2016 marks the 30th anniversary of one of the most highly regarded series in the history of gaming. Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda franchise is almost consistently brilliant, with pretty much every new game being held aloft as the pinnacle of the action role playing genre. But which games in this beloved collection are the best of the best? Here, T3.com reveals the top ten quests that Link has embarked on in his enduring struggle against Ganon and the other ne’er-do-wells breaching the peace in Hyrule…
10. The Minish Cap (2004 - Gameboy Advance)
The Gameboy Advance’s only exclusive Zelda adventure (and one of the best games on the hand held system), 2004’s The Minish Cap was also the last to feature the traditional overhead view. Developed by Capcom, The Minish Cap also introduced some charming new elements to the series, such as Link’s ability to shrink down to miniature size and venture into parts of Hyrule that a regular sized boy couldn’t reach. With the help of eponymous Minish Cap Ezlo (a creature turned into a hat, naturally), players were tasked with rescuing a Princess Zelda who had been turned to stone.
9. Skyward Sword (2011 - Wii)
Developed specifically for the Wii, Skyward Sword took the motion controls introduced in Twilight Princess and ran with them. While vast sections of the adventure are set in the familiar environs of Hyrule, a large section is spent in Skyloft, a floating world set amongst the clouds and Link must ride on a giant bird to travel between these settings. Skyward Sword is easily the best looking game in the Zelda series (so far) and one of the original Wii’s must-have titles.
8. Spirit Tracks (2009 - Nintendo DS)
Spirit Tracks was the second Zelda title on the Nintendo DS after Phantom Hourglass and utilised the handheld’s touchscreen to bring an intuitive control system to a new adventure. The Spirit Tracks referenced in the title are train lines that criss-cross Hyrule and must be traversed by Link in a steam train. The polygonal visuals really pushed the DS, and an interesting mechanic in which you get to control Princess Zelda’s spirit (to take down bosses as a supernatural tag team) make Spirit Tracks a refreshing and inventive entry in the series.
7. Twilight Princess (2006 - Gamecube/Wii)
Originally developed for the Gamecube ported to the Wii with motion controls and some slight visual upgrades, Twilight Princess represents something of a return to the familiar graphical style of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. The game world is absolutely massive, full of diverse dungeons and temples and once again introduces new mechanics, such as being able to transform into a wolf and travel into the titular Twilight Realm. The game also marked the debut for new character Midna, who went on to feature in another Nintendo franchise, Super Smash Bros.
6. Majora’s Mask (2000 - Nintendo 64)
Majora’s Mask was something of a diversion from the familiar template previous games in the Zelda pantheon adhered to. One major difference to the previous games is that Link must change his form by wearing different masks, and each of these offers new abilities not afforded to the others. The main mechanic though, is the three day repeating time limit where players must reset the game world, Groundhog Day style in an effort to defeat the mischievous Skull Kid and prevent the moon crashing into the Earth. Majora’s Mask is one of the more divisive entries in the Zelda series.
- Read more: T3's Sega Dreamcast Anniversary Special
5. The Legend of Zelda (1986 - Nintendo Entertainment System)
The game that kick started the whole series, The Legend of Zelda proved to be one of the Nintendo Entertainment System’s killer apps when it was released in 1986. There was nothing like it on consoles previously, and the fantasy setting and RPG trappings were a massive hit with gamers more used to playing with dice and boards than controllers. Featuring a huge over world map and a series of dungeons to liberate, Zelda is still a quality title today and many other non-Nintendo games in the action RPG genre pay lip service to it.
4. A Link To The Past (1991 - Super Nintendo)
A Link to the Past was the first Zelda title to appear on the Super Nintendo, and firmly cemented the series as a Nintendo flagship. It’s actually a prequel to the first two games on the NES and tasks Link with saving Zelda from her prison cell deep inside Hyrule Castle. Lots of features fans now expect from a Zelda title debuted here, and it also features one of the most infamous easter eggs in the history of gaming - the Chris Houlihan room, a secret area which players would be diverted to if the game was about to crash.
3. Link’s Awakening (1993 - Gameboy)
Link’s Awakening debuted on the Gameboy in 1993 and proved that the format was just as capable as the more powerful home consoles when it came to delivering vast, engaging adventures. Link’s Awakening shares many similarities with the Super Nintendo’s A Link to the Past, but is is not set in Hyrule - a first for the series. Instead of rescuing Princess Zelda, Awakening sees Link collecting eight instruments with which to form an orchestra capable of waking the slumbering Wind Fish - the only being capable of sending him home. Imagine The Blues Brothers crossed with Quantum Leap and you’re there.
2. Wind Waker (2002 - Gamecube)
Wind Waker split the gaming community when it was revealed that the familiar ‘realistic’ visuals of the Nintendo 64 games would be ditched in favour of a more ‘cartoony’ cell shaded style. Fans needn't have been worried though, as the game was still as brilliant as previous Zelda games. The main method of transport utilised in Wind Waker is a sailing boat which allows Link to hop between different islands making up the world. The 2003 Gamecube release of Wind Waker is highly collectable as it came with the original Zelda games and both N64 titles on a bonus disc.
1. Ocarina of Time (1998 - Nintendo 64)
Often described as the greatest game of all time, Ocarina of Time certainly had a lot to live up to when it finally hit the N64 in 1998. It was a long time coming but Ocarina delivered, and was the first in the franchise to introduce a fully realised 3D vision of Hyrule. Temples full of puzzles, epic bosses, a fantastic time travel theme; and impressive sword play made every enemy encounter a spectacular battle. Galloping across Hyrule Field astride trusty steed Epona, the sun setting over the distant mountains - Ocarina was a technical marvel with an adventure to match.