Posted on December 31 2015 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
Last year we shared with you a list of how the Zelda Informer staff then collectively ranked every single Zelda game in the series. Our staff has gotten smaller in 2015, but it’s also gotten closer and as such things change. We had the release of Tri Force Heroes to now consider and obviously the subtraction and addition of staff members over the course of the past year.
Due to the decrease in number of staff available I didn’t feel we have enough data to truly rank all 18 main line Zelda titles. However, we all have our ten favorite and as such we are starting a new tradition of presenting Zelda Informer’s top 10 Zelda games each winter. Why winter? It allows for at least a few weeks buffer from the potential release of a new title and it helps bring in the New Year with where ZI’s collective staff stands in terms of what games in the series we like most.
Each staff member was given the opportunity to submit a top 10 list. We then assigned points to each spot in the list, added them up, and ended up with a final top 10 we feel confident in. It’s not an exact science, but this is a pretty good standing of what our top 10 games really are. We had 10 staff members participate to create this list. Still, what really matters is… what is our top 10? Well here you go in countdown fashion from 10 to 1.
10. A Link Between Worlds
This game for many was the epitome of what top down Zelda’s are supposed to me – nay what many feel Zelda is supposed to be. While it offered a wall merging mechanic that brought the game to a whole new dimension, it was extremely clever in both exploring the worlds of Hyrule and Lorule as well as solving intricate puzzles. The nice thing is that by the time game ends, it feels like we’ve only scratched the surface of what that mechanic can accomplish.
A Link Between Worlds reminded all of us of not only where Zelda has been, but where it could be going with endearing characters and the ability to rent and buy all the items from the start. It reminded us what a more open world feels like, even within the limitations of the story. More important it proved that there is still a spot in today’s video game world for top down Zelda games – and that’s certainly a world we want to live in.
09. The Minish Cap
This title was extremely fun. Ultimately, that’s what matters right? The Minish Cap was the third title in a contract deal with Capcom and it’s honestly one of the finest handheld Zelda games we’ve ever gotten. Letting you shrink to the size of a small insect and meeting an entirely new people called the Minish, it captivated many players from the start.
08. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
This title has risen as one of the most appreciated titles in the series among the Zelda Informer staff. While popular opinion labels it as a black sheep, there is a lot to like about this title. While it’s a leveling RPG style experience with a lot of grinding, it offers challenging enemy and boss fights, a sprawling world to explore, and to this day it has the most complex and useful magic system ever put into a Zelda game.
It created memorable character such as Error and Bagu and introduced arguably the greatest and most surprising final fight in the history of the series, where you have to face off against yourself. There are some deep undertones to that final fight. This title was also (based on the manual) why the series was titled The Legend of Zelda – as it explained her actual legend. While this has been retconned as the reason for the series name thanks to Skyward Sword, it’s still has a really intricate story that made extensive use of game manuals, something that is lost in today’s gaming world.
07. A Link to the Past
Considered by many to be arguably the best game in the series, A Link to the Past is virtually the definition of a Zelda game. It established the entire formula the series has been using the last two decades, combining the best features from all prior games to setup a story flow, world building, and puzzle solving mantra that has yet to be reformed.
This title is still a great game by today’s standards and is a worthy play for anyone who enjoys the top down style Zelda games.
06. Link’s Awakening
This title is by far our staff’s favorite top down game in the series. Headed up by Tezuka, the man who currently controls the Mario series, you could easily see that influence as the game featured several characters and sprites from the Mario series of games. However that charm isn’t what separates this game – its gameplay is top notch and the story and world are built and put together in such a way that it really draws you in and almost crushes you with its ending, taking it all away.
This game stands as an outlier in the series, not taking place in Hyrule or using any characters associated to Hyrule besides Link. This is simply a game all Zelda fans must play at some point in their lives.
05. Majora’s Mask
There was a time at Zelda Informer when Majora’s Mask would be the top gam
e among our staff in a land slide. That time has now passed, but it doesn’t change how fantastic this titles is. It turned the Zelda series on its head, putting time constraints at the forefront of the experience while giving us the most intricate set of sidequests ever seen in a Zelda game. These very quests really engross you into the world and let you feel extremely close to all the various characters.
The actual bad guy still has a lot of mystery surrounding them to this day, and the cryptic messages from the Happy Mask Salesman overall make the game wonderful and mysterious at the same time. Add in Skull Kid’s overarching story and you have a game ripe with desire to be different, despite being built upon another games assets. Majora’s Mask is a one of kind experience in the Zelda series.
04. Skyward Sword
This title usually ranks as the most controversial of the 3D home console titles. It’s a fairly linear experience and the controls were take them or leave them for many players. However, we at Zelda Informer feel this game is just a really great game on its own, setting the stage for the rest of the series. Some of us really enjoyed the controls and many of us loved the story.
Add in some slick moments and clever puzzles, and you have yourself a title that has stuck with us since its release in 2011.
03. The Wind Waker
Sailing the high seas was never possible in Zelda until The Wind Waker came about. It offered one of the more freeing experiences when it came to exploration, as you sailed all across the Great Sea. The game was so much more than that, however. For the first time in Zelda history you meet the King of Hyrule, you learn of a dark undertone dealing with the flooding of Hyrule and how Ganondorf’s motives aren’t wholly evil this time around.
The game offered thrilling exploration, an endearing art style, and combat that felt both fluid and natural. Add in some engrossing characters and great dungeons, and you got yourself one of the best Zelda games to date.
02. Twilight Princess
While Twilight Princess won the 2015 Zelda Versus Best Zelda Game Tournament, it chimes in at #2 for us as a staff this year. Could tides turn with the release of Twilight Princess HD? Certainly possible. Still, this game lands at our #2 spot with high honors. From the engrossing story, sprawling world, inventive sidekick, and arguably the best dungeons in the series to date, you have yourself the makings of a masterpiece.
Twilight Princess stands today as one of the most revered titles in the series and we’re thrilled to experience it anew in HD soon enough.
01.Ocarina of Time
If A Link to the Past has set the standard under which all future games have been created, Ocarina of Time set the gold standard under which all Zelda games are compared too. Ocarina of Time’s place among conversations for the best game in the series is well known, as is the conversation that it may be one of if not the best game ever crafted. It took everything A Link to the Past established and simply made it all possible in an entirely new dimension.
That doesn’t mean it can’t stand on its own, establishing many beloved characters, the most memorable soundtrack in the entire series, and giving us the only experience that has Link as a child and an adult. Many have fond memories and still enjoy this game to this very day. We can only hope a future game can take up this title’s mantle as the game every other Zelda game is compared too.
For those curious, this year’s top 10 has some stark contrast to the last one we did. Here’s last year’s list:
- Majora’s Mask
- The Wind Waker
- A Link Between Worlds
- Ocarina of Time
- Skyward Sword
- Link’s Awakening
- Twilight Princess
- A Link to the Past
- Oracle of Ages
- The Minish Cap
As you can see, as time flows and we continue to press onward, things change – there is so much variance comparing the lists. What’s your top 10?