a few years ago, i realized that the Zelda series is my favourite game series, but kind of just by lazy default. i’m not a fanatic of any of the individual games except for Link to the Past (all-time top five favourite game for me). it’s simply because i’ve played every single one of them, and most of them entertained me enough to see them through to the end, though none of them stand out in my mind as being standout in any individual aspect. they just do everything they aspire to do reasonably well, without any glaring or offensive flaws.
i grew up alongside the series. almost literally. i was alive to experience all of them as they came out, and was 12 years old for Ocarina of Time, which was considered a landmark achievement in its day.
watching my dad as he played through Zelda II, and eventually beat it, was a mind-bending experience. i was like five at the time, and could barely wrap my head around Mario. watching him get through those later dungeons, he appeared to me like an actual hero of
that experience, combined with being gifted a Game Boy and Link’s Awakening when i was ten, as well as my Nintendo Power subscription and the years-long pedestal-placed status of Ocarina of Time as The Best Video Game Ever Made… cemented the Zelda series’ status in my mind as The Important Video Game Series. the one to which all other games should be compared. the gold standard. the sliced bread. the fundamentals. the laps around the gym you have to run if you want to have a shot at making the team.
my top five would look like this:
1) Link’s Awakening. all-time transformative media experience for me. loved the Switch remake as well - that one felt like it was made with love just for me.
2) Minish Cap. weird, colourful cartoonish take.
3) Wind Waker
4) Link Between Worlds
5) Ocarina of Time, but purely for nostalgia reasons. i absolutely hate playing it today, but my memories of it are powerful.
as for the most 7/10 insert credit Zelda, i’d say Zelda II is the obvious pick, but what about Spirit Tracks? it feels more insert credit to me because: it’s blue sky to the point of being almost-SEGA. it can really only be enjoyed on the original hardware because it makes use of every DS gimmick, not just the touch screen. it revolves around conducting a dang train, which is sometimes a lot of fun, but sometimes janky enough to be frustrating. Zelda has more agency and is more of a cool character in this one than in any other game.
and though it’s not very insert credit, shout out to Tri Force Heroes. it’s a spiritual successor to Marvelous Another Treasure Island, which is a very insert credit Nintendo game. it’s a three-player 3DS game, which is weird and audacious. and it’s just colourful and playful in a way Zelda usually isn’t. feels like it has more of its own individual character than most entries in the series.
and, why the heck not, here are the Zeldas i like the least:
1) Skyward Sword. hate the Wii-waggles, and the constant hand holding. just not appealing at all.
2) Breath of the Wild. it’s not a very “Zelda” feeling game, is it? it feels like a Studio Ghibli knockoff. may be my exit from Zelda fandom, if this is the direction they’re going in, and that’s fine.
3) Twilight Princess. way too dour and self-serious.
4) Oracle of Time. it’s the only one i’ve finished but have absolutely no recollection of.
5) Zelda 3. probably not a popular opinion, but i came to it way too late (never owned a SNES as a kid) and by the time i played it, it felt as though i’d experienced everything it had to offer, more impressively, elsewhere in the series.