The Legend of Zelda is one of the most recognized game series ever released. Over ten different consoles to date have been a host for Legend of Zelda games. This doesn’t even account for the fact that there has been tons of merchandise produced, along with a cartoon series.
I felt it was time to cover these games up until some of the more current stuff. For this Legend of Zelda games list I am going to omit and Wii, Wii U, DS, and 3ds offerings, unless it is a remaster of the original games and warrants a mention. So let’s get started covering these Legend of Zelda games, First up is the NES.
The Legend of Zelda
The original Legend of Zelda was groundbreaking for the Nes, and the first of the Legend of Zelda games. With a huge open world and a plethora of dungeons to explore it was like nothing else seen before. It was even the first Nes game to include an internal battery for saving progress. (If you decided to go with an original Nes cart, make sure you follow the save directions exactly or you WILL lose your saves).
This was the first time that we were introduced to the warrior Link and the princess Zelda. If you are here reading this then you most likely already know, but you do not play as Zelda as the title seems to state. The story actually follows Link through a journey to collect all the pieces to reconstruct the Triforce of Wisdom that was split by Zelda for safe keeping. This split was to prevent the antagonist, Ganon (who was first introduced here) from obtaining it as he already possessed the Triforce of Power.
Legend of Zelda on the Nes can be considered a difficult game, primarily if you have not played before and do not know where to go. It is very easy to get lost in this game, which is something to keep in mind. This was a huge problem when the game was released as most games were quite linear at that time. Conveniently these days there are plenty of guides to help through the game.
I personally still enjoy this game, and feel everyone should try it even if only to see the roots of the series. The game is available from many different sources and on many consoles. The original Nes cartridges in both Gold and Gray variants (exactly same game, just changed to gray at rerelease) are obviously available, but Legend of Zelda is also a featured game on the recently released (but widely unavailable) Nes Classic Edition. Virtual console is also an option on 3ds, Wii, and Wii U consoles. There was also a compilation disc for the Gamecube. There is also a possibility I missed a release somewhere, but those are some easily attainable options.
Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link
Shortly after the original release, came Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link, the next on our Legend of Zelda games list. This game is considered a complete departure from the original tends to get a lot of flack for being different compared to every other release in the series. This is not really fair though if you think about it, because at the time only the original was available to compare to.
There are many things that were changed for Zelda 2. First and most noticeable would be that besides the map screen, the game is now a side scrolling adventure. A few more introductions were an experience system, magic meter, and the fact Link now has a limited amount of lives like other side scrolling games. Zelda 2 is also the first appearance of “Dark” or “Shadow Link” that would continue to appear from time to time throughout the series. The Side scrolling (except for certain instances), Extra Lives (again except for a few choice situations), and Experience system would not be reused for further Legend of Zelda games.
Essentially Zelda (somehow a different princess named Zelda) has fallen into a deep sleep while trying to protect the Triforce of Courage. Only link can brave 6 dungeons to open up entry to the Great Palace where the Triforce of Courage is housed. During this time the followers of Ganon are trying to kill Link, hoping that will allow Ganon to be resurrected.
I personally have played through a fair amount of Zelda 2, but to be honest have never finished it. Maybe I have just missed the charm, but I always felt lost. One day I will give it another shot, especially since it is included on the Nes Classic Edition. All the options for playing Zelda 2 also applied for the original so there are many ways to try the game out.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Now we move on from the Nes to the Snes with A Link to the Past which was the first 16 bit Legend of Zelda game. From here out I will generally no longer mention placement in the Zelda timeline for the rest games because honestly there is a lot of debate as to what goes where.
A Link to the Past is my personal favorite Zelda game. The series returns to it’s roots with a top down perspective and is quite expansive. A Link to the Past introduced multiple series staples, especially being as this was the first official instance of the Master Sword. The idea of Dark and Light Worlds is also introduced here.
