You have already had your say on the best Zelda games as we celebrate the series’ 30th anniversary – and you did a mighty fine job also, even though I am fairly certain A Link to the Past belongs at the head of some record – so now it is our turn. We asked the Eurogamer editorial team to vote for their favourite Zelda games (though Wes abstained since he still doesn’t understand exactly what a Nintendo is) and below you will find the full top ten, together with some of our own musings. Could we get the games in their rightful order? Likely not…
10. A Link Between Worlds
How brilliantly contradictory that among the finest first games on Nintendo’s 3DS would be a 2D adventure game, and that one of the most adventurous Zelda entrances are the one that so closely aped among its predecessors.
It really helps, of course, that the template was lifted from one of the greatest games in the show and, by extension, one of the best games of all time. A Link Between Worlds takes that and positively sprints with it, running free into the recognizable expanse of Hyrule with a newfound liberty.
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In providing you the capability to lease any one of Link’s well-established tools from the off, A Link Between Worlds broke with the linear progression that had shackled previous Zelda games; this was a Hyrule that was no longer characterized through an invisible path, but one that offered a feeling of discovery and absolutely free will that was beginning to feel absent in previous entries. The feeling of adventure so precious to the show, muffled in the past few years by the ritual of reproduction, was well and truly revived. MR
9. Spirit Tracks
An unfortunate side-effect of this simple fact that more than one generation of gamers has increased up with Zelda and refused to let go has become an insistence – throughout the show’ mania, at any rate – it develop them. That led to some interesting areas as well as some ridiculous tussles over the series’ direction, as we will see later on this listing, but sometimes it threatened to leave Zelda’s authentic constituency – you know, children – supporting.
Happily, the mobile games happen to be there to take care of younger gamers, and Spirit Tracks for its DS (currently available on Wii U Virtual Console) is now Zelda at its most chirpy and adorable. Though superbly designed, it’s not an especially distinguished game, being a relatively hasty and gimmicky follow-up to Phantom Hourglass that reproduces its own structure and flowing stylus controller. However, it’s such zest! Link employs a tiny train to get around and its puffing and tooting, along with an inspired folk music soundtrack, set a lively pace for your adventure. Then there’s the childish, heavenly pleasure of driving the train: placing the adjuster, pulling on the whistle and scribbling destinations in your map.
Link has to save her body, but her spirit is with him as a constant companion, sometimes able to own enemy soldiers and perform the barbarous heavy. The two even enjoy an innocent childhood romance, and you’d be hard pressed to think of another game that has captured the teasing, blushing strength of a preteen crush also. Inclusive and sweet, Spirit Tracks remembers that children have feelings too, and also will show grownups something or two about love. OW
8. Ghost Hourglass
In my head, at least, there’s long been a raging debate going on as to whether Link, Hero of Hyrule, is really any good using a boomerang. He’s been wielding the faithful, banana-shaped piece of timber because his first experience, however in my experience it has merely been a pain in the arse to use.
The exception that proves the rule, nevertheless, is Phantom Hourglass, in which you draw the route on your boomerang through the hand. Poking the stylus in the touch display (which, at an equally beautiful move, is the way you command your sword), you draw an exact flight map for your boomerang and then it just… goes. No faffing about, no more clanging into columns, only simple, simple, improbably responsive boomerang trip. It had been when I first used the boomerang from Phantom Hourglass that I realised this game might just be something special; I quickly fell in love with all the rest.
Never mind that so many of the puzzles are derived from setting a change and subsequently getting from Point A to Point B as fast as possible. Never mind that watching some gameplay back to refresh my memory lent me powerful flashbacks into the hours spent huddling over the screen and grasping my DS like I needed to throttle it. Never mind that I did want to throttle my DS. JC
7. Skyward Sword
It bins the recognizable Zelda overworld and set of discrete dungeons by throwing three enormous areas at the participant which are continuously rearranged. It is a beautiful game – one I’m still hoping will probably soon be remade in HD – whose watercolour visuals leave a glistening, dream-like haze within its azure skies and brush-daubed foliage. Following the filthy, Lord of this Rings-inspired Twilight Princess, this is the Zelda series re-finding its toes. I am able to shield many of recognizable criticisms levelled at Skyward Sword, for example its overly-knowing nods to the remainder of the series or its marginally forced origin story that unnecessarily retcons recognizable elements of this franchise. I can even get behind the bigger overall quantity of area to explore when the game continually revitalises all its three regions so successfully.
