The Legend of Zelda is a legendary series that features some of Nintendo’s most famous characters. Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf are commonly recognized and have descended through time.
Link, the silent hero, has come to Zelda’s rescue in nearly every game in the series. His courage and valor defeat Ganon and the other antagonists he faces. He’s also easy to incarnate in different versions, having appeared in various time frames throughout the series.
The Zelda continuity is divided into three distinct timelines after the end of The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. In one instance, Link fails to defeat Ganon and A Link to the Past immediately follows. In the other case, Link succeeds and it splits the succession into two universes: a timeline called ‘child’ and the other called ‘adult.’ The ‘adult’ line follows The Wind Waker and its continuity, while the ‘adult’ line starts with Majora’s Mask.
Zelda’s puzzles, seemingly endless dungeons, sword slashing action, and continuously evolving graphics and gameplay make The Legend of Zelda one of the greatest game series of all time. That’s why we wanted to rank every Legend of Zelda game from worst to best.
Because most of the Zelda games are unique in their own way, it’s painfully difficult to call any of these titles poor (we're not counting CDi here). Let us know which Zelda games are your favorite!
18 Tri Force Heroes
Tri Force Heroes is a forgettable Zelda installment. The game is one of few multiplayer Zelda games and features different colored versions of Link who must work together to solve puzzles.
Placed oddly in the Zelda timeline, Tri Force Heroes takes place in the land of Hytopia, a fashion-obsessed kingdom. The princess of the kingdom, Styla, is put under a spell by a witch known as “The Lady.” Link and his friends are summoned by the King to rescue Styla.
Tri-Force Heroes didn’t live up to the hype of the other games. While there are enjoyable puzzles and sequences, the gameplay is repetitive and the single player is dull. Not to mention the game's plot is rather cheesy.
17 Four Swords Adventures
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures was the only multiplayer Zelda game for consoles. It is the sequel to Four Swords, a Zelda game with mechanics similar to A Link to the Past. In the game, Shadow Link causes mischief by sealing away Zelda and six maidens, who are the guardians of Hyrule. The Shadow Link makes Link draw the Four Sword, which splits him into four copies of himself and releases Vaati, the main antagonist, from a seal. The four Links must defeat and reseal Vaati.
Four Swords Adventures was a unique title for the fact that you played as four Links, whether that be singleplayer or multiplayer. The player controls the four Links (each with a different colored outfit) in battle formations. Another player can even hook into the GameCube with a Game Boy Advance and join the adventure.
However, because this was a console game, wouldn’t it be nice for this to be 3D? The original cover has a Wind Waker version of Link, so why not follow up with those graphics? Furthermore, it’s almost a complete clone of A Link to the Past, so it’s nothing new and was forgettable compared to other games.
16 Phantom Hourglass
Phantom Hourglass is a Zelda game that takes place after Wind Waker. It’s one of a few Zelda games on the Nintendo DS. Phantom Hourglass is set in a world as vast as Wind Waker and uses the unique controls of the DS.
After the end of Wind Waker, Link and Tetra sail over the flooded Hyrule. Abruptly, the antagonist kidnaps Tetra. Link explores the world and makes allies in an attempt to save Tetra and defeat Bellum, a life eating monster.
While Phantom Hourglass was a refreshing change, it had one problem—lack of buttons. A Zelda game without buttons? Yes, exactly that. And while the stylus was amusing, the use of buttons would've been nice after using the styles became boring. The Temple of the Ocean King didn’t help the game either, as a Zelda dungeon with a timer is truly a nightmare.
15 Spirit Tracks
Spirit Tracks is the next game in the Wind Waker timeline after Phantom Hourglass, following the adult continuity. It employs a similar gameplay to Phantom Hourglass and is the only Zelda game to feature a train.
Spirit Tracks is set 100 years after Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass, featuring the current Link incarnate as he strives to be an engineer. Link travels to New Hyrule and meets the Zelda incarnate, only to watch her have her soul sucked out by the main villain, Chancellor Cole. He must save Zelda, again.
The problem with this game remains the same as Phantom Hourglass—stylus-only controls. While the plot differed from Phantom Hourglass enough to make it more interesting, the gameplay remained largely the same earning it a spot just above to its predecessor.
14 The Adventure of Link
The second game in The Legend of Zelda series, The Adventure of Link was a sequel to the revolutionary first game. The Adventure of Link introduced Dark Link who would show up in future games. It’s unique for its use of limited lives, EXP, and platform side-scrolling.
The Adventure of Link played like an RPG, playing more like Castlevania than a true Zelda game, as Link is on a quest to put different crystals in palaces which will awake a sleeping Zelda. This game introduces the Tri-Force of Courage, the piece associated with Link.
Upon initial release, critics praised The Adventure of Link, though many fans frequently refer to the game as the black sheep of the Zelda family. While you shouldn't expect classic Zelda gameplay if you go back and play this game, you should still play it for a notoriously difficult challenge that will test your ability as Link.