The story in A Link to the Past is yet again very similar to most of the other Legend of Zelda games on this list. There are Seven Sages that banded together to seal Ganon in the Dark World many many years ago. Unfortunately a wizard arrives determined to break the seal by imprisoning 7 maidens in the Dark World, which are descendants of said Sages. One of these is Zelda, who summons for Link ultimately telling him that the Master Sword is the only weapon that is strong enough to defeat the wizard. Link must collect 3 pendants (named after the Triforce) to prove his worth to wield the Master Sword. From here Link must travel to the Dark World the free these 7 maidens and ultimately facing off with Ganon.
I personally think everyone should play A Link to the Past, especially if they have never played a Legend of Zelda game. In popular opinion, this game and Ocarina of Time (more on that later) compete for title as the best Zelda game to date. I personally like Link to the Past because it is very accessible. It is the standard over the top play style and somewhat leads you to your next objective. There are still many puzzles of course, and some are still quite difficult, just you never really feel lost. Also the game does not really feel dated. The graphics still look good, and it still plays very well.
Yet again there are multiple ways to play A Link to the Past. As usual there is the Snes cart, along with multiple Virtual Console offerings on the Wii U and “New” 3ds (snes games are not available on the original 3ds). There is also a Gameboy Advance port/remake of A Link to the Past.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
From the Snes we get to the Gameboy and Gameboy Color with Link’s Awakening. I think Link’s Awakening may be the first Legend of Zelda game I ever completed, as it came packaged with my Gameboy.
Link’s Awakening plays more along the line of the original Legend of Zelda as opposed to any of the other games in the series (well maybe with the story emphasis of Link to the Past thrown in). Awakening is another overhead type (mainly, some dungeon sections are a side view) and other than Zelda 2 it is only Zelda game to actually introduce a jumping element.
The story for a change is quite different than other Legend of Zelda Games. There is no focus on Zelda, the Triforce, or even Hyrule this time. Link is really the only carryover, and really seems to be the main focus this time.
Link manages to shipwreck on Koholint Island, where he is ultimately found by a girl named Marin. Link must find a way off the island and is told that it is protected by an entity called the Wind Fish. Link must collect a series of magical musical instruments (from dungeons of course…) to wake the Wind Fish and ultimately find a way home.
Links Awakening is actually a refreshing departure from the traditional story elements of the Zelda series. Both the standard game and a Gameboy Color “refresh” were produced called Link’s Awakening DX. This colorized version includes a new dungeon (when played on a Gameboy Color) and even Printer compatibility. Link’s Awakening DX is playable on all Gameboy Models however. Along with both cartridge versions, Link’s Awakening DX is also available on the 3ds Virtual Console and was even given free if you had Ambassador status.
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
There are actually 2 Gameboy Color exclusive Legend of Zelda Games in the Oracle of Ages and the Oracle of Seasons. (a third was planned but never came to be). These Legend of Zelda games are actually also by Capcom.
Oracle of Ages plays a lot like Link’s Awakening. An overhead adventure with various items mappable to the A and B buttons. Like Awakening, Link is not required to have the sword equipped at all times and allows 2 items to be equipped.
This time Link is transported to Labrynna to save the goddess Nayru, the Oracle of Ages, who has been possessed by the sorceress Veran. Link must then collect 8 essences of time to defeat Veran. These are scattered in dungeons through past and present, and Link uses a special item called the Harp of Ages.
The interesting thing about the Oracle of Ages/Seasons (that’s up next) games is that they are intertwined. Of the two, Ages is more focused on puzzles. By completing either game the player is given a password to begin on the next game. only by finishing both games using a password can the true ending be seen.
I would recommend if you are going to play one then play both. I am not going say I have done it personally because I haven’t. I actually have never finished the Oracle games, just had a hard time getting into them, but some people love them. It is a Gameboy Color exclusive to the cartridge will only play on a Color or Advance. Both Oracle games are also available on the 3ds Virtual Console.
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
Oracle of Seasons is the other half of the duo as mentioned above. I won’t go to in depth on this one because it is pretty much the same as Ages except for the story being different. Seasons is more focused on action, just something to note if you prefer action to puzzles.