I couldn’t, sadly, ever get in addition to the game’s Motion Plus controls, which required one to waggle your own Wii Remote in order to do battle. It turned into the boss battles against the brilliantly bizarre Ghirahim into infuriating fights using technologies. Into baskets that made me rage quit for the rest of the evening. At times the movement controls functioned – the flying Beetle thing pretty much always found its mark but when Nintendo was forcing players to leave behind the reliability of a control scheme, its replacement had to work 100 per cent of the moment. TP
6. Twilight Princess
I was pretty bad in Zelda games. I really could ditch my way through the Great Deku Tree and the Fire Temple okay but, from the time Connect dove headlong to the Great Jabu Jabu’s belly, my want to have pleasure with Ocarina of Time easily started outstripping the pleasure I was really having.
When Twilight Princess rolled around, I had been at college and also something in me most likely a profound love of procrastination – was ready to test again. This time, it really worked. I remember day-long stretches on the couch, huddling underneath a blanket in my cold flat and only poking my hands out to flap about with the Wii distant during battle. Subsequently there was the magnificent dawn if my then-girlfriend (now fiancée) awakened me with a gentle shake, so asking’can I watch you play with Zelda?’
Twilight princess is, honestly, attractive. There is a wonderful, brooding setting; yet the gameplay is hugely diverse; it has got a beautiful art style, one that I wish they’d kept for only one more game. That is why I’ll always adore Twilight Princess – it is the sport that made me click with Zelda. JC
However, some of its best moments have come when it turned outside its framework, left Hyrule and then Zelda herself behind, and asked what Link might do next. Even the self-referential Link’s Awakening has been one, and this N64 sequel to Ocarina of Time another. It took a much more revolutionary tack: weird, dark, and experimental.
Though there’s lots of comedy and experience, Majora’s Mask is suffused with doom, sorrow, and an off-kilter eeriness. Some of this stems from its admittedly awkward timed structure: the moon is falling around the Earth, the clock is ticking and you also can not stop that, just reposition and start again, somewhat stronger and wiser each time. Some of it comes from the antagonist, the Skull Kid, who’s no villain but an innocent having a gloomy story who has contributed into the corrupting impact of the titular mask. Some of this comes from Link himselfa child again but with the increased man of Ocarina still somewhere inside himhe rides rootlessly to the land of Termina like he’s got no better place to be, so far in your hero of legend.
Despite an unforgettable, surreal conclusion, Majora’s Mask’s primary narrative isn’t one of the series’ strongest. But these poignant Groundhog Day subplots about the stress of normal life – reduction, love, family, job, and passing, always death – find the series’ writing at its absolute best. It is a melancholy, compassionate fairytale of this regular that, with its ticking clock, wants to remind one that you simply can not take it with you personally. OW
If you’ve had children, you’ll know that there’s amazingly strange and touching moment when you are doing laundry – stick with me – and those tiny T-shirts and trousers first start to turn up in your washingmachine. Someone new has come to dwell with you! Someone implausibly small.
This is one of The Wind-Waker’s best tricks, I think. Link was young before, but today, with the gloriously toon-shaded shift in art management, he actually appears young: a Schulz toddler, enormous head and tiny legs, venturing out amongst Moblins and pirates and these crazy birds that roost round the clifftops. Connect is little and exposed, and thus the experience surrounding him seems all the more stirring.
The other great tip has a good deal to do with those pirates. “What is the Overworld?” This has become the standard Zelda query because Link to the Past, but with the Wind-Waker, there did not seem to be just one: no alternative dimension, no switching between time-frames. The sea was controversial: so much hurrying back and forth across a enormous map, so much time spent crossing. But consider what it brings along with it! It brings pirates and sunken temples and ghost ships. It attracts underwater grottoes along with a castle awaiting you at a bubble of air down on the seabed.
