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From Twilight Princess to Ocarina of Time: We rank top 10 best Zelda games from worst to best

We're counting down our top 10 Zelda games of all time, so if you ever find yourself with a rainy weekend looming and you're looking to get stuck into some adventures - don't go alone; take one of these.

There have been countless games over the years that have led us on some pretty epic quests - wizards, dragons, bandits, dwarves.

However very few series can boast such an impressive lifespan as The Legend of Zelda's 30 years worth of dungeon diving and monster mashing, or have such a repertoire of excellence.

10. The Legend of Zelda (1986)

Alright, so we know we may get chastised by putting the original NES title at number 10 - the game that was undeniably a revolutionary title. First off - this choice speaks volumes about the series as a whole. Nearly every iteration has been a landmark title and a key point in gaming history.

We're going to go on this basis - if you've never played a Zelda game, which should you pick up and play as your introduction to the series.

No doubt The Legend of Zelda is a hugely important game and a must play for fans of the series, but it hasn't aged all too well, and for first encounters to the series, we can certainly do better.

9. Skyward Sword

If we're looking to introduce players to the story, why not start at the very beginning (chronologically). As a series, The Legend of Zelda has a pretty complex timeline which has been the cause of debate amongst fans over the years.

With enough time travelling, character reincarnation and parallel universes to make anyone's head spin - there are several factors that cannot be said with absolution.

However, it is set in stone that Skyward Sword is where it all starts. Before Hyrule, before recurring Links and Zeldas and before Ganon.

The game took advantage of the Wii's MotionPlus functionality, which provided precise controls and allowed Link to mirror all a players hacking and slashing and spinning in real time.

As we're sure you can imagine, this was a lot of fun - but thankfully didn't distract from the gorgeous world and breathtaking vistas above and below the clouds. It's definitely a worthy title to act as your first forays into the series.

8. Twilight Princess

Twilight Princess, Nintendo, Legend of Zelda
Feeling gloomy? Twilight Princess is for you. (Picture: Nintendo)

We're sticking on the Wii now for a darker take on the series with Twilight Princess. We love the colourful atmosphere of most Zelda games, but its always nice to see a departure every now and then. Twilight Princess certainly stands out.

It didn't have the technology of the MotionPlus like its successor - but we firmly believe that worked in its favour. The real time combat was a great novelty and felt amazing, but it did become tiresome.

Whilst Twilight Princess did make great use of the Wiis motion controls, it didn't overdo it - resulting in a game that played like previous Zelda games, but with a few little additions to spice things up and fit with its gloomier atmosphere.

7. A Link Between Worlds

We're making moves into handheld realms now, and looking at A Link Between Worlds, Nintendo's first original Zelda title on the 3DS.

The game served as a direct sequel to the hugely popular 'Link to the Past'. Due to this, we'll come across plenty of familiar sights - with brand new twists of course.

One of these big new twists was Links ability to merge onto a wall as a painting, and access places that were previously unavailable to his predecessor.

It gives us memories of slipping through cracks in the world in Paper Mario - but it is thoroughly a much more aesthetically interesting concept when Link does it.

The game also saw a return to more open progression, and allowed players to tackle dungeons in the order they wanted - a refreshing change that came about from the grumbling of fans protesting against the string of very linear games previously.

It's good to know the devs listen to their playerbase, other companies should take notes from this.

6. Link's Awakening

Link's Awakening, Nintendo, Legend of Zelda
Remake or not. It's still a great game. (Picture: Nintendo)

Lets stick with the handheld adventures now, and talk about an absolute classic: Link's Awakening, originally intended to be a sequel to a Link to the Past that was being developed after hours by Nintendo staff - talk about passion for the project.

The game took a break from the familiar pastures of Hyrule, and Zeldas name is only mentioned in passing.

The game is simply a blast to play, and despite having minimal references to former Zelda games, the world is populated by plenty of cameos from other Nintendo games. You'll come across chain chomps, goombas and even Yoshi and Kirby at one point.

Yes we know what you're thinking - this is showing its age now, and we wholeheartedly agree. But we've good news - Nintendo have recently remade the game from the ground up, so its the perfect time to get stuck into this Gameboy classic!

 

5. A Link to the Past

We've mentioned 'A Link to the Past' twice so far. Why was this the game that the team were so eager to develop a sequel to? Well, let's take a look.

Following a complete break from formula with 'The Adventures of Link' which opted for a side scrolling format - and just for the record, you should just go ahead and skip that title - A Link to the Past went back to the style of the original overhead perspective.

Although needless to say, it expanded and innovated in every regard compared to the original.

This is the game where we can see everything coming together perfectly for the first time, and where the definitive Zelda experience was born.

The controls were fluid, the dungeons were intricate, and there was a wide range of items and techniques that would aid Link in his endeavours. It also marked the beginning of what would become synonymous with the series - parallel worlds.

