The Legend of Zelda series is a franchise that has entertained and been loved by gamers for decades. Zelda games often feature simple plotlines with deep lore, easy-to-learn combat with some challenges, and many awesome characters. My personal favorite element to Zelda games are the puzzles and vast landscapes.
There are many great Zelda games so it can certainly be a challenge to name one that any given person might enjoy the most. That’s why we’ve written up a list of the top 10 Zelda games, in no particular order. You decide the best Zelda for you!
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Ocarina of Time, also known as OoT, was released in 1998 for the Nintendo 64. It’s often considered to be one of the greatest video games of all time, and for great reason. It has innovative and welcoming gameplay. It also features some of the most memorable locations and characters throughout the entire Zelda universe. And to top it all off, it has an epic story that will totally blow your mind if it hasn’t already been spoiled for you.
OoT is considered an absolute MUST for anyone getting into Zelda. Newcomers and long-time fans alike!
2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
A Link to the Past is also often referred to as ALttP — you may be starting to notice a trend. It was released in 1991 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), and is an absolute fan favorite. This is partially due to its challenging and diverse dungeons. It features an expansive world with characters you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
In many ways OoT and ALttP are 3D and 2D counterparts to each other. If you have a strong preference for 2D, then check out ALttP first. They’re both great games, with many of the same themes, concepts, and similar challenges. However, they are both their own unique experience, story, world, and more! So, don’t worry. You can ABSOLUTELY play both and have two completely unique experiences.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Breath of the wild is a newer Zelda release title.It came out in 2017 for the Nintendo Switch. There are online debates for many users about whether this is the best Zelda, worst Zelda, or just a great game with the flaws that may come with a new, experimental take on a Zelda game. In my personal opinion, it was a great Zelda, and it felt the most similar to the very first, original Zelda on Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
Breath of the Wild rocks an open-world design with massive landscapes to explore. The gameplay and mechanics make it a unique and enjoyable experience, though it can be a bit gimmicky at times — such as rotating your controller to control the floor and move a marble around a maze. It’s a really beautiful game, and I personally feel like it brought the original Zelda game to life in a very beautiful, new way.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Ah, Majora’s Mask. What a great game!
Released in 2000 for the Nintendo 64, Majora’s Mask may be the darkest Zelda in the series. It features a spooky, quirky atmosphere that haunts you as you play. Have you ever had that feeling like something was behind you while you were on your way to your bedroom late at night with the lights off? The time-based gameplay of this game gives me that feeling constantly. You’re being watched by the clock… and the moon… no matter where you turn.
There are times where this game has slightly more adult themes — though, no worries, it’s totally family-friendly. It’s more the melancholy, bittersweet environment that produces this feeling. The puzzles are tricky, and the adventure is grand. Absolutely worth playing if you want a darker, gloomier Zelda experience.
5. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
The Wind Waker was released in 2002 for the Nintendo Gamecube. Many users are turned away by the cel-shaded graphics because it appears to be a more simple game if you were to judge a book by its cover. However, Wind Waker is harder than Breath of the Wild, Skyward Sword, and Twilight Princess in pretty much every way. It still may be pretty easy, because Zelda games aren’t exactly known for being brutally difficult (with a couple of exceptions).
The puzzles will have you thinking outside the box and the action requires both quick responses and stealth. It is pretty well known for being a very water-centric sailing adventure, which provides a unique landscape to explore compared to the usual Zelda games. Because of the art style, this game has visually “aged better” than many other Zelda games, according to many of its fans.
With all that said, this is one of the most adorable Zelda games. So if you like adventurous, cute, but still moderately challenging games, this one is a must-play!
6. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
I am putting this game on this list because for many, it is their favorite in the entire series. For me, personally, it is the weakest Zelda game with the exception of Wand of Gamelon.
Twilight Princess was released in 2006 for the Nintendo Gamecube and Wii. There’s a massive focus on combat in this game, which is really cool. You don’t need all of the combat skills you can put into your arsenal, but they are available if you choose to use them. The landscapes are gorgeous, but the picture is a little muddy or blurry looking — so I certainly recommend the HD remake.
Much like Majora’s Mask, this game does have some moderately darker themes, but not nearly to the same effect. I’ve heard the darkness of Twilight Princess described as “I’m 13, and this is edgy”.
Now, even though I’m being a bit of a hater, it really is a great game! Just not my favorite Zelda. Some of the dungeons in this game are really cool and you could even say they are visually stunning.
7. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Released in 2011 for the Nintendo Wii, Skyward Sword is an origins game! This is the first game in the Zelda timeline which results in some larger-than-life storytelling. Much of the storytelling is goofy, and not too serious, but when it’s serious, it goes hard. You’ll learn the origins of nearly every element of Zelda games in a way that impacts every other Zelda you play.
The dungeons are more open, and almost like little islands of their own in this game, when compared to others in the series. If you prefer larger, more natural dungeon layouts, this one comes highly recommended. This game can get a bit “backseaty”, but that might be helpful for someone who has never played a Zelda game before! Skyward Sword isn’t my favorite Zelda, but it sure is a beautiful one!
8. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Originally released in 1993 for the Game Boy, then re-released as “Link’s Awakening DX” with color and some additional features in 1997. Now, we also have a 2019 Nintendo Switch version with many upgrades. This is by far my favorite Zelda, personally. I do ultimately think OoT is a better game, but Link’s Awakening is beyond charming. This game has such lovable characters, a beautiful world, and the hardest puzzles in all of Zelda. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind game that could never be replicated…. except for the 2 remakes, I guess.
Personally, I like Link’s Awakening DX the most, of the 3 different versions. The Switch remake is great because you don’t need to constantly open the menu to change out items, and it’s visually more appealing to many players. However, the final boss of the game gets severely nerfed, due to the game moving at about 2/3rds the speed of the originals. I don’t know about you, but I need that tough final boss to really appreciate a game more. But, I concede that the Switch version is likely the most enjoyable version of the game for most new players, due to the minor improvements made throughout the gameplay.
9. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons
Need a grand, 2D adventure? The Oracle Zeldas are a great option.
In 2001, the Oracle games were released for the Game Boy Color. You can combine the two games, play them in either order and get the real ending. There are some really cool features in these games like the rings that provide various perks and altering landscapes. These are some of the most puzzle-based Zelda games, and I promise there will be times when you’ll find challenges in the combat too! At least more than other Zelda games.
The main premise of these games is altering states. It’s something that needs to be played to fully grasp the brilliance of it all!
10. Zelda’s Adventure
I’m throwing this one in there as an oddball. This game was released for the CD-i in 1994. The reason I put this on the list is that I genuinely enjoyed it.
The CD-i Zeldas get a lot of hate, but really two of them are pretty fun! As a Zelda veteran, Zelda’s Adventure has characters you’ll be surprised to recognize — at least in spirit. What I loved most about this game is the vibes.
Playing Zelda’s Adventure feels like going to the local library in the 1990s and playing whatever weird but exciting adventure games they had available. The game is very ambient with an autumn overtone. Admittedly, it’s entirely broken and really hard to get this game working. However, I still put this in my personal top 5 Zelda gaming playthroughs.
Every Zelda game is worth playing. They’re all very fun, they’ll make you think, and they have beautiful worlds. Even for Zeldas not on this list, please do check them out and make up your own mind about which Zelda to play next. With that said, I hope my list was helpful to you! Thanks for reading.
Catch you around!