Best of all, it attracts unending sense of renewal and discovery, 1 challenge down and another awaiting, as you jump from your boat and race up the sand towards another thing, your miniature legs crashing through the surf, your enormous eyes fixed over the horizon. CD
Link’s Awakening has been near-enough a excellent Zelda game – it has a vast and secret-laden overworld, sparkling dungeon design and memorable characters. Additionally, it is a catalyst dream-set side-story with villages of talking animals, side-scrolling places starring Mario enemies and a giant fish who sings the mambo. It was my first Zelda experience, my entry point to the series and the match where I judge every other Zelda name. I totally adore it. Not only was it my very first Zelda, its greyscale entire world was one of the first adventure games I playedwith.
No Guru Sword. And while it still feels like a Zelda, even after enjoying many of the other people, its own quirks and characters set it apart. Link’s Awakening packs an astonishing amount onto its little Game Boy capsule (or Game Boy Color, if you played with its DX re-release). It is a vital experience for any Zelda fan. TP
2. The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past
Bottles are OP in Zelda. Those little glass containers can turn the tide of a conflict when they have a potion or – even better – a fairy. If I was Ganon, I’d postpone the wicked plotting and the measurement rifting, and I would just set a solid fortnight into traveling Hyrule from top to bottom and smashing any glass bottles that I came across. After that, my dreadful vengeance are all the more dreadful – and there’d be a sporting chance I might be able to pull it off too.
All of which suggests, as Link, a jar can be a true reward. Real treasure. I think you will find four glass bottles in Link to the Past, each one which makes you that little stronger and that bit bolder, buying you assurance in dungeoneering and hit points in the middle of a bruising manager experience. I can not recall where you receive three of those bottles. But I can recall where you receive the fourth.
It’s Lake Hylia, and if you are like me, it is late in the game, with the large ticket items collected, that wonderful, genre-defining second at the peak of the hill – in which one map becomes two – taken care of, and handfuls of streamlined, ingenious, infuriating and enlightening dungeons raided. Late game Link to the Past is all about sounding out every last inch of the map, which means working out how the two similar-but-different versions of Hyrule fit together.
And there is a difference. An gap in Lake Hylia. A gap hidden by a bridge. And underneath it, a guy blowing smoke rings by a campfire. He feels just like the greatest key in all of Hyrule, along with the prize for uncovering him is a glass container, ideal for keeping a potion – or even a fairy.
Link to the Past seems like an impossibly clever match, divides its map to two dimensions and requesting you to flit between them, holding both arenas super-positioned in mind as you solve one, enormous geographical puzzle. In fact, though, somebody could probably replicate this design if they had enough pencils, sufficient quadrille paper, enough energy and time, and if they had been determined and smart enough.
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But Link to the Past isn’t just the map – it is the detailing, as well as the characters. It is Ganon and his wicked plot, but it is also the man camping out beneath the bridge. Perhaps the whole thing is somewhat like a jar, then: that the container is equally crucial, but what you are really after is the stuff that’s inside it. CD
Where do you start with a game since momentous as Ocarina of Time? Maybe with the Z-Targeting, a remedy to 3D battle so effortless you barely notice it is there. Or maybe you speak about an open world that’s touched with the light and shade cast by an inner clock, even where villages dance with action by day before being seized by an eerie lull through the nighttime. How about the expressiveness of that ocarina itself, an superbly analogue instrument whose music was conducted with the new control afforded by the N64’s pad, which notes flexed wistfully at the push of a stick.
Maybe, however, you just focus in on the moment itself, a perfect photo of video games emerging aggressively from their very own adolescence as Connect is throw so suddenly into an adult world. What is most noteworthy about Ocarina of Time is how it arrived so fully-formed, the 2D adventuring of past entries transitioning into three dimensions as gracefully as a pop-up book folding quickly into existence.
Additional Zeldas may result in a better play today – there’s a thing about the 16-bit adventuring of A Link to the Past that stays forever impervious to time – although none could ever claim to be important as Ocarina. As a result of Grezzo’s exceptional 3DS remake it has kept much of its verve and impact, and even putting aside its technical accomplishments it’s an adventure that ranks among the series’ finest; uplifting and emotional, it’s touched with all the bittersweet melancholy of climbing up and leaving the childhood behind. From the story’s conclusion Link’s youth and innocence – and this of Hyrule – is heroically revived, but once that most revolutionary of reinventions, video games could not ever be the exact same again.