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The Legend of Zelda Series Ranked from Worst to First

Updated on April 27, 2016
The Legend of Zelda (via Wikipedia)
The Legend of Zelda (via Wikipedia)

In Nintendo's Online Presentation during E3, they announced a new title in the Legend of Zelda series for the Wii U. With another Zelda-themed game also in production for the system (Hyrule Warriors), it would be a good time to reflect on the series as a whole.

I can still recall a time where there were only five Zelda games available: the two NES titles, A Link to the Past, Link's Awakening and Ocarina of Time, with the gap between the latter two seemingly grand. Now, there are 17 games in the series with multiple games in the series re-released on multiple newer systems.

I have ranked these 17 games from my personal least favorite to my personal favorite. Obviously this list will not be agreed upon by most as every Zelda game has at least a few fans who claim it as the best of the bunch. Even if a Zelda game is ranked low, I don't think it's a bad game; nearly every Zelda game is on some level a great game. To note, this list does not include the three Phillips CD-i Zelda "games", nor does it include the Wii minigame Link's Crossbow Training. From worst to first, the Zelda games are ranked as such:

Note: I initially wrote this article before the release of the multiplayer The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes. Due to its multiplayer nature, its not likely I would play it any time soon. I also wrote this article before the release of Hyrule Warriors, though its more of a Zelda-themed Dynasty Warriors game than a true Zelda game. In any case, neither game is listed or ranked here.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (via Wikipedia)
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (via Wikipedia)

The Bottom Tier

17. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

While the game offers an interesting premise, the game suffers from several angles. The method of overworld travel, trains, was dull, the use of the lute was poorly designed, the dungeons were unmemorable and the use of phantoms was clunky. On the plus side, the game controls a bit better than Phantom Hourglass, but not by much.

Available on: DS, can be played on 3DS

16. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

This game, a direct sequel to The Wind Waker, has somewhat better overworld and dungeon design than Spirit Tracks, though the game forces you to visit the Temple of the Ocean King multiple times, forcing you to go through the same areas over and over again. This, combined with an uncomfortable control scheme makes this a difficult Zelda to enjoy.

Available on: DS, can be played on 3DS

15. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords

The game was an extra game in GBA carts of the Link to the Past port and was multiplayer only. 2-4 players could go into one of three areas to collect rupees competitively while completing the area cooperatively. The game was released, for free, on the Nintendo DSi and Nintendo 3DS online shops for a limited time, with the ability to play single player. The game's biggest problems are its length (which the DSi/3DS remake somewhat fixes), and the nature of the game leaves little variety. Its also not very fun playing solo, so that hinders it considerably.

Available on: GBA, can be played on DS (not DSi); DSi & 3DS versions no longer available

14. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

A game that looks and plays like Four Swords, its a standalone game and the Game Boy Advance's lone unique Zelda game. Its major problems are its short length (ending just when its getting fun), a cumbersome Kinstone sidequest system, and the use of the cap's shrinking abilities just wasn't all that fun.

Available on: GBA, can be played on DS (not DSi); Wii U via Virtual Console, 3DS only for Ambassadors

13. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

This game is generally disliked among the general Zelda fanbase for its unfair difficulty and its general change to a more action-platformy type of gamplay style. Those are fair criticisms, though there are those out there who enjoy Zelda II for those very reasons. I'm not one of those though I do find the game somewhat enjoyable regardless.

Available on: NES; versions available on GBA, DS (via GBA), Gamecube, Wii, 3DS and Wii U

12. The Legend of Zelda

We've reached the point where the Zelda games from here on out are games I mostly enjoyed. The original Legend of Zelda is among those game, though its only my 12th favorite Zelda. Its exploration elements are still unmatched, but it doesn't have much else going for it.

Available on: NES; versions available on GBA, DS (via GBA), Gamecube, Wii, 3DS and Wii U

11. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Wind Waker is fun to play for the most part, with some well designed dungeons and a decent storyline. However, the game suffers from a mostly empty water-world, a lack of dungeon quantity (only five), and the hunt for the Triforce shard at game's end is a drag (the Wii U version remedies this somewhat).

Available on: Gamecube (playable on Wii); an HD version is available for the Wii U

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (via Wikipedia)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (via Wikipedia)

The Middle Tier

10. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Considered a prequel to all other Zelda games, Skyward Sword has a lot of interesting, complex puzzles and dungeons that are fun to solve and complete. The use of the Wii Motion Plus controls work well once you understand how they work. However, the game suffers from massive hand-holding throughout the game, late-game fetch-quest padding and a mostly empty "sky" overworld.

Available on: Wii; can be played on Wii U via Wii mode

9. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures

A massive improvement upon Four Swords, the game takes players through stages - either on the overworld or in dungeons, where they need to use four links to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. The game is playable and fun solo, but in order to play with two or more players, each person needs a GBA and a Gamecube-GBA link cable as the game uses mechanics demanding the use of a GBA. That restriction is very unfortunate.

Available on: Gamecube, can be played on Wii

8. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

One of the, hm, 'darker' entries in the series, the game features good dungeon-crawling and overworld traveling, especially via horseback. The game suffers through the use of Wolf Link, a corrupted version of Link who is sometimes forced to suffer life as a wolf. The gameplay and quests featuring Wolf Link are much worse than the rest of the game, which suffers as a result.