This time Link is transported to the land of Holodrum, and sees Din the Oracle of Seasons kidnapped by the evil being Onox. Link must collect 8 Essences of nature to gain access to Onox’s Castle, and ultimately defeat Onox and free Din. There is more to the story obviously, but that is just a snippet to not give too much away.
Out of the two, Seasons is actually the one I spent less time with. I haven’t played much other than the first few dungeons. Again, this sub-series is just one I have had a hard time getting into. Ive heard great things though, so take that with a grain of salt.
Much like Ages, Oracle of Seasons is Gameboy Color Exclusive. Also available on the 3ds Virtual Console.
Link: The Faces of Evil
Now we are getting into the black sheep of Legend of Zelda games, the Cdi games.
Fair warning, these are regarded as the worst games in the series, if not just horrible games in general.
First is Link: The Faces of Evil. Of the Cdi games, this is generally touted as the best one. Both this one and the next one on the list Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon are side scrolling in nature must like Zelda 2. These games also feature full motion video cutscenes.
In Faces of Evil, yet again Zelda is kidnapped by Ganon. This time however it happens when Link is off in a completely new land trying to defeat the Faces of Evil. Pretty much standard fare for a Zelda game with a few twists that really you would have to play to understand.
Do I think you can skip this and the other cdi games? Yes. They are relatively dated and don’t play that great. Especially if it would require purchasing a cdi to play. if you on some off chance already owned a cdi then maybe.
Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon
Yet another cdi game, but this one is different. This time the tables are turned and we see Zelda go off trying to rescue Link for a change.
Play is generally the same as The Faces of Evil where instead of an overhead adventure, it is a side view like Zelda 2. This also features Full motion video.
Plot is that Zelda’s father goes to another land named Gamelon to help out the monarchy. This land falls victim to Ganon of course. When the King does not return, then Zelda sends Link looking for him. This time Link also does not return. Zelda takes matters in her own hands and goes off looking for them both.
Yet again if you don’t already own a cdi you can probably skip this one too. To be honest though, out of the Legend of Zelda games for cdi, these two were regarded as the best. If you decide to play any, then definitely go with Wand of Gamelon and/or Faces of Evil.
Now we get to the last of the cdi games. Zelda’s Adventure is more inline with the original game and Link to the Past as a top down adventure as opposed to the side view seen in the previous two.
Zelda’s Adventure again follows Zelda instead of Link. For the second time now Link has been kidnapped by Ganon, and Zelda must go off to save him. Of course being in the Legend of Zelda series, some things must be collected via dungeons. This time it is 7 Celestial Signs.
Unfortunately for Zelda’s Adventure it was not nearly as well liked as the previous two games. It has been claimed to have somewhat muddy graphics and suffers from frame rate issues. (wikipedia) I say again skip on this one. If you already own a cdi and feel the need to play it anyway, I would still consider the other 2 games on the console first.
Only available on Ebay at this time.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Now that the Cdi games have been covered we can get into one of the heaviest hitters on this list. That means we have made it to the N64, which means it is time for Ocarina. Ocarina of Time is regarded by many as the best Legend of Zelda game to date (I personally prefer Link to the Past, but Ocarina of Time is second).
Ocarina was released in the US in 1998, and was the first ever game in the Zelda series offered in 3d. This means Link has the ability to run, jump, and climb in many directions. This also required a lock on style targeting system, another first for the series.
Link starts as a young boy in the Ocarina of Time and can be seen grown into an adult. The new element here is that Link can travel between these two times to solve the game’s puzzles. This will have to be done many times during the game. Sometimes it may be a matter of planting a seed as a child, so a plant can be grown when Link returns as an adult. Another example would be Epona the horse. Link must learn a song to play to play as a child, and then return as an adult to ride the same horse when she remembers the song.
