All 18 Legend of Zelda games ranked from worst to best

Legend of Zelda games ranked: #6-1

Finally, here are the Zelda games that have had the most cultural influence, the best mechanics, and are just overall the best games in the series.

6. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Zelda Wind Waker Ruto Island (Image credit: @SourceSpy91 on YouTube)
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CategoryThe Legend of Zelda
TitleThe Wind Waker
DateDec. 13, 2002
PlatformGameCube, Wii U

Back at E3 2002, Nintendo debuted the upcoming Zelda game for the GameCube, and it was like nothing anyone had ever seen before — no really, it was like nothing Zelda fans had seen before. Gone were the realistic, mature graphics, and in its place were bright, anime-style, cel-shaded graphics and a big-headed boy in a green tunic. Fans were outraged, but luckily, they were soon overwhelmed with joy when they realized The Wind Waker was a certified classic.

The fresh coat of paint allowed for a level of expression that had not been seen before in a Zelda game. Animations had never been more fluid, and the anime aesthetic gave Link a whole new range of emotions. The vast ocean became a character of its own, full of islands, enemies, and treasures just waiting to be plundered. The Wind Waker wasn't without flaws, like having so little to do while sailing from one island to the next, but the game's influence on the series' art direction was undeniable. From here on out, we knew never to judge a Zelda game by its art style.

5. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

Zelda Majoras Mask

Zelda Majoras Mask (Image credit: @ZorZelda on YouTube)
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CategoryThe Legend of Zelda
TitleMajora's Mask
DateOct. 26, 2000
PlatformNintendo 64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS

On paper, Majora's Mask shouldn't rank as high as it does. Made only two years after Ocarina of Time's release and reusing many of its assets, Majora's Mask is a dark and twisted tale, with themes of loss, guilt, and death permeating through every encounter. The Land of Termina is a doomed place, and the player is constantly reminded of doomsday by the horrifying face of a moon slowly descending from the sky.

With only three days to figure out what's going on, Link must manipulate time and make use of the cursed Mask to embody the spirits of those who lost their lives before they were ready to die. Its haunting aesthetic is eerily beautiful, and the unique world of Termina is full of memorable characters, despite looking and playing an awful lot like Ocarina of Time. As we've gotten older, Majora's Mask resonates even louder than it originally did on the Nintendo 64, and the 3DS remake only solidified its place as one of the best Zelda games.

Links Awakening Dx Vs Switch

Links Awakening Dx Vs Switch (Image credit: iMore)
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CategoryThe Legend of Zelda
TitleLink's Awakening
DateJune 6, 1993
PlatformGame Boy, Game Boy Color, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch

Link's Awakening is something special. Upon its release on the Game Boy, this direct sequel to Link to the Past took a step outside the series' comfort zone and to explore a different world entirely. Link awakens on Koholint Island following a storm, and very quickly, he discovers not everything is as it seems. The story unfolds as Link uncovers the mysteries of this island so he can find his way home through a series of puzzles, battles, and mini-quests.

This game was so well loved that it has received several remakes, including the most recent complete remake for the Nintendo Switch. This Zelda entry is truly unique; it's the first game outside of Hyrule, doesn't feature Princess Zelda, and it introduced the trading quest concept. The DX version gave us the Color Dungeon and Photo sidequests, while the Nintendo Switch version offered a new Chamber Dungeon building mechanic. Regardless of what was added on, the main game stayed the same. There's something about it that keeps drawing people in. It might be Twin Peaks-esque story, the brilliant soundtrack, or the intricate dungeons, but whatever it is, it certainly is one of the best Zelda games.

Zelda Link To The Past Link In Bed

Zelda Link To The Past Link In Bed (Image credit: iMore)
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CategoryThe Legend of Zelda
TitleA Link to the Past
DateNov. 21, 1991
PlatformSNES, Game Boy Advance, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, Nintendo Switch

A Link to the Past was a return to form following Zelda II: The Adventures of Link. And what a return! This game is just a treat to play. The upgrade to the SNES saw plenty of improvements to the game mechanics, like being able to swing a sword sideways. From its bright and beautiful 2D graphics that still hold up today to its smooth game mechanics, epic dungeon exploration, and plot twists, this game has long held its position at the top of many best games of all time lists. Without A Link to the Past, there is no Ocarina of Time. Time has nothing on this classic.

Link is on another adventure through Hyrule, off to save the Princess from the evil wizard, Agahnim. What unfolds is a treacherous journey between the Light World and Dark World in a daring journey to rescue the banished maidens and stop Ganon from returning. There is just so much here to love! The dungeons are unique with special items and bosses, the game mechanics are flawless, and you can easily get lost in exploration and puzzle solving. It truly is one of the best games ever made.

2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath Of The Wild Link With Sword

Breath Of The Wild Link With Sword (Image credit: iMore)
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CategoryThe Legend of Zelda
TitleBreath of the Wild
DateMarch 3, 2017
PlatformWii U, Nintendo Switch

Every few years, if we're lucky, we may experience a game that is so groundbreaking and inventive that it shapes the gaming landscape for years to come. The Legend of Zelda is a series that has done this time and time again, and Breath of the Wild is the latest example of the creativity that still powers the series today. Breath of the Wild takes almost every gameplay convention in Zelda's gameplay formula and either redesigns it, remixes it, or just tosses it out the window.

The move to an open world was the breath of fresh air the series needed, and Hyrule became as much a character as Link and Zelda. The story, told through flashbacks and wordless trips through dilapidated cities and towns, is the tale of the desperate and hopeless struggle to save the land from evil. Breath of the Wild is poignant and bombastic simultaneously, and its influence can already be seen in many popular open-world games today. Breath of the Wild is a game that will only get better with time and is easily the best Nintendo Switch game — that is until Breath of the Wild 2 arrives.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Zelda Ocarina Of Time

Zelda Ocarina Of Time (Image credit: Nintendo)
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CategoryThe Legend of Zelda
TitleOcarina of Time
DateNov. 21, 1998
PlatformNintendo 64, GameCube, Wii, Nintendo 3DS

Was there ever a doubt in your mind that this would be our top pick? Ocarina of Time is quite simply a masterpiece. While a few epic Zelda games have come in the following years, it's incredibly difficult to top one of the best games of all time. Upon Ocarina's release in 1998, we saw a story that crossed the very barriers of time itself, and saw Hyrule like never before. The level design was incredible, the soundtrack was unforgettable, and it gave players an epic tale that would bring them back again and again.

Combat in this game was fluid, puzzles were challenging, and it built an atmosphere that would suck the player in. It's hard to forget an experience like Ocarina of Time, and we often wish we could go back and experience it for the first time all over again. Rarely do games come along that define a generation, let alone a series.

So many games have borrowed from this classic over the years, trying to capture the magic, but there's nothing that has quite hit that mark. It's a perfectly balanced game, and you can bet that if it was ever remastered, Nintendo would basically be printing money. Ocarina set the bar high and is the legacy to beat.

Returning to Hyrule again

The Legend of Zelda series has become a legend of its own. Who could have predicted that a game released in 1986 would still be relevant today, let alone still setting the gold standard for games in its genre? The series continues to reinvent itself and the games around it, creating the very DNA of adventure games in both two and three dimensions. Whether your favorite Zelda is Ocarina of Time, Breath of the Wild, or even Tri Force Heroes, The Legend of Zelda will never fade away.

Sara Gitkos

Sara is the Freelance Coordinator, writer, and editor at iMore. When not editing or writing away, she's glued to her Nintendo Switch, Xbox, or PS5, though she's a retro gamer at heart.