From this humble SNES title, Nintendo could adapt and evolve a rich and complicated timeline for all of their games to come.

4. Majora's Mask

Majora's Mask, Nintendo, Legend of Zelda
20 years ago... We met with a terrible fate! (Picture: Nintendo)

While we're on the topic of complicated timelines, lets look at one of the most inventive takes in the series. Whilst Twilight Princess took a darker turn for the series, it didn't come close to the constant impending doom presented in 'Majora's Mask'.

And what a story it was. Tasked with saving a kingdom in the constant limbo of apocalyptic destruction in 3 days, you'll have to have to keep winding back the course of time to the beginning of the countdown, and make small steps towards progress.

We've faced all manners of threats so far throughout the series, but none come close to giving us that gut-wrenching feeling of the anthropomorphic moon edging ever closer to Hyrule.

For those of you that played this growing up, you may have suffered from the same affliction as us - what we are dubbing spooky-scary-moon-face-disorder. We saw it when we slept, we saw it when we woke up, we saw that baring grin and creepy gaze everywhere.

Never had a Zelda game had such a dark setting, nor such an ambitious and inventive story, which at times was downright sombre. Truly one of the most important games of all time.

3. The Wind Waker

Now enough with all that gloominess and despair - lets veer off in a completely different direction with the most colourful and lovable additions to the series - The Wind Waker.

Looking at the former titles, Wind Waker is worlds apart - and to no surprise this divided the fans. The cel-shaded graphics were far too cartooney for many - especially following up as the next console release after Majora's Mask.

Because of this, initial sales were slower than its predecessors. But Wind Waker is the definition of a sleeper, and as word got out about just how unbelievable this title was, more and more fans overlooked the graphics and got stuck into this entirely unique story.

Just for the record - we love the graphics. The cel shading still looks fantastic nearly 20 years later. Very few games can boast something like that.

Whilst exploration was a key component to every Zelda game so far, Wind Waker pushed that to new extremes by giving you an entire sea to explore, with countless islands, treasures and events to encounter in your roaming.

For a one of a kind Zelda experience, grab a copy of this game, get aboard the Red Lion, and watch the hours slip away as you traverse the oceans and enjoy a experience like no other in the series.

2. Ocarina of Time

The second best Zelda game of all time is Ocarina of Time. Now hold up with us here, we've got reasoning and logic, and we assure you this was not an easy choice at all.

Everything about that game was a showcase about just what gaming could be. It's not about a bit of action for a few hours, but a saga.

A character driven story in a world that feels alive, that you truly do care for. The game made us marvel at every aspect, become completely engrossed in every detail, and generate a powerful emotional attachment to Hyrule, to Zelda, and to Link.

It moved the series to territories we never thought were possible in gaming, and created a new benchmark for the world to aim towards.

We don't need to tell you that Ocarina of time was a masterpiece. You all already know that. It pushed every boundary set by its predecessors and became something that is as close to flawless as we could imagine.

For all of us, we assumed that no other Zelda game would surpass its ambition, nor achieve just what it did. That is, until Breath of the Wild.

1. Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild, Nintendo, Legend of Zelda
This game has everything. Fight us. (Picture: Nintendo)

We cannot reiterate enough how important Ocarina of Time was. Where a link to the past had refined the Zelda formula down to it's core fundamentals - Ocarina of time perfected it. Every game following it would try and innovate and achieve that same level of greatness.

Rather than following in its footsteps, Breath of the Wild sought to strip the series down to its foundation, take the elements from each game which were popular amongst the fans, and build a brand new Zelda game for a new generation of gamers.

There was a time when no other titles could measure up in size and stature to the series. In recent years however, we've seen games that push every boundary, and leave the world in anticipation of 'what comes next'.

For years games had been clamouring to keep up with the Zelda series, but now they had surpassed them. Nintendo needed something that set a new standard. Breath of the Wild was that game.

From first glimpses, the magic of the series was evident, but we were looking at a whole new breed of games. The linear dungeon delving of past games had been reinvented.

Yes - there'd still be countless hours of glorious spelunking to be had, but it was approached in a different manner. Players were free to explore this vast landscape in their own way.

The freedom to play this title in your own unique manner sets this apart from the rest of the series, and marks this as not just the best Zelda game - but a strong contender for one of the greatest games ever made.

 

For years we've been looking for something that can truly stand up to the level of innovation and design as we saw with Ocarina of time, yet any potential contender ultimately fell short.

The fact that we can safely say it has been surpassed is monumentally important - it shows us that the golden age of gaming is not over, and the ambition of designers is just as strong today as it was 20 years ago.

With new technologies, we'll see that ambition translate to some great things, and because of this, we can safely say that we will see another Zelda come by which will be a strong contender for that top spot.