We’ve recently learned that the newest Legend of Zelda for the Wii U (and possibly NX) is going to be a little more Western in style – at least that’s what has been implied. This has me a little worried, but I have faith that Nintendo will deliver something special. However, it did get me wondering what a more Western-style Zelda game might look like. With anything new there’s always some give-and-take. Sure, we’ll take a more open world, and I wouldn’t mind some minor RPG elements or bullet-time, but don’t mess with what makes Zelda so special, Nintendo. As we look ahead and wonder how Link may change in the future, let’s take a moment to reflect on the hero of time’s past adventures. Here are my top 7 Legend of Zelda games.
The Minish Cap
We’re kicking things off with the best Legend of Zelda game that Capcom ever produced. Yeah, you heard that right. Capcom actually teamed up with Nintendo to produce a few Zelda titles, including Oracle of Ages / Seasons, Four Swords, and this gem. The Minish Cap was like the grand finale for the Game Boy Advance. At the time it felt like it’d be the last 2D, top-down Zelda game we’d ever play, and man was it great. If you’re crying “Anathema!” and wondering how Capcom could possibly crank out a charming Zelda adventure, you need to check this game out. Capcom managed to make Link’s freaking cap one of the best supporting characters in any Zelda game, and the Gust Jar may just replace the hookshot as your favorite item. Give this one a shot.
The Wind Waker
The Wind Waker was a divisive game for so many Zelda fans. When it first came out it seemed like no one cared for the style. The new “Toon Link” and the game’s cel-shaded art style came off, apparently, as too childish and too cute. I remember one of my friends in particular complaining for a week about how much he hated the visuals as he played through it, and that same guy now considers it his favorite Zelda game. Personally, I love the visuals in Wind Waker, and it looks better than ever on Wii U. As far as gameplay goes, Wind Waker is almost the perfect Zelda game in terms of combat and dungeons; in fact, many of you are probably wondering why this isn’t higher on my list. Wind Waker comes in at number 6 because I hate the sailing, and in this game, that’s a big problem.
A Link Between Worlds
A Link Between Worlds is a worthy sequel to A Link to the Past, and if you’re a true Zelda fan that’s all you need to hear. If you love The Legend of Zelda and you own a 3DS, you need to buy this game right now. This is a brilliant, beautiful, and innovative take on the classic top-down Zelda formula that older fans in particular will find hugely appealing. Something happens very early in the game that I won’t reveal in case you’re sensitive to spoilers, and it introduces a brand new mechanic for movement, exploration, and puzzle-solving that never feels gimmicky and never gets old. You’re also able to rent all of your useful tools and weapons from the outset, which gets the game moving and really opens things up. The ability to access items early on also lets you focus on solving clever puzzles instead of obtaining one, key item, Don’t worry, though, there’s still plenty hidden away in big chests for you to find.
Besides Wind Waker , this just might be the most divisive game in The Legend of Zelda franchise. I’m not sure what it is about this game that people hate so much. I’m certainly willing to admit that the visuals can be a little bland at times, and yeah I guess sometimes it sounds like the game takes place within a metal box, but a darker palette and some random reverb aren’t enough to destroy what is otherwise the best modern Zelda game around (plus, it looks and sounds better in the new Twilight Princess HD release). I know, I know: Skyward Sword was pretty awesome, but I don’t think it has the longevity that Twilight Princess has, and Midna has definitely established herself as one of the best characters in the Zelda universe – one that we’d love to see again. In my opinion, and this is an audacious statement, I think Twilight Princess has the best combat in any Zelda game, and is some of the most fun I’ve had fighting in any adventure game, period. Once you learn all of the moves and counters from the shadow-person, you feel like a Hylian ninja. Twilight Princess also gave us the Spinner. Damn, I love zipping around on that thing.
This is easily the darkest Legend of Zelda game out there, and one that you’ll find in the number 1 spot on a lost of lists. Majora’s Mask was developed really quickly, and it uses the same engine (and shares many of the assets) as Ocarina of Time . Although the similarity between the two is easily apparent, you’re not likely to find a more unique Legend of Zelda experience, full as it is with an incredibly diverse cast (this is where we meet Tingle), some of the best side-quests in the whole series, and a compelling, consistent sense of dread. This game is seriously disturbing. Link reels and struggles as he puts on various masks, characters you thought you could trust turn out to be hostile and unpredictable, and a freaking huge, sinister-looking moon is always just a couple of days away from killing you and everyone you know and love. You’ll never imagine “the man in the moon” the same way again.
A Link to the Past
This was my very first Zelda game, and it set the bar so high for every game to follow. I tried going back to The Legend of Zelda on NES after the fact, but by that point I was already spoiled by A Link to the Past and its fairy tale charm. I missed Link’s little hat bobbing around as he ran. I missed the thriving towns full of quirky characters and chickens. I missed the color palette and the feeling that I was exploring the inside of a coloring book come to life. More than anything, though, I missed the music and the sounds. That menu / file-selection theme is one of the most heart-wrenching, nostalgia-inducing melodies.
Ocarina of Time
Did any of you expect anything different to occupy the number one spot? No words that can convey how mind-blowing this game was when it was first released. Even going back and playing it now, it’s hard to believe that this was the very first 3D Zelda game because the characters and the world they inhabit just feel so whole; so polished. The first time I ever played this game I was in a Target where they had a demo station set up. I spent about 30 minutes exploring inside The Great Deku Tree and was utterly captivated. The following Christmas was one of the best in my life. Incredible music, unforgettable characters, rewarding side-quests, interesting tunics and items, that epic boss battle with the two witches and the mirror shield… Everything about this game was incredible, and if you have a problem with it being my number one you can go suck a deku nut.