After the nostalgic nature of the last post I thought maybe I should go ahead and try to lighten up a bit. And what better way to lighten up than to argue with myself about which Legend of Zelda game is my favorite. That’s right, I’m honestly sure that I could choose a single Legend of Zelda game to be my top choice, even if I had a gun to my head. So maybe this is my chance to try and argue out which is my preference from my collection of favorites.
I suppose the best place to start is to lay out my personal favs and why I enjoyed them so much. Then do a little critiquing and see if I can’t put them all in an list like order with a big old number 1.
The first Legend of Zelda I ever played was the GBA version of Link to the Past. I enjoyed the little self-contained story. The uneasiness you feel starting out into the rainy night alone and gaining confidence as you gain more experience and equipment. Ending up in the Dark World just meant there were two worlds to explore and help save and how they connected together was very cool. I also liked the ability for me to pick it up and take it with me, I used to play it in the car until I somehow grew into some motion-sickness issues.
To be paired up with that would be A Link Between Worlds for the 3DS. I absolutely loved the art style and the change of villains with different powers. Sure, there’s usually some maidens or sages in need of saving but to have their cages be matched up with your own power and thus your own freedom, it gave it a different feeling. I liked the new merging ability and how it combined both Hyrule and Lorule into places that were connected as long as you were small enough to slip through the cracks between them. I also liked the change up when it came to the equipment; having everything you might want/need available to you from the start as long as you had enough rupees was pretty cool. It made you nervous to lose because all your equipment could disappear on you.
To round out my handheld choices I need to mention the Minish Cap which might be a surprise. I’ve heard some people really didn’t like this one but I really did enjoy it. If it hasn’t been made clear, I really enjoy the idea of connected worlds and the idea of a tiny world existing within the normal world. Growing big or getting small and interacting with everything in a bunch of different ways. The different equipment have a strange attraction for me, the lantern in the graveyard is my total aesthetic and I really enjoyed the Kinstones and matching them with a bunch of people. Again, I’ve heard people didn’t enjoy the Kinstones but I really like existing in the world and going beyond the main storyline. Yep! I’m the side-quest girl!
Now onto my console chooses. Unfortunately, two of the series’ darlings are not on my list because I have extreme difficulty playing them without the perfect circumstances and mindset: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. Due to playing both these games at points in my university career when I was extremely anxious I had separate panic attacks in regards to both these games, so they are rather spoiled if I’m not completely sure that it wont happen again.
However, I still have two Legend of Zelda games that I am extremely fond of playing that deserve their places on my favorites list.
First is Wind Waker for the Game Cube. This is another early LoZ game for me and, in fact, the first one that I beat all the way through the main storyline. Previously to playing this game I either choose games were there wasn’t really an “end” in mind (Animal Crossing and the Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons series) or tended to stop each playthrough before the end and come back to the game later with a different save file. Something about Wind Waker made me want to see it through; to rescue Tetra and defeat Ganondorf. I loved the characters and trying to help them out, to try and make some wrongs in the world right. I enjoyed sailing, especially with the Wind Waker’s music choices and exploring all the little islands and filling in my sea chart all felt really good. And that frozen Hyrule Castle under the waves – oh my god it was amazing and heart pounding when all the creatures came back to life!
Lastly, and probably to no one’s surprise I need to include Breath of the Wild on the list. I specifically bought the Switch for this single video game and I have no regrets. The switch up when it came to equipment and weapons was an interesting change and I appreciated, now that I’m an adult, the shorter shrines rather than the big complex dungeons. It means when I’m busy I can still accomplish something in the game without getting myself embroiled in a much larger task that I don’t have the time/energy for. The forgotten memories and how Link recovers them is heartbreaking and made me really want to get to know those characters more, which is alternatively also a downside. I liked being able to roam the world in a variety of ways and get my ass handed to me. I actually didn’t mind dying. It was usually the type of thing where I had a better idea for next time or at least knew to avoid how badly I had just screwed up. The game also really helped open me up to trying new games like the remastering of Skyrim on the Switch and the upcoming Dark Souls game. It made me crave more stories, more monsters to fight, more bits and pieces to stick together, and a higher willingness to die in games in order to get those experiences.
So there’s my top 5 Legend of Zelda games across the handhelds and the consoles. Sorry if I left your favorite out or included one you really dislike. This is really just my preferences and don’t have any real objective value when it comes to anyone else’s enjoyment of these games. I’m honestly just trying to work out which of these 5 I would consider my favorite, for my own sake more than the entertainment of anyone else. With that said, let’s look at some absolutely jumbled together downsides.
The earlier games that I played, A Link to the Past and Wind Waker have a tendency to be extremely linier. With Wind Waker of course, after really the Forest Haven you can go on a bit of a high-seas adventure but you’re locked out of accessing a lot of islands and dungeons until you get the proper equipment in the proper sequence. A Link to the Past literally labels the steps for you. Neither game make exploration a super big part of the game which is a little sad for me. They also don’t give you a whole lot of choice of what sequence to do things in. Minish Cap is pretty guilty of that too and in a lot of ways A Link Between Worlds falls into some of those issues too. With that one though you have a little more choice because the equipment shop lets you make a few more choices out of the expected sequence. Breath of the Wild might instruct you through the first little bits of the game and may give you a nudge towards certain events but I literally walked out of the Restoration Cave, saw that the game wanted me to go talk to that old man, and climbed the wall behind me to explore. I sunk two hours into exploring (and falling off) the Great Plateau before I finally backtracked to talk to the dude. That freedom was nice. Breaking into Hyrule Castle way before I felt ready to take on the big boss was cool and daring (and deadly if I’m honest).
While the tools in the Minish Cap are pretty cool aesthetic-wise they don’t really have a lot of use outside their own individual places. But that’s also true with a lot of the other games as well. Like in Wind Waker, the fire and ice arrows on the surface look pretty cool but they don’t have much use beyond the unlocking two islands which really only give you items that unlock two other islands. But at least they don’t break constantly. Actually, I don’t have a real problem with the Breath of the Wild’s breaking system. I wish the game gave you a little more variety when it comes to the equipment. I mean the boomerang makes an appearance and the fire/ice rods are sort of there. But I miss having a bunch of different options. I suppose the runes make up for some of that but it’s just not the same. I guess no one gets a point for that one – oops.
Music-wise Wind Waker is at the top of my pile and Breath of the Wild is at the bottom because it couldn’t give me much more than an heartattack inducing piano solo when I’m about to die via Guardians and an, admittedly, beautiful song whenever dragons are around. You need to give me a little more than that.
Overall visuals are hard to divide up; each game has its own visual style that it works with and I love each of them for their own reasons. As always, older games are liable to look less impressive against newer ones so that makes the choice even harder.
I don’t suppose, with all of this said, that I can just back out on my original decision to try and name a number one? All of these games have been ones I’ve returned to throughout my life and I love them for different reasons and have issues with all of them. I love the freedom that Breath of the Wild gives me to play on my own time. The music of Wind Waker and my ability to semi-explore an ocean is pretty freaking worth it. Minish Cap is just so cute and plays like a little kid’s dream. And A Link to the Past is my childhood that A Link Between Worlds updated and improved. It’s very hard to make a choice between them because I go to them when I’m in different moods or need different things.
I might not have made the choice but hey, at least I didn’t say my favorites were the Philips CD-i games!