The Legend of Zelda is a series that is genuinely a magical experience that’s been a part of the life of many generations of gamers since 1986. For many, the best Zelda game is the first one you ever play. For others, it’s the one with the coolest Powerups or the best dungeons. For me, the best game is the one that creates the best memories.
Here’s our list of the best Zelda games over the years.
Our list of best Zelda games, ranked from best to worst
#20. Zelda’s Adventure (CD-i) 1994
Zelda’s Adventure for the CD-i was arguably a very lousy game. This was one of the few Zelda games where you played as the Princess rather than Link. Other than that, the game played like a slower, lousier version of the classic top-down Zelda game.
The game also featured full-motion-cut scenes with real actors, which weren’t good. Most importantly, the game just wasn’t very fun to play. And did I mention the loading screens?
#19. Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link (NES) 1987
I don’t think Zelda 2 is a bad game for the record. It’s just really difficult. Most players I’ve spoken to say they quit around Death Mountain (about a quarter of the way). The combat in The Adventure of Link is simple yet effective. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty easy to mess up and die, and grinding for levels hasn’t aged well.
With that said, it was hilarious when a girl invited you to her house to “heal your wounds” and when an NPC said, “I am Error” (this was part of the quest).
#18. Zelda: Wand of Gamelon / Link: Faces of Evil (CD-i) 1993
Wand of Gamelon and Faces of Evil weren’t that bad. The controls were weird; grinding for rupees was a pain, and you would get stuck in dungeons because you ran out of consumables. But I’d be lying if I said that the cutscenes in these games don’t put a big dumb smile on my face, not to mention the voice acting. It’s a case of “it’s so bad, it’s good.”
#17. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (NDS) 2007
Because the Nintendo DS had a touch screen with a stylus, Nintendo had to ensure they implemented it to the max, and boy did they implement it all right. In Phantom Hourglass, you can basically play the entire game with just the stylus, meaning with just one hand.
I honestly believe that all Zelda games should have progressive difficulty, accessible at first but get harder as you progress further into the game, and this just isn’t the case with Phantom Hourglass. With that said, if you have a Nintendo DS, I recommend you check it out, especially if you are a fan of Wind Waker.
#16. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (NDS) 2009
Sure, you can still technically play the whole game only with the stylus, but Spirit Tracks was much more engaging. Not to mention, you had to blow into the Nintendo DS a lot, which was always embarrassing, especially if you were playing this on public transport.
All that aside, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is still a great game. It’s also the only Zelda game where you get your own train.
#15. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords (GBA) 2002 / Four Swords Adventures (GameCube) 2004
As cool as it was to play a Zelda game with your friends, setting this thing up wasn’t very fun. Depending on which version you wanted to play with friends, you needed several GameBoy Advances and a Gamecube along with link cables.
Well, once all this was set up, the games were fine. Four Swords was more of an experimental game but still had a lot of fun, while Four Swords Adventures was a full-on game that’s very enjoyable even today (you can even play it solo). In short, they were great games, but it was a nightmare setting them up.
#14. The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (3DS) 2015
While we are on the subject of playing Zelda games with friends, Tri Force Heroes did it better. The game used a class system where you would switch weapons, abilities, and costumes so each player would have a dedicated role.
The only thing that was not fun was the single-player. It’s worth playing Tri Force Heroes as long as you play it with friends. Oh, and you could also dress up Link as a Cheerleader, which is automatically a 10/10 in our book.
#13. The Legend of Zelda (NES) 1986
Yes, it’s the first game that started the series. Nowadays, if you fire up the original The Legend of Zelda, you’ll be hit with a heavy dose of nostalgia but also with very outdated gameplay.
However, even though the game may not be as fun to play as it used to be back in the day, I recommend all fans play it. Oh, and use a guide, at least for the dungeon locations.
#12. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons / Oracle of Ages (GBC) 2001
Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages may have looked similar, but thanks to their gameplay style, they couldn’t be more different. In Oracle of Seasons, Link would change seasons to solve puzzles, and in Oracle of Ages, he would travel back and forth in time.
If you want to play a Zelda game like the original but with a more modern gameplay element, either one of these games will do.
#11. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS) 2013
A Link Between Worlds played like a traditional top-down Zelda game, but the real 3D assets made the game pop on the small handheld device. Not to mention, the game lets you rent out items before actually getting them from dungeons, making the traditional Zelda gameplay more dynamic.