Available on: Gamecube and Wii as separate versions; Wii U can play Wii version via Wii mode

7. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

This game has gained some popularity in recent years. Another 'dark' entry in the series, the game boasts an impressive amount of sidequests. However, the game only features four dungeons so those who like dungeons in their Zelda games (such as myself) find their experience hindered as a result.

Available on: Nintendo 64; versions also available for Gamecube and Wii (and Wii U via Wii mode)

6. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Rated as one of the best Zelda games by most, its rated somewhat lowly by me as the game starts to drag near the end. At this point, its hard to find actual faults with Zelda games, so the differences in quality between them are minute. This is highly subjective but I just simply enjoyed five other Zelda games more than I did Link to the Past.

Available on: SNES; versions also available for GBA, DS (via GBA), Gamecube, Wii and Wii U

What is your favorite Zelda game?

What is your favorite Zelda game?

See results
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (via Wikipedia)
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (via Wikipedia)

The Top Tier

5. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages

Four of the top five Zeldas are portable Zeldas, which lends to how well the series works on those platforms. Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons are unique in that they're concurrent games; you can choose to play and finish one, then received a password that makes the other game an essential sequel to the one you just finished. The two games are truly a blast to play as well, full of great dungeons, secrets and (sometimes) enjoyable minigames, all within two Game Boy Color cartridges.

Available on: GBC, playable on DS; available on 3DS eShop

4. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons

I've played Seasons ahead of Ages ever so slightly for a couple of reasons. First, Ages focuses a bit more on puzzles, while Seasons leans more towards action. As a result, Seasons is a bit more fast-paced and exciting. Additionally, Seasons has several callbacks to the original Legend of Zelda that Ages does not possess, including a few bosses, that really adds to its charm.

Available on: GBC, playable on DS; available on 3DS eShop

3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

The most recent Zelda game released, ALBW brings back true 2D Zelda gameplay in ways never before seen, by allowing the player to visit dungeons in nearly any order by allowing the player to rent or purchase the items required to clear those dungeons. Its a feature that works very well, and its the most fun I've had with a new Zelda game in over a decade. For the record, all of these top five games can be played on the Nintendo 3DS, either via eShop or you can buy ALBW and Ocarina of Time 3D physically.

Available on: 3DS only

2. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

The Oracle games are great Game Boy Zeldas, but Link's Awakening, or the Game Boy Color remake Link's Awakening DX, was just that much better. Excellent dungeons, a strong amount of secrets and sidequests, and an interesting storyline pushes Link's Awakening above all other portable Zeldas.

Available on: GB, GBC, GBA (via GB/C), 3DS eShop

1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Some Zelda fans whose favorites are one of the other titles may scoff at putting Ocarina of Time #1, and it may be that the selection is nostalgia-fueled but with this ranking as subjective as it is, I can't help but rank it at the top. The dungeons were great, the quests and secrets were plentiful, the story was basic but the game didn't try to hinder you with tutorials after the first dungeon. Given what it did, the first Zelda game to be in 3D, its place in history is unshakable and while others may claim other Zelda games to be better than it, for many this game will remain #1 until a Zelda comes along and tops it in both design and impact. Could the Wii U Zelda be that game?

Available on: N64, versions also available on Gamecube, Wii (playable on Wii U via Wii mode), and 3DS (Ocarina of Time 3D)

Comments

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    • AlexisG profile image

      Alexis 8 months ago

      Happy to see Link's Awakening ranked at #2 on your list. It's long been my favorite Zelda title (Ocarina, I regrettably have yet to beat).

    • profile image

      MKFLame7 2 years ago

      Finally somebody who puts Link's Awakening and Link Between Worlds in their top 3!

      Here is mine:

      17. Majora's Mask

      16. Phantom Hourglass

      15. Minish Cap

      14. Oracle of Seasons

      13. Twilight Princess

      12. Zelda II: Adventure of Link

      11. Oracle of Ages

      10. Four Swords

      9. Four Swords Adventures

      8. Legend of Zelda

      7. Skyward Sword

      6. A Link to the Past

      5. Spirit Tracks

      4. Link Between Worlds

      3. Link's Awakening

      2. Wind Waker

      1. Ocarina of Time

    • profile image

      CrookedlyBent 3 years ago

      Oof... Well, opinions are opinions! I personally enjoyed Wind Waker extremely. I actually perfectly agree with Spirit Tracks being the worst-- though I haven't played every Zelda game. A Link Between Worlds was excellent, too. I have to say, while OoT was better than I thought it would be-- much better, actually-- it still isn't my favorite. Three or four other games top it in my book. I liked TP a little more, and I definitely enjoyed Majora's Mask much more. But I have a very odd way of seeing things, and I totally understand your arguments.

    • profile image

      Jake 3 years ago

      Interesting list. I'd place Skyward Sword higher (even with sometimes frustrating controls), and I actually enjoyed Phantom overall, but I too loved Oracle of Ages and Link's Awakening. Some of the portable titles get pushed lower because they aren't as well known. Ocarina will be a hard one to top.

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Wind Waker should be higher than 11! But I agree on the others. Ocarina of Time is unbeatable. Great article!

    • Link10103 profile image

      Link10103 3 years ago

      I certainly dont agree with some of the ordering here, but at least Ocarina of time is in first place.

      Twilight Princess, Wind Waker, and Skyward Sword are my personal follow ups, on consoles anyway

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