10. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Somewhat narrowly beating out the Oracle games (also developed by Capcom), comes the Honey, I Shrunk the Link
entry of the Zelda series, The Minish Cap. The basic twist of the game was Link could put on a hat that turned him into an ant-sized hero as he went around searching for medallion halves and doing somersaults as he rolled around Hyrule.
The game is notable for being the first entirely new Zelda game produced for the Game Boy Advance, and one of the few Zelda games to be developed by someone other than Nintendo. Other than that, The Minish Cap is mostly just a colorful and well-made entry in the Zelda series with some solid puzzle-solving, although a Rick Moranis cameo would have been totally welcome.
9. The Legend of Zelda: The Four Swords
The idea of a multiplayer Zelda title was once simply a fool's dream the Zelda series was meant to be played alone, with your only companions being a bunch of junk food and an NPC fairy that wouldn't shut up. Then Four Swords came around allowing four GBA's to connect and play out an adventure with four multi-colored Links battling through randomly-designed dungeons.
The result is one of the most unique games in Zelda history (a series not particularly well-known for really unique entries) since you HAD to have at least one other player to play the game. Granted, this version also came with A Link to the Past, so that helps sweeten the deal, but the Four Swords portion is probably the most interesting, if only because it gave GBA owners a reason to have a link cable other than Pokemon battles.
8. The Legend of Zelda
The original, the first, the Legend of Zelda that started it all (well, unless you're real into the Zelda Timeline, in which case this game is actually one of the last in the series). While not as deep or complex as later games, the groundwork is all beautifully laid out here. And it can't be underplayed how unbelievably huge this game was at the time it was one of the first games to have actual save files on the cartridge. Imagine having to start this game over EVERY TIME you played it. On top of that, the gold cartridge was a pretty neat feature.
All that being said, one thing that is very notable about this game was how hard it was (both figuratively AND literally, since it could take a lot of whacks against a table while you blew into it and prayed to god to make it work). The game doesn't hold your hand at all some creepy old man who lives in a cave gives you a sword and you're on your own. No directions of how to navigate the maze-like environment, no helpful hints about how to use your items, and and no explanation about how the hell you're supposed to know which part of a wall to blow up.
Then again, no companions were screaming in your ear all the time either, so maybe it evens out.
7. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
One of the biggest, boldest things Nintendo has done in recent history is announce a sequel to one of their most beloved, most imperative games of all time; not just of the Legend of Zelda series. Although today it may not seem like rocket science for a company to pump out a sequel to a popular game, the original Link to the Past
came out over 20 years ago.
As you subconsciously retrace those steps from your childhood, however, you begin to notice lots of minor changes, something which ensures a nice balance between nostalgia and surprise. This sequel not only took advantage of the original's dual-world gameplay mechanic, but also added its own distinct innovations unique to this game, making it not only a worthy sequel, but also a worthy Zelda game by its own right.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
One of the most recent Zelda games met with a lot of criticism over Fi (who somehow surpassed Navi in the eyes of many as the most annoying companion) and the motion controls (that achieved 1:1 with the Wiimote), amongst others as well as a lot of acclaim. It's not too surprising, considering this game came out in celebration of the Zelda series' 25th anniversary after 25 years of some of the most consistently incredible and genre-defining adventure games, things start to feel a little dull, so you have to complain a little (although, really, the tutorial portion of the game makes you long for the days when a crazy old man would just hand some kid he never met a sword and shoos you out into a nightmare labyrinth crawling with monsters). 25 years is a long
time for Nintendo to be pumping out games of this quality on a regular basis, which is an impressive feat in and of itself.
Still, there was a 100% chance that Fi was annoying as hell.
5. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
A lot of people on the internet were angry when Wind Waker came out. I mean, "just watched an episode of the Zelda cartoon series"-levels of pissed, as many felt that Wind Waker was "too cartoony" for their tastes. They thought that Ocarina of Time was an indicator that as console graphics got more and more powerful the Zelda games would get more realistic and dark. So, in attempting to go in the complete opposite direction of Wind Waker, Nintendo answered with Twilight Princess.
