10 Best Zelda games of all time

Sam Smith
Zelda Tears of the Kingdom logo

The Legend of Zelda games has transcended decades and has already left an indelible mark in the annals of gaming. To mark this, we’ve done the impossible and picked the top 10 best Zelda games of all time.

Picking the best Zelda games of all time is a tough task as The Legend of Zelda franchise is one of gaming’s seemingly immortal titans. The series constantly reinvents itself, and each offers its own unique spin on its iconic cast of characters, atmosphere, and gameplay mechanics.

The Legend of Zelda series was originally dreamed up by creative powerhouse Shigeru Miyamoto, who is also the creator of Mario. However, Eiji Aonuma has since become the creative steward for the series ever since its first transition into 3D with one of the highest-rated games of all time, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Aonuma has assisted as Director, Supervisor, or Producer on every Zelda title since 1998.

With The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom now having finally been released, it might be a good time to revisit the best titles that the series has to offer. With so many classic adventures to choose from, including the latest entry and sequel to Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom, which Zelda games stand above the rest? Below, we’ve ranked the 10 best Zelda games of all time.

10. Link’s Awakening

Zelda Links Awakening Nintendo Switch Remake
Link’s Awakening was also remade in 2019.

Link’s Awakening marked The Legend of Zelda’s debut on the Game Boy. It proved that the series could work on a handheld device. Since its release, there has been a Zelda game to accompany every Nintendo handheld.

After the events of A Link to the Past, Link has been shipwrecked on the elusive Koholint Island, housing a volcano with a gargantuan egg. It’s your task then, to seek out the island’s mysteries. Throughout the game, you unlock several instruments, which are the key to unraveling the dark secrets of the island, and how to get back to Hyrule. 

Link’s Awakening was given the full remake treatment in 2019, bringing the classic adventure to life once more on the Nintendo Switch. While it might not be as expansive as its console counterparts, Link’s Awakening is an unmissable adventure and one that many hold close to their hearts for its eccentric NPCs and iconic world.

9. Majora’s Mask

Zelda majora mask
Skull Kid’s reign of terror begins when he locates Majora’s Mask.

Ever wondered what Link did after regaining his youth at the end of Ocarina of Time? He went on to have another adventure that proved to be well ahead of its time. Majora’s Mask looks and plays a lot like OoT but sees kid Link stuck in a time loop needing to live through the same day over and over again.

The game’s antagonist, Skull Kid, has found and is wearing Majora’s Mask. This event has turned the world into a time-distorted hellscape in this dark sequel to one of the N64’s most beloved adventures. Link can equip his own array of masks to end the time loop and free Skull Kid from his possession. The game was remade for the 3DS and is a superb addition to the portable console’s catalog.

8. Skyward Sword

the legend of zelda skyward sword hd review dexerto
Skyward Sword offers an origin story for Ganon and Zelda’s feud.

Skyward Sword often doesn’t get the credit it deserves. The game tells a fantastic story that explains the origins of Link, Zelda, and Ganon’s relationship, offering a reason why these characters are destined to be reincarnated again and again across the ages.

Skyward Sword was a Nintendo Wii game that forced players to engage with motion controls when it was first released, something that alienated some fans of the series. However, it’s now been remastered on the Nintendo Switch without motion controls and all Zelda fans owe it to themselves to play it – and learn the fascinating origins of this epic tale.

Link Between Worlds
A Link Between Worlds is a stunning throwback to retro Zelda.

A Link Between Worlds is yet another 2D romp for the franchise and acts as a direct sequel to 1991’s A Link to the Past. This 3DS title has you shifting between perspectives and makes use of the 3DS screen in order to peek around objects, solve puzzles, and turn yourself into a mural to solve various puzzles and dungeons.

The 2013 title is packed full of fanservice, with nods to A Link to the Past rooted within the game. From its map to its soundtrack and more. A Link Between Worlds also introduces an innovative new way to unlock abilities – by renting or purchasing them, rather than unlocking them. This adds a layer of depth to make sure you have the right tools to deal with dungeons, bosses, and easter eggs.

While it might not be quite as iconic as other entries in the franchise, A Link Between Worlds served as an excellent throwback to the renaissance of 2D Zelda design, and its new additions made for a fantastically fresh experience. If you own a 3DS, you should absolutely dust it off just to play A Link Between Worlds.

6. Twilight Princess

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Ganondorf is at his most terrifying in Twilight Princess.

