Editorial: Top 10 Legend of Zelda games

Jeff Williams/@16bitjeff

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While growing up as a gamer in the 1990’s, I was a fan of both Nintendo and Sega. Though I was a fan of Sega in both Hardware and Software, I will never deny how impressive of a strong software line Nintendo has had as a company.
That being said there were two big franchises from the company that made me look forward to their consoles. This week I’m going to talk about my top 10 favorite games from The Legend of Zelda. This list will consist of the main titles in the series only.

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10.) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011, Nintendo Wii)

This title was really perplexing to me. There were a lot of positives and negatives with this game. The positives with Skyward was the story, the character development, an emotive Link, the soundtrack (ESPECIALLY the soundtrack) and the tone and art style.

The Negatives…

The linear approach to the worlds with both “Hyrule” and Skyloft (in Skyloft’s defense it made sense), as well the dungeons. Design wise, I would love to put the dungeons as a positive because the problem isn’t the backtracking for me at least. It was the linear nature that Nintendo had in mind to pleasing the bigger demographic of the Wii system, the casual owners rather then their fans.

The handholding nature of the entire game. I don’t hate the character of Fi but I despised that she was used as an avatar for this implementation. The reason why Skyward Sword is so levels of Bad is how in some degree that this ideal of dumbing down was also utilized with Navi and Ocarina however as much I’m not a fan of that game, I can let it slide due to Ocarina being the first 3d Zelda title.

While I enjoyed the Wii remote as a idea and (used properly) as a product, how it was used in Skyward Sword was horrible. While the movement felt smooth and the idea of 1:1 swordplay was awesome, oh god was it a trainwreck. Nintendo did try, however they failed with this title regarding control because with how majority of gamers felt about the Wii being nothing but a gimmick based fad, Skyward Sword’s controls could be used as evidence to back that up.

While Nintendo did have some good ideas with this game and the final outcome was alright, for me this is the reason why it’s at the number 10 spot.

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09.) The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (2005, Game Boy Advance)

Capcom’s (now defunct) Flagship studio was tasked on making another Zelda entry due to the success of both Oracle of Ages/Seasons. I personally feel that they made a game that was a improvement to already two good games. With this (at the time) being the first story in the timeline, We found out about the precursor weapon to the Master Sword, the Picori Blade. we see that “for the first time” that these incarnations of Zelda and Link have been friends since childhood. However, I enjoyed the little nod with this game in regards to how Link got his iconic look. The soundtrack while not my favorite in the series is a good score in it’s own right and deserves a separate listen. I love the ascetic look that this game used regarding the characters & world by doing with the same art style (cel-shading) that was utilized in The Wind Waker.

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08.) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991, Super Nintendo Entertainment System)

Another entry that I feel like that Zelda fans are going to chew me out on but this is my list. That being said while I still think of this title fondly and it’s still one of my personal favorites, the reason why this particular 2d Zelda title is low is because thanks to a recent release in the series, that particular title was a better adventure that it’s knocked this title down a few to this position.
This game, from it’s art/sprite animation to it’s phenomenal soundtrack to it’s while generic story of boy saving the world/princess from [insert villain of the week here], it does keep the player engaged in the adventure. This title has gave me so much found memories growing up that will be with me.

 

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07.) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006, Nintendo GameCube/Nintendo Wii)

Twilight Princess is a divided title in the franchise when it comes to the fans of this series. Some dislike it due to basically feeling like nothing more then a glorified Ocarina of Time remake, others dislike the western fantasy approach and feel that the artstyle doesn’t fit with the series. Others didn’t like the mature “dark” take that the story was going for either. While I can see where these are a negative to most fans, these are some of the reasons why I loved the game.

Does it feel like a overblown/glorified Ocarina remake, of course it does because that’s the same template that Nintendo has been using since the 1998 title was released, in other words, supply and demand. Does the western influence of art from the likes of Tolken fit the Zelda series, yes and it was implemented very well. Is a mature approach to the story a huge detriment, no and I’ll may get more into it later in the list. Are there problems with this game, of course. The bug collecting side-quest, the wolf form feeling like a overdone gimmick, the pacing of the game.
Yes, there are problems with this game and it’s shows that this title wasn’t fully planned out like most titles in the series. However, with all it’s faults. No only this was a great addition to the series but personally I feel that this game is better then Ocarina of Time.