13 Oracle of Seasons
Nintendo released Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages together with different mechanics. The two were similar in playability, but different in tactics and focuses. Oracle of Seasons had an action focus, with more monster battles and boxing kangaroos.
Oracle of Seasons centered on Link rescuing Din—a traveling dancer revealed to be The Oracle of Seasons. The villain Onox kidnaps Din and Link must save her to restore the seasons from disarray.
While Oracle of Seasons is wildly entertaining, it lacks interesting dungeons and puzzles, that its counterpart includes. Although Link possesses a wand to change seasons, slashing your way through enemies gets monotonous, leaving this game a few paces back of Oracle of Ages.
12 The Minish Cap
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is a part of the Four Swords games. The Minish Cap is another one of the games to feature Vaati. the power hungry Picari. as the main baddie instead of Ganon.
In The Minish Cap, a festival goes on for the Picari people saving Hyrule. During a sword tournament, a mysterious man, Vaati, runs around causing havoc. He destroys the sacred Picori Blade and pursues the Light Force, a variant of the Triforce. Link must reforge the blade and stop him.
The Minish Cap was chalk full of clever puzzles and shrinking down to the size of a Minish was satisfying. However, what holds it back a little bit is the fact that the plot was strikingly similar to other Zelda games. With a new villain, it would’ve been nice to get a fresher storyline and more imaginative exploration, giving us a great game, but one that could've been even better.
11 Skyward Sword
Skyward Sword was a game with dazzling graphics and an interactive use of the Wii Motion Plus for combat. The game is also the first game of the overall timeline, introducing never before used plot points.
Skyward Sword initially takes place on the clouded land of Skyloft, where Link is a Knight in training. After passing an exam, he celebrates with his childhood pal, Zelda, only to see her whisked away below the clouds. He quickly finds her upon the land, but as the hero of the legend, Link must defeat the Demon King, Demise.
While Skyward Sword went on to receive critical acclaim, some of the tactics made it annoyingly difficult. Its reliance on Wii Motion Plus made Zelda players who are used to controllers, and uninterested in gimmicky controls, notably frustrated. The game’s sidekick, Fi, also received plenty of criticism as well. Oh, and no one can forget those drawn out, annoying tutorials.
10 Oracle of Ages
The counterpart of Oracle of Seasons, Oracle of Ages played differently than its other half. Unlike Pokemon games that release simultaneously, which are usually carbon copies of one another, Oracle of Ages is a puzzle focused Zelda games while Seasons focused on action.
Oracle of Ages incorporated challenging puzzles and dungeons that Zelda players know and love. In the game, Link and Impa, Zelda’s nurse, find a blue haired girl singing in the forest. A dark sorceress later possesses the girl, revealed as Naryu the Oracle of Ages, messing time up in the process.
The time traveling mechanics top Oracle of Seasons’ season changing, allowing for Link to go back and forth between past and present. That added with the challenging, yet entertaining puzzles made Oracle of Ages one to remember and one of the best handheld Zelda games of all time.
9 A Link Between Worlds
Nintendo made a gutsy decision to create a direct sequel to SNES classic, A Link to the Past, with A Link Between Worlds. There was uncertainty in the game's anticipation. However, A Link Between Worlds proved not only to be fun, but employed a “rent an item” tactic that made dungeons a lot easier.
An evil sorcerer named Yuga, who is seeking to resurrect Ganon, kidnaps Zelda. She takes Zelda to Lorule, a land which Link can explore with the ability to become a wall painting. Tack that on with simple dungeons and you’ve got a mix for a good game.
The game’s dungeons are easier with the hints, which almost takes away the best aspect of the series, solving the challenging puzzles, leaving it a little lower on this list. However, it makes up for it with its story and Link’s cool new ability.
8 Link’s Awakening
Link’s Awakening was the inspiration for the Oracle series and Link’s Awakening was the beginning of Zelda's handheld device games. The game is one of the best in the series, bringing excellent level design and compelling exploration of life for the series.
Link’s Awakening is one of few titles not to feature Zelda, Hyrule, or the Triforce. Instead, Link washes up on Koholint Island, where he finds a mysterious creature named the Wind Fish. You have to fight monsters and solve puzzles to collect instruments and awaken the Wind Fish for Link to be able to escape the island.
The game is consistently praised for its innovation for its time. Link’s Awakening was one of the greatest titles for Game Boy and continues to be an entertaining title in the franchise.
7 The Legend of Zelda
Coming in high on this list is the game that started it all, The Legend of Zelda. The series starter put Zelda on the map and is widely considered to be one of the greatest games of all time. The game introduced new mechanics for its time, incorporating traditional RPG styles like dungeons and exploration with an action-style combat system.
The Legend of Zelda’s plot is simple—Ganon invades the land of Hyrule with the Triforce of Power. Zelda then splits the Triforce of Wisdom into eight pieces, keeping it from Ganon. After Link shows up and saves Zelda’s nurse, they discover he’s the hero they’ve needed all along and he sets off on a journey to defeat Ganon.
