30 Jul 2015
My Top Ten Favourite Legend of Zelda Games
Recently I've been watching a ton of countdown videos on people's favourite Legend of Zelda games. It's just fun to see how people's opinions differ, and how things that turned me off about a game were the exact same things that made others love it, and vice versa. I decided to try and compile my own list and see how it compares to the many, many video countdowns I've now seen. Now, I would have loved to make this into a video, but I'm afraid I'm better at writing my thoughts and opinions than I am at voicing it into a microphone. Also, I don't own any capturing devices or software, so any video would just be me talking, and that's not really interesting. The best video countdowns I came across were the ones that really showed off the gameplay of the individual games. So I'm afraid that my thoughts will just be expressed in writing here on my blog.
Another thing I should mention is that I've not played every single game in the series, there are still four games that I intend to try out at some point in the future, so if one of your favourite games didn't make the list and wasn't mentioned in the honourable or dishonourable mentions, then I simply haven't properly played it yet. Other than that I think it goes without saying that this is about my personal preferences, and my tastes may differ significantly from yours.
Before we get started on the list itself, I'll give out an honourable mention to the original Legend of Zelda game and to Oracle of Ages. I found the original game to be a bit too open and aimless for my taste. I respect it for starting out my beloved franchise, but roughly 4 dungeons in, I finally had to call it quits. I just prefer my games to have a bit more story to them. Oracle of Ages only barely didn't make my list, nothing against the game, I just decided to narrow the list down to ten instead of ranking all the Zelda games I have played into a "Top Twelve".
I also have to give out a dishonourable mention to Adventures of Link. I really wanted to like this game (or at least properly play it), because I actually enjoy sidescrollers, but a few Game Over screens into it, I ended up ragequitting the thing. Reasons? Enemies pouncing on you from nowhere when you leave the main road. Village NPCs not giving any useful information on where to go. Dark caves where you figuratively cannot see the enemies in front of you. Game forcing you to start from the very beginning when you lose all your lives.
With that out of the way, let's head on to the list itself...
10) A Link to the Past
I know I'm going to get flack for this one, as it's one of the most beloved games in the franchise. Long before I even tried it out, I heard a ton of praise from pretty much every corner, and I guess that's one of the reasons it ended up so far down on my list. There was just too much hype building it up to this amazing game, so when I finally did play it, I just felt kind of let down. It probably also didn't help that I played a certain other game before trying this one, but at the same time it was playing the other game that made me want to try this game. I can't put my finger on what it is I don't like about it, as the game is really well designed, it has many elements that I wished the original had. The world is big, but you are exploring it with a purpose, there's a good story, a good twist, it's challenging, but not impossible. Considering it's only the third game in the franchise, it's impressively good. I just don't feel that compelled to play on. It's not A Link to the Past, it's me...
9) Link's Awakening
8) Oracle of Seasons
I know some people list the Oracle games together, but while they share a lot of things and can be connected to one another, they are also rather different games. I personally preferred Seasons. It could simply be down to it being the game I played first out of the two, hence it not only got credit for the things that made Seasons unique, but also aspects that it shared with Ages. I really enjoyed changing the seasons and figuring out how to get to seemingly unreachable areas, also I really enjoyed Subrosia and everything it had to offer. It just added another dimension to the game in my opinion. I have a feeling that in the future I will probably replay Seasons more than I will Ages, and that's why this one's on my list.
7) Skyward Sword
I really, really wanted to like this game more. First off the game looks absolutely gorgeous, the idea of controlling the sword 1:1 sounded awesome, the origin story aspect sounded interesting, and I actually really liked the overworld having a dungeon aspect to it. However, the game has some drawbacks that pulls it significantly down the list for me. The motion controls didn't respond well to me, and that got really, really annoying. That first aspect of the first boss battle with Ghirahim almost had me ragequit the game (and makes me not really want to play the game from the beginning again because I fear getting stuck there). Even with looking up how to beat him and doing the motions described in the guide, it took me forever before I somehow triggered the next step of the battle.
The stamina bar was annoying. I don't mind magic meters, as such things needs limitation as to not become overpowered, but when climbing (which is a staple in 3D Zelda games) is limited by a bar, then they have gone too far. If they had just stuck to it applying to sprinting and maybe more powerful attacks and such, then I would have been fine with it, but climbing limits exploration, which makes it less fun. Fi was possibly the most grating companion I've ever encountered in a game. People who say Navi's the worst clearly hasn't met Fi yet. She constantly interrupted the game with nonsense information, pointed out obvious things that I as a player would have seen myself. And the third pet peeve I have with this game is the Silent Realms. I hated the Silent Realms. One of them was bad enough, but I'd be okay with it, even be open to replaying the game, but knowing I had more of them to go through, I quit the game after I finished the first one and I still haven't picked it back up to play on. Worst thing is that I do want to see the later parts of the game, but I just don't want to have to suffer through additional Silent Realms.
6) Majora's Mask
Another game I really wanted to enjoy more than I did. I love the concept of the masks having powers in this one, and I especially love the transformation masks. The Zoras are my favourite Zelda race, so being able to play as one of them for at least a portion of the game is absolutely wonderful. The world may be small, but it's full of things to explore. And with the 3DS version of the game, the saving is more player friendly, and the time-warping is more specific which makes sidequests less time-consuming to complete.
