Best Zelda Game
Image: Nintendo Life

21st November 2023 marks the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s debut on N64. In honour of the occasion, we’re republishing our reader-ranked list of every Zelda game. Does Ocarina still hold up? Oh yes, but you can find out how it rates against the latest entries in this here ranking. Enjoy!

Remember, this list is dynamic and governed in real-time by each game's User Rating on our games database. Therefore, it is subject to change even after publication!

In order to rate any of the games on the list below out of 10, logged-in Nintendo Life users can simply tap the 'star', assign the game a personal rating, and influence the order below. Enjoy!

What are the best Zelda games? Following decades of adventures across Nintendo consoles, ranking The Legend of Zelda series is one heck of an undertaking. Bar a couple of exceptions, each entry is pretty much a classic, and even the 'lesser' ones are really rather good. The majority are among the very best games on the consoles that parented them, so assembling them in order is no small task.

Thankfully, we've been able to enlist some very fine people to aid us in the task of ranking every Zelda game ever: you lovely Nintendo Life readers, of course! The reader-ranked list below is governed by each game's User Rating in our database, and is therefore subject to change after publication, even as you're reading this. It's an ever-evolving, 'definitive' Zelda ranking that we'll keep updated with new entries as they release.

When it comes to different versions of the same game, after some debate we've decided to throw everything in for the most part — HD remasters, 3DS remakes, GBA ports, the works! We have excluded a few things (the GameCube compilations, BOTW on Wii U, and the non-Switch versions of Hyrule Warriors, for example), but we think it's interesting to see within the overall ranking how the remasters and remakes fare against one another.

And no, we haven't included the Philips CD-i ones (or the DS Tingle curios), but we have included some significant spin-offs, such as Cadence of Hyrule and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity.

Don't think spin-offs, remakes, or remasters should be included? We've got a solution for you: mentally remove the offending games from the list and — voilà — a svelte, sparkling ranking without any of those blithering pretenders to the Hylian throne.

So, let's grab the Master Sword and our Hylian Shield and head out on an adventure. Here is the Legend of Zelda series, as ranked by you, from worst to best...

33. Link's Crossbow Training (Wii)

An introduction to the little-used plastic Wii Zapper peripheral, Link's Crossbow Training is a little nine-level high-score shooting game which uses various assets and areas from Twilight Princess as Link attempts to improve his crossbow skills using the Wii Remote's pointer functionality.

It's not unenjoyable, and you can pick the disc up for next to nothing these days. While there are sections where you can control Link in a first/third-person perspective, it should not be confused with a fully-fledged Zelda game in any way, shape or form. It is, however, a fun little aside in the Legend of Zelda-verse.

32. The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (3DS)

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes, while not a bad game, pales in comparison to the rest of the Zeldas (and the Four Swords games in particular). You play as Blue, Green, and Red Link, and work together to battle bosses, solve puzzles, and gather loot. The big new feature was the Totem mechanic, which enabled you to stack the three Links on top of each other, although it just wasn't enough to elevate this entry.

Tri Force Heroes still exudes the charm of the franchise and throws in some delightful features all of its own. Outfits are a high point, as are the presentation and soundtrack, and there are moments of wonder when level design and teamwork come together in harmony. Uneven stage design and poor communication options in multiplayer and a single-player experience that feels like an afterthought put this one at the bottom of the illustrious series' Totem pole, though.

31. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES)

A radical departure from the template of the first game, Zelda II has enjoyed something of a reappraisal in recent post-Dark Souls years. It's an inscrutable game and one with which we wouldn't feel bad in the slightest using the rewind function if you were playing via Nintendo Switch Online, or save states elsewhere, but it's worth persevering with. In a series that, in the past, risked turning into a by-the-numbers adventure by slavishly sticking to a formula, this first sequel was anything but a repetition — a deeper combat system with RPG levelling elements and side-on platforming villages and dungeons made this a very different experience from the original.

You could argue that too much of its sense of adventure and 'wonder' is lost to frustration, but no more so than in other challenging 8-bit games. If you've bounced off The Adventure of Link in the past, we'd urge you to give it another go.

30. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition (DSiWare)

The first Four Swords experience — originally an 'add-on' mode included as part of the GBA port of Link to the Past — was multiplayer-only until an enhanced port added a single-player mode and was made available on DSiWare for free for a limited time in 2011 (and later very briefly on 3DS in 2014). It enabled up to four friends to battle through Hyrule together as four Links in differently coloured garb and is very good, too.

It's a shame that playing it today is so difficult; an online-enabled port would make an excellent addition to Nintendo Switch Online.

29. Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda (Switch eShop)

Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda *breathe* is an excellent game, but is it a Zelda game?

Short answer: Absolutely. Long answer: This wasn't a case of Brace Yourself Games simply swapping out the sprites of Crypt of the NecroDancer with Link and Zelda. This musical take on Hyrule and the top-down Zelda mechanics we all know so well freshened the formula while retaining all the hallmarks you'd expect in a Nintendo-developed Zelda title. You get the exploration, the discovery, the wonder, the items, the dungeons, and — most of all — the music, all shot through with a rhythm-based gameplay twist that takes a while to get used to, but is immensely satisfying once you do. It's also arguably the most replayable Zelda game ever, with each new game juggling the landscape and layout of the kingdom (cleverly playing with the notion of Hyrule's ever-changing geography throughout the series), meaning no playthrough will be quite the same.

It won't click with everyone, and if you're after 80-hour epics, you'll want to look elsewhere. But there are plenty of them already. Having a smaller Hylian experience that feels uniquely fresh and also completely 'Zelda' is a joy.

28. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS)

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass has everything you would expect from a Legend of Zelda game and was a worthy stylus-controlled continuation of the series on DS. Great use of the touchscreen in every aspect of the game combined with the layout, structure, and design typical of the Zelda franchise made this a familiar yet fresh entry to the series. If you missed this title when it was first released, don't listen to the naysayers — this is a wonderful little experience that's more than worth hunting down.

27. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (GCN)

A collaborative adventure in the Legend of Zelda mould was something many had dreamt of for a long time, and the Four Swords part of the GBA port of A Link to the Past made the jump to the TV screen here in Four Swords Adventures. There's a single-player game in there, but the real meat of the experience involved each of the four players hooking their own GBA to the GameCube with the requisite link cable and controlling their Link in a screen-hopping adventure long before Nintendo went asymmetric with the Wii U gamepad. It's a brilliant co-op Zelda game hampered only by the fact that it required so much kit to function.

26. Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (Switch)

This hack-and-slash take on the Zelda universe was originally released on the Wii U before receiving a 'Legends' 3DS port and finally making it to Switch in 2018 as Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition. As with many a Musou, it's a great time-sink if you fancy giving the grey matter a rest and whooping the behinds of hundreds of moblins at a time.

There are dozens — if not hundreds — of hours of content here, and it's crammed with affectionate nods to the wider series, with characters from throughout the franchise and the first (and hopefully not last) appearance of Linkle, a girl who believes she is the reincarnation of the series' hero. Though it certainly feels bloated in places, it manages to balance the Zelda and Warriors elements well. Group all of that with stellar presentation and impressive portable gameplay, Omega Force and Team Ninja did an excellent job of doing something new (and weird) with a classic Nintendo property.

25. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (DS)

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks might suffer from a bad reputation, but if you can get past being tied to a train track, it really is an excellent entry. Trading sailing the high seas for choo-chooing across the kingdom by rail, you'd plot a route, set the speed, and clear the path of enemies using the in-built cannon. Spirit Tracks gave Zelda a proper role in the game for once, and also famously used the DS's microphone. You could blow into it to use the Whirlwind and Spirit Pipes, among other items. A fun little idea in concept, although it relied on audio to function, meaning that a noisy environment would interfere with play.

Spirit Tracks tweaked, expanded, and in some ways improved on Phantom Hourglass while throwing in some new novelties. Its fabulous soundtrack stands alongside the best of the series and we think it's time to reevaluate this entry in the storied franchise. C'mon, ride the train. It's a choo-choo.

24. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (Switch)

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity uses Omega Force's Dynasty Warriors format just as the team's first foray into the Zelda universe did, but borrows a layer of Breath of the Wild's polished presentation and story which elevates it in our eyes. Boasting a large cast of familiar characters — each with their own movesets and weapons — it gives you the chance to fight the Calamity 100 years before the events of BOTW.

Performance could be better in some parts (dramatically better on occasion), but frame rate drops didn't affect our enjoyment of this Hyrule-based hack-and-slasher. It's a treat to spend some quality time with the Four Champions, and while Age of Calamity is obviously riding on the coattails of Breath of the Wild, we certainly enjoyed our time with this quasi-prequel adventure.

23. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD (Switch)

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD introduced a raft of technical improvements and quality-of-life updates that revitalised the Wii game. The alternate button control scheme totally worked if you still couldn't get on with the motion controls, the graphics got a sensitively-handled HD overhaul, and a once-bothersome sidekick was streamlined into something altogether more useful. Yes, the locking off of instant travel behind the official amiibo was a misstep, but beyond that issue, this was a great remaster of a divisive game.