Why every Zelda game is the best AND worst in the series

They can't all be legendary. Or can they?

Why it’s the best Zelda ever: It’s the first (and only) Zelda you can play with friends. Grab three pals and tear ass through a gorgeously animated overworld in search of the Four Sword, which has split Link into four differently colored versions of himself. Each Link can spread out to explore caves and dungeons (disappearing onto a Game Boy Advance screen while inside) while the others battle enemies and collect Force Gems, which are tallied at the end of each level. Yes, there are levels and scores – this is more meant as a competitive co-op adventure than a true, deep Zelda experience. That said, it’s massive fun with friends and not hard to convince onlookers to jump in for a round.

Why it’s the worst Zelda ever: To fully enjoy that four player mode you need four Game Boy Advances and four Link Cables to connect all this crap to the GameCube. How many of us had all that lying around, plus four friends who also had the time to play something like this for hours on end? It’s a fine idea, but the logistics make its best moments practically unattainable. It’s possible to play solo, but the point is lost – not to mention controlling four Links at the same time, locked in formation, is pretty annoying.

Brett’s take: I was lucky enough to have three friends with their own GBAs and Link Cables, so I was able to experience Four Swords Adventures at its best. As advertised, it was a one-of-a-kind multiplayer experience yet still retained the heart and general feel of a true Zelda game. It’s a hard sell, but if you’ve got the friends and the time, this is worth the effort.

Why it's the best Zelda ever: Minish Cap is the most underrated and underappreciated entry in the entire Zelda series. Although it's one of the few Zelda titles developed by Capcom rather than by Nintendo itself, it completely nails what the series is best at – it's a perfect balance of old and new that simultaneously feels like a Zelda game yet also sets itself apart as unique. The overall structure of Minish Cap is wonderfully reminiscent of Link to the Past (that in itself should speak volumes), while Link's ability to shrink and explore the teeny-tiny world of the Picori feels totally novel.

Why it's the worst Zelda ever: It's a bit on the short side, and among Zelda games it's comparatively easy. With only six small-ish dungeons, you can breeze through Minish Cap in under 10 hours if you hurry. It’s also part of the Four Swords storyline, so if you’re more interested in Ganon and the Trifoce, you’ll find none of that here.

Carolyn's take: My only game-related tattoo is from Minish Cap, so make of that what you will. I loved that Minish Cap continued the art style of Wind Waker, I loved the new characters (especially Ezlo), and I loved that it brought back the same feelings I had playing LTTP for the first time.

Why it’s the best Zelda ever: We’ve touched on this before, but Twilight Princess is essentially the modern Ocarina of Time. Remove your precious memories from the equation and you’ll find this game copies (almost to a fault) most of the traits that made Ocarina so beloved, just with better graphics, a stronger story and advanced combat. Top it off with Midna, one of the best characters the series has ever seen, and you’ve got a modern classic on your hands. It’s the bigger, better Ocarina sequel we always wanted.

Why it’s the worst Zelda ever: Wind Waker wasn’t afraid to buck every preconceived idea of what the next Zelda should be. Twilight Princess, meanwhile, trips over itself to look and feel like Ocarina of Time; the overworld, all the towns, many of the weapons and even Epona are all strongly evocative of Ocarina, and the final battle with Ganondorf reeks of one-upmanship (our Ganon is even BIGGER!). But then on top of all this, there’s the Twilight Realm, Wolf Link, a skateboard/magic gear item that sends Link grinding through levels, a teleporting imp lady hounding Link throughout… in places it feels more like one of the side games, not a major console sequel. Basically, it can’t decide if it’s a laborious love letter to Ocarina or if it’s a weirdo entry a la Link’s Awakening or Majora’s Mask. And then there’s the Wii waggle…

Brett’s take: I’ve only played through this once, but they were 50 amazing hours. I still feel this is the “next Ocarina” we wanted since that notorious Spaceworld video debuted in 2000, offering a similar story, setting and design that made Ocarina so memorable. My real problem is the split between GC and Wii – the Wii version is inundated with waggle nonsense, and the GC version, which handles perfectly fine, doesn’t run in widescreen. Either way you’re getting a lesser experience.

Why it’s the best Zelda ever: No one thinks it’s the best Zelda ever.

Why it’s the worst Zelda ever: This is the antithesis to everything Zelda stands for.

Brett’s take: Does this even count? Honestly I’m just putting it here so no one says I “forgot” it. Moving on.

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