The Legend of Zelda celebration

Countdown to The Legend of Zelda tears of the kingdom asset showing multiple games in the Zelda franchise
(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is going to let us explore Hyrule like never before on May 12, 2023. Nintendo may be building upon the foundations it established in Zelda: Breath of the Wild for this long-awaited sequel to one of the best Switch games, but the publisher is really celebrating 37 years of adventuring alongside Link and his friends. That's why Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is set to be truly Big in 2023 – and why we wanted to do something to celebrate.

As we countdown to Tears of the Kingdom, we are exploring the history and legacy of The Legend of Zelda. From its humble Famicom beginnings in 1986 to its bold 3D reinvention in Ocarina Of Time and the generation-defining Breath Of The Wild. Whether your first steps into Hyrule were through the 8-bit era or the expansive open world kingdoms we've explored in more recent installments, we've all had a shared experience. There's always a Link, a Zelda, and a great evil to overcome. That's what we'll be celebrating here with you in the weeks to come.

In this special series, GamesRadar+ has joined forces with its friends at Retro Gamer to dive into every The Legend of Zelda game, exploring what makes each of them so special and beloved to this day. Zelda creators will also take you behind the scenes and share their insights into the development process of some of the most iconic games in the series. If you're a fan, we're sure you'll enjoy the trip through time. If you're a newcomer, we hope this gives you a newfound appreciation of the series ahead of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. 

Countdown to Tears of the Kingdom

Skyward Sword HD

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The Ultimate Guide to The Legend of Zelda games

Looking for a cheatsheet to The Legend of Zelda series? While we'll be going into great depth on each of these video games in the coming weeks, this article is designed to guide you through a brief history of the franchise: From the Famicom game that started it all through to the recently-released Skyward Sword HD. The Legend of Zelda may have been rising to new heights for over 35 years, but this ultimate guide highlights just how varied and vibrant the series has been for Nintendo, from the timeless mainline adventures to all of the wonderful spin-offs.


Link's Awakening

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Best Zelda Games: After 37 years, there is no shortage of games to try in The Legend of Zelda series, from the 8-bit quests which inspired our imaginations to the open world adventures which encourage experimentation and exploration. But some of Link's trips through Hyrule are better than others, which is why we've worked to rank the 10 best Zelda games which we believe you should play today. 


Breath of the Wild

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Games like Zelda: Struggling to deal with the wait for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom? We don't blame you, it's a nightmare. So instead of staring at a countdown timer for the next few weeks, why not jump into some of these games like Zelda. We've highlighted some of our favorite story-driven RPGs which are full of beautiful worlds to explore and a spirit of adventure that you won't forget. 


The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom screenshot

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom guide

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is the long-awaited sequel to Breath of the Wild. It's been six years since we joined Link in exploring the open wilds of Hyrule, and much has changed in that time. For this sequel, Nintendo has given the Hero of Time a new suite of powers and a world beyond the clouds to explore, making this one of the most anticipated upcoming Switch games of the year. There's a lot of information out there, so join us as we recap everything you need to know about Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, from gameplay details to all the latest news. 


The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom artwork

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom pre-order: Tears of the Kingdom looks set to be a celebration of The Legend of Zelda series, and so it's no surprise to see Nintendo offering up some fantastic collector's items for those of you who are willing to put down a pre-order on the new release. Here's everything you need to know about the different versions of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom going on sale in May. 


The Legend of Zelda Nintendo Switch OLED

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Legend of Zelda Nintendo Switch OLED pre-order: Nintendo is releasing a limited edition The Legend of Zelda Switch OLED console in celebration of Tears of the Kingdom – it's a thing of beauty. It's also proving difficult to find, with pre-order allocations quickly running dry. Thankfully, we are tracking all of the major retailers closely so that we can let you know when more stock is available. 


The Legend of Zelda NES

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How 'Adventure Mario' evolved into The Legend Of Zelda

To mark Zelda's next much-anticipated steps in Tears of the Kingdom, we're celebrating the enduring series' past by casting our mind back over the classics. By virtue of Retro Gamer's The Story of Zelda bookazine, join us on a serialized journey to discover the complete history of Hyrule, starting with the origins of how Link's odyssey came to be. In our first entry, How 'Adventure Mario' evolved into The Legend Of Zelda, we explore Zelda's earliest beginnings, and how the game evolved as an idea inspired by Shigeru Miyamoto's imaginative childhood.


