The best Zelda games: Readers' choice

Link din.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the Zelda series, an occasion that passed this Sunday, we asked you to let us know your favourite Zelda games, in order that we could impose some arbitrary hierarchy on an expansive series and have a nice clean list at the end of it all. Thanks so much for taking part - it's been a delight picking through your memories and arguments for and against the highlights of this most grandiose of series. We'll be having our own say on what we think are the greatest entries in the series in due course, but first here's your take on the very best The Legend of Zelda has had to offer. Thank you so much for taking part!

12. Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link (1987)


What we said: Absolutely nothing to date, to our shame. Zelda 2's always been something of an outsider in the series, a side-scrolling adventure with more explicit RPG leanings, and it's an all-too-often overlooked part of the series and its formative years. Thankfully, you're not quite as ignorant as us and have plenty of love for this stand-out Zelda.

"Probably the least popular Zelda game," says LincolnSixVacano, "and certainly the most different one. Nonetheless, traversing the overworld was genuinely a joy. A typically hard NES game, especially the last part. The final palace theme will haunt me forever."

"Basically a 2D Dark Souls," says chazzy_chef. "My favourite Zelda is also my favourite 8 bit game. I am a bit weird though! I do love it when devs try something a bit different."

"Early day Dark Souls style format," says LegendarySins as he picks up on a recurring theme. "Get so far, open up shortcuts. Hard as nails, extremely rewarding, and seriously underrated. This is a fantastic game especially for 1987, and it's my favourite NES game."

11. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (2007)


What we said: "This one might be over sooner than you expect, you won't forget it in a hurry, and you won't be left wishing that it lasted longer, but rather that more games were as well attuned to their host console's abilities, and so completely magical."

"What I like most about this Zelda is the way to play, the command input at its core proving that an all-touch interface can work," chimed ItsAlcidesAgain. "And it was brilliant too! The note taking, the shielding, the pointing, the spiralling. It was pure video game magic. A true masterpiece undeservedly dissed by people who deserve half-backed, fan-serving, mediocre efforts like the pseudo-remake-sequel of Link to the Past on 3DS. I did enjoy the time when we where not stuck in 'more of what the Internet says is right' limbo." Keep those truth bombs raining down!

Hughbarb's another fan of how this particular Zelda snuck into the peculiar cracks of Nintendo's DS. "A lovely example of what you can do with hardware," he wrote. "It shows the Nintendo approach to franchises. It may have been the 4000th Zelda game by this point (rough estimation) but still completely fresh."

"Ate an insane amount of my life and overcame my confused reaction to the controls through its beauty, charm & achingly clever use of the DS' features," says Philosopher King (we do have some adorably highbrow readers on EG, don't we?)

Ubergine probably doesn't deserve the last word, but he's getting it anyway. "On this list because it's one of only two Zelda games I finished. It's alright."

10. The Legend of Zelda (1986)


"The original is always the best," says sweet Lamb. "I've played through it a million times."

What we said: Nothing again, shamefully, though in our defence Eurogamer wasn't around when the original Zelda came out on the Famicom some 30 years ago. Thankfully, you're all a bit more diligent when it comes to the important matter of video game history.

Eddiehitler, meanwhile (no relation, I hope), finds some truth in the words of murderous androids. "As Ash said in Alien, 'I admire its purity.'"

"Call it nostalgia," says Evnewell - and I think I will - "but creating this masterpiece from scratch, with no previous iterations demonstrates the largest single leap taken in the series."

"An excellent introduction to the series with puzzles, addictive gameplay, great music & sound effects," says adrian29549 (are there really another 29,548 Adrians who read the site?) "Plus a brilliant second quest for those wanting further challenges."

"Can't omit the original!" says StrafeMcGee. Let's hope we haven't when it comes to the Eurogamer team's own list tomorrow...

9. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (2004)


What we said: "The formula remains the same but the experience is just as essential as ever - and every attempt to nudge it in a slightly new direction comes off without a hitch. If you can accept that it won't last you as long as you might like, then your quest is clear: leave no stone unturned in your search for this game, and then leave none of its stones unturned either."

"This one was a lovely surprise," says FenderMester. "Great dungeons, fun world map, lots of side quests and some of the best items and item usage both inside and outside dungeons in the series history. Could use an extra dungeon or too, but it's a pretty meaty game nonetheless."

"Perhaps the most underrated Zelda," adds Canyarion. "Not too many got to play this gem. What stands out is the huge amount of sidequests. It doesn't have that many dungeons, but the rich overworld more than compensates it. The atmosphere is familiar but refreshingly cute at the same time. It's almost impossible to notice this was not directly developed by Nintendo."

