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

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.

75 comments

  • ProChuga - January 5, 2013 8:20 p.m.

    i have to say Ocarina of time holds its place firmly at #1, it was the first game that i ever played, and captivated me every day of me playing me...All i wonder is how it took me 6 years to beat it..(water temple), but now i can beat it in 2 days. 2nd place would have to be Majora's mask. that game.that game..it was difficult, but it was so freakin awesome. The only problem i have with the game is the water temple(always the hardest), but other than that, the game has so many side quests and possibilities it really puts those thinking muscles to work. Keeping track of time, collecting masks, fighting, and solving problems... very exciting. 3rd place would have to be the wind waker, so huge of an environment for its time, especially for a Zelda game, although not as many side quests as i would prefer the storyline of this game were amazing, i couldn't of asked for a game like it to be any better. Twilight princess was a huge let down to me and many other zelda fans, first problem was when it first came out i beat it in the first 2 days of arrival in stores, it just didn't feel like a classic zelda game for me, the older the better is normally the case for zelda games. Don't get me wrong, there were classic zelda features to the game...but...a bazooka!? really now, this guy saves your but with a rocket launcher... and i thought for a second that Ganon wasn't the main villain in this game, i thought it was the twilight lord, but boy was i wrong. The DS games were a let down, they just don't have the feel of even being a Zelda game, and for me, the phantom hourglass was so hard to beat on the whole phantom temple or whatever that place was, in fact i had to buy a strategy guide to get me through it half the time. Over all i think the Zelda games will always be my favorite series, even outranking the Fallout series and Elder Scrolls series. FYI, only zelda game that i never beat was minish cap, the last boss, i'm just not that good with her moves, even with the gameboy gamecube adapter.
  • christopher-gardiner - July 8, 2012 7:19 p.m.

    Wind Waker was and still is the best Zelda game in existance, because it was the one that got me into the series, and was the first one that i have played, with Ocarina of Time at close second.
  • navi-the-fairy - February 11, 2012 3:36 p.m.

    You're very biased, you know. If you can blame Zelda 1 for aspects of it that are primitive and only there because it was first, then you should probably point out that A Link to the Past has very little character development at all and is relatively uninteresting to many people who've not had experience with any games prior to the 3D shift. Take off the nostalgia goggles, being amazing for the time doesn't always mean amazing now. And for Ocarina of Time, where do I start. The field is bland, the characters are a clear step backwards from Link's Awakening, the only half of the inventory is usable at any point and the time traveling forces you to be unable to use items you've already obtained, the owl and the fairy hold your hand constantly, the first three dungeons are a chore and the game only gets good part-way through, and the game's biggest hook is "wow it's in 3D." I adore A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, I adore all of these games, but none of them are perfect and if you really want to make a list of what makes these games good and bad you should try a little harder :P
  • nomis - December 10, 2011 7:34 p.m.

    wow...Minish Cap is easy?! guess I got a lot to learn about Zelda games haha
  • TJF588 - October 4, 2011 4:31 a.m.

    I lament a lack of even commenting on the GBA version of ALttP (and perhaps the GCN versions of the NES and N64 games, but IIRC, only OoT's Master Quest was worth noting, and that's in the 3DS version). Why? Four Swords. How about the recent DSiWare Four Swords Anniversary Edition?
  • Ravenbom - July 9, 2011 7:46 a.m.

    I had fun with Link's Crossbow Training. For an hour. Also because I didn't use the stupid zapper.
  • egregious - July 6, 2011 2:40 p.m.

    A Link to the Past is my favorite game of all time. Still. I've had those discussion about top ten, five, hundred games, and ALTTP always comes out number one. The perfect game. Wind Waker is my number two Zelda game, to be honest. I loved the look and it just felt so lighthearted and fun.
  • Imgema - July 4, 2011 4:47 p.m.

    You know, technology and gameplay advances can improve graphics and um, gameplay, but they can't improve one the one thing that is the most important for me: Atmosphere. Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask are STILL the best Zeldas for me, not because of the nostalgia (i grew up with 8 and 16 bit zeldas actually) but because of their atmosphere. Ocarina of time also has the most content and secrets compared to any other Zelda and there are even little things that you may never see, unless you try them, like, have you ever played the Zelda lullaby near a destroyed sign? Did you ever let a butterfly land on your Deku stick? And dozens of other things like that. Oh and both games have the best soundtrack of any Zelda game. You can't improve music compositions with newer technology now, can you?
  • randomroy - July 4, 2011 7:26 a.m.

