The Best “Legend of Zelda” Video Games of All Time

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Of all the popular video games in the marketplace, only a dozen titles have the awareness and conjured nostalgia like “The Legend of Zelda.” 30 years is a legendary feat for any video game franchise. Since hitting store shelves in 1986, Nintendo’s hit RPG game expanded to 18 titles and a number of spin-offs over three decades. From the vintage Nintendo Entertainment System to the recent Switch video game console, “The Legend of Zelda” series received high accolades on every platform released by Nintendo.

Which “Zelda” titles are fan favorites? There’s plenty of online forums discussing which “Legend of Zelda” games are the best.

But the five titles listed below were always the top games on people’s lists.

5. Link’s Awakening

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Link’s Awakening provided the inspiration for every RPG game released on handheld game consoles. Fans adored the storyline and clever game play despite the limitations of monochrome graphics on the original Game Boy. A fun aspect of the game was learning to play songs on a virtual ocarina—a feature that was later adapted for the Ocarina of Time. Character cameos from previous Nintendo games included:  Wart (Super Mario Bros. 2), Yoshi (Super Mario World), Kirby (Kirby), Dr. Wright (SimCity) and Chomp (Super Mario Bros.). The video game ranking site GameRankings awarded Link’s Awakening with a 90% score.

4. Wind Waker

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Wind Wakerreleased after Ocarina of Time in 2002-2003 on Nintendo’s GameCube, was regarded as the most controversial title in the franchise’s history. The game featured cartoon-style graphics that upset members of the fan base. Reviewers gave the game mixed scores—while some individuals hated the game-play focus on sailing, others adored the beautiful background graphics.

15 years after its release, Wind Waker is considered one of the greatest “Legend of Zelda” games according to various video game magazines and websites.

3. A Link Between Worlds

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Many critics regard A Link Between Worlds as either the 2nd or 3rd greatest game in the franchise’s history. The plot and setting mimics A Link to the Past and fans believe Between Worlds is a close sequel.

“Zelda” enthusiasts enjoyed: the wall-merging highlight inside the game, clever bosses and challenging dungeons. The game felt more “loose”—not tied to a particular game-play sequence and featuring open exploration areas reminiscent of the 16-bit Super N.E.S. classic. The item rental system was well-received by players, noting that the revamped virtual item management added more game-play enjoyment for exploring the game’s environment and enemy battles.

2. Ocarina of Time

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Many “Legend of Zelda” fans regard this game as the second greatest in the franchise’s history. It’s the first “Zelda” game to incorporate 3D graphics. Nintendo Power, a magazine that’s dedicated to coverage of Nintendo games, praises Ocarina of Time for the immense graphical detail showcasing throughout levels of the game. Atmospheric and surround sounds immerse players into the game’s environment. Plentiful side challenges, clever level design, large boss characters, impressive digital facial expressions plus the final Ganon fight that resembles a cinematic feature all add to the allure of this ground-breaking video game.

1. A Link to the Past

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A Link to the Past owns the spot as the BEST “Legend of Zelda” game of all time, despite its release three decades ago. It’s the first video game created for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The combination of graphics, plots, exploration, challenging bosses, memorable characters and the “parallel world” aspect cements this video game’s position on many top-selling and popular lists over two decades. Here are some accolades associated with A Link to the Past:

  • #11, “Top 100 Games” (IGN, 2005)
  • #2 rank in Nintendo Power’s last issue (December 2012)
  • #4, best game of all time, (GameFAQs)
  • #6, 100 best games of all time (Edge, 2007)
  • “Best Sequel of 1992” (Electronic Gaming Monthly, 1992)
  • #12, “The Top 200 Games of All Time” (Game Informer, 2009)
  • #2,  top 20 Super Nintendo games (ScrewAttack)

Will “Breath of the Wild” make any lists?

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Breath of the Wild is Nintendo’s most ambitious game for the franchise. Players will enjoy the freedom to explore and engage with its virtual environment, along with playing into the storyline. The industry will know in March 2017 whether Breath of the Wild will cement its place as one of the best “Legend of Zelda” video games of all time.

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