After an impressive E3 showing of The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, we take a look at five of the best Zelda games that have come out since the franchise began 30 years ago.
This year’s E3 event was notable for a number of surprising reveals and impressive demos, but one game that took a good share of the spotlight was The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. From innovating the series with new gameplay elements to the incorporation of a massive open-world setting – a first for a Zelda game – Breath Of The Wild‘s E3 demo was so impressive that we thought it was one of E3 2016’s best games.
In celebration of the what looks to be an exciting new entry to the Zelda canon, as well as the franchise’s 30th anniversary, we’ve decided to go through 30 year’s worth of Zelda games and pick out some of the best ones that Nintendo have made. Here, in no particular order, are what we think are the five best Legend Of Zelda games that have been released so far.
Ocarina Of Time
As the first game of the series to make the huge leap from 2D to 3D, Ocarina Of Time is regarded by many as one of the, if not the, greatest games of all time, and it’s not hard to see why. The well-known pixelated top-down look of Hyrule was replaced by a detailed 3D world that seemed to span for miles, and those 3D graphics further lent themselves to some brilliant and unforgettable cinematic sequences.
Not only were the graphics among the best of that gaming generation, but Ocarina also pioneered a number of gameplay features and conventions that have become series staples. The game introduced the all-important Z-targeting system, which was a huge factor in making the game work, and was subsequently copied by many other games; there was the introduction of Link’s trusty steed Epona, which added a new dimension of traveling across Hyrule’s fields; the dungeons and puzzles were designed so that they were difficult but manageable (except the Water Temple), and greater emphasis was placed on the musical score, which has since become one of gaming’s most memorable soundtracks.
As a testament to the game’s design and timeless qualities, when 2011’s well-received Ocarina Of Time 3D remaster was released 13 years after the original, almost every gameplay feature was left untouched and the only things that changed was the graphics and camera.
A Link To The Past
For many gamers, A Link To The Past is probably the quintessential Zelda game, and a masterpiece of the 16-bit era. But more importantly, this game is the entry that established the all-conquering formula for all future Zelda titles to follow.
Taking advantage of the extra power provided by the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, A Link To The Past took the original game’s scope and scale, and reinvigorated everything with brightly-colored graphics, some much-needed atmosphere, and some fantastic level design. The original game was as bare as they come, but with A Link To The Past, you could see and hear the rain pound down as you traverse through Hyrule’s many colorful environments and enemies. Additionally, the dungeons were given an extra element of difficulty as puzzles now had complex solutions that involved features like elevation changes and creative use of items, all of which forced players to use their wits and ingenuity more than any previous Zelda game.
A Link To The Past is that rare game where regardless of if it’s your first time or 50th time playing it, you’ll always find enjoyment in the whole experience. As good as A Link Between Worlds is, we’re hoping that a 3D remake of A Link To The Past will come sooner rather than later.
The Legend Of Zelda
Shigeru Miyamoto had stated that one of the main inspirations behind The Legend Of Zelda was the time he spent exploring the hills and caves nearby his home as a kid, and it’s no coincidence that gamers were hit with that exciting feeling of discovery when they first played The Legend Of Zelda 30 years ago.
While understandably not as deep or complex as the later games, The Legend Of Zelda laid out the foundations of what’s to come. It was one of the first games that offered players an unprecedented amount of freedom, and it didn’t hold players’ hands while doing it either. From the moment that old man declares that “it’s dangerous to go alone” before handing over that trusty sword, every move is up to the player. Players weren’t told where to go, where items were, or how to solve all the puzzles; they had to figure everything out on their own.
But beyond the all the freedom afforded to players, one thing that can’t be understated enough is the the game’s difficulty. Put simply, The Legend Of Zelda is a hard game, and every enemy encounter required a level of skill that few players were accustomed to at the time. When the game is done and dusted, The Legend Of Zelda sweetens the experience by offering players the chance to do it all over again, except with new dungeons, layouts, and stronger enemies.
And finally, as a cherry on top of an already-sweet cake, The Legend Of Zelda was the first of in series to come packaged a nice shiny golden cartridge.
On paper, Majora’s Mask should not have worked as well as it did. It was a direct sequel to one of the greatest games of all time, it came out less than two years after its predecessor, and all of Majora’s Mask‘s graphics and assets were borrowed from Ocarina Of Time. But any doubt was quickly silenced upon the game’s release, as not only did Majora’s Mask deliver one of the best (and darkest) stories of the Zelda canon, it somehow managed to refine a formula that was considered to be perfect.
Majora’s Mask gave a new take on the Zelda formula by imposing a time constraint, which added a sense of urgency to anything and everything a player did. The series’ staples were still present, such as the cool dungeons, the number of collectible items, and the weapons, but Majora‘s Mask placed a heavier emphasis on characterization than previous Zelda games. As diabolical as Skull Kid‘s plan was, his actions were somewhat understandable given his sad backstory. Even minor NPCs, such as Anju and Kafei, were fleshed out far more than expected, and that not only served to engross players into the world of Termina, but it also made us actually care about not wanting to see the moon crash down onto Clock Town.
Not only were the stakes seemingly higher, the game also features what may possibly be the most intricate and detailed set of side-quests ever seen in a Zelda game, and never has the seemingly mundane task of collecting masks been more ridiculously enjoyable.
To say that fans weren’t initially too happy about Nintendo’s decision to use cell-shaded graphics for Wind Waker is probably a bit of an understatement. But as they say “time heals all wounds”, and not only did Wind Waker turn out far better than fans expected, but it also has only gotten better as time has passed.
For all the emphasis gamers place on Zelda’s dungeons and puzzles, the series has always been about that exhilarating feeling of adventure, and Wind Waker captured that feeling perfectly. The game demonstrates that developers don’t need powerful hardware to deliver a gorgeous game world; Wind Waker introduced a much-welcomed sea exploration mechanic, which was another first for the series. The ability to sail around the Great Sea offers up a new dimension of mystery and discovery that isn’t regularly seen in the well-trodden fields of Hyrule.
But aside from the graphics and exploration, Wind Waker was also notable for introducing a new timeline into Zelda‘s canon, which undoubtedly helped fans make some sense of the series’ admittedly convoluted chronology.
It wasn’t an easy task narrowing this list down to just five games, and there are number of great Zelda games that just missed the cut. But that’s something we’ll now throw over to you. Which Legend Of Zelda game was your favourite? What were some of the other great Zelda games that didn’t make our list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.