Nintendo Direct

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The anatomy of Link: For over three decades now, Link has served as the silent protector of Hyrule and its people. But what makes Zelda's protagonist one of the best heroes in video games? That's exactly what we're exploring here, as we look at how the Hero of Hyrule has been able to so confidently stand the test of time, and act as a vessel for us to become the sort of legendary adventurer that we've always wanted to be. 


The Legend of Zelda

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The history of Zelda: While GamesRadar+ will take you on a deep dive into every major entry to the franchise as part of this celebration of The Legend of Zelda ahead of Tears of the Kingdom release on May 12, we thought it would be worthwhile to give you the insight and context you need to properly understand the fascinating, complex, and generations-spanning history of The Legend of Zelda


The Legend of Zelda

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Why the first Legend of Zelda game is a masterpiece that has enthralled us for almost 40 years

Back in 1986, Nintendo released one of the most influential and impactful games in its long history – The Legend of Zelda. The series has naturally expanded and evolved in the years since its release, but Link's first outing remains a masterpiece that is well worth returning to today. We'll tell you why we believe that to be true in our The Legend of Zelda retrospective, which explores the strong foundations Nintendo set down and how the studio made smart use of the Famicom Disk System's featureset to make this game a reality. 


The Legend of Zelda

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Remembering Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link, a sequel that dared to be different: How would Nintendo follow the success of the original The Legend of Zelda? With a divisive sequel, one which is still considered the black sheep of the Zelda family to this day. But as we explore in our Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link retrospective, this side-scrolling adventure has more to it than meets the eye. 


The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Revisiting one of the series' most underrated gems: Link's Awakening is a triumph. It was always going to be challenging for Nintendo to scale The Legend of Zelda's action down to the small screen of the Game Boy, particularly after the success A Link to the Past has in expanded the reach of the franchise, but this more contained adventure was undoubtedly a delightful experience, one which you can revisit in our The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening retrospective


The Legend of Zelda: A link to the past

(Image credit: Nintendo)

A Link to the Past is considered by many to be one of the best games of all-time. Nintendo pushed The Legend of Zelda to new heights in 1998, marking Link's move off of 8-bit platforms with a sprawling adventure which dazzled players through its use of expansive mechanical design and twisting light/dark overworld structure. Our friends at Retro Gamer sat down with Nintendo's Takashi Tezuka and Kensuke Tanabe to discuss the making of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, receiving insight into how the best SNES game was designed and delivered. 


the legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time

(Image credit: Nintendo)

How Zelda: Ocarina of Time gave us a timeless legacy: If you haven't played Ocarina of Time, there's a good chance you've heard about it. Often cited by developers as one of the most important games ever made (and by players as one of the best full stop), Link's debut N64 adventure is legend. In our The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time retrospective, we explore how Nintendo utilized burgeoning technology and a 3D camera perspective to deliver a timeless classic. 


the legend of zelda: Majora's Mask

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Inside the surrealist sequel that was never supposed to exist: How could Nintendo achieve the impossible and follow up one of the best N64 games? With a truly weird and wonderful sequel, that's how. Our The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask retrospective takes you inside the surrealist sequel that was never supposed to exist, from tracking the game's evolution from the failure of the 64DD to the creation of the dark time-loop structure that helped define this adventure's legacy. 


The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Seasons

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How Capcom's first field trip into the world of Zelda left a lasting influence: Did you know that some of the best games in the Zelda franchise weren't made by Nintendo at all? Considered today to be two of the best Game Boy Color games, Capcom delivered two truly fantastic (and unique) adventures in Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons. If you want to learn why, you'll want to read our The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Seasons retrospective


The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

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The making of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is considered today to be among the best GameCube games. Which is funny, given that it was the most controversial game on the platform when it arrived in 2002. Nintendo unleashed a truly ambitious outing here, with a sprawling overworld and a smart expansion of foundations of the franchise, but some couldn't get past the stunning cel-shaded visual design. In our making of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, key members of the development team chart their difficult journey through uncharted waters, and detail how they ultimately delivered a truly legendary adventure. 