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06.) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2002, Nintendo GameCube)

With how Twilight Princess was the swan song for the purple cube, this was one of the many first party titles that kicked off the 7th generation for Nintendo. Wind Waker, like the aforementioned Twilight Princess was another divided title in the Zelda fanbase. However unlike Twilight Princess the negatives were the opposite.

“It’s to bright and cheerful”

It’s too colorful”

“It looks like a generic Saturday Day morning cartoon poorly made in Adobe Flash”

Like with the problems in Twilight Princess, this is also the reason why I enjoyed this title. I like the colorful and cheerful tone because it meshes well with the dark themes in this title (i’ll get into more in a bit). I love the colorful aesthetic because it pops out and it’s a nice artist choice. With the last one, I especially enjoyed the cel-shaded approach they went with this title mainly because it made it feel different.

Now my main problem still to this day with the fanboys saying that this a dark game. What happen to Hyrule post-Ocarina? What happened at the end with the King of Hyrule? What was Ganondorf (the same Ganon from Ocarina) motivations during the game? Think about that the next time you judge this game.

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05.) The Legend of Zelda (1986, Nintendo Entertainment System)

The original title that made the series what it is. From the iconic score and recognizable over world theme by Koji Kondo to the labyrinth designed dungeons and the fun boss battles. The large world of Hyrule, for a home console game in the mid 80’s along was an impressive feat accomplished by then up-and-comer Nintendo.

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04. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (1992, Nintendo Game Boy)

Where Ocarina of Time is the series most overrated title, 1992’s Link’s Awakening is the opposite. This is the title I personally feel that should get more love from the fans for what it did as a game. From the gameplay mechanics of a traditional Zelda game but then switching to a sidescrolling platformer in the underground areas. To the laid back yet atmospheric soundtrack done by Koji Kondo. However, I feel that the reason this game doesn’t get the recognition it deserves is due to SPOILERS TO A 23 YEAR OLD GAME: having a similar twist that Super Mario Bros. 2 had, in which it was all a dream.

Here’s the thing (like SMB2), I really enjoyed that twist because unlike SMB2 this twist had weight to it. Finding out from the Windfish that with the Darkness finally gone from the island, with Link starting to regain consciousness, this island along with it’s inhabitants will fade away with it. That the reason why I love this game, that It’s one of the many Zelda titles that share a mature theme, whether as a whole or as a point. The ending was a bittersweet one, it was sad to see what was accomplished was all a dream and the people you save were wiped away including the island, however it’s was a great ending because of the adventure and story that was given to the player. Interesting thing to find out regarding Link’s Awakening, that one of it’s inspirations was the horror/drama TV series Twin Peaks created by David Lynch. Maybe that’s another reason why I really enjoyed this title.

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03.) The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (2013, Nintendo 3DS)

Remember when earlier in the list that there was a Zelda game that overthrow A Link to the Past from this spot? Yea, it was this game. Granted yes, it’s a sequel but I feel that this was not only a better game to Link to the Past but a Zelda title that was better experimented on unlike Skyward Sword.

What I like about the game, well….

I liked the traveling between both “worlds”. I enjoyed for how it was implemented in Past but I though it was better characterized by this title do it it actually feeling like a mirror opposite to that of Hyrule.

I loved the open world approach to the title. Not only harked back to the original title but I could for the first time strategizing and choosing which dungeon I wanted to tackle first was something that I’ve been wanting to see in a Zelda title for a long time.

I loved the artstyle of this game. From the landscape of both Hyrule and Lorule to the Characters, it had a very nice mixture of the art style from A Link to the Past but some influence of Skyward Sword mixed into it.

As always the soundtrack was amazing. Granted some of the tracks were rearrangements of classic melodies from Link to the Past but their was new music mixed as well.

If this was a home console title I would say that a negative would be the time of the game itself, however since it’s a 3DS game I felt it was a balanced game regarding 100% completing or just enjoying the adventure.

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02. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1987, Nintendo Entertainment System)

As we near the 30th anniversary of Zelda 2’s US launch, 2 years from now. I wonder why gamers of my age range that were lucky enough to start with the original as their first in this series, like to call this the black sheep of the franchise. To an extend (which I’ll get into), I do get it however I think it’s highly unfair for this title to be portrayed in that light by the fanbase.