Released for both the Nintendo GameCube and Wii, Twilight Princess was a darker chapter of the Zelda series as opposed to the more colorful and vibrant Wind Waker. The game saw Hyrule become infected by the Twilight Realm in Ganon’s latest scheme to take over the land. Link teams up with Midna, a denizen of the Twilight Realm to separate both worlds, save Zelda, and free the kingdom from Ganon.

During Twilight Hours, Link can turn into Wolf Link which gives him lots of different abilities and really changes up the gameplay when compared to earlier entries. The game also leans more into an open-world design, setting the stage for fully switching to that genre. Twilight Princess was remastered for the Wii U, letting players finally experience it in HD.

link collecting rupees in a link to the past
It’s not quite an expansive 3D open world, but it’s prime Zelda.

A Link to the Past is the third installment in the series and introduces the concept of a parallel world, known as the Dark World. Players must navigate both in order to put an end to the evil wizard Agahnim, who has plunged the kingdom into darkness.

The game is known for its top-down perspective, a welcomed departure from the side-scrolling gameplay seen in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Nintendo harnessed the added power of the SNES to create a more expansive world, filling it with memorable monsters and complex puzzles that have since become a staple of the series.

4. Wind Waker

Ganondorf Zelda Tears of the Kingdom windwaker
Ganondorf is also the main antagonist in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

Wind Waker was the Zelda series’ debut on GameCube but the game was also remastered in HD for the Wii U where its distinct art style and gameplay still look and feel glorious. Different from any other entry, Wind Waker is set in the far future when Hyrule is underwater and separated by a vast ocean. Link must sail around visiting different islands on his talking ship to stop the latest version of Ganondorf who’s up to his old tricks.

Zelda is also back as a feisty pirate captain and joins Link on his seafaring quest. The game is a celebrated classic and represents everything that makes The Legend of Zelda special. It also went on to serve as inspiration for other naval gaming adventures such as Assassin’s Creed Black Flag and others. Finally, the game also spawned some sequels that were released on the Nintendo DS. Get on board as soon as you can!

3. Breath of the Wild

Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Horse
Breath of the Wild was a game-changer for the series.

Breath of the Wild was The Legend of Zelda’s ‘Skyrim moment.’ It was the game that took the series out of its established formula and into a bright open world where player choice and exploration were everything. Zelda games had often flirted with wide-open worlds but had always opted to take a more linear route when it came to progression.

The game was released on the Wii U and Nintendo Switch, becoming the defining title of the latter. It also forced the open-world game genre to evolve, serving as an inspiration to Elden Ring and many other franchises that adopted Nintendo’s approach.

2. Ocarina of Time

the legend of zelda ocarina of time navi and link
Ocarina of Time was the first fully 3D Zelda game.

Ocarina of Time took the series away from its 2D roots, giving players a fully 3D Hyrule to explore. The story sees Link travel through time in order to rescue Zelda, tackling challenging dungeons and memorable bosses, all the while wielding the power of the magical Ocarina.

Every Zelda game that came after OoT owes it a debt, as this N64 classic was not only the template for future installments like Majora’s Mask, but it also set the standard for action-adventure RPGs thanks to its revolutionary enemy targeting system.

Ocarina will always be remembered as one of the most important and influential games, so if you’ve never played it, give the incredible 3DS remake a try and see what all the fuss is about.

1. Tears of the Kingdom

Link flying in Tears of the Kingdom.
Flying through the skies above Hyrule is as fun as it is freeing.

Link’s 2023 outing wins the much coveted number-one spot on our list of best Zelda games of all time. In fact, our Tears of the Kingdom review had nothing but praise for the long-awaited sequel. That’s because it takes every lesson from the older Zelda games, and those learned by the more experimental Breath of the Wild, then combines them into near perfection.

While Breath of the Wild alienated some Zelda purists, Tears of the Kingdom works hard to bring those fans back into the fold, providing them with an experience that will feel a bit more like old-school Zelda, but also pushes the envelope further than BotW, expanding an already superb experience in every conceivable way.

Ocarina of Time, Skyward Sword, Twilight Princess, Wind Waker, and various other Zelda games are all honored in Tears of the Kingdom – a love letter to Zelda’s past and a promising vision of the future all at the same time.

So, there you have it, that’s our top 10 best Zelda games list. Check out our Tears of the Kingdom page for all our latest content pertaining to the game. 

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