SiPod, meanwhile, manages to get to the bottom of what's kept Zelda fresh over the past 30 years in his brief appraisal. "Reframing the familiar is what the series is all about, but here it's cheeky, light-hearted, and a joy to play. The Minish Cap is a seriously underrated gem. Standard enemies from the series became intimidating bosses thanks to the shrinking mechanic."

8. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011)


What we said: "It is the most formally inventive Zelda in a long time (admittedly, that's not saying a great deal). But it's the game's carefree attitude, quick tempo and warm heart that do the most to make it feel new. Maybe you've played enough Zelda games by now that even that won't be enough to cleanse your palate. That would be a fair response, but if it's so, this game wasn't made for you. Like a tale told from one generation to the next, the point is to keep the tradition alive for others - and for them, Skyward Sword will surely be the greatest adventure money can buy."

There's the feeling that this strangely overlooked Zelda will find its place in the future, and a fair few of you already have fallen for its charms. "Not a popular choice, I know...," writes JoeGBallad. "There's something magical about this game though. The controls work incredibly well, once you get used to them and for all the talk of repetition, the truth is that each area transforms each time you visit. It''s a great reminder that video game worlds don't have to be huge, sprawling things like Skyrim; they can follow classic video game rules and still be great places to just explore."

"It added real physicality to the Zelda experience," says ElCroux. "People seem to have forgotten how involving and tense enemy fights can be in comparison to other Zelda games."

"On my first play through I gave up about 3/4 of the way through," says Falcon9x5. "Now, in preparation for Zelda U, I've given Skyward Sword a second chance and it's an absolute blast. It's just a really fun, well presented and thought out game that could really do with the remaster treatment to get rid of some of that, you know, Wii-ness of the graphics." The Wii-ness of the graphics? We'll have to ask Digital Foundry that that means.

Getting straight to the point, Fabio78 writes: "When it comes to gameplay, clever mechanics and inventiveness, it's the apex of the series, no question."

7. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (2013)


What we said: "It's often been said that A Link to the Past is a game set inside a puzzle. That means A Link Between Worlds is buried at least two layers deep, as it's a game set within A Link to the Past. But that's both the pleasure and the pain of Zelda, isn't it? A tale endlessly retold, wrongs endlessly righted, a map endlessly tweaked and embellished and folded back on itself. If, heaven forbid, this was the last Zelda ever, I couldn't think of a more fitting tribute to the series' strange ritualistic preoccupations than this cheerful, slight, and ultimately rather strange game. It won't be, of course - and that's more than fine, too."

"It's perhaps a little over familiar if you've played Link to the Past, but the art design and music are great, the painting gimmick adds an interest new dimension (ho ho!) to gameplay and it's just a joy to play," says Martinsmith as he inexplicably throws in a Santa impression.

"Massively under-rated, this takes the tight design of the SNES classic and freshens it up for today," writes greenwichlee. "The music is superb, while only Nintendo would base a (stereoscopic) 3D game on the idea of turning two-dimensional. Move over Flat Stanley." Yeah, Stanley - shift it.

"By taking a step back and re-visiting a past classic, Nintendo turned in its freshest Zelda in an age," says Phreak_UK. "Toying with the nature of structure and items, Link Between Worlds had one eye on the past, but another eyeing handheld gaming in the 21st century. People said that long play gaming couldn't work in today's short-hop, tippy tappy, go-go world. Thank Christ they were wrong." Don't take this the wrong way, Phreak, but who doesn't want to live in a tippy tappy go-go world?

"Probably the least necessary Zelda game of them all," says Brigadier. "Also one of the best."

6. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)


What we said: "Twilight Princess is an incredible game, with so many peaks, so many magic moments that will live long in the minds of millions of gamers. Sure, there are times in the game when you want to shake Miyamoto and co by the lapels for including elements of the game which remain dogged by old-school convention, but they represent a flea bite on what is just a stunning and relentlessly enjoyable game. Regardless of whether you're a hardened series veteran or a wide-eyed newcomer, Twilight Princess is undoubtedly the best action adventure game for some time."

"The biggest (longest) of all, with some great moments," kindly says harrisimo, before saying some slightly less kind words. "Even though it ripped off Okami, was basically a remake of Ocarina of Time and was sometimes a bit of a chore to play, it was probably the most ambitious attempt to deliver a fully realised Hyrule. (To be honest I don't remember a huge amount about playing it.)"

"It feels like a glorious homage to Ocarina of Time with the return of Epona and the vastness of its Hyrule," says GalvanisedGamer. "But it distinguishes itself from the rest of its stablemates with its dark, more melancholic atmosphere and underrated wolf transformations game play mechanics. Sword fighting on horseback was immensely fun, dungeons like the Snowpeak one were revelatory and Midna up to this day remains the most lovable and nuanced companion Link has ever had."

"I prefer it to Ocarina of Time because of how surreal this one was," says Mathusualin. "It was like a dark Narnia but still had that 'big vast adventure' feeling that makes a Zelda game." Excuse the spoilers - it's been quite a few years already, though - but don't all the kids die in a train crash at the end of Narnia? That seems plenty dark enough already to us, to be honest.

5. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (1993)


What we said: "It's a world you don't want to leave, and where the finality of the ending brings about a feeling of loss. Of course, you could turn it back on again to return to a previous save point, but once you've awoken it's never quite the same. Despite its bizarre story and setting, Link's Awakening is far from an offbeat handheld spin-off. Its story, heart and humour cements it as one of the series' finest offerings."

"Another fine example of when games were amazing without needing 1080p 60fps, and various other bells and whistles to sell you it," says Kosmic2561. Yeah, this one probably doesn't need an HD remake. "Just a really enjoyable experience that reminds you how great its world is and just what fun Zelda games always are."

"I played the DX version on the GameBoy Colour. I only played it as my girlfriend at the time was stuck and I thought I would help her out. Ended up keeping the GameBoy for a few weeks until I completed it." You're a monster, KanevilPS_.

"It made me cry," says a sentimental charliemouse. "No Zelda game before or since has made me do that."

Perhaps that's all down to something Gavinspence puts his finger on. "I appreciate any Zelda game which tries something really, truly different. There's a sadness running through the whole thing. It's a downer Zelda. I love that."

Marcpick gets to the same point in slightly fewer words: "Zelda on ketamine."

4. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (2000)


What we said: "It asked: what's it like to be a child in an adult world that's falling apart? Never mind facing evil, how do you face sadness and regret? And how do you deal with the inevitability of failure? You pick yourself up, go back to the beginning and start again - clawing a little victory for yourself each time, banking a little experience for later. Majora's Mask isn't the stuff of myth, it's the school of hard knocks and broken dreams, dressed up like an eerie fairy tale."

"Simply one of the most original games ever created," opines Mazzaman89. "Was the best when it was released and it's still the best now."

"Just terrifying," says Modhabobo. "Like a fever dream after the sombre, bittersweet ending of Ocarina of Time. Everything was a cocked hat, a strange discordant musical note. It was at once familiar, yet also the bravest narrative change for the series. An utterly bizarre second cousin of a game. But once you got to know it, it could easily become your favourite. With all the grand scale stories about ancient evils, this was the one that felt about the little people of Termina."

"Wonderfully dark atmosphere, a unique looping time structure, and the condensed cast of characters meant that you got to know them all as individuals, rather than them just being generic NPCs shoved in to act as glorified menu screens," writes Spamdangled.

"Majora's Mask is the best Zelda entry because it took what was successful about Ocarina of Time, whilst turning everything else on its head, and introducing perhaps some of the finest mechanics in the series to date," says Fragtaster. "It was a extraordinarily unique entry that was unlike anything before it, and hasn't been copied since."

Or, put simply: "Mad as f**k." Thanks, BabyBabyBabyOh.

3. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2002)


What we said: "Despite failing to create a rounded world where every last pixel counts, Shigeru Miyamoto and his team have packed the world with subtlety outside the main quest that will take many months and probably several lengthy replays to truly uncover, and it's an adventure you can see yourself playing again and again. Not the best Zelda game, then, but utterly brilliant all the same."

"Initially criticised for its cartoony approach," says Kain1, "but it turned out to be an incredible addition to the series, with memorable characters and visuals that will forever stand the test of time."

n0signal also feels like Wind Waker took all its time lessons and came out the other end with a certificate. "The art style, whilst controversial at the time, has meant this game has passed the test of time. It still looks great, but more importantly it still plays great too; never has there been more spirit of adventure or exploration in a Zelda game."

"Bright, breezy and beautiful," says Duckbum, who makes some good points but ultimately gets included for their incredible name alone. "Possibly a little boring in parts as well but you can't have everything."

"Wind Waker ticked all the boxes for me," says Pinky_Floyd, clipboard in hand. "Gorgeous (tick), fun (tick), challenging (in places - tick) and not too long (tick). It has a charm all of its own and I loved every minute spent with the game."

"His wee face," squees gavinspence while making us thankful we were excused a look at Link's expressions when that other call of nature beckoned.

"Best world. Best music. Best art style. Enough said," writes Josephwofford. But it's not enough, is it Joe? "Other games on this list are great Zelda games," he continues. "Wind Waker transcends Zelda games. It's a truly immersive experience that crafts a living breathing world around you. It's the game where the limits of what we could do with video games caught up to the desire of what we always knew Zelda could be. Later games have strayed from the idea of putting the world/environment ahead of the gameplay/story but I am hopeful that with its open world, Nintendo may finally be making the true spiritual successor to Wind Waker with Zelda Wii U."

Top trumper Lambchop parps us gracefully out of this particular entry. "I am quite flatulent myself. So Wind Waker always seemed to gel with me a bit more than all the others Zelda games."

2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991)


What we said: "The Legend of Zelda took a truly pivotal step on the Super Nintendo with the game commonly known as Zelda 3. There are a million and one different things to praise about the game - the sheer size of the quest; the diversity of inventory items and their applications in the game world; the dungeon design and the subtle difficulty curve; the way the game reinvents itself halfway through by throwing in a 'dark side' world, with all sorts of intricate past/present puzzles to negotiate; the doe-eyed hero and the childish quest which invented a lot of RPG clichés; and the way that Shigeru Miyamoto's team were always willing to go the silly route if it was more fun."

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"Nostalgia is a big factor," admits Catmanbegins, "but this is the game that propelled the series into the 'great' category for me."

"A big beautiful adventure," writes Mandlecreed. "No excess fat to be found in the meat of the game, dungeons galore, items galore, and no Tingle! Bonus!" Man, poor Tingle can't catch a break around these parts.

"Very, very much the best Zelda," says timdehaas with admirable brevity.

"An undisputed and ageless classic, it's as solid and enjoyable today as it was in 1991/1992," writes Kami. "A masterpiece of solid game design and charming detail, it remains one of the defining games of the 16-bit era and an unassailable example of why good game design is timeless." Amen to that.

"A masterpiece," Redcrayon scribbles. "While 3D worlds often struggle to fill every piece of space, exchanging detail for majesty, Link to the Past drops you into one of the best openings in computer games. Every screen has something of interest, an item or an entrance hidden in plain sight or just out of reach. There just isn't any dead time in it, it's an exciting adventure all the way through, something I wish modern 3D games would remember as I spend 20 minutes running towards the next quest location."

"I bought Link to the Past whilst on a three week holiday to America along with Secret of Mana," remembers Kesouk of what sounds like a particularly blissful summer. "By the time we got home I'd memorised every detail of the included map. Still two of my all-time favourite games."

"The Chris Houlihan room," states Meestasparkful, sending me off to Google before I dutifully nod in agreement.

"Probably my favourite game of all time," says Mr_Bump. "Still one of the most incredible worlds ever created and Nintendo has never quite managed to replicate it. The stuff of legend."

1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)


What we said: "Great art means different things to you at different points in your life. Ocarina of Time means something different to me now than it did 13 years ago. But the fact that it still has so much meaning is an affirmation of something I've long suspected: that this game is one of the greatest things that video games have ever achieved."

Hardly a surprise to see this top the list, but a delight to see some of your memories of this most revolutionary of Zelda games. "Not just the best Zelda game, but probably the best game ever made," says GamingDave. "A joy to play from start to finish. Wonderful characters, locations, story and puzzles, wrapped up with great controls, sound and visuals. A game I played through several times on the N64, again on the GameCube (in Master Mode), and then again on the 3DS. Once my kids are a bit older I can't wait to introduce them to this beloved piece of gaming history."

For many, it's become a game forever tangled in their formative years. "It hit me at that sweet spot in '98 when I was old enough to appreciate the artistry, but young enough to not be able to see the strings holding it together," says Gormster. "It felt like real magic."

"Remember as if it was today, 14 years old, sitting in front of my 14' Phillips TV on Christmas morning 1998," says HistoryTeller. "I was blown away from the sheer size and scope of this adventures. The sounds and melodies from this adventure still gives me the goosebumps."

"Playing it as a child it was my gateway to magical world," writes Stan546. "Still to this day, I know a little forest in a field not far from my parents house, which has one stand alone oak tree, where I sometimes go and just sit, below my Great Deku Tree. The biggest tree in my little forest."

"Is this based purely on nostalgia?" asks Hughbarb. Well yes, but... "Possibly, although it perfectly encapsulates an era of video games where new 'game-changing' mechanics were around every corner and all hype was drip-fed through magazines. Then there's the stunning world and some genuine emotion, perhaps the first time I'd ever really felt it in a game. I'll always remember running to WHSmith right after school to get this and spending what seems like an age in Hyrule."

But lets cut through all that saccharine stuff and remember some of the truth behind Ocarina of Time. "Genuinely magical game with very very little to fault," says Ecoplex. "Except the water temple which was like licking Satan's balls."

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