Twilight Princess is (despite having most tween-sounding title of any Zelda game) probably the darkest Zelda game, in both the literal and figurative sense there's a lot of actual darkness in the game (as in "the absence of light"). Despite the commitment to realistic graphics and a darker storyline, the game was still recognizably Zelda through and through, with plenty of par-for-the-course weirdness like Link turning into a wolf and a strange being named Midna riding him and acting as a more personable Navi replacement.
It's also notable for being released for both the Gamecube and the Wii at the same time, since the Wii was in desperate need of decent launch titles at the time. Unfortunately, the game was developed with Link holding the sword in his left hand (since he's, ya know, always
left-handed), which presented a problem for the Wii, since the vast majority of players would use their right hands with the Wiimote motion controls. Nintendo's decision of how to deal with this was to literally flip the entire
game, as if you were playing it in a mirror. For a game series so devoted to puzzle-solving, it's hard not to be impressed by such a stupidly brilliant solution.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
Remember Wind Waker? I was just talking about it! Well, even though the internet was awful upset when it came out, time has been kind to the game the cel-shaded, cartoony graphics have aged well, the story is one of the more interesting ones, and there's so much to love about the game that it's getting the HD remake treatment for the WiiU. Pretty much every aspect of it works perfectly and excels at pushing the Zelda series in an interesting new direction. Except sailing (speaking of directions
). You'd think Link would have learned his lesson about the dangers of sailing back when he got stranded on magic-fish-dream island.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Who would have guessed mixing Bill Murray films with Zelda would have birthed such an incredible game? (Answer: me, even though Nintendo refuses to reply to my letters suggesting a Zelda game based on Ghostbusters) Since they were re-using the engine built for Ocarina of Time, Nintendo was free to spend their time developing a weird and particularly unique (among Zelda games, at least) story, where Link somehow stuck in a parallel dimension has to battle a sentient mask before an evil-faced moon crushes a city that has somehow not been evacuated yet.
The intricate, complex schedules that the townsfolk follow, the effects of the various masks you can collect, and the three-day time limit made for a very
different Zelda game, pretty much unlike any that had come before or since. It still had all the big staples: dungeons, annoying fairies, cool weapons (HELLO, FAIRY SWORD), and an awful, awful water temple; but it also had a lot of new, game-changing additions that would stick with the series for the rest of its lifespan.
2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
To many, this is it. This is the quintessential Zelda game, the ultimate, perfect work of the 16-bit era, and a great chicken-stabbing simulator. But one of the main takeaways most should have about A Link to the Past (besides it having the punniest title of all Zelda games), is that this is the game that set the standard and the framework that pretty much every Zelda game afterwards would follow.
Before A Link to the Past, there were two Zelda games: the original and Zelda II: Link's Adventure. The original is incredibly bare-bones, and Link's Adventure is such a weird entry that it's almost been discarded from Zelda canon. But A Link to the Past changed things. For one, it added a lot of atmosphere that previous Zelda games really didn't have the story opens on a stormy night in Hyrule, when a psychic plea for help rings out. Link's uncle rushes to the rescue, when Link wakes up and decides to follow along (speaking of, Link's uncle only has ONE bed in his house. Where does he sleep at night? Maybe these are questions not meant to be answered). He finds his uncle, dying, in the dungeons of Hyrule Castle, is handed a sword and shield, and then is sent on a quest to save the princess and rid the world of evil (and spend a little time as transformed bunny).
With all of this in mind, it's hard to disagree with the argument that A Link to the Past is the best 2D Zelda game of all-time. But the best Zelda game period? There seems to be another Zelda game that surpasses it. Go on any forum, ask anyone remotely video-game savvy, and they'll tell you that this is the quintessential Zelda game of all time. And that game is
1. Link's Crossbow Training