By Jonathan Higgins / November 29th, 2013
It’s not a secret to everybody. The Legend of Zelda is perhaps my most cherished gaming franchise of all time. Those who know me outside of the site have come to automatically associate me with Zelda; if there’s news, they know I’ve no doubt heard it first. Those who have been following the oprainfall staff for a long while probably readily associate me with Zelda, as well, but just in case this is the first time you’ve seen an article of mine—here are my Zelda credentials. I started the Operation Rainfall Origins series with a Zelda game, I took things a step further sometime later, and you can listen to us talk about Zelda for several hours in Episode 34 of the Downpour Podcast.
To celebrate the release of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, I felt it appropriate to cover my list of the Top 10 Zelda games. Each game in the franchise has its strengths and weaknesses. I feel like being able to refer back to this list (when I inevitably review the newest Zelda game) will help curious readers understand my background (as well as what I look for in a Zelda game). Without ado, let’s get started on this ’venture.
10) The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition
I don’t think Nintendo has fully realized the potential regarding mixing multiplayer into the conventional Zelda formula. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords (Adventures) definitely shows Nintendo’s willingness to experiment a little bit, but I feel as though the Anniversary Edition (which was free to DSi owners for a limited time; I hope most of you took advantage of that) put the game’s best foot forward. It features the levels introduced in the game that came with A Link to the Past on Game Boy Advance, but…playing through the game on your own versus with a friend is wholly possible, and the mechanic doesn’t feel nerfed. Also to the game’s credit: The Retro Zone (which features levels celebrating Link’s Awakening, the original Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past) and the Hero’s Trial.
The reason I’m choosing to start off my list with this game versus other experimental takes on the Zelda formula is because I feel like Four Swords: Anniversary Edition was a successful experiment that only offered a few weaknesses (no online play is chief among them). This is a game that shows potential for Nintendo to build upon an introduction into multiplayer and celebrates the franchise’s roots all in one go. Not bad…not bad at all. Will Nintendo ever attempt multiplayer in Zelda again? I truly hope so.
9) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
I know a handful of other longtime Zelda fans who will have fire in their eyes as soon as they see where Twilight Princess falls on my list of the greatest games in the franchise. The entry that would be number one on others’ list is a little lower on mine. But I hope you can understand why. Yes, the graphics are amazing and the story had its shining moments. And we can all agree that Midna was one of the stronger companions that Link’s ever had. But at its core—Twilight Princess offered nothing remarkable. What was revolutionary to some fell by the wayside with me. Here’s why (in fewer words than you might imagine):
Twilight Princess is a weaker entry in the grand scheme of things because it tried entirely too hard to be both Ocarina of Time and A Link to the Past. While the gameplay (as Link) was grand in its own right and naturally evolved combat from The Wind Waker, it ultimately couldn’t decide which game it wanted to be more. The Twilight Realm, various levels, and other things that made the game “unique” were just shadows of dungeons already done better in other games in the franchise. Twilight Princess was never its own game because it tried entirely too hard to copy two of the strongest games to come before it. Plus, Wolf Link just doesn’t sit well with me. A good Zelda game, in my opinion, features Link + sword + shield consistently. I don’t need Nintendo’s take on Okami.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a very, very good game. But it could have been so much more.
8) The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
The Minish Cap is an example of what Twilight Princess should have been. Instead of attempting to copy the success of other top-down entries in the franchise (most notably Link’s Awakening and the two Oracle games, which helped to establish precedence in handheld Zelda), this game offered something more original. Twilight Princess offered a unique graphical style and plot, but fell short in other areas. This game offered a unique graphical style and attempted to throw a kink in the formula (a tiny Link is a versatile Link) without needing to morph the hero into something he wasn’t.
But, beyond all that, the reason I feel The Minish Cap offers slightly more than Twilight Princess (enough to push it above the game in terms of my personal rankings) is due to Vaati’s story offering much more to the player than Zant. The player was given more of a chance to get to know Vaati (and his ambitions) due to the game offering the villain’s perspective directly versus indirectly. Most of the infamy surrounding Zant was due to Midna and Zelda’s perspectives of him—Link rarely interacted with Zant directly until the time came to dispose of him.
So there you have it. For those of you still speaking to me, feel free to continue on towards the middle of my list.
3DSJonathan's Top 10 Zelda GamesThe Legend of Zeldatop 10Virtual ConsoleWiiZelda