If you're looking for a traditional Zelda experience that's incredibly difficult, give this game a chance. It can feel clunky because of its older controls, but it's still a definitive Zelda game for fans of the series.
6 Twilight Princess
Twilight Princess has one of the more different stories in the series. The game starts an alternate timeline of Link’s defeat over Ganon, where this Link is an honest farmer’s hand who is quickly forced to become the hero his ancestor was and this game’s mechanics are almost a carbon copy of Ocarina of Time’s.
This game displayed a darker tone than most Zelda games. A corrupted dimension known as the Twilight Realm aims to engulf Hyrule and Link must stop it before it does. In the game, he swaps between his human form and a wolf form used to travel around the Twilight Realm. Link is accompanied by the mysterious yet likable Midna to stop Zant, a power-obsessed Twilight Realm inhabitant.
What's better than playing as a wolf half the time? Twilight Princess’ wolf mechanics introduced Okami style gameplay along with Ocarina of Time controls, giving us a classic Zelda game that we couldn't put down.
5 Breath of the Wild
While many Legend of Zelda games have an open world, Breath of the Wild is the first to take an even bigger approach. With many new features like voice acting, an even larger open world, and a detailed landscape, the possbilities are open to every gamer. In this one, you can also choose your own dungeon order.
The latest installment expands on Hyrule’s history in a fresh way. Hyrule is initially a technically advanced kingdom until Calamity Ganon, the title’s incarnation of Ganondorf, terrorizes the land and reverts it to a medieval state. The many inhabitants of this Hyrule attempt to stop him, but fail. A voice awakens a present Link from a 100-year slumber, in which he discovers a ruined Hyrule. Link must defeated Ganon to once more save Zelda and return Hyrule back to its former greatness.
Many critics are already calling Breath of the Wild one of the greatest games ever released. With its refreshing graphics, a new style of gameplay, and voice acting, the game is a revolutionary new version of the series.
4 Majora’s Mask
Majora’s Mask is one of the most entertaining games on Nintendo 64. The game was the second in the series to use 3D graphics after Ocarina of Time, which you’ll see very soon. The game also plays similarly to Ocarina of Time. However, Link is up against an in-game three-day time limit or the moon will destroy the land.
The game re-introduces Skull Kid from Ocarina, but this time he’s stolen Majora’s Mask; a powerful remnant that makes up the main antagonist. The Skull Kid, influenced by the mask, puts a spell on the moon, causing it to fall toward the land of Termina slowly. Link must use the Ocarina of Time to continuously reverse time and stop The Skull Kid and the possessed moon.
This game is yet another Zelda game to frequent the greatest games of all time list. With cool puzzles and Link’s different transformations and forms, Majora’s Mask is easily one of the best and most entertaining Zelda games to come along.
3 The Wind Waker
Several games in the Zelda franchise innovate the series in refreshing and exciting ways. The Wind Waker was one of those titles, as it used different, cartoonish graphics for Zelda. Wind Waker also introduced sailing, which provided numerous side quests and islands for the player to explore.
Wind Waker puts players hundreds of years after Ocarina of Time. The plot exists in several main points; while Link is celebrating coming of age, things go awry when a large bird kidnaps Link's sister. After he saves her, Link and others discover Ganon is alive. With the help of the King of Red Lions and Tetra, this timeline’s incarnate of Zelda, Link must track down the master sword and beat Ganon.
Wind Waker received universal acclaim from critics, like many of the other Zelda games at the top of this list. The cel-shaded graphics, vast sea exploration and overall childlike goofiness make Wind Waker a timeless game.
2 A Link to the Past
A Link to the Past set the tone for most of the series and it's rightfully considered one of the greatest games of all time. The game is famous for introducing some trademark items, such as the hookshot, Pegasus boots, heart containers, and the sword spin. Link is also a lot more flexible than he was in The Legend of Zelda and Adventures of Link.
The game, although the third installment, is a prequel to both The Legend of Zelda and Adventures of Link. Zelda reaches out to Link and his Uncle to rescue her and after Link's uncle is mortally wounded, it is up to him and Zelda to find descendants of the Seven Sages—the mystical people who sealed Ganon.
Unlike the original Legend of Zelda, the game still holds up on the SNES and is a must-play for any new fans of the series.
1 Ocarina of Time
Let’s be honest, here. If you want to play the best Legend of Zelda game of all time, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the game for you. This game charts high on every best game of all time list and it’s one of the most memorable of the series.
As the first 3D title in the series, Ocarina of Time introduced revolutionary gameplay. The game introduced a target lock system common in current adventure games. The dungeons have exceptional design and a great level of depth.
Ocarina of Time focuses on Link’s quest to stop Ganondorf from getting the Triforce of Power. It’s one of the first games to incorporate Link's relationship with the Triforce of Courage heavily. Link uses the power of time travel to awaken the sages who can seal Ganondorf.
The epic ending of this title is timeless. That plus the gameplay, memorable characters, engaging story, and incredible dungeons puts Ocarina of Time at the top.