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 The Legend of Zelda Series and its place within the History of Video Games



The Zelda Series Appendices (Part One) (Part Two)((Part Three)(Part Four)

Once again, some possible spoilers…

Some of this is leftover points (occasionally repeated), some lists, some challenges to try, but first let’s start with…


Appendix A: State of the Series

At the time of this writing, Nintendo’s recent E3 2021 presentation reminded us that the Skyward Sword HD re-master is coming in July, that the Zelda-themed Game and Watch device (the proto-GameBoy, if you will) with three early 2D games will arrive in the fall, and that the sequel to Breath of the Wild will come out in 2022 (good, but the end of this year would have been pretty, pretty, pretty sweet, and almost expected, considering how long the game has been in development, and being a sequel means they don’t have to build everything from scratch, but maybe the effects of the pandemic slowed production, so hopefully it’s early 2022 and not holiday but maybe expecting that will just set us up for more disappointment, but it’s fine, everything’s fine, this is fine).

More dispiriting is that in said presentation Aonuma seemingly announced that there were no other plans to celebrate Zelda’s 35 anniversary, even with rumours of re-mastered versions of other past 3D Zelda games coming to the Switch console swirling all spring. While the 35th anniversary can sound rather arbitrary (it ain’t no 25th or 50th, that’s for sure), Mario’s recent celebration of this certainly got more attention, including a collection of his own past 3D titles.

While we have mentioned the lack of legacy content in the main articles a bit, it bears repeating: That there is a massive gulf in availability between the first four Legend of Zelda games (available on Nintendo Switch Online, or, in Link’s Awakening’s case, as 2019 remake) and 2017’s Breath of the Wild on Nintendo’s current, mega-selling console is extremely unfortunate for old and new fans alike. Bringing 2011’s Skyward Sword over is a good start, but frequently cited GOAT Ocarina of Time still being AWOL is mindboggling. Especially considering that Nintendo did a great job making these older games available at great prices on their Wii and Wii U consoles. To play older games you have to track down old consoles that the company doesn’t make anymore from re-sellers, meaning Nintendo isn’t making any money at all from people trying to play their old Zelda games. Just make them available for purchase on the Switch! People will pay!

(calm blue Great Sea, calm blue Great Sea…)

The future of the Legend of Zelda series is certainly bright, but it could have a much shiner past if its sages allowed more adventurers to visit these sacred realms.


Appendix B: The Personal Experience

As mentioned in a chapter interlude, you are Link or, more accurately, any name that you pencil in when you start.

Even if in first person shooters the screen is literally your eyes, The Legend of Zelda series was always about turning the player into a hero. Link is hopelessly one-dimensional - a person with a good heart and a destined path - who doesn't speak because Miyamoto thought that would make it harder to identify with him if he had a certain way of talking, which would inevitably lead to something akin to a personality.

That made him a good vessel for you, and while making a good game is the primary goal for developers, making one with characters players relate to is also extremely important. It turns players into fans, and one of the reasons this series has being so successful is because of the diehard community surrounding it (who treat it like Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe or countless other pop culture franchises).

Sure, a lot of people might play one Zelda game and not bother with another title, but for those who got on board way back, they each have a story of how they discovered these games, were blown away or disappointed with the next release (after waiting and waiting and waiting), or were surprised when they went back and played an earlier game they might have missed.

There are people who have vivid memories of playing Zelda games in their childhood, and growing up with the games as they too matured over the years as well.

But I am not one of those people.

I didn't play a Zelda game until 2017 (I tinkered a bit with Skyward Sword when one of my roommates had it when it was first released in 2011).

Growing up I only had an NES, but I was a Mario man for that period. When it came to the nineties console wars, I just played bits of Super Mario World, Mario Kart, Donkey Kong Country, and Sonic the Hedgehog (on Genesis, of course) at friends' houses (plus getting throttled at Street Fighter II and NBA Jam (I was never on fire)). While I was aware of the Zelda series, I was always under the assumption that it was a mostly turn-based, RPG-style game with some puzzles, and that didn't sound very interesting to me.

