Best Zelda Games Of All Time

25th Anniversary of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

21st November 2023 marks the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s debut on N64. In honour of the occasion, we’re republishing our reader-ranked list of every Zelda game. Does Ocarina still hold up? Oh yes, but you can find out how it rates against the latest entries in this here ranking. Enjoy! Remember, this list is dynamic and governed in real-time by each game’s User Rating on our games database. Therefore, it is subject to change even after publication! In order to rate any of the games on the list below out of 10, logged-in Nintendo Life users can simply tap the ‘star’, assign the game a personal rating, and influence the order below. Enjoy! What are the best Zelda games?

Following decades of adventures across Nintendo consoles, ranking The Legend of Zelda series is one heck of an undertaking. Bar a couple of exceptions, each entry is pretty much a classic, and even the ‘lesser’ ones are really rather good. The majority are among the very best games on the consoles that parented them, so assembling them in order is no small task.

Thankfully, we’ve been able to enlist some very fine people to aid us in the task of ranking every Zelda game ever: you lovely Nintendo Life readers, of course! The reader-ranked list below is governed by each game’s User Rating in our database, and is therefore subject to change after publication, even as you’re reading this. It’s an ever-evolving, ‘definitive’ Zelda ranking that we’ll keep updated with new entries as they release. When it comes to different versions of the same game, after some debate we’ve decided to throw everything in for the most part — HD remasters, 3DS remakes, GBA ports, the works! We have excluded a few things (the GameCube compilations, BOTW on Wii U, and the non-Switch versions of Hyrule Warriors, for example), but we think it’s interesting to see within the overall ranking how the remasters and remakes fare against one another. And no, we haven’t included the Philips CD-i ones (or the DS Tingle curios), but we have included some significant spin-offs, such as Cadence of Hyrule and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity.

Don’t think spin-offs, remakes, or remasters should be included? We’ve got a solution for you: mentally remove the offending games from the list and — voilà — a svelte, sparkling ranking without any of those blithering pretenders to the Hylian throne. So, let’s grab the Master Sword and our Hylian Shield and head out on an adventure. Here is the Legend of Zelda series, as ranked by you, from worst to best…

Link’s Crossbow Training

Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
Release Date: 19th Nov 2007 (USA) / 7th Dec 2007 (UK/EU)
An introduction to the little-used plastic Wii Zapper peripheral, Link’s Crossbow Training is a little nine-level high-score shooting game which uses various assets and areas from Twilight Princess as Link attempts to improve his crossbow skills using the Wii Remote’s pointer functionality. It’s not unenjoyable, and you can pick the disc up for next to nothing these days. While there are sections where you can control Link in a first/third-person perspective, it should not be confused with a fully-fledged Zelda game in any way, shape or form. It is, however, a fun little aside in the Legend of Zelda-verse.

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes

Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: 23rd Oct 2015 (USA) / 23rd Oct 2015 (UK/EU)
The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes, while not a bad game, pales in comparison to the rest of the Zeldas (and the Four Swords games in particular). You play as Blue, Green, and Red Link, and work together to battle bosses, solve puzzles, and gather loot. The big new feature was the Totem mechanic, which enabled you to stack the three Links on top of each other, although it just wasn’t enough to elevate this entry. Tri Force Heroes still exudes the charm of the franchise and throws in some delightful features all of its own. Outfits are a high point, as are the presentation and soundtrack, and there are moments of wonder when level design and teamwork come together in harmony. Uneven stage design and poor communication options in multiplayer and a single-player experience that feels like an afterthought put this one at the bottom of the illustrious series’ Totem pole, though.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
Release Date: 1st Dec 1988 (USA) / 26th Sep 1988 (UK/EU)
A radical departure from the template of the first game, Zelda II has enjoyed something of a reappraisal in recent post-Dark Souls years. It’s an inscrutable game and one with which we wouldn’t feel bad in the slightest using the rewind function if you were playing via Nintendo Switch Online, or save states elsewhere, but it’s worth persevering with. In a series that, in the past, risked turning into a by-the-numbers adventure by slavishly sticking to a formula, this first sequel was anything but a repetition — a deeper combat system with RPG levelling elements and side-on platforming villages and dungeons made this a very different experience from the original. You could argue that too much of its sense of adventure and ‘wonder’ is lost to frustration, but no more so than in other challenging 8-bit games. If you’ve bounced off The Adventure of Link in the past, we’d urge you to give it another go.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition

Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: 28th Sep 2011 (USA) / 28th Sep 2011 (UK/EU)
The first Four Swords experience — originally an ‘add-on’ mode included as part of the GBA port of Link to the Past — was multiplayer-only until an enhanced port added a single-player mode and was made available on DSiWare for free for a limited time in 2011 (and later very briefly on 3DS in 2014). It enabled up to four friends to battle through Hyrule together as four Links in differently coloured garb and is very good, too. It’s a shame that playing it today is so difficult; an online-enabled port would make an excellent addition to Nintendo Switch Online.

Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda

Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Brace Yourself Games
Release Date: 13th Jun 2019 (USA) / 13th Jun 2019 (UK/EU)
Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda *breathe* is an excellent game, but is it a Zelda game? Short answer: Absolutely. Long answer: This wasn’t a case of Brace Yourself Games simply swapping out the sprites of Crypt of the NecroDancer with Link and Zelda. This new musical take on Hyrule and the top-down Zelda mechanics we all know so well freshened the formula while retaining all the hallmarks you’d expect in a Nintendo-developed Zelda title. You get the exploration, the discovery, the wonder, the items, the dungeons and — most of all — the music, all shot through with a rhythm-based gameplay twist that takes a while to get used to, but is immensely satisfying once you do. It’s also arguably the most replayable Zelda game ever, with each new game juggling the landscape and layout of the kingdom (cleverly playing with the notion of Hyrule’s ever-changing geography throughout the series), meaning no playthrough will be quite the same. It won’t click with everyone, and if you’re after 80-hour epics, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

But there are plenty of them already. Having a smaller Hylian experience that feels uniquely fresh and also completely ‘Zelda’ is a joy.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures

Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
Release Date: 7th Jun 2004 (USA) / 7th Jan 2005 (UK/EU)
A collaborative adventure in the Legend of Zelda mould was something many had dreamt of for a long time, and the Four Swords part of the GBA port of A Link to the Past made the jump to the TV screen here in Four Swords Adventures. There’s a…