For more than thirty-five years, The Legend of Zelda series has been one of the biggest gaming franchises on the planet.
The series has spawned over twenty sequels and spin-offs, most of which range from "good" to "excellent," so everyone has their favorites that bring them the most happiness. Indeed, there haven't been many misses when it comes to the overall Zelda franchise.
As a result, picking the best games in The Legend of Zelda is no easy task. With such a vast selection, it's unlikely that any two people would end up with the same exact ranking!
That said, here are our favorite The Legend of Zelda video games of all time and how they rank against each other.
5. Twilight Princess (2006)
The Legend of Zelda has had some epic storylines in the past. From time loops to dimension jumping, to saving a kingdom from a giant pig-man. Twilight Princess, originally released for the Nintendo Wii in 2006, was the first in the series to feel as epic as the plot intended.
The story starts out as a simple rescue mission... then, as things often do in Hyrule, things quickly turn into a quest to save the world. With a more gritty and adult character design, it was the first time Link looked like he was truly dressed for battle.
Twilight Princess was the first mainline Zelda game to take advantage of the Nintendo Wii's motion controls, allowing players to swing the Master Sword and shoot their arrows as if they were Link. That immersion felt novel and fresh at the time.
Midna, Link's impish companion throughout the game, breathes life into the plot as the hero takes his usual role as silent protagonist. This entry could have featured higher up on this list if the motion controls had aged better, to be honest!
4. Ocarina of Time (1998)
Ocarina of Time was the pivotal moment when The Legend of Zelda graduated from 2D to 3D, all thanks to the Nintendo 64 giving us polygons rather than pixels for jumping, slashing, and puzzling.
Though the graphics might not hold up today, the level design, music, and combat all remain some of the best in the series—and the story's twists still sit among the best the franchise has ever offered.
Letting us play through a vibrant and populated Hyrule Castle Town before showing us the devastation caused by Ganondorf's seven-year rule brought a solid level of dread and tension to the story.
The reveal that our friend Sheik was none other than Princess Zelda in disguise might seem obvious today, but it was a fantastic twist when the game first came out.
The final boss fight is particularly well done, taking place on a ruined Hyrule Castle and featuring one of the most frightening forms that Ganondorf has ever taken.
3. Link to the Past (1991)
For many The Legend of Zelda fans out there, this is the game where the series peaked—and they aren't necessarily wrong.
Link to the Past still looks fun and bright even within the limitations of the Super Nintendo's graphics from over thirty years ago, and the music shines particularly well here. The puzzle aspect has never been more central to the game's core than it is in this entry.
Most Zelda games force you to go on an epic quest to save Princess Zelda, but here's you do that in the opening hour before the rest of the game focuses on preventing Hyrule's destruction.
Of course, you do end up rescuing the Princess again later, but you do it by taking down a flying pig-demon in an alternate dimension that's twisted by hatred and greed.
The story might not be as deep as in later entries, but it does its job of framing a solidly enjoyable gaming experience.
2. Majora's Mask (2000)
Majora's Mask didn't get the same kinds of accolades upon release that other Zelda games did. It was very different, with a darker tone revolving around an approaching apocalypse, with only three days given to the player to save the world.
The fact that no one else seems to be aware of their own impending doom—or they appear to be actively ignoring it—only makes the game's plot feel more urgent.
Unlike most games in The Legend of Zelda franchise, this one is a direct sequel. In fact, it's the only direct sequel in the series ever made (at least until Breath of the Wild 2 comes out in 2022), so that's in itself a bold departure from the Zelda norm.
The Link in Majora's Mask has already saved the world and been put back in his childhood body following the events of Ocarina of Time. Now, he must take on the personas of different races in Termina and master the flow of time to save the world in just three days.
Though Majora's Mask only sold about half the copies of its predecessor, it was a noble attempt to bring a darker and more mature tone to the series—and has consequently aged better because of it.
1. Breath of the Wild (2017)
Breath of the Wild does everything it can to feel different from other Zelda games. Every tool and weapon is available to the player from the opening moments. It's a truly open world, with dungeons and bosses that can be tackled in any order, with endless secrets to uncover.
The world is barely Hyrule anymore. The kingdom has fallen and the wilderness has taken over. But as much as Breath of the Wild tries to be different, it still manages to feel distinctly Zelda at the same time. It's a world of dangerous monsters to slay and puzzles to solve, just like the Hyrule we've always known.
The change in setting certainly helps make this the best game in the series, but what makes Breath of the Wild really stand out is the vast number of characters who populate the world. From the travelling merchants to flower-obsessed women to the fallen Champions, everyone feels alive and realized.
Uncovering Link's forgotten memories over the course of the game is both fascinating and heartbreaking. This is a story of redemption, of a hero who has once failed but now has a second chance to make things right. Add in my all-time favorite version of Princess Zelda and it's easy to see why Breath of the Wild tops the ranking.