The best Legend of Zelda games takes you on a variety of adventures through Hyrule across the entire timeline, which is why the franchise has become one of the most popular over time. From stepping out onto the plains of Hyrule Field in Ocarina of Time or gliding off the Great Plateau in Breath of the Wild for the first time, the series has a habit of creating some long-lasting memories.
There’s never been a better time to revisit (or experience) the wonderful world of Hyrule, and the series is welcoming to players of all ages and experiences. But, with the scale of just how many games are available now, it can be challenging to know which ones are worth jumping into.
We've pulled together what we would consider to be the best Zelda games to advise you on which games are absolutely unmissable from its expansive list.
The best Legend of Zelda games:
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
When Breath of the Wild launched in 2017, it felt like the traditional formula of Legend of Zelda titles had been disregarded, and an entirely new era introduced. At first, this felt pretty intimidating to die-hard players, but before long Breath of the Wild has become one of not only the best Zelda games but one of the best Nintendo Switch games of all time.
With an emotional story, tonnes of side-quests to complete, and a map that will keep you revisiting for hundreds of hours, Breath of the Wild is one of the greatest Zelda games for new players, yet still offers an experience that makes long-time Zelda players feel like they're playing for the first time.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Starting off with the series’ newest installment, Tears of the Kingdom is a groundbreaking title worth picking up even if you’ve never had any Zelda experience before. Whisking you back to Hyrule post-calamity, and following off from the events of its predecessor, Breath of the Wild, without necessarily needing you to play through the first title, Tears of the Kingdom encapsulates everything you expect from a Zelda game and presents it in an unforgettable experience.
You won’t need to look much further than Tears of the Kingdom for a well-polished, narrative-driven dose of Zelda. In fact, it's probably one of the most popular titles on the list due to being one of the best games on Nintendo Switch and welcoming new and old players alike when it launched.
The Legend of Zelda
When taking into account the best games of a series, it’s essential to consider the foundations a well-loved series is based on. In this case, the original Legend of Zelda title perfectly sets up what you should expect from most games in the series, and lays out the story you’re bound to visit time and time again should you delve further in. Although it seems fairly basic in comparison to the more modern up-to-date adaptations of Zelda games, it’s still well worth playing if you haven’t already.
What’s more, The Legend of Zelda is available through the Nintendo Switch online subscription service, so you won’t have to dig around for an NES to re-visit this classic. For the most authentic Legend of Zelda experience, and for those looking to get into the series without knowing where to start, this title simply doesn’t get old and we’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone even slightly interested.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Ocarina of Time holds the beacon as one of the most iconic Zelda games, and for good reason. Launching in 1998 for Nintendo 64, it marks the first 3D Zelda title, and its dungeons and enemies are unforgettable for all players.
It offers a nostalgic take on the series even for those who are playing for the first time, and you’ll learn things about the series that future games reference frequently. It may seem simple in appearance and puzzles in comparison to the technology you have to utilize in games like Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom, but it’s an honest foundation that the series builds upon so is worth checking out.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker shifts the appearance of standard Zelda games to a more toon style, but alongside adding an entirely new personality to the series, the same high-quality content of prior Zelda games is echoed through its dungeons and intriguing new civilizations to explore. In addition to this, sailing is introduced to the title which is a welcomed new addition to travel.
Wind Waker perfectly captures the enchanting mystery we know the Zelda series to have, and offers a cast of eclectic characters that will stay with you even once you’ve completed the title. But, between its cute character design and colorful setting, it a dark story will unravel, which is why it falls among the best Zelda titles.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Launching in the same sort of era as Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask had some seriously big boots to fill, but we can confidently say it delivers in every aspect.
Adopting a darker, more edgy vibe to its content in comparison to previous Zelda games, Majora’s Mask is fondly recalled as many players’ favorite Zelda title, and although its characters and most certainly its moon is enough to give you nightmares, it’s worth playing if you want a more ominous take on the series with some pretty unforgettable scenes.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
Although it's often overlooked when taking the best Zelda games into consideration, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is a fantastic addition to the series, and the ingenious use of both screens of the Nintendo DS is among the reasons this title has made its way onto our best list.
Much like The Wind Waker, Spirit Tracks offers a new mode of travel. Although it isn't as free as the sailing featured within Wind Waker, the train travel in Spirit Tracks is equally as enjoyable and makes for some seriously tense chases if you find yourself on the wrong tracks. Paired with the puzzles and dungeons you'll find yourself traipsing through, Spirit Tracks is worth picking up if you want something a little more light from the series yet something that still packs as much character.
Best Legend of Zelda games: FAQs
What is the best Zelda game on Nintendo Switch?
Although many would argue for both games, Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom are both worth considering to be the best Zelda game on Nintendo Switch. While Breath of the Wild was the first release, offering a truly unforgettable experience on the console, Tears of the Kingdom feels more polished and reintroduces elements of traditional Zelda games which Breath of the Wild may miss out on.
Of course, you also have Link's Awakening to consider as one of the best on Switch, so deciding on the best game is usually down to personal preference over anything else.
Which Zelda game should I start with?
The Legend of Zelda franchise covers a variety of storylines across several timelines, so if you're entirely new to the series it can be incredibly challenging to know where to start. That said, Breath of the Wild is a fantastic starting point for getting into the series, and explores the story without necessarily spoiling anything should you want to dive further into the games.
How we made our Best Zelda Games list
The team at TechRadar Gaming has spent thousands of hours alongside the Legend of Zelda series. Whether that’s exploring Hyrule by train, boat, Loftwing, or plummeting down from the skies and traversing its landscapes by foot, we’ve been there every step of the way, and because of this, our experience has provided us with confidence in our ability to list the best games from the series.
Our experiences with Zelda cover perspectives from growing up alongside the series all the way to jumping in much later down the line, so as a team we have come together to debate which games stuck with us and why, so we know exactly which titles to recommend regardless of your current experience with the series.
The Zelda franchise make up some of the best Nintendo Switch games, so they are well worth playing if you're looking for new adventures to experience on your hybrid handheld console. But, the best DS games and the best GBA games also house some of the best Zelda titles to date.
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Kara is an Evergreen writer at TechRadar Gaming. With a degree in Journalism and a passion for the weird and wonderful, she's spent the last few years as a freelance video game journalist, with bylines at NintendoLife, Attack of the Fanboy, Prima Games, and sister publication, GamesRadar+. Outside of gaming, you'll find her re-watching Gilmore Girls or trying to cram yet another collectible onto a shelf that desperately needs some organizing.