Zelda: Link’s Awakening vs Zelda: Skyward Sword – Which is the Better Switch Port?

Link's Awakening (2019) and Skyward Sword HD

Zelda: Link’s Awakening vs Zelda: Skyward Sword – Which is the Better Switch Port?

The Switch is one of the Nintendo’s most successful pieces of hardware, but it also happens to have the largest library of Zelda games available on a single platform. As one of Nintendo’s flagship franchises, the arrival of classic Zelda games on the system was a foregone conclusion, but what was less certain was the announcement and release of a remake of one of the series’ best games with 2019’s The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. The original Game Boy release of Link’s Awakening remains a fan-favorite game in the series, and the remake goes to great lengths to recapture its brilliance while updating the visuals with a charming new art style.

Not content to rest on simply having Link’s Awakening and Breath of the Wild on the Switch as full retail releases, Nintendo also remastered and ported one of the more overlooked games in the series to the console as part of The Legend of Zelda‘s 35th anniversary. Arriving in the summer of 2021 to positive reviews, and a more welcome reception from fans who skipped it on its original release due to its use of motion controls, is the remaster The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD. Like other series remasters, Skyward Sword HD improves the resolution and quality of the visuals while providing subtle quality of life advancements to the gameplay, including a brand-new analog stick control scheme to replace the original’s motion controls. Now, the only question that remains is which is the better Switch port?

Link's Awakening (2019) and Skyward Sword HD

To date, the Switch has had 4 full retail releases in The Legend of Zelda series, with two of them being brand-new mainline entries and the other two being remakes or remasters of classic games in the series. The Zelda name is synonymous with quality, but not all Zelda games are created equal, as evidenced by the disparity in sales figures across each entry in the franchise. Link’s Awakening and Skyward Sword are both incredible games that received positive reviews and high sales upon their original release, but looking at how the remake and remaster of each, respectively, has fared in the modern era paints an interesting picture.

CharacteristicLink’s AwakeningSkyward Sword HD
Original Release Year19932011
Original Release PlatformGame BoyNintendo Wii
Modern Release DateSeptember 20, 2019July 16, 2021
Original Metacritic ScoreN/A93
Modern Metacritic Score8781
Remake or RemasterRemakeRemaster
Original Sales Numbers3.83 million3.67 million
Modern Sales Numbers6.46 million4.15 million
Updated Visuals
New Gameplay Features
Improved Controls

Here are 5 must-know facts about Link’s Awakening (2019) vs Skyward Sword HD:

  • Skyward Sword HD is an HD remaster of the 2011 Wii Zelda title Skyward Sword, but Link’s Awakening is a full, ground-up remake of the Game Boy classic. Both games make noticeable improvements to the visuals and controls, but neither game features additional dungeons or other substantial additions over the originals beyond quality-of-life improvements.
  • Link’s Awakening might feature a very charming 2D/3D art style, but the title is still most certainly a 2D Zelda game. Conversely, Skyward Sword is the last of the 3D Zelda games to use the format established by Ocarina of Time before the series’ massive shift in Breath of the Wild.
  • While most Zelda fans almost universally love both the original Link’s Awakening and its remake, Skyward Sword holds a bit of mixed reception despite sterling critical reviews. Interestingly, user reception has shifted from the remaster to be more positive while critic reviews fall short of their original heights.
  • The Switch hardware allows for substantial improvements to both games’ original control schemes, with Link’s Awakening having the benefit of additional face and shoulder buttons to allow for permanent item equipping and Skyward Sword HD featuring improved motion controls and a new analog stick control scheme for sword combat.
  • The sales figures of both games strongly indicate that fans were much more receptive to the remake of Link’s Awakening, cementing its status of being a fan-favorite game in the series despite the advancements of the 3D games.

Link’s Awakening‘s Switch remake comes as a completely unexpectd yet welcome surprise for longtime fans, especially since the game’s arrival came well before the addition of Game Boy and Game Boy Advance titles to the Switch Online service. Skyward Sword was similarly trapped on its older hardware, but the improvements made in its Switch remaster are more subtle and not nearly as dramatic as the ground-up remake of Link’s Awakening. Still, the ability to play Skyward Sword with crisp HD presentation and more traditional controls makes it the definitive version of the sereis’ last “classic” Zelda game.

One of the greatest criticisms that fans hold for Skyward Sword is its reliance on a formula that, by 2011, had begun to grow too predictable and somewhat stale. Conversely, Link’s Awakening is a reminder of the greatness of the 2D Zelda games, albeit with a fresh coat of paint that gives the game an unmistakeable look and retains the charm of the original. With the Switch having both Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom available on the system as two of the best 3D games in the series, Link’s Awakening fills a very particular niche that Skyward Sword can’t, and it feels somewhat old hat compared to the new open-world games in the series.

Skyward Sword is an excellent Zelda game that got somewhat of an unfair shake from fans upon its original release. Many gamers were not fond of the series’ growing reliance on gimmicks like motion controls and inability to move away from the gameplay formula of Ocarina of Time, but this didn’t stop critics from giving the game some of the highest scores the series had received in years. Somewhat surprising, then, that the opposite rings true for the Skyward Sword HD remaster. Now, fans seem to collectively appreciate the changes made in the remaster, improving their perception and response to the title, while critic scores fall well below their original marks.

The power and additional buttons of the Switch make the possibility of more remakes a welcome idea for Zelda fans, especially considering how skillfully these features are implemented in both the Link’s Awakening remake and the Skyward Sword HD remaster. In the case of Link’s Awakening, which previously was limited to two face buttons and the d-pad, the remake allows for the game to play much more similar to its direct inspiration — A Link to the Past. The result is that the Switch has both some of the best 3D games in the series exclusive to the system and one of its best 2D games only available on the platform as well.

Bottom Line

There’s little doubt that the Switch version of Skyward Sword is absolutely the definitive way to play the last of the “classic” 3D games in the series, but the remake of Link’s Awakening is far and away the better of the two Zelda ports to come to the platform. Not only is the source material one of the best games in the series, the remake does an incredible job of walking the line between nostalgia and innovation, keeping the absolute best parts of the original while adding in all of the features that help usher the experience into the modern age. If you’re going to get just one Zelda game for the Switch other than BotW or TotK, Link’s Awakening is hard to argue against.

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