    How could you forget the Game and watch Zelda game?!!! My family couldn't afford a game boy so it was my pride and joy. It was my first ZELDA and holds a special place in my heart. I think I played it for 8 hours straight in the car from London to Edinburgh when I was young.
  • jackthemenace - July 3, 2011 4:03 p.m.

    Well, I enjoyed Phantom Hourglass and Spirit tracks, and, since I played Link to the past on GBA and Twilight Princess on the Wii, I've never really had the chance to play a LoZ game with a real controller, which I find disappointing, now I realised that 10 seconds ago.
  • Bobishungry - July 3, 2011 1:13 a.m.

    i've heard of each of these games before, even the link's crossbow training. But i had always thought the faces of evil intro video was a fake intro made by some random guy on youtube. I wish i was right!
  • AlbVega - July 3, 2011 12:33 a.m.

    Twilight princess for me. I was never really a Zelda fan until I played this and Ocarina back to back. Midna it's a great character, the towns and overworld feel incredibly alive and everything just screams EPIC. Plus the armors were cool. It's the Zelda I have completed the most, and that's in one sitting only. These articles are amazing, please do now Castlevania, Resident Evil and the sacred Mario games.
  • HowdyCowboyCheesesBurger0911 - July 2, 2011 3:51 p.m.

    I enjoyed the the Zelda faps but this is to much, no more Zelda.
  • The_Tingler - July 2, 2011 3:46 p.m.

    Oh, and Wind Waker is the only one in the series with f***ing camera control. Sigh.
  • The_Tingler - July 2, 2011 3:46 p.m.

    Nothing wrong with A Link To The Past? How about this: the story's tacked-on and there are no interesting characters in it, plus it doesn't do very well in guiding you to your objectives. These are the reasons I got bored with it. I completed it, but I had GameFAQs open for a great deal of time. Wind Waker is my absolutely favourite, mostly because of the superb story and characterization. Oh, and absolutely everything else. It's the only game barring Batman Arkham Asylum that I've got 100% everything on.
  • KingArchie55 - July 2, 2011 2:35 p.m.

    I loved LttP. I got it for GBA, and I played that game for like 3 years. Then I lost it. But man, that game is fantastic. It's gotta be my favorite game.
  • Tenfey - July 2, 2011 12:30 p.m.

    Your description for Link to the Past was actually dead on for me. It was the first Zelda I had ever seen, and I played it non-stop for weeks. When I went back to try the previous NES entries after borrowing them from friends, I could see how they had led up to LttP, but I could never really get into them. Don't worry though, I eventually sat down and played through both of them, albeit about 10 years later and with a FAQ.
  • AuthorityFigure - July 2, 2011 6:47 a.m.

    The DS games are inferior to the GBC games to my mind. Twilight Princess may have tried too hard to be like OoT, but I have a clear concious on that - I wasn't one of the ignoramous' yearning for a 'dark' (read: 'dull') Zelda game.
  • 510BrotherPanda - July 2, 2011 5:19 a.m.

    Since I live in San Francisco... THE NEXT TIME I SEE YOU GUYS AROUND THE CITY, I WOULD GREATLY APPRECIATE A DISCUSSION ON THIS ARTICLE, PARTICULARLY YOUR OPINIONS OF THE HANDHELD ZELDA GAMES. Sure, I'm not "the guy with all the Zelda tattoos", and I'm not nearly as old or game-experienced as all of you, but I think my perspective on this is at least...worth...a little bit...
  • Limbo - July 2, 2011 4:22 a.m.

    Excuse me, the Faces Of Evil is one of my favorite games of all time. I find this article highly offensive. Jokes aside, my favorites would have to be Ocarina Of Time, Majora's Mask, and Wind Waker, in that order. Ocarina of Time because it encompasses everything Zelda games are about and is just fantastic, Majora's Mask because it is the most unique, memorable, and has dozens of side quests (ALIEN ATTAAACK), and Wind Waker because it was my first Zelda game and I have a nostalgia boner for it.

Showing 1-20 of 75 comments

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