We could argue all day about which Zelda is technically the best. In fact, we often do, especially with the 35th Anniversary of the series this year. But no matter how many times we yell at each other that Majora’s Mask is better than Ocarina of Time, or that Oracle of Ages and Seasons are underrated, there can be no definitive ranking.
Until now. We gathered up 23 different rankings of the best ten Zelda games, from sites like GameSpot, IGN, Eurogamer, Kotaku, and, well, Nintendo Life (we had to include ourselves), and used the Power Of Maths to determine, once and for all, which is the best Zelda game. You can’t argue with us on this one. It’s science.
Some disclaimers before we start:
We based our mathematical method off the excellent point-scoring method used by Giant Bomb community member Marino.
A top ten is assigned 55 points total: 10 for the first game, 9 for the second, and so on. If a site has less than ten games, then they give 0 points to each game they didn’t rank.
Sites that made their lists before Breath of the Wild are not counted in Breath of the Wild’s average. They do not give Breath of the Wild 0 points.
Famitsu’s ranking, which is based on what scores it gave the Zelda games, is done a little differently. Rather than the top four games getting 10, 9, 8, and 7 in order, the top four – which are all 40/40 games, and share the #1 spot – split the total of 10, 9, 8, and 7, getting 8.5 points each. The same thing is done for the games sharing second, third, and fourth spot.
If you want to check out our workings on all this, here’s the Google Sheets link. Be nice – remember, we’re journalists, not data analysts.
And some fun facts:
So, with all that out of the way – buckle up, kiddos. It’s about to get controversial in here.
We’re starting off with ex-Kotaku ed Jason Schreier’s take on the top ten.
Alright, not too bad – and not too dissimilar to NL’s list, actually. Interesting placements include Ocarina of Time in 8th place – the lowest of all the rankings we found – and the Oracle games sharing 4th, which is the highest anyone put them by quite a margin. No Skyward Sword, which is sadly not unusual in these rankings, but the lack of The Legend of Zelda might rile some of you up a little.
We give Kotaku’s ranking a 7/10. Ocarina of Time deserves better.
Our first team effort! This full list is one of the most comprehensive rankings out there, including the CD-i games, Tetra’s Trackers, and (for some reason) Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland. Even ours doesn’t have that.
Hard to argue with this one… at least, until you get to the end. Four Swords Adventures?! Better than Minish Cap? Better than Skyward Sword? The underrated Four Swords only gets one other vote in the 23 rankings, so it’s nice to see it has its fans. But better than Minish Cap? Really?
We give this one 8/10. A pretty solid list with a twist ending.
Another team effort, and one that was republished (but not re-ordered) in celebration of Zelda’s 35th, but leaves off the CD-i games, the Hyrule Warriors series, and spinoffs like Link’s Crossbow Training in favour of the beefier Zelda titles.
The first to call out Oracle of Ages as not only a standalone game, but also the superior of the two, Game Informer’s list is almost the same as USgamer’s, with a couple of key differences. So far, Link to the Past is winning, but BOTW, Majora’s Mask, and Ocarina of Time are not far behind.
We give this ranking 8/10, because the top five is pretty good, but we’re still wondering where Minish Cap got to.
Here we have the first pre-Breath of the Wild list, which means a pretty obvious gap. Back in 2016, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Zelda, Eurogamer put together a readers’ top ten and an editors’ top ten – we’re only featuring the latter, though.
There’s a lot to talk about in this list! Finally, Skyward Sword makes it in, described by Tom Phillips as “maddeningly close to being great”. Back in 2016, when Skyward Sword was the most recent home console Zelda, a lot of people felt this way, but that opinion has gradually soured over the years as more and more people come to resent its motion controls. But hey, how about the two DS games – Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks – getting some recognition? Can’t say we agree, exactly, but it’s nice to see differing opinions.
We’re going to give this list a 6.5 out of 10, purely because it’s a little too wacky. Link’s Awakening, better than Wind Waker? Hmmmm.
Gene Park’s rundown of the best Zeldas begins with some disclaimers about the scientific nature of his judgement: rankings are done not just by how good the game was, but how well it’s aged, how influential it was, and how well the design communicates its ideas. “At the baseline,” he notes, “all these games are at least very good,” before jumping in with Tri Force Heroes at number 17 and saying that it’s pretty pants.
We always appreciate someone who appreciates Minish Cap (in case that wasn’t already clear) but this list is quite biased towards most of the older Zelda canon. Not that that’s wrong, mind you – just interesting to note, and potentially a result of Park’s judgment including the influence of the game. Still, it’s surprising to see the Oracle games on here.
We give this list 7/10. It’s well-considered, but has different goals to most Zelda lists, focusing on the impact of each game rather than a more subjective framing.
Celebrating the 34th anniversary of Zelda, Ewan Moore ranked a bunch of the “mainline” games, then ran it past the rest of the team, “who didn’t disagree”. However, he didn’t number the list, which is worth at least one point deduction. Let’s see if he wins it back with good opinions.
A list that’s surprisingly similar to Kotaku’s, which is surprisingly lovely: A British journalist and an American journalist, united in their opinions about Zelda. It’s also nice to see the Oracle games getting another vote, too.
We give this one 8/10, because it hits a lot of the notes we’d like to see – Ocarina is up there, Minish Cap gets some love, and A Link Between Worlds gets recognised as the masterpiece it is. Decent work, Moore.
They tell you to save the best for last, but we like to think that the best should go somewhere roughly in the middle-ish. Our definitive ranking of Zelds includes Link’s Crossbow Training and the Hyrule Warriors games, but our top ten looks pretty similar to all the ones we’ve seen so far. We did rank Oracle of Seasons and Ages separately, because they’re different games, dang it.
We are the only list on our list of lists to rank Link’s Awakening separately. As such, it’s going to get bundled in as Link’s Awakening in our tally of votes at the end – sorry, Gav! Having Twilight Princess not only out of the top ten, but at number 15 – below Spirit Tracks and Phantom Hourglass – caused a lot of upset in the comments, but it’s also objectively correct, so there.
We can’t rank this one, because that would be unethical. Probably.
The Evening Standard – London’s free newspaper, which you can pick up off the floor of just about any tube train – is the most controversial ranking on this list. Seriously. We had to check several times that they hadn’t ranked it in reverse order.
…Should we be concerned about Jack Webb? Was this a dare? Spirit Tracks better than BOTW? Four Swords Adventures better than Breath of the Wild? Zelda II