-by Dylan DiBona
Other than Breath of the Wild, I’ve tried to stay away from talking about the Zelda series in my articles. I could easily over-saturate my blog with countless Zelda pieces, but I wanted to use restraint so when I actually did talk about these magnificent games, it meant something. And with this blog being a result of a vote by you amazing readers in celebration of hitting one hundred followers, this article may be the most meaningful I’ve written. The Legend of Zelda is my favorite series in all of entertainment, but which games take the absolute top?
I don’t take this task lightly, and I certainly didn’t jump to any decisions too soon. In my eyes, here is the pinnacle of video gaming:
5. Ocarina of Time
It’s already a controversial list if Ocarina of Time isn’t number two or one. To be frank, I was never as smitten with this entry as most people are. I understand its historical context and importance, but we’re getting to the point where we have so many good Zelda games, that I just feel that Ocarina’s greatness has certainly been topped.
One thing I will always credit this game for is its universal appeal. It’s like a movie you know anybody can enjoy. The controls are simple, fun and when mixed with certain item combinations, addicting. The story, puzzles and dungeons are timeless. It really says something when a twenty-one year old game stands so strong to this day, Ocarina of Time is the quintessential great video game.
4. A Link Between Worlds
Another Zelda game I was never big on was A Link to the Past, one that often rivals Ocarina for the title of best ever. I like it, but I always felt enemies did a tad bit too much damage, and the game never bothers to direct you on where to go.
“Oh the third dungeon is over here? But I can’t get to it! Guess I have to explore Hyrule for hours to get a certain item just so I can get actually enter the dungeon. No thanks.
When I heard that A Link to the Past was getting a remake/sequel, I was skeptical. Luckily the gaming world was blessed with A Link Between Worlds, an endlessly clever and cute 2D Zelda game.
I always liken this game to an arcade version of the 3D console Zeldas. If you like Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess and don’t mind the camera perspective changing, then this game is for you. Not only can dungeons be done in almost any order, Link has an ability to merge into walls, and items are rented or bought at shops instead of found in dungeons. It really feels like the classic SNES game but covered in a modern coat of paint. Most fans try to separate the 3D Zelda titles from the 2D, and more often than not the latter is looked upon as the lesser group, but A Link Between Worlds matches 3D console quality. Never have I thought a Zelda game to absolutely dominate the series in dungeons, seriously ever dungeon here is the best throughout the 2D games.
I’ll never forget staying up until midnight on a Thursday night just so I could download this game from the eshop and play thirty minutes of it before school, then thinking about it all throughout Friday and playing it all weekend. This is a stellar Zelda game (it puts up competition for my #3 spot), and quite possibly the pinnacle of 3DS gaming.
3. Breath of the Wild
As you may have been able to tell from the last paragraph, this is where the list gets a little bit emotional, but don’t worry, my opinions aren’t skewed (I have some nostalgic Zelda games not even on this list).
I don’t believe there’s a word in the English dictionary that describes the level of genuine excitement and anticipation I had for Breath of the Wild. The game was an enigma until a few months before it’s release, and everybody online was talking about its greatness. I ordered it on Amazon but they screwed up my release day delivery. So I did what any fan would do, I biked a mile in forty degree weather just so I could get the game on day one. Video games that I’m excited for come out often, but Zelda games, oh boy, Zelda games don’t come out too often. It was like a holiday mixed with a birthday and combined with a solar eclipse, and what did I get when I popped that seminal game into my Wii U?
I received wonder. In the beginning when you hear the mysterious girl say “Link. Wake up Link” and you get that iconic moment of the hero overlooking the entire world, pure goosebumps. This game really flirted with the idea of tradition while throwing tons of it down the tube. The Zelda series has been held to this high standard of tradition for years and until now it was really hard to define what that tradition was. Was it the fantasy setting? The green clothes? Link? Ganondorf? Hyrule? We’ve gotten games without those before and they’ve worked, but if you handed somebody Breath of the Wild and they had no clue what it was, they probably wouldn’t know it’s a Zelda game. It took me all one hundred and twenty shrines, and seventy-two hours to finally realize that I was indeed playing a Zelda game. It’s not totally perfect, I wish there was a tad bit more music but overall Breath of the Wild may just be the most free game of all time.