Ocarina has the standard Ganon trying to assemble the Triforce story. This time however, he actually does it. The character Ganondorf is introduced for the first time in Ocarina of Time, and ultimately shows his true colors as Ganon. Young Link will collect 3 spirit stones to obtain the Master Sword from the Spirit Realm. When doing this however Ganondorf manages to obtain all 3 pieces of the Triforce and Link is sealed in the Master Sword chamber for 7 years until he has grown enough to wield it. Link must find the 7 sages that can seal Ganondorf in the Spirit Realm, and ultimately leads to his showdown with Ganon.
This game was a system seller when it was released, and still is. People will still buy or keep an n64 for just this game. It has sparked multiple ports and rereleases. It was available on two collectors discs for the Gamecube. One was was a preorder bonus for Wind Waker that featured Ocarina of Time along with Master Quest, a Japan exclusive version of the game. The other was a Collectors disc packaged with Gamecube consoles that included Zelda 1&2 from the Nes, along with Ocarina and Makora’s Mask. Wii/U Virtual Console also received a port. Finally was on the 3ds as Ocarina of Time 3d. The n64 version was offered in standard gray and limited edition gold cartridges for early adopters. Prices stay somewhat high for these cartridges as it is a very in demand game even though it is not rare. The 3ds version recently became a Player’s Choice, and can be found around $20.
Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask
Now we move on to the second Legend of Zelda game on the n64, Majora’s Mask. This is another well received game and takes place a few months after the events of Ocarina of Time, but has much darker undertones.
The story takes place in an alternate version of Hyrule. This time Skull Kid is the main antagonist and has stolen Majora’s Mask. This results in the moon rapidly plummeting towards this land of Termina, where it will ultimately make contact in 72 hours. Link travels back in time to try and prevent this from happening, and will have to do so many times to finish the game.
Other than the 72 hour clock (game time, not real time) the new element here is the mask system. Link must collect multiple masks which cause him to transform into different entities. For example the Zora mask will let Link swim much faster than he could ever normally.
This time there are 4 dungeons, which is uncharacteristically low for a Legend of Zelda game. At the end obviously there is a boss, and defeating this boss will break the curse on a giant. These 4 giants have the strength to slow the moons descent, allowing a showdown with Skull Kid.
I would highly recommend Majora’s Mask, especially to anyone that enjoyed Ocarina of Time. One thing to watch out for however, is that Majora’s Mask is one of the few n64 games that REQUIRES the expansion pack add on. This is not really a problem as they are not really rare, just something to keep in mind. Like Ocarina, Majora’s Mask also has gold and gray cartridge variants. Also it can be found as a 3ds remake, and on the Wii U Virtual Console. Majora’s Mask is also available on the Legend of Zelda Collector’s Disc for the Gamecube.
Legend of Zelda The Minish Cap
The Gameboy Advance brought Minish Cap, which was the only real new entry to the series for this generation.
This game is in line as beginning of the Four Swords games (more later). Vaati has managed to destroy a relic called the picori blade, and petrified Princess Zelda in the process. The king of Hyrule enlists Link to go find these Picori (also known as Minish) as only children can see them. Ultimately Link is given the Minish Cap which allows him to shrink down to Picori size at will.
Link must gather 4 elements in hope to restore the Picori blade and ultimately defeat Vaati.
Minish Cap was relatively well liked. One of the main concerns was with only 6 dungeons the game tends to be considered short. That is fine for me personally, because I don’t need every game to be a 40 hour adventure.
The game is available on the GBA in physical form. If you managed to get your hands on a 3ds console that was in the ambassador program, then Minish Cap is one of the included games. Later on, Minish Cap was added to the Wii U Virtual Console as a downloadable title.
Other GBA Legend of Zelda Games
There were 3 other games in the Zelda series released on the GBA. All 3 however are ports of previous games, Namely the first 3 games in the series.
What was added on the port of Link to the Past was Four Swords. You may have seen Four Swords mentioned above during the Minish Cap write up.
This continues with Vaati as the villain again, this time trying to take Zelda as a bride. Link pulls the Four Sword to try and stop him, but when doing so he is split into 4 entities. Link must find 4 great fairies, ultimately granting access to Vaati’s castle.