Not really playing video games in high school means I missed the move to 3D, the fall of Sega, the rise of PlayStation and even as the millennium arrived it was only something for me to do when I was maybe visiting a friend’s house (Halo series, the Wii party games, Guitar Hero).

Fast forward to summer 2016, and a buddy of mine was talking about how he never uses his Wii U. So I asked if I could borrow and he lent me the console and a bunch of games.

And I still mostly played Mario stuff (Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World is supremely underrated). But thanks to this, I did start to pay attention to the gaming community at large a bit, and it was in a froth over a new Nintendo console supposedly coming out in early 2017, and a fresh, long-awaited Zelda game to boot.

So in January I started playing the Wind Waker HD, which was the one Zelda in the pile of games my friend lent me.

And I loved it.

I played it late into the night after work, and while my video game literacy was at a very low level for anything that didn’t involve jumping on enemies’ heads before a timer runs out, Wind Waker was probably the best possible game to introduce me to the wider world of z-target, item-based combat, with a great story to boot. I loved the graphics and music, which effortlessly roped me in, no matter what I was doing or how confused I got (like trying to figure out how to ‘get in’ to the Fairy Queen’s fountain, or finding the triforce shard on the cabana island).

(to possibly belabour the point, other consoles and development companies regularly offered mature content and superficial gameplay, and Nintendo essentially offered the reverse (where mature also means deep and complex). To put it yet another way: Nintendo offered baby-game story and pro-gamer mechanics)

But it was a mere appetizer to BOTW, which I picked up for the Wii U a few days after its March 3rd release, after fans and reviewers lost their collective shit over how amazing it is/was.

Yeah, it was good.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is my favourite game of all time because it was my favourite gaming experience of all time (with Super Mario Bros 3 almost certainly coming in second, but I know I’m attaching plenty of childhood nostalgia to that one). I’ve spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours exploring this massive incarnation of Hyrule, because it gives me a feeling of excitement and exploration that I've never experienced before in a rich and rewarding virtual world (and since that one I’ve played plenty more).

As mentioned in the chapter on the game in Part Four, it forces you to write your own story when it comes to saving Hyrule, much more so than any Zelda game before it (and of the other open world games out there, BOTW does it so much better).

So here’s some of the unique highlights of mine:

After getting the paraglider from the 'old man', instead of going east towards Dueling Peaks as suggested, I went west, because when I was in the cold, mountainous section of the Great Plateau I saw a distant shrine in a yellow-ish canyon area.

So with the ‘map’ showing total darkness I sailed down there, and landed beside a series of wooden suspension bridges (not knowing how close a stable was to me), and I fought a wizard-ish imp. I thought I killed him by knocking him off the cliff, but he returned and sent a volley of fireballs all around me so I ran away 'screaming' (me the player, since Link only does that if he falls into a bottomless pit). I zipped past the tall, thin pig creatures with clubs, and along the bridge, past the giant sleeping monster, and into a desert area, where I had to hide from smaller pig creatures riding horses. And after all that gamer sneaking, I got killed in one hit by an electrified bat. Felt bad. But I re-spawned close by (thank you again, very forgiving save system), and carefully avoid them, and saw the shrine in the distance. As a slew of smaller pig creatures chased me, I managed to get inside and solve the puzzle, but more importantly (to me at the time), I created a warp point, a foothold deep in a hostile environment.

I left immediately to find a slightly more welcoming area, following the road to Dueling Peaks and of course getting sidetracked the whole time. By shrines, by koroks, by giant felled trees, by monster hideouts, and the few NPCs strewn along the main path.

By the time I finally got to the stable on the other side of the mountain (after the awesome experience of walking between the two halves of it and looking up), it was much, much later than I thought, both in game and in real life. But the soothing sounds of the stable were lovely, and from then on, going back to Dueling Peaks was always a reassuring and familiar feeling. Sometimes I would purposely warp back there when I was done playing for the night, letting Link ‘wait’ there at the wonderful spot for me to return so we could continue.