This was a fantastic game, especially if you own a 3DS. Hopefully, we’ll get a port sometime in the future.
#10. The Legend of Zelda: The Minnish Cap (GBA) 2004
The Minnish Cap is a fantastic top-down game that takes full advantage of the GBA. Nintendo went all-in with the shoulder buttons (new to the GameBoy Advance) and added things like a dodge mechanic and other neat features.
Unfortunately, many fans skipped out on this one because it came out late on the GBA. If you enjoy classic top-down Zelda games, this is one of the better ones out there, in my opinion.
#9. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) 1991
Sometimes, you just can’t beat the classics. Considered by many to be one of the best games ever made, A Link to the Past wasn’t just a video game when it first came out; it was an adventure.
A Link to the Past was one of the first games that hid devious secrets that only a child could figure out. Yes, I want to try putting a bee in a bottle. A Link to the Past paved the way for future Zelda games, and the series never looked back.
#8. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (GB/Switch) 1993/2019
Link’s Awakening is the perfect Zelda game for beginners. You’re not some ancient hero, you’re just a boy that washed up on an island. But when you grab that sword, and you hear that music play, you know you’re in for an adventure.
Whether you are playing the original GameBoy games, the updated DX version, or the brand-spanking new version for the Nintendo Switch, this is the best top-down Zelda game ever made.
#7. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GameCube / Wii) 2006
Nintendo made yet another dark-looking Zelda game that, in my opinion, tried way too hard to be mysterious. Even so, Twilight Princess is an excellent experience.
The world was pretty big, filled with lots of secrets and items. Some of the dungeons were memorable, but best of all, Link could turn into a mighty Wolf. Midna was also a nice departure from the often-annoying fairy companion.
#6. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (WiiU / Switch) 2017
Breath of the Wild gave players the ultimate freedom to go wherever they wanted, however they wanted. There were secrets everywhere, too many to count. The game didn’t even expect you to find them all. No markers were on the map, leaving the exploration aspect up to the player.
Varied weather, climbing, shrines, radars, and so much more only added to an already rich experience. Breath of the Wild isn’t just a good Zelda game, it’s what all open-world titles should strive to be.
#5. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64 / 3DS) 1998 / 2011
Ocarina of Time taught me how charming video games can be. The first 3D Zelda game may have been clunky, and maybe the graphics haven’t aged all that well, but it’s still an epic adventure from start to finish. Whether you are playing the original, the virtual console, or the excellent 3DS port, this is one of the most beloved and charming games ever made.
#4. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (Switch) 2023
Tears of the Kingdom took what made Breath of the Wild so great and just added more stuff. Nintendo added sky islands and a whole underground section, AI companions, and some pretty neat new mechanics.
The Ultrahand and the Fuse mechanics, in particular, allowed players to create incredible inventions and vehicles that changed how they played the game. Tears of the Kingdom is a better version of Breath of the Wild.
#3. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii / Switch) 2011/2021
Motion Controls aside, Skyward Sword was such a fun experience that even writing about it makes me want to play it again. I love the origin story of Link and Zelda and their relationship, I love soaring the skies on a Skyloft. I love the dungeons and how vibrant the colors are. I just really love this game.
Nintendo later re-released this game in 2021 (The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD) and removed the motion controls, making it more accessible to more people.
#2. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (N64 / 3DS) 2000 / 2015
Majora’s Mask wasn’t just a sequel to Oracle of Seasons, it was a very dark take on the series.
The ability to restart days turned this into a truly unique experience. You had to wait for certain events to trigger, and if you failed, you had to go back in time and do them again. Don’t forget, if you don’t do all of these, the moon will drop and kill everyone.
While I don’t think this is the best Zelda game for players who are new to the series, it’s a must-play for Zelda fans, especially those who want something new.
#1. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
There’s just something so magical about jumping onto a boat and sailing into the distance while a heroic tune plays in the background. You aren’t a hero who’s trying to stop evil. You are a young boy trying to piece together what’s left of a broken world, and you do it all with a goofy smile.
Finding dungeons, looking for treasure, fighting pirate ships, and charting the entire world are just some things that made Wind Waker so memorable. Whichever version you can get your hands on (GameCube or WiiU)I highly encourage you to play The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker.