The Legend of Zelda (NES)
The Legend of Zelda was the first Zelda game I ever played. As a kid, I never owned my own copy for the Nintendo system. I would have to go to the local library and hope that my save was still with the cartridge whenever I checked it out. After a while, the library would let me keep the game until someone came in asking for it. I spent so much time with this game the music alone brings back memories of the level maps. This was the game that started it all for me. Zelda was the reason I wanted a Nintendo 64 instead of a PlayStation and a Gamecube instead of a PlayStation 2. I will still buy a Nintendo console just to play the latest Zelda game.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES and GameCube)
The second Zelda game was one of the hardest games I have beaten. I never played this game on the original Nintendo. The first time I played and beat the game was on a collection disc for the Gamecube. It took hours to make it through the last level. It is one of the rare games that gives you a sense of accomplishment for beating it. I wasn’t a big fan of the side-scrolling linear gameplay compared to the exploration based gameplay of other games in the series, but it is a nice change of pace for Zelda fans. I recently went back and beat the game again using a Nintendo emulator just for the challenge alone.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Game Boy Advance)
I never owned a Super Nintendo growing up so this was another game I skipped until we received a Game Boy Advance for Christmas one year. After getting used to the 3D Zelda games, this was a trip down memory lane. This game features the top down view of the original Zelda game that is featured only in mobile Zelda versions after this point. It doesn’t hold a special place in my heart like the original game but it features solid gameplay nonetheless.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX (Game Boy Color)
I got a Game Boy Color just to play this game and I was not disappointed. The top-down Zelda games are perfect to play on the go. Filled with levels and puzzles that will challenge you mixed with few side-scrolling levels similar to the second Zelda game. I hope this style of gameplay continues to thrive alongside the 3D Zelda games as both styles work well for the series.
Link: The Faces of Evil (Philips CD-i)
Faces of Evil is one of the worst games I have ever played. Not due to the much-maligned cutscenes, but due to the control scheme. There is no jump button. To jump, you have to press up on the analog stick. This makes some of the later levels very difficult and it took a bit of luck to actually beat them. In the game itself, you have to grind a bit to stock up on items to complete the quests. This made the game feel painfully slow. To make matters worse, emulation for the Philips CD-i is incomplete. It took hours of tinkering to get the game to even run. The emulator took the mouse and kept recentering it to the middle of the screen. To make the game playable, I had to map the keys myself to a controller and it was still difficult to control Link. These problems were carried over into the other games on the system. It would have been a much better use of my time to just watch the gameplay videos that were on YouTube instead of fighting through the games myself.
Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon (Philips CD-i)
Zelda’s Adventure (Philips CD-i)
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64)
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (Nintendo 64)
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (3DS)
As much as I enjoyed the first few top-down Zelda games, I felt like the two Oracle games didn’t quite live up to expectations. It might be due to the fact that they were supposed to be part of a three-part series that was condensed into two games, but they felt gimmicky and cheap to me. Changing the seasons seemed like a good idea but I thought it really brought the gameplay to a halt. I wish it was used more in a smaller area such as a temple instead of forcing you to trial and error your way through the main map to advance the story. If you are looking for a mobile Zelda experience, I would look elsewhere.
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (3DS)
The second Oracle game suffered more than the first did. The age gimmick worked well in Ocarina of Time because it was central to the plot. Here it just feels rushed squashed together with out of place color puzzles. I wish they would have scaled down these games and make three smaller versions each built around temples that were solved using the main gimmicks of the game. The series would have played better that way and would have been less tedious. If this game was created today, they would have made one main game and included the next two as DLC so I think the failures were just a sign of the times for game developers.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure (GameCube)
I really liked the Four Swords game. The gameplay makes for a great party game and the single player mode worked surprisingly well. I wish they would remake this game on every new console as it would explode on console launch days giving a solid single and multiplayer game for users to play immediately. I feel like a lot of people missed this game due to the over-saturation of Zelda on the Gamecube. Put variations of this game on every console and it will sale.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GameCube)
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (Game Boy Advance)
The Minish Cap was a step in the right direction for the top-down Zelda games after the Oracle disaster. The art improvement really gave me hope going forward for the mobile Zelda games. The puzzles were reminiscent of the original Zelda game with a few new twists leading to a nostalgic yet fresh take on the series. I highly recommend playing this game.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GameCube)
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS)
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (DS)
Link’s Crossbow Training (Wii)
I really enjoyed this game for the Wii even though I wouldn’t really consider it as part of the Zelda series. I even bought the light gun attachment just to have a more streamlined shooting experience. It was a pretty short game overall but definitely something I would recommend as a starting point for light gun games on the Wii before moving onto more full-fledged light gun games like the Resident Evil ones.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
I will be in the minority on this one but I hated Skyward Sword. It took so long for me to actually beat this game because the gameplay was not fun. I am lefthanded and the first righthanded movements of Link with the Wiimote made it quite a frustrating experience. Link has always been lefthanded and to have him forced into a righthanded experience to appeal to the masses was very disappointing. I’m very surprised Nintendo did not allow for a right/left option for the game. I forced my way through it using the motion controls to get the full experience but left feeling disappointed.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)
Hyrule Warriors (Legends) (3DS)
The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (3DS)
Tri Force Heroes was a refreshing take on the Zelda series but it was not as well received as Four Swords Adventure. The portable nature of the 3DS made it hard to find others to play the game with. If the game would have been built around online play, I think it would have fared better. I was unable to find any other players so I had to play the game single player. The puzzles were fun but a bit tedious as you had to focus on positioning each player. If Nintendo ever fixes their online play, I would love to play this game again with friends.
Picross – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (3DS)
The Picross game is another Zelda game that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the games in the series. I included it because I enjoyed the puzzling aspect of the game mixed with the lore of the Zelda series. If you are into puzzle games, I would recommend giving it a try. If you own a 3DS, it is really the only real award Nintendo offers for their Platinum reward coins so you really cannot go wrong. A free Zelda game is always welcome in my book.