I kind of did Kakariko and Hateno village by the book, although I learned more about proper fighting by doing the ‘Sheep Rustlers’ side-quest than I did in the actual training shine.

After agreeing to help Sidon I began the walk in the rain up towards Zora’s Domain, and got in an epic battle with a huge squad of Lizalfo archers, where I had to quickly duck and cover and then shoot them at a distance. I didn’t realize until they were all dead and nothing ‘happened’ that it was entirely an optional fight and I could have kept going. It was a camp turned into a clearing.

Of course I snuck around the Lynel on Ploymus mountain the first time around.

If you played the game long enough, you’ve taken for granted how wild and unknown everything was when you didn’t know your way around or had a map to guide you, so getting lost could be a bunch of terrifying fun.

Making my way into the quickly freezing wilderness of the Hebra mountains from Serene Stable, I got caught in a snowstorm and was surrounded by monsters. I got off my horse to fight them but had a ton of trouble (damn, ice keese), and when I got too close to my steed, a moblin brought his club down on both of us, killing my horse, something I didn’t even know was possible in the game at this point.

Now I was walking through a blinding snowstorm, eating through my supplies, terrified of ice lizalfos leaping out of the snow, and foolishly underprepared because the one helper I expected to get me out of this was now dead.

And then, through the blizzard haze, instead of seeing something, I heard something. The soothing flute that could only mean one thing.

A stable. Thank the goddess Hylia.

(which meant a shrine – and therefore a warp point – was almost certainly close by)

It was like finding an oasis in the desert…which also happened in this game, because I decided to enter the epic sands from the east, near the giant maze, and was quickly suffering from heat stroke and plodding just as slow in the sand as the snow.

Once again, I was so relieved that I found a shrine…but syke! A Gerudo woman is passed out on the activation podium, mumbling something about a cocktail. So I had to trek across more desert (and avoiding the lightning attacks of the divine beast) to reach Gerudo Town, only to find that I can’t go in because you’re a dude, and suddenly I’m following a route towards Kara-Kara Bazaar for the main quest to get into the town, and if it wasn’t for the handy adventure log I’d completely forgot that I had to get that towering woman a drink (which a lengthy side-quest all by itself, carrying ice through the ruins).

Arriving in the desert in this fashion meant I didn’t find the Gerudo Canyon stable until much, much later.

Same goes for scaling Mount Lanayru. I thought I did the one quest mentioned in Hateno involving ‘lining up’ the three threes and then heading towards the sea, but I was thrilled to find that there was a mission to sail alongside the dragon and shoot ganon goop eyeballs off its body.

Speaking (slightly) of which, the first time I defeated the big ol’ Calamity I was wearing Kilton’s bokoblin mask.

Of course I was quickly back into it after ‘the end’, having only found ninety-five of the initial one hundred twenty shrines at that point.

The DLC quests were a great addition to the game, as master mode really did create a whole new strategy of playing technically called ‘running away from enemies for quite a long time’. The ‘Trial of the Sword’ was heart-pounding experience, a strange mix of the game’s survival aspect and a ‘locked-in-a-room-with-baddies’ set up that worked oh so well except when you died deep in a run, and then learned true pain.

It was great that they held back some of the best shrines of the game for ‘The Champion’s Ballad’ section, and the tasks to unearth them were very enjoyable. Maz Koshia coming alive after completing the unexpected fifth divine beast was surprise after surprise, and while the motorbike wasn’t exactly a shock, it was a worthy reward.

Even after all this I would still play the game, not with any intention of getting all 900 korok seeds, but just to explore and kill reborn enemies in new ways thanks to the blood moon. Getting into many other games on many other systems was all thanks to this game, butIt would still return to it because there is a beautiful serenity to it that almost no other title offers.

I lent out the Wii U from time to time to friends and co-workers because I wanted them to experience this game (much to the chagrin of the guy I initially borrowed it from).

With the Wii U Virtual Console online store I could buy and download most of the older Zelda games, and I played them out of order, which was a fun way to experience a comparatively recent 3D game and then suddenly get used to something several generations older (and blockier and harder).

It went:

Wind Waker, BOTW, Ocarina, A Link to the Past, Skyward Sword, Majora's Mask, Twilight Princess, Link’s Awakening, Minish Cap, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, The Legend of Zelda, Adventures of Link (I can’t finish this game and I don’t care), Age of Calamity (if we’re counting it), Oracles of Ages/Seasons, A Link Between Worlds, Triforce Heroes, Four Swords Adventures, Four Swords, and finally, Hyrule Warriors (if we’re counting).

Ocarina of Time was obviously an excellent experience, and it was easy to appreciate how ‘modern’ it is for being twenty years old but parts of it drove me bananas, and I don't mean the Water Temple (I’m actually pretty decent at the dungeons. Once I’m in and know everything I need is locked inside with me, I don’t over-think things).

Certain overworld locations were impossible for me to figure out and I had to resort to the help of the Internet. I didn't know how to get to the Fire Temple. I was in the higher up interior section of Death Mountain (entrance beside the fairy fountain), looking down the lava lake making jump after jump to get down to the platform floating below, but I couldn't reach it. Never knew I had to go back to Goron city to go Darunia's room and pull back the statue to reach this lower area inside the volcano.

Had a hell of a time 'activating' the 'Sheik in Kakariko Village' cut-scene because I kept entering from Death Mountain instead of Hyrule field (because the former was easier to warp to and then come down the mountain). The marker on the map said I should be in Kakariko, so I tore that damn place apart trying to get any sort of prompt before randomly approaching from a different gate.

After the maddening Gerudo fortress sneaking, I loved the desert sections, especially the Spirit Temple that had to be done in two time periods.

The multi-staged, he’s-not-really-dead final fight with Ganon(dorf) feels so familiar because it has been done like that for so many other games since then. Ending the game on a slightly bittersweet note was also genius.

I was wary of going from ‘the greatest game of all time’ to a 2D Zelda game from seven years prior (even if it was an earlier name check for ‘greatest game of all time’), but I loved A Link to the Past as well. Older and simpler, but no less fun, and paced so damn well. Gaining the ability to warp at the exact right moment, when you were beginning to tire of crisscrossing the map was great game design. Story is paper thin, but you still get the feels when you find the master sword in the Lost Woods. The temples may blur together in hindsight, but they were extremely engaging. The better you can imagine what it would have been like playing these games when they first came out, the better you can enjoy them.

So with that said, Skyward Sword was possibly the most frustrated I've ever been at any video game that was obviously amazing. Other games that I didn't like or were bored with I just stopped playing (no Zelda titles, of course), but investing a lot of hours into this one - and enjoying so, so much of it - made spending waaay too long trying to get my sword struck by lightning in the final battle with Demise interminable. I heartily look forward to many people loving the HD remake of this title now that you can play with buttons and Fi will ease up on being ‘helpful’.

I'm sure it's because I got used to the gameplay and 'literacy' of Ocarina, but Majora's Mask was a real fucking trip. Like, I get nervous just thinking about that game, because I barely finished off some of the bosses with enough time on that goddamn clock. I didn’t get all the masks in my first play-through (some of those side-quests were very ‘what the hell do I do now?’) so I couldn’t unlock Fierce Deity Link, which meant beating Majora and its three phases took so goddamn long.

But the lengthy missions and quests that lead up to the dungeons are so poignant and memorable. In fact...(looks around cautiously)...there are parts of the game I like more than Ocarina.

Twilight Princess had big shoes of expectation to fill and it made a hell of an attempt.

It was pitched as the true follow-up to Ocarina of Time in terms of size and scope, and it did all of that and more (it’s such a big game that I forgot what the Dominion Rod could do on a second play-through and consequently got stumped for half an hour in two different places in the Temple of Time).

The story was great, the items in the temples were so creative (although some with barely any uses outside them), so perhaps because it was expected to be so good it was never able to surprise me (other than Midna briefly turning into that giant octopus monster).

Maybe I thought it was ‘only’ amazing because dang, I hated (meaning I was bad at) the horse-riding sequence in the middle of the final fight, and it kind of nerfed the ending a bit.

A flurry of 2D games ended my completion of the series, and by then I could truly appreciate the quality of life improvements that games made in the last ten years had over games made twenty or thirty years in the past.

The remake of Link’s Awakening was now a day on the beach (literally as well) compared to the crushing, repetitive difficulty of, say, Adventures of Link and definitely the Oracle games.

I essentially played the very first Zelda game with a walkthrough guide open, so I was never stumped for too long, which was fine, as there were some walls or headstones I would never know to bomb or move otherwise (I got this idea from Scott the Woz, who compared it to a scavenger hunt style of gaming. Scott the Woz is great, by the way).

Sometimes the differences could be seen in the consoles the games were on. Only three years separate the Oracle games and Minish Cap, but the former two were on Gameboy Color and the latter was on Gameboy Advance. Forget just the graphical improvement, it was like in that gap Zelda developers decided to tone down some difficulty spikes (not just in terms of combat, but in term of problem solving for story advancement). Perhaps it is the gaping hole in my video gaming history around the time those games were released, but I was constantly lost in the Oracle titles, and so much about them felt more like work than fun.

Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks were great, and I think I can chalk that up to them being Wind Waker sequels (because I love that game to bits). The cartoon graphics make a perfect transition to 2D, and the unique take on exploring islands and areas by using your stylus to draw out a route in the water or on a series of railroad tracks were great. The Ganon-train segment close to the end of Spirit Tracks was the most creatively bizarre and therefore one of the sequences that stuck out to me the most.

Playing Age of Calamity before the first Hyrule Warriors really made the latter title seem creaky and old in comparison (much more so than going back to playing older mainline games), even if it was only a six-year difference.

Wrapping (mostly) up with multiplayer games may have been a bit of a bad call, as they didn’t have the same depth of creativity and exploration as the traditional single player Zelda experience, but that’s the exchange for making it possible to have four people playing at once. Not surprising, the most recently made game (Triforce Heroes) did the best job and is my most favourite of this sort.

Since I knew nothing about what to expect with Wind Waker, and Breath of the Wild purposely jettisoned the familiar formula, it was up to Ocarina to reinforce what the standard was, and after that you could see how so many of these games were structured.

That game, A Link to the Past, Twilight Princess and also Wind Waker all have three starting dungeons/temples to find pendants or spiritual stones or fused shadows or pearls, a big story thing occurs usually involving having to find the master sword, then more temples where you collect or power up another thing that is now integral to the story. This is a basic structure that goes beyond the story, beyond the items, and even beyond the gameplay, because all those things can change from title to title. It’s what I found to be the simplest of bones, and for every new game I tried to notice this skeleton as soon as I started.

Not that I was bored at any point, but I was just curious at what the game would ‘let’ you do, even from right after the title screen. Since in almost every game you can give Link a name, I usually went with 'ratface' (except in certain games where you are limited to using six letters (like A Link to the Past and Minish Cap), so it was 'ratfac'.


Top Dungeons in Chronological Order

-Ice Palace (A Link to the Past)

-Turtle Rock (A Link to the Past)

-Eagle Tower (Link's Awakening)

-Forest Temple (Ocarina)

-Spirit Temple (Ocarina)

-Stone Tower Temple (Majora)

-Dragon Roost Cavern (Wind Waker)

-Earth Temple (Wind Waker)(it has similar light-reflection mechanics as Ocarina’s Spirit Temple, but I don’t care, it’s awesome)

-Palace of Winds (Minish Cap)

-Snowpeak Ruins (Twilight Princess)

-City in the Sky (Twilight Princess)(even though one central room drove me fucking bananas trying to figure out how to activate the turbine)

-Temple of the Ocean King (Phantom Hourglass)(its amazing premise: A dungeon you return to several times throughout the game as more and more subterranean levels can be accessed as you increase your strength and arsenal. Oh, and the air is poison so you only have a limited time – represented by…an hourglass – to get to certain points. They do the same thing with the Tower of Spirits in Spirit Tracks, with the added bonus of (kinda) playable Zelda)

-Ancient Cistern (Skyward Sword)(might be best single dungeon in the whole series)

-Lanayru Mining Facility (Skyward Sword)

-Vah Naboris (Breath of the Wild)(the camel, just so we’re clear)

(While Ocarina's Water Temple is not on here, I want to say that I do like that temple, and that I didn't tear my hair out trying to solve it)


Lightning Round:

Best Item: Hookshot (various games, which is why it rocks)

Best Sidekick: Midna (Twilight Princess)

Best town mini-game: The ‘you sunk my battleship’-like game (also known as ‘sploosh-kaboom’) on Windfall Island in Wind Waker

Best BOTW Shrine: Kah Okeo (a nice, long, wind-themed one in the middle of nowhere with plenty of treasure chests) (Kaam Ya’tak is an honourable mention)

Best Boss: Koloktos (Skyward Sword)

Best Boss Honourable Mention: Twinrova (Ocarina)

Best Essential Pre-Dungeon Sequence: Ikana Canyon and Castle (Majora’s Mask)

Best Optional Sequence: From the Ground Up (Breath of the Wild)(helping set up Tarrey Town was such a good way to have you explore the regions all over again, as well as appreciate the importance of building materials)


Worst item: Bug Catching Net (zzz…)

Worst Sidekick: Navi

Worst town mini-game: The STAR game in Twilight Princess’s Hyrule Castle Town

Worst BOTW Shrine: Keeha Yoog (just a blessing, and all you have to do to earn it is shoot an obvious elemental arrow at an obvious spot on the side of a cliff)

Worst Boss: Vulture Vizier (Triforce Heroes)(technically he’s only a boss in one of the four-level segments of this multiplayer-centric game, but he suuucks…and so does the goddamn see-saw platform you have to play on)

Worst Boss Honourable Mention(s): Bongo-Bongo (from Ocarina) and his stupid drum

Worst Essential Pre-Dungeon Sequence: ‘Helping’ build a raft (Oracle of Ages)(and the ‘recover your items’ section that directly follows ain’t so hot, either)

Worst Optional Sequence: Giving Batreaux Gratitude Crystals to turn him into a human (Skyward Sword)




Zelda Music Playlist

Video game music has come a long way, and Zelda was there from pretty much the beginning. Kondo’s 8-bit beeps of the main theme in 1986 effortlessly translates to a sweeping orchestral score, but the great thing about the series’ music is how it runs the gamut from evoking a certain emotion or atmosphere in a cut-scene (much like a typical film score) to simple, catchy background melodies that will not drive you crazy because you might be hearing it over and over again if you can’t get through a certain section (although in some cases going crazy is the point).

It should come as no surprise that finding fan-made playlists online is easy and can be tailored to whatever you’re looking for. If you want some morning pep in your step there are the most lighthearted ditties from the opening sections, where everything is all good and problem-free (except, once again, for Majora’s Mask). Whether it be Skyloft, Odon Village or Mercay Island, it sounds like the entire town is about to break into song like in a Disney film. If you yourself are about to eradicate evil from a cave and still get cell reception, why not cue up a string of ‘why do I hear boss music’ tracks?

Musicians post their jazz covers of popular tunes from the games, and if you want dope beats, there’s even the lo-fi re-mixes of classic tracks.

As there can be dozens of musical segments (from actual songs to brief sound effects) from every game, the full soundtrack for just one game can be several hours long. Many pieces are named after the locations where you will hear it, and since the music changes up between titles, you may hear echoes of previous melodies in the re-imagined towns.

With all that in mind, here’s a short line-up (yes, in this series, twenty tracks is considered short) of my Top Picks:


Title Theme (Ocarina)

Dragon’s Roost Island (Wind Waker)(the re-mixed version in BOTW for Rito Village is a lovely homage to this one)

Ballad of the Goddess (Skyward Sword)

Outset Island (Wind Waker)(Disney music, eat your fucking heart out)

Gerudo Valley (Ocarina)(well yeah)

Farewell, Hyrule King (Wind Waker)

Zora’s Domain (Twilight Princess)

Dancing Dragon Dungeon (Oracles of Seasons)

Tower of Spirits (Spirit Tracks)

Midna’s Lament (Twilight Princess)

Main Theme (The Legend of Zelda)

Full Steam Ahead (Spirit Tracks)

Temple of Time (Ocarina)

Ganon Battle (A Link to the Past)

Shop Music (Ocarina)

Hyrule Castle (Breath of the Wild)

Final Hours (Majora’s Mask)

Gohdam (Wind Waker)(goddamn indeed, what a synth-wave dream)

Zelda’s Lullaby (A Link to the Past)

Main Theme (Breath of the Wild)



Appendix C: Playing Order

As mentioned above, I played the series out of order (and deliberately so). If you’ve read this far and haven't ever played a Zelda game (!!!), or if you have just played Breath of the Wild (considering it's sold twice as much as any other game in the series, that's quite possible) and are thrilled with the idea of having several critically-lauded classics on the horizon, there are many ways to approach this.

If you want to experience the slow and steady rise by playing them chronologically, it’ll be a history lesson that starts rough (the first two will be especially frustrating if only because of how games were designed then) and becomes easier and more engaging as you go on.

If you want to play them according to the official in-game story timeline, it will be an interesting ride going back and forth between different consoles eras and the technical limitations and leaps that come with it. Certainly you won’t get that much of a feeling of a cohesive story, since there are huge time gaps even between games on the same timeline branch.

If it’s more on a whim, then you can ask anyone in the Zelda community for a mix of their favourites and what two or three titles to try and ease yourself in before total commitment.

Is this the list of my favourite Zelda games in order as well? Almost.

Playing order is the one thing that might be most debatable among other Zelda fans...after favourite game, favourite dungeon, favourite art style, favourite story, least annoying sidekick, etc.


1. Breath of the Wild

If you haven't yet, start here. While it takes many departures from previous entries to the point where you might be frustrated with how linear and hand-holding the earlier games can get, playing this one first can definitely make you fall in love with the idea of going on a grand adventure to save a giant fantasy kingdom.

Note: Considering BOTW is at the very end of the in-game timeline, perhaps taking place tens of thousands of years after any other title, going back to older games can be best appreciated when you view it as actually going back in time, not just in terms of video game quality, but further and further back into the haphazard, inexact myths of the (sensibly titled) Legend of Zelda series. Even if it doesn’t follow the timeline itself, it makes sense that the further back in the series you go, the more archaic and simplistic the stories (and gameplay) are.


2. Wind Waker

Wait, what?

For the Zelda fans who came aboard thanks to the game above, this is the older title that has aged the best, one that has that strong, open world vibe. Once you get your own (talking) boat, the Great Sea is your oyster, although certain islands require certain items to explore them in full. Everything is bright fun, with a great story making it feel effortlessly smooth (it helps that it’s on the easy side, puzzle and battle wise).


3. Ocarina

Yes, the game frequently called the greatest of all time gets bronze.


4. A Link to the Past

It’s light on story, and today will be described as having 8-bit graphics (but it actually has double that!), but it plays so well, and revs up so smoothly in terms of difficulty and challenges that you can get effortlessly sucked into this one.

You might expect less because it’s a 2D game from the early nineties, but that just means it’s going to blow you out of the water when you get into it.

The very best of old school gaming with a modern pace.


5. Spirit Tracks

An obvious dark-horse candidate for the top five. Great dungeons, fun story, playing alongside spirit Zelda for the win (especially when she inhabits and control Phantom knights). Plus having a cannon on a locomotive is damn cool.

While changing up the basics of controller and button inputs can go sometimes go wrong, utilizing the unique schema of the DS console worked perfectly with this game, a great example of how the series can progress even in a 2D format.


6. Skyward Sword

The coming changes to the HD remake will vastly improve this game’s experience, although it was a great one even on its initial release.


7. The Legend of Zelda

Give it a try and you might see what all the fuss was about in 1986 and 1987. Its plays old, some dungeon rooms can be hard as hell, but an appreciation for the ground it laid comes quick.


8. Majora’s Mask

It's like a happy return to the quintessential feel of Ocarina of Time. But not. At all.


9. A Link Between Worlds

A most excellent sequel to one of the most important 2D games of all time, with a slew of cool new mechanics.


10. Link’s Awakening

A fun, quirky island paradise where Link’s not the only dreamer. While the three previous games had some odd moments, this one cranked up the weirdness and the series as a whole going forward was all the better for it.


11. Twilight Princess

Because of the quality (and importance) of the comparatively few 3D Zelda games, Twilight being out of the Top 10 must play seems like a hideous disservice to a title that does so many things right (and features Midna and Malo).

Of course, a plus of saving a big game like this for the back half is that its glow will last you through the rest of the 2D adventures.


12. Phantom Hourglass

Linebeck is a very underrated sidekick, and helps elevate the story to the level of the title’s excellent gameplay.


13. Minish Cap

A reminder that this series did the talking hat before Super Mario Odyssey. Back-to-back games with Zelda turning to stone, by the way. Juuuuuust coincidence.


14. TriForce Heroes

The silliness of four cute-as-buttons Links bumbling around onscreen makes up for the fact that it is practically platform-style puzzle solving instead of a typical Zelda game. At least it’s 3D-ish, so it’s easily the best multiplayer attempt.


15. Oracle of Seasons

Because it does everything better than Ages.


16. Four Swords Adventures

It’s A Link to the Past with four Links, which only slowly gets old.


17. Zelda II: The Adventures of Link

An A for effort, but that doesn’t make it any less of a slog. Its difficulty is (sensibly) a barrier for most and an attraction for a select few.


18. Oracle of Ages

Because Seasons does everything better.


19. Four Swords

Not even a full game, and Four Swords Adventures is the upgrade that makes this one practically irrelevant, which is not something that can really be said about any other title in the series.



Appendix D: The Other, Other, Other, Other Breath of the Wild Speed-run: Hyrule Cross

The video-game speedrun typically involves how quickly you can finish the game (or achieve a particular quest within it), and Breath of the Wild has seen players cut it down from an hour in March 2017 (the month the game debuted) to twenty-five minutes at the time of this writing:


Here is a handy overview article on some run techniques (, and each video is a master class in player skill and ingenuity (and taking advantage of some rarely seen in-game glitches).

But with a game so massive and varied as Breath of the Wild, why limit the speedrun to just finishing the game?

More importantly, of course, is how quickly you can bake bread or put butter on a dog. But if you’ve already conquered those illustrious goals, then ladies and gents, I present to you… Hyrule Cross.

Which is just as it sounds. Crisscross the map as fast as possible. Go from the shrine in one corner to the opposite corner, then fast travel to one of the other remaining corners and zip to the final one, crossing your first path somewhere in the middle of Hyrule field (to create a very drunken-looking X on the map).

The shrines necessarily involved will be:

Hia Miu Shrine (northwest of the IceFall Foothills)

Tu Ka'Loh Shrine (Lomei Labyrinth Island)

Hawa Koth Shrine (Gerudo Great Skeleton)

Korgu Chideh Shrine (Eventide Island)

Clock starts when you step off the lip of the first shrine and runs until you step onto the edge of the fourth one (keep it running through the loading screen when you do the one fast travel).

You can’t use the fast travel until you step onto the lip of the second shrine on the opposite side of Hyrle from where you started.

Other than that, no rules. Doesn't have to be a straight line, you can shield surfing off enemies' heads, you can use the master cycle zero (you will almost certainly need the bike, although some level of bullet time/shield head tapping might be even faster in some sections).

My current record (which will be absolutely demolished right quick if this ever becomes a thing) is 37 minutes and 1 second.

This route involves travelling southwest from Tu Ka'Loh Shrine to Hawa Koth Shrine, then fast travel up to Hia Miu Shrine and go southeast to Korgu Chideh Shrine (and yes, climb all the way up to the shrine at the top of Eventide, don’t stop at the shore).




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