22. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

Showcasing the sort of swordplay we'd hoped Twilight Princess would contain, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was a beautiful entry in the series which dared to try some new ideas, something the franchise desperately needed at the time. It arguably didn't get everything right — and we're still confused as to why Nintendo ditched the beautifully accurate IR pointer in favour of a gyro alternative which required constant re-centering (especially when everyone already had the IR sensor hooked up anyway!) — but we found the MotionPlus swordplay itself excellent.

As the very first game in the Zelda timeline, it's pretty much required reading for series fans, and while it has its naysayers, we look back on our time with Skyward Sword very fondly.

21. The Legend of Zelda (NES)

What is there left to say about The Legend of Zelda? The game that started it all holds up well, although be prepared to explore and really work for the answers to puzzles here. A modern game would never ask you to try setting random bushes alight to reveal a hidden passageway without signalling it with a huge neon 'SECRET HERE!' sign. The Legend of Zelda trusted the player and had faith in its own strengths enough to let you miss things. It was a very unique prospect back in 1987, offering an unparalleled sense of adventure, clever combat mechanics, and a world ripe for exploration. Decades later, developers of titles big and small are still borrowing from it.

A landmark game that still feels fresh. Definitely worth revisiting.

20. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Switch)

This beautiful Switch remake of the classic Game Boy entry rebuilt everything from the ground up. On top of the beautiful new art style, it added modern conveniences, a dungeon creator, amiibo support, and lots of little quality-of-life improvements whilst infusing every single square inch of Koholint – every secret passage, Piranha, Pokey, and Pig Warrior – with a level of detail and depth that totally reinvigorated both its timeless story and classic Zelda gameplay for a new generation.

If there's anything holding The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening back, some frame rate issues might prove jarring for some players. Others may not even notice, but if you're sensitive to dropped frames, you may be distracted from the otherwise absorbing gameplay. It's a little thing, but with the heritage of technical wizardry behind the Game Boy original, it is a small dent in this game's otherwise glistening armour.

19. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (GBC)

If you're looking for a straightforward Zelda adventure, this battle-heavy quest is about as straightforward as it gets. Oracle of Seasons put combat centre stage, but adds in enough originality to keep it from feeling monotonous. Developed by Capcom subsidiary Flagship and helmed by Hidemaro Fujibayashi, director of several later games including Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom, Seasons was most notable for allowing you to use the Rod of Seasons (shocker!) to shift the world's climate and solve a variety of puzzles, from freezing lakes to growing Deku Flowers. It was a smart weather-switching system that would later be revisited in various other Zelda entries.

There is much incentive to play the Oracle games together, and if you do, we'd recommend tackling this one second. Doing so adds in interesting plot twists that enhance the relatively barebones storytelling and enables crucial weapon upgrades that help against the challenging end boss. It may not be as engrossing as Ages, but Seasons still offers up an old-school adventure that will feel fondly familiar to long-time franchise fans.

18. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Wii U)

Twilight Princess was simultaneously Zelda's swansong on the GameCube and its introduction on the Wii. It's an excellent action adventure, but not without flaws. Perhaps its biggest problem is that it did little to shake up the Zelda formula, which was feeling a little tired at this point; it plays a bit too similarly to Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker.

The HD version on Wii U restored the GameCube's orientation — putting Kakariko Village back on the side of the map it should be — while retaining the Wii version's 16:9 aspect ratio and adding a host of minor improvements along with high-definition visuals; it is inarguably the best version of the game. Midna is an all-time great companion, and Twilight Princess hits some brilliant highs, though perhaps not as consistently as some other entries.

17. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (GBC)

Oracle of Ages manages to feel both new and familiar at the same time. Link wields the Harp of Ages, which you could use to travel through time. Now, he may have already done some time-travelling with his ocarina, but in Oracle of Season's companion piece it becomes the central aspect of gameplay, primarily used to solve puzzles, by moving a stone in the past to redirect the flow of water in the future, for example, or planting seeds that will grow into trees and vines. This makes for a puzzle-heavy adventure, one that's enhanced by nuanced, colourful characters, interesting items, and a plot much unlike those previously seen in the franchise.

While many beloved Zelda tropes remain, the game still takes plenty of chances, many of which really pay off. It may have been built on Link's Awakening's engine, but Ages feels like its own game.

16. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (GBA)

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap carried on the trend of giving Link a talking piece of equipment to accompany him on his quest. This time around, it was the Minish Cap — a hat named Ezlo that could shrink Link to microscopic proportions so he can locate the Kinstone fragments and save the Minish people, or 'Picori'.

Another Flagship-developed entry after the company proved itself with the excellent Oracles pair, this was a traditional Zelda adventure that still looks and sounds wonderful, even if it didn't do an awful lot to shake up the formula. It introduced a few new items, though – Mole Mitts, Gust Jar, and Cane of Pacci – and allowed Link to learn new sword techniques throughout the game, as well as gain the ability to fuse elements to his sword. All-in-all, a brilliant bite-sized adventure.

15. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)

Ground-breaking as it was in the '90s, the 3D Zelda formula was starting to look a little tired by the mid-2000s, so while Twilight Princess is a very fine game, it certainly lacked the impact of its predecessors. The additional 'waggle' implemented in the Wii version didn't live up to the ideas of 1:1 swordplay we'd imagined, either. Did the entire world really need mirroring just to make Link right-handed?

Still, at the time this was the only way to play the game in 16:9 and it made for a satisfyingly meaty launch title in North America. Not one for the purists, perhaps — you'll want to track down an expensive copy of the GameCube version for the left-handed, canonical geography of Hyrule (or just play Twilight Princess HD on Wii U).

14. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Four Swords (GBA)

This wonderful game gave a new generation the chance to catch up with a classic a decade after its SNES debut. A variety of minor tweaks came along in its transition the handheld's smaller screen — Link was certainly a lot noisier on GBA thanks to the added voice samples used. Whether you dig that addition is a matter of taste. However, an addition that was universally welcomed was the bundled, Four Swords multiplayer quest. Assuming you had friends with GBAs and copies of the game, up to four of you could link up for a multiplayer-only Zelda adventure to take on evil mage Vaati.

Yes, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Four Swords is quite the package. Whether this or the SNES classic can be classed as the 'definitive' version is up for debate, but the GBA port is an excellent way to experience Link's greatest 2D adventure.

13. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (3DS)

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D was a magnificent refurbishment of a classic. The visual overhaul, streamlined features, and other improvements make this version even more enjoyable than the original N64 release. Minor flaws seem insignificant against its unique gameplay ideas, the dark and haunting theme, and a cleverly crafted game world which gets the chance to truly shine again.

It's strange, perhaps, that a game in which the main premise revolves around repeatedly travelling back in time was so ahead of its time. In its enhanced form, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D defies its age and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the very best games on its host system or anywhere else. Simply put, it's a masterpiece that every 3DS owner should play.

12. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (GBC)

Link's Awakening is a game of contrasts: sadness and joy, bleakness and whimsy, dream and reality, confusion and comfort. Its success lies in its ability to balance these contradictory elements with tight, compelling gameplay and a timeless presentation. The extra dungeon and other features of this DX version don't add up a huge amount over the original monochromatic release, but it's still a mighty fine game enhanced by the upgraded console's colour palette.

Grezzo's Switch remake might have prettified Koholint Island, but the joyous, quirky characters, melancholy, and beauty of Link's first portable adventure were there right from the very beginning. If you own a Game Boy Color or have any other way to access it — like, say, a Nintendo Switch — this game is essential.