calamity Ganon razed the land of Hyrule and rendered it barren, only to be reclaimed by the wilderness. With a newfound spark of hope, Link must reawaken and take down Ganon once and for all before he can grow in power.
It innovates both the series and the genre with a truly free-form approach to gameplay. Various inter-mingling systems like metal items conducting electricity and organic assets being inflammable. The end product is an unprecedented open-world experience that will be discussed for years to come.
People might complain about breakable weapons and lack of dungeons - but do those arguments make sense seeing the excess loot drops and varied problem-solving? The world is a huge dungeon in itself that lets players do what they want and go where they want.
While it may not be perfect like ALttP, the unparalleled level of ambition and scope make it deserve the top spot. BotW isn't just a step forward for Legend of Zelda, but gaming as a whole. It will be interesting to see how Nintendo expands upon this formula with the upcoming sequel.