Four Swords Adventures

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Why Zelda: Four Swords Adventures is an oft-overlooked GameCube standout: If you grew up in the early aughts, there's a good chance that you have fond memories of the Game Boy Advance and its connectivity with the GameCube. Arguably, no game made better use of this functionality than Four Swords Adventures. Learn all about this wonderful – and utterly essential – Zelda multiplayer spin-off in our The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures retrospective


Best GBA games

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Zelda: The Minish Cap was smaller in scale but massive in heart and ambition: With Oracle of Ages and Seasons quickly earning cult-classic status among handheld owners, Capcom and Flagship set out to deliver another successful entry for Game Boy Advance – and it ended up designing one of the best in the entire series. As you'll learn in our The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap retrospective, what this colorful adventure lacked in size it more than made up for in heart. 


Best DS games

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Why Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is one of the most unique games of them all: Our The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass retrospective tracks all the ways this direct (and unlikely) sequel to The Wind Waker dared to be different on the DS in 2007, with the traditional Zelda rulebook receiving a welcomed rewrite to make use of the platform's most innovative features. Phantom Hourglass isn't an essential adventure for franchise fans, but it is one of the most interesting out there. 


The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

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How Zelda: Twilight Princess moved the franchise into the future

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess marked the end of the GameCube era and the dawn of the Wii, making it one of the most important games in this long-running series. Following the divisive nature of The Wind Waker, Nintendo returned to the foundations and visual style which underpinned Ocarina of Time in the hopes of mimicking the magic of the Nintendo 64 masterpiece. As you'll learn in our expansive The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess retrospective, Nintendo struggled to balance nostalgia with new ideas, although the results are absolutely fascinating, regardless of whether you first experienced the adventure with a GameCube controller in-hand or a WiiMote. 


The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

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How Zelda: Spirit Tracks carried the Phantom Hourglass torch to the next station: While it's considered today to be one of the best DS games, Phantom Hourglass is considered something of a sleeper hit – just like Phantom Hourglass before it. That's a shame, because this is one of the most unique entries to the franchise, and one of the only to really attempt to give Zelda a more active role in the adventure. Learn more in this The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks carried the Phantom Hourglass retrospective


A Link Between Worlds

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How Zelda: A Link Between Worlds shook things up in the shadow of a 16-bit classic: One of the best things about A Link Between Worlds is how smartly it paid deference to the past before striding into the future. Few expected a sequel to SNES classic A Link to the Past to ever really work, and yet here it is: one of the best 3DS games out there. Nintendo once again achieved the impossible with this innovative adventure, something you can better understand with our The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds retrospective


The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

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How Zelda: Skyward Sword held its own in a year dominated by Dark Souls and Skyrim

2011 is the year that defined the last decade of gaming, owing to the release of such classics as Dark Souls, Portal 2, LittleBigPlanet 2, Dead Space 2, and The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. But one game that often gets forgotten from that fateful year is Zelda: Skyward Sword – a heroic swan song for the Wii, and the game that dared to try and make sense of the convoluted Zelda timeline. Learn all about the difficulties Nintendo faced in implementing the Wii's new MotionPlus technology and the eventual triumphs of Skyward Swords' combat in our extensive The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword retrospective


Skyward Sword HD

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Zelda: Skyward Sword HD review: Nintendo delivered a capable remaster of Skyward Sword for the Nintendo Switch in 2021, which is the perfect way to experience the adventure for returning players and newcomers alike. With a standardized control setting, enhanced visuals, and fantastic boss and dungeon design, this is a must-play for anybody looking for a Zelda more focused than Breath of the Wild or Tears of the Kingdom. Read more in our The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD review


Tri Force Heroes

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Why Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is the weirdest, most wonderful tribute to Four Swords: The multiplayer effort that's underpinned by Four Swords and Spirit Tracks is off the wall in all the right ways here in Tri Force Heroes. This fascinating outlier in the Zelda franchise is a good time for those looking for a fun cooperative adventure, although it does stop short of being a true classic, as we explore in this The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes retrospective


Josh West
UK Managing Editor, GamesRadar+

Josh West is the UK Managing Editor of GamesRadar+. He has over 10 years experience in online and print journalism, and holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing. Prior to starting his current position, Josh has served as GR+'s Features Editor and Deputy Editor of games™ magazine, and has freelanced for numerous publications including 3D Artist, Edge magazine, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. Additionally, he has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh likes to play bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in a few movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.

With contributions from