The Legend of Zelda franchise is one of the most celebrated and important video game series of all time. When the series is discussed by fans and critics, it is often in the context of the console titles. While games such as Breath of the Wild and Twilight Princess receive the most discussion, the handheld titles in the series deserve just as much praise as their console brethren. That’s why it only makes sense that we take a look at the eight (nine, technically) main handheld games released in the series so far, and rank them all. As a quick note, we won’t be including Breath of the Wild on this list. While it is technically a handheld game, that’s just not at all fair to the rest of our contenders.
8 The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes
The lowest in rank of all the handheld Zelda games, we have Tri Force Heroes. Zelda games are usually ones known for their single-player content, though, there are a few exceptions, such as Four Swords and Tri Force Heroes, that utilize multiplayer gameplay. While this is fine, if you’re more of a singleplayer type of person, the game ends up feeling relatively shallow overall. However, when you’re playing with friends, this game is a blast that uses its main hooks of multiplayer and outfit changing very well, which work together to form a fun time. Also, you can put Link in Zelda’s dress or an entire cheetah catsuit, so that really justifies the $40 price right there.
7 The Legend Of Zelda: Four Swords
While it does, unfortunately, take a very low spot on the list, Four Swords for the Game Boy Advance isn’t at all a bad game, in fact, the gameplay is great. This game’s low ranking comes down to its accessibility. While its various remakes and ports do feature a few more ways to play, Four Swords originally only featured multiplayer content, which in itself isn’t the easiest task to complete on the Game Boy Advance.
However, the gameplay of the title is fun if you’re able to access it, which is similar to the Link to the Past gameplay it is coupled with on the cart. While a fun game overall, the hoops you’re required to jump through to play it aren’t worth the time.
6 The Legend Of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Phantom Hourglass was The Legend Of Zelda’s first leap onto the DS family of systems, and oh boy, was it a weird one. The game is a sequel to the excellent Wind Waker, and thus, much of the game is still spent exploring the Great Sea and the many islands it houses. To control the hero, you actually drag along the touchscreen to direct him, which is - surprisingly - a very intuitive way to control Link. The game also featured one central dungeon that Link went back to multiple times throughout his journey. While this idea does have some potential, going through the same dungeon over and over makes the game lose some of its appeal quickly. While overall not a perfect game, it is still a fun Zelda game that is worth a purchase.
5 The Legend Of Zelda: Oracle Of Seasons And Ages
The Oracle games, two of the few Zelda titles not developed by Nintendo, are a great pair of titles. While the two are sister titles, Seasons is primarily an action-oriented game, while Ages opts to focus on puzzles. The two have linking functionality that allow for expanded storylines and new content to be obtained through a password system. As with all Zelda titles, the gameplay is as fun as ever, with Link finding his usual array of items to progress through both worlds. The games make perfect use of the Game Boy Color’s hardware, and are two are some of the best looking games on the system. The linking nature of the titles really add to the replayability of the games, and make the duo more than a worthwhile purchase for any Zelda fan.
4 The Legend Of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
The sequel to Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks is a very similar game to its predecessor, in both style and gameplay. There are a few key differences, though. For one, you navigate the land through a train system in the title, which is a joy to control. Along with that, you have a ghostly version of Zelda that accompanies you. She is able to control Phantoms that Link comes across in various dungeons, adding an entirely new element to the gameplay. The relationship between the two heroes is one of the best aspects of this title, as it is both comedic and heartwarming to watch the two figure out how to best navigate the situation they’ve found themselves in.
3 The Legend Of Zelda: Link's Awakening
Link’s Awakening is a weird, fantastic Zelda game. Starting originally as a side-project for developers, the game features many odd elements such as Chain Chomps, Goombas and an all-powerful egg God.
While the story and elements of the game’s presentation are a bit of a departure, overall the gameplay is the same fantastic Zelda gameplay one has come to expect, with a few small twists such as side-scrolling sections and the ability to be renamed THIEF if you choose to be a sinner that steals from the shop. Wait, what?
2 The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
A Link Between Worlds is the Link to the Past sequel we all dreamed of. Featuring the same overhead graphical style, this title finds you exploring the same Hyrule present in the original game, with the new element of being able to merge into and travel along walls thrown into the mix. The game is a blast to play, and the new item renting mechanics allow for the game to be completed in a non-linear fashion. The story of the game is also a bit more in-depth than other Zelda titles, and features some twisties and turnies that really just add to the value that this game already presents.
1 The Legend Of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Another Capcom take on the Zelda series, The Minish Cap is a fantastic, well-rounded Zelda title. The main gimmick of the game is Link’s ability to shrink down to a bug-like size, which allows for intricate dungeon designs that are a blast to play through. The art-style is absolutely fantastic, with the colorful sprites looking great on the GBA screen. Even the music, something a console like the GBA is not known for, is fantastic. All around, this is the best handheld game in the Zelda franchise.