Yes, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was the first Legend of Zelda title I’ve played. I know this is going to be a controversial opinion but even though this was my first Zelda title, I enjoyed this more then I did with the first game. Why? Unlike most Zelda fans that hate majority of the games, I enjoyed this title because it was different. I enjoyed the sidescrolling/overhead nature of the game , I loved the Soundtrack, i loved that it was a Action/RPG (the only Zelda title that was rightfully categorized that way) and I absolutely loved that not only this title but Castlevania II were the backbone of creating the Western Role Playing Genre (WRPG).

Is this game unbalanced regarding enemies and Bosses? YES!

Is Death Mountain a pain in the @$$? HELL YES!

What I’m getting at is this. Yes this game is buggy, yes this game can be unfair with unbalancing issues. However is it really fair to call this a bad game. In most cases, yes. In other cases people would call it a rushed product. However, thanks to certain “angry retro reviewers” on their own PERSONAL experiences, their respective fanbases think that their word is right and therefor Zelda II is bad because [insert Mooby joke here] said so and instead not doing the mature thing and trying it out for themselves.
Before we get to number 1:

Honorable Mention:

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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998, Nintendo 64)

OH, I can hear those diehard Nintendo fanboys bitching now. “Jeff, why did you put this. Not only the best Zelda Game Ever but the Best Game Ever made in honorable mention and not officially in the list?” Here’s the thing, I’ve been a fan of Nintendo and this series since 1991, 1992 and while it may seem this is the best (while I highly disagree, the rabid fanboys have the right to think that), I feel this particular title has unfairly gotten that position. It doesn’t make it horrible nor an unpleasant experience, I just don’t see it as the transition that other titles like Super Mario 64 for example made. Super Mario 64 may have made the jump to 3d platforming successfully but I felt that it was implemented better by Rare’s 1998 collectathon platformer Banjo-Kazooie. That how’s I personally feel with this particular title, It may have been the title to usher in 3d action/adventure games during the late 90s/early 2000s however I felt it was better implemented by not only other titles but other Zelda titles (yes, I think the other 3d zelda titles especially Twilight Princess is better then Ocarina)

So what about the game, to me the game feels like a retconed A Link to the Past. While it’s true that this Link, the hero of time doesn’t traverse different versions of his homeland/world, he however does traverse timeperiods back and forth to complete different quests, acquiring items, etc. While it may feel to me not fully deserving the full praise that the game still gets 17 years after it’s initial release, that doesn’t mean I hate the game. I enjoyed the experience of seeing a Zelda title in full 3d back then and I do think it’s an alright game, I’m just not in the same group that thinks it deserves the full praise that it’s still gets to this day.

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01.) The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000, Nintendo 64)
Another controversial choice in the eyes of Zelda fans do to it being a “Generic” choice. I don’t care because I still think this is the best 3D Zelda title I’ve played so far.
While both Twilight Princess and Wind Waker have balancing issues in some regards to tone, This (to me) is the most mature Zelda title I have played still due to how they properly handle the themes of loss, hopelessness, acceptance but at the same time showing a tiny sliver of hope.

Regarding the 3d Zelda games, this soundtrack is still my personal favorite by Koji Kondo. One particular melody titled” Song of Healing” recently helped me with a personal loss. Like how the song is about acceptance but also healing someone, with the recent passing of my father 2 months ago this song helped me emotionally. I understand that he was gone but while listen to this song, it helped me on getting through the loss because it made me think that with the rough life that he had while he was alive, he was in a better place.

While it was using the same gameplay structure that Ocarina of Time used, it had unique features to make this an interesting journey. For one, the 3 day cycle (or as I like to call it the Groundhog McGuffin) in which was tedious at first was fun to beating the respective dungeons and to complete majority of the various sidequests in Majora’s the fastest .
While it didn’t have Ganon as the main antagonist, it have antagonists in Majora and the Moon. The reason for the 3 day cycle was that at Midnight on the final day. That was the day in which the Moon would collide with the land of Termina and destroy everything and everyone. I really enjoyed this take on villain because unlike Ganon in some instances, these two felt more of an actual threat not only to Link but to the civilians of Termina.
I can understand people thinking that it was a time waster, that it was long winded. However, I would just simply say to just give it another chance. Who knows, maybe the 2nd time around would be a better experience overall.

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That was my top 10 Legend of Zelda games. Do you Agree? Disagree? Please let me know in the comments below and please keep it civil. Next week will be another Top 10 list on another favorite Nintendo IP of mine. However with how many titles that are available from this series, it will be a “Top 9”, so keep a look out for that.