When we think of freedom within games our minds may jump to sandbox titles like Grand Theft Auto V, in which you can kill citizens and drive forever. Let’s face it though, after the initial ten hour mark, unless you’re doing the story or playing online, GTA becomes a repetitive scenario- kill some people, get five stars, drive around. Isn’t mindless repetition the absolute antithesis of freedom? In The Legend of Zelda Breath: of the Wild, there is no repetition unless you manually hunt for it. Cooking and item management can become repetitive sure, but those are minor gameplay elements that take seconds, it’s not the entire essence of the game. Want to climb that mountain? Go for it. Want to fight that giant enemy? Do it. Want to soar in the sky for a while? Okay! It’s free, it’s open, and when I put on the Tunic of the Wild after seventy two hours I realized, it’s Zelda.
2. The Wind Waker
Okay now we’re getting into some good memories of mine. Time absolutely slowed to a halt while waiting for The Wind Waker HD, it’s the reason I bought a Wii U. When I finally played it I was overcome with emotion, it was like being a child again. The colors, the music, the spirit, it was all there times one hundred. I’ll never understand how hardcore Ocarina fans can hate this game, because this is the sequel to Ocarina– not Majora’s Mask. Picking up after Hyrule was flooded in order to stop Ganon, Link must travel a colossal ocean and prevent evil from rising again.
For a while, this was my favorite game ever made. I beat it a second time right after my first playthrough, I studied the sea and genuinely wanted to know everything about The Wind Waker. It really feels like the middle child between older Zelda titles which gave the player more freedom, and new Zelda titles that want to hold players hand (excluding Breath of the Wild). It may not have as much freedom as the newest game, and to be honest I don’t know if Wind Waker will stay above it for too long either, but there’s a charm to this game that hasn’t been repeated. It’s simply magic.
Link’s Awakening: A great little Game Boy game that was really the first entry in the series to break away from story traditions. No Princess Zelda, no Hyrule or Ganondorf, it’s all about Link and his journey. I wish I could put this game on this list for being a joy to play, and also being the first game in the series to really hook me in. It’s still worth playing to this day.
1. Majora’s Mask
With the last two games I spoke of scope and freedom. This game does the absolute opposite. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask has been my favorite game ever made for the past four years.
When somebody hands you a copy of this game, they’re not actually giving you a video game. They’re really giving you an ornate digital wind-up music box. The only problem with this music box is if the song reaches its last note, the world ends. It’s up to you to keep winding up that box and solve the puzzles within it to fix that last note.
I really do consider Majora’s Mask to be a digital wind-up toy with endless personality. Majora’s Mask and Breath of the Wild are tied for least “true” dungeons in a Zelda game, with both only having for. Unlike the newest entry, each dungeon in Majora is absolutely unique in terms of aesthetic and puzzles. A kid can pick with game up and love being the hero, saving the day. But an adult can pick this game up and read into all the emotional depth and complexities within the characters and game design. I keep finding more and more things I love about this game when I look back onto it. Much like with Wind Waker, I beat this game a second time right after my original playthrough because I knew there was so much I had yet to see.
By the time you get all of the transformation masks, you have four unique characters to play as. I like staying in human form a lot when it comes to combat, but some players may prefer being Zora Link for the majority of their time, while others may stay as Deku Link. The game stays dark and exciting throughout the twenty-hour playtime, it’s thankfully the smallest world in a 3D Zelda game, but it’s given enormous amounts of iconic characters, dialogue, moments and music. I struggle with defining perfection, but this game is so far the only one to have it down pact, I love it.
So there you guys have it, my five favorite Zelda games. Thank you so much for sticking with me for 100 followers. Here’s to many more articles and discussions. Do you agree or disagree with this list? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply!