Ranking Zelda Games

Tier the Zelda games you’ve played? Which ones did you enjoy at least a little/think are good games?

I think I’d rank Zelda 1 as the best zelda game hands down, but from there it’s a bit harder.

Next best I think is Oracle of Seasons, which was largely built as a remake of Zelda 1, with a similar map structure and all. I haven’t beaten or even played very much of Link’s Awakening, but reputation indicates that it might go here as well.

I’m not totally sure where to put Adventure of Link, it’s hard to compare to the rest, but I think it’s very good overall, except for the enemies that can stab high or low. There’s no animation telegraphing this, so it can come across as rather random. It has nice jumping, nice enemy designs, and nice moves like the down stab, up stab, spells, and others.

I’m not sure whether to put Link to the Past or A Link Between Worlds higher. It’s been a very long time since I played Link to the Past, and I enjoyed ALBW a bit. ALBW has a lot of depth in the form of tricks and occasionally good enemy designs, but it’s also a very easy game, both in terms of enemies not dealing many hearts of damage, and not being very aggressive.

Beyond this point I wouldn’t consider Zelda games outright good.

I didn’t enjoy Oracle of Ages or Minish Cap as much, they focused on a more modern puzzle-like approach, even if they were 2d. I played 5 minutes of phantom hourglass before deciding it was a terrible idea.

And now we have the 3d zeldas, I don’t really like any of them, I’m not totally sure how to rank them because I feel different things on each of them.

I think I’d rank Twilight Princess as best 3d zelda. It had a lot of moves that could be used in combat. The overworld was huge, enemy arrangements weren’t bad, it had the cave of ordeals with additional combat challenges. It had meh bosses. It has an alright speedrun thanks primarily to the master sword skip, gale boomerang super jump exploiting, and a couple other small tricks.

Next best I think I’d award to Ocarina of Time, primarily because it has a pretty crazy game structure overall and a lot of things you can do with items. Also it has the best speedruns, no doubt. The number of tricks is off the wall.

After that I’d go with Wind Waker, because It had a few dynamic challenges here and there with enemies and other things. It has the next best speedrun thanks to super swimming, storage and a ton of assorted additional tricks (they just found barrier skip in WWHD, after all these years).

Then I’d go with Majora’s mask, because I hated its structure. I hate all the sidequests. I hate the enemy designs, I don’t like the dungeons. The overworld has a workable structure. About the only thing that I found remotely interesting was the boss designs, and some minigames. The speedrun is crazy like ocarina, but I’ve never found it as entertaining as OoT or WW.

Skyward Sword is easily the worst zelda game. It has the most rote combat, the most linear progression, the most puzzle-like bosses. I don’t think there’s a single redeeming thing about this game.

12 thoughts on “Ranking Zelda Games

  1. Rin June 25, 2017 / 6:02 am

    So it seems like you prefer to play
    First Zelda game, Oracle Seasons, Link to the past, and Link Between Worlds.
    But not oracles Ages and Minish cap. Which I can understand that.
    However, I have a question for you. What do you mean by “Modern-Puzzle Like Approach”?
    Like could you explain that to me more specifically? I am assuming that you probably not enjoying 3D Zelda because of that “Modern Puzzle” like approach. Right?
    So what I am exactly asking is.. what is the actual difference between “Classic Puzzle” like approach(?) versus “Modern Puzzle” like approach?


    • Chris Wagar June 25, 2017 / 6:28 am

      The classic puzzle approach was that there were no puzzles.

      Eiji Aonuma added puzzles to the games when he was in charge of dungeon design in Ocarina of Time. There were some light puzzles at points in previous games, but they were extremely rare and very small (like pushing a block to make stairs appear in the original, lighting a torch in LttP).

      What happened to the series is that, once Eiji Aonuma was brought on board, the series revolved around puzzles instead of combat. He was also in charge of enemy design in OoT, so combat too became more puzzle-like.

      And I’m dissatisfied with the puzzles because they range from easy to patronizing. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/416986/webm/tww%20zelda%20puzzle.webm


      • RIN July 1, 2017 / 2:56 am

        Ahhh now I understand what is up. Cause I did played all of those classic Zelda games, and I really could not explain myself why I did enjoyed more 2D Zelda games over 3D ones.
        And your post makes a lot of sense to me now.
        I also recently tried to revist 3D Zelda game, I really could not get into it.
        I realized the way that they do the boss battle feels more like scripted puzzle battle(So you are restricted to use certain key item during the boss battle otherwise it will not damage the boss)
        instead of actually using some kind of strategy. I know I am not the best person to explain stuff like this.. but you get the idea.


        • kn83 February 20, 2020 / 11:04 am

          There’s no strategy to the 2D boss fights at all. Its just charge them while avoiding getting hit. No actual thought process needed.


          • Chris Wagar February 20, 2020 / 11:10 am


            You need to dodge their attacks by choosing which way to move. You cannot block. You cannot circle strafe. You need to face towards them to attack.

            There’s more strategy than you think there is, because you are thinking of consciously using different mechanics as a “thought process” and you’re not recognizing how much depth can be gotten out of just moving and slashing. You’re not paying attention to how the boss fights have the boss move around you, shoot projectiles, or in ALTTP’s case, move the floor underneath you in some cases.


            • kn83 February 20, 2020 / 11:46 am

              “You need to dodge their attacks by choosing which way to move. You cannot block. You cannot circle strafe. You need to face towards them to attack.”

              Moving around to avoid easy to see projectiles isn’t “depth”, its basic common sense. As a 7 year old the original Zelda and Alttp were nothing challenging to me and I’m no hardcore gamer.

              Like many 2D Zelda fanboys (such as that tasteless contrarian SJW Tevis Thompson), you go out of your way to make 2D Zelda sound deeper and more challenging than they actually are. And even if they were harder (not really), a game being harder doesn’t necessarily make it better.


  2. kn83 February 20, 2020 / 11:01 am

    You have some of the worst taste ever, and I don’t get the spergish love for 2D Zeldas among contrarian gamers, they are by far the most overrated in the franchise, especially the original and Alttp with their unremarkable boss fights, shallow combat and pseudo-difficulty.


    • Chris Wagar February 20, 2020 / 11:11 am

      What makes their combat shallow? What makes 3d zelda combat deep?

      How is it pseudo-difficulty? How can something pretend to be difficult?


  3. kn83 February 20, 2020 / 11:54 am

    2D Zelda combat boils down to “charge and slash them while avoiding getting hit.”, which is a basis of just about every real-time game. Yet you and many other 2D Zelda fanboys make it sound more complex and difficult than it actually is.


    • Chris Wagar February 20, 2020 / 12:21 pm

      You avoided my questions and Zelda 1 doesn’t have a charge slash.

      In ALTTP onwards, Charge slash makes you walk slower, making it so you can’t avoid attacks as easily. If your sword bonks an enemy while charging, you lose your charge, so you have to either time/space carefully to avoid bonking your sword, or face away from the enemy as you charge, leaving your backside exposed. For all these reasons, it’s not the best idea to always charge slash, and you need to put consideration into your position when you start to charge, how you move as you charge it, and when you release so as to avoid bonking the sword.

      That’s more complicated than just “Charge and slash”.

      What other games have top-down 2d melee combat that is better than Zelda? It’s not a big field. Not every real-time game even has hitboxes, look at batman or assassin’s creed (until origins decided to add hitboxes). Devil May Cry and God of War aren’t attempting to accomplish the same type of thing as Zelda is. Hyper Light Drifter is pretty okay.

      The board game, Go, has simple rules, but from those rules come a universe of possibilities. Zelda is obviously nowhere on that level, but it does a lot with the few things it has, mostly on account of good enemy designs.

      It’s simple, but it’s tough to choose good positions to slash from and avoid enemies, much like in Contra, it’s simple, but it’s tough to dodge and shoot the right way.


      • kn83 February 20, 2020 / 12:55 pm

        By charge and slash I mean “run up and strike them”, no the literal charging up the sword’s energy.


        • Chris Wagar February 20, 2020 / 1:12 pm

          I assumed that the first time, but then you kept repeating it and I got confused.

          Slashing locks you in place for a sec. If you mash on slash, then you’ll end up just standing in place slashing, which can leave you open to a ranged attack or something from your sides. Hitting an enemy pushes them out of range, at least in LTTP. So to keep hitting an enemy, you need to stop slashing and move, then attack again at the right range, before they start moving again, and the direction they get knocked back is relative to what angle you hit them at.

          Plus in later dungeons, many enemies get placed in the same room, so if you focus on just one, you’ll get hit by the others. And there’s frequently turrets shooting at you from all 4 corners of the room as it happens.

          Check out how efficiently this guy clears the room at the timecode 20:08:

          This is fairly high APM. He does another amazing room clear at 20:42 and other points in the run. You have to admit, this takes a lot of skill and thought to play this cleanly and quickly.


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