However, I'm still not a fan of the 3-day limit thing. I guess it's just a make or break thing for Zelda fans, as I do understand why some people love it (like being able to replay their favourite bosses anytime they want). For me, I don't care so much about replaying the bosses in the game, but I'm someone who like to take my time when playing games, I don't like the feeling of being rushed. Sure, I can slow time down, but it still feels too rushed, and I get that it fits with the story of impending doom and all of that, but it just doesn't do anything for me besides make the game less enjoyable. Also, I just don't get that invested in the side quests in this game, I can't explain it, it just doesn't do that much for me.
5) Spirit Tracks
Yeah, I know this game's not that popular in the community, and I get it. The stylus controls are not my favourite either, and yeah, the train limits the freedom of exploration, but somehow I just don't mind. The tracks expand with every favour you do for the people of New Hyrule, there are warp points you can activate to travel to other maps more quickly, and while you do have to plot your route before driving the train, you can change your mind without having to plot a new route. I loved having phantom Zelda as my companion, the tag-team aspect where I controlled both her and Link was fantastic. All in all an enjoyable game despite its control scheme.
4) Twilight Princess
I enjoyed this game a lot when I first played it, and when I finally managed to track down a GameCube copy of the game, I loved it even more. I'm a fan of the wolf transformation, especially once you can switch back and forth at will, Midna's the best companion I've come across in a Zelda game, the story and characters are compelling. I enjoy the art style, I love the dungeons and there are some great items in the game.
So, if I love so much about it, why isn't it my top pick? Well, while I do love the game, I can also see merit in the criticism. The overworld is huge, but has a lot of empty patches, so traversing it over time gets less and less interesting. Sure there are caves, enemies and such, and I like that, I just agree with those that say there should have been more. I'm not just into these games to go from one dungeon to the next, I like a more overall experience. I'm not that into the collectables in this game. And I also find myself taking breaks when playing this game. Like, I will play for a couple of days and then just not pick the game up again for a few months. So, for those reasons I couldn't justify putting it any higher than this spot on the list, despite how much I enjoy it otherwise.
3) Ocarina of Time
This game is probably the game I've replayed the most out of all Zelda games. It was my introduction to the series and was the reason I fell in love with it. I love this game, and have a copy of each release of the game, despite them all being the same game. That should say something about how much I treasure it. So, how come it isn't my number one? I guess there are two main reasons for it. Firstly, because I have replayed it so much, and know the ins and outs of it, I don't feel the same need to play it as much as I used to. Secondly, the biggest flaw in the game in my opinion is that it has a rather tedious collectathon-quest. Apart from the wallet upgrades, the rewards aren't that good and I just don't feel compelled to look beyond 50 of the Skulltulas. By that point I'm ready to take on the final dungeon and I just never get back to it. And since I now know the final reward is an infinite supply of rupees, it's just not worth the hassle, because rupees become worthless long before you find that many Skulltulas.
2) Wind Waker
I have a confession to make here. When this game was originally announced, I was one of those who disliked the art style. I actually skipped the GameCube era because I was unimpressed by what I saw. I actually didn't get around to playing this game until I bought the HD version for my WiiU, but when I fired that one up, I fell madly in love with it. I love the story, the characters, the vibrant and colourful atmosphere. The HD remastering made the game look incredibly gorgeous, its use of the gamepad is pure perfection.
I can't think of anything noteworthy to complain about with this game, apart from maybe the game forcing you to do a couple of dungeons before you can actually freely explore the world. Yes, it's probably the easiest 3D title in the series, but because it's so fun, I don't care that it's easy. The ocean is vastly huge, but it never feels empty. There's a ton of things to explore, and more importantly, I feel compelled to explore. I don't just trot to the next designated area. As soon as the game allows me to roam the ocean freely I do it. I collect every piece of the map I can get, I explore the islands, the submarines, the platforms, everything I can find. There are just so many places I can go and do things that the main quest doesn't depend on, and I love it. It's one of two Zelda titles that I have completed and collected everything there is, the other one being my number one spot.
1) A Link Between Worlds
From what I can deduce from the many, many countdown lists I've seen on this topic, this one is probably one of my more surprising picks, especially considering my introduction to the series came through Ocarina of Time, and not A Link to the Past (and well, you saw how far down that game ended up on my list). This game was another game where I initially wasn't too keen on the concept. I still bought it when it was released, but I didn't have much hope for it.
When I finally fired it up, it blew me away. I had no idea that a top-down Zelda game could be this much fun. Having just poked at the top-down portion of the Zelda series before this one, I had just assumed it wasn't something for me. Oh, how wrong I was. Apart from one annoying minigame (the octoball one that I still struggle to master), I love absolutely everything this game has to offer. I love how the item-rental system allows you to take on dungeons in any order you may choose, thereby giving you a non-linear experience. I love the items and their upgrades. I love the Maiamai sidequest and how it actually compelled me to go out and look for all of them, which also helped me find all of the heart pieces in the process as it lead me to explore every nook and cranny within the world. I also love how the rewards for this collectathon quest were regularly paced and stayed relevant up through the last Maiamai.
I love the dungeons and how they instead of giving you a new item, gave you other things that were just as useful. You never left one empty handed, despite of the rental system already providing you with most of the items in the game. And I absolutely adore the wall-merging mechanic. It made for some very interesting dungeon designs and fun new ways to explore the world. I also really enjoyed the story, down to every last surprise.
So there you have it, my top ten picks as it stands now. This list could change as I get around to playing more games, both the two upcoming releases, and the four I still haven't gotten around to playing. And I think that when I do get around to playing all the titles within the series, I will make a new list, maybe one that encompasses all games and not just ten of them. I'll have to wait and see how such a list might end up differing to the one I have now. Until then, I hope you have enjoyed my countdown, and feel free to comment to tell me which games you prefer in the series and why.