Four Swords however is a multiplayer only game. At least 2 people are required to play, up to 4.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Now that we have made it to Gamecube, it is time to talk about Wind Waker. This was the first Legend of Zelda game released on the console.
Wind Waker actually got a lot of hate at the time of release for it’s cel shaded or “Cartoony” graphics. I remember hearing about it, and everyone either hated or loved it. There was no middle ground. This is funny because looking back, I feel like this may have actually been the best looking game on the console.
There were many new elements introduced in Wind Waker, and it is unlike any other Legend of Zelda game. Most of the world is covered with water and a large amount of the game is spent sailing. Which means Link needs a boat, and a talking boat is provided, called the King of Red Lions. Conveniently Link trades in his ocarina for a wind changing baton called the Wind Waker, which makes this tons easier.
With water brings pirates, and that would be Tetra. This game’s version of Princess Zelda. Of course Ganon rears his ugly head, and kidnaps Tetra. Ultimately Link will have to collect some items, and in the same Zelda game story face off with Ganon. Won’t say anymore as to keep from spoiling too much of the story.
I personally liked Wind Waker quite a lot. It was a whole new adventure and all of it was great EXCEPT for one. There is a very long fetching quest towards the end of the game that is just a but too drawn out. The game is most definitely still worth playing, just be prepared.
Wind Waker doesn’t have any virtual console releases, there are only two ways to play. There is obviously the Gamecube release, and later on a HD remastered version was released on the Wii U.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
Other than the cdi games, Four Swords Adventures is the Legend of Zelda game I have the least experience with on this list. Unlike Four Swords, at least Adventures is playable by 1 person and mutiplayer is not a requirement.
Adventures does play a lot like the original Four Swords game where there are 4 Links and has that Link to the Past look. There are 8 worlds with 4 stages each, at the end of each world is a boss battle.
Four Swords Adventures is the last game in the Four Swords timeline. So once again Vaati is the main antagonist.
Like I said I do not have a huge amount of experience with Four Swords Adventures. The single player game game is playable either with the Gamecube controller or the GBA with link cable. The multiplayer game however requires all players to have a GBA and link cable so that can get a bit pricey to set up. Good news is that one link cable was bundled in with the game, so odds are if you find a copy it maybe included.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
We made it to the end of the Gamecube games, and that is Twilight Princess. Like Majora’s Mask, this one has darker undertones than the rest of the Zelda series.
Twilight Princess was one of the last first party games released for Gamecube and is a radical departure from the Wind Waker. Gone are the cartoonish cel shaded graphics and the sea elements. Instead there is a very dark, what I would call a cloud surrounding Hyrule that causes Link to turn into a wolf much like how he would turn into a bunny in Link to the Past.
This is a much more mature Legend of Zelda game, not saying any are childish, but Twilight Princess was even rated Teen in the US.
Twilight Princess takes place after Majora’s Mask. Link manages to get drawn into a shadow world and that is when he is transformed into a wolf. Link must collect an item to break this transformation, and then play through 9 dungeons. Of course being a Legend of Zelda game, a battle with Ganon then awaits.
There is actually both a Gamecube and Wii version available and they were released within a month of each other. The wii version released first actually, but suffers from odd controls and flipped gameplay, as Link is left handed and most people are assumed to be right handed. The Gamecube version was released a month later and plays much like previous Zelda games, mainly Ocarina of Time. Only real thing to note about the Gamecube version is that it is flipped from the wii version to make Link left handed again. Lastly there is a Wii U Hd Remaster like Wind Waker, and seems to follow the Gamecube version more than the Wii.
There are even more Legend of Zelda games to choose from.
In conslusion, there are games than the ones covered on the the 3ds, Ds, Wii. There is also a new game coming for the Wii U and Nintendo Switch, called Breath of the Wild in the coming months. Short of possibly the cdi games, I cannot really say that there are any bad Legend of Zelda games. My personal top 3 would have to be Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, and the Original. Don’t let that stop you from trying any of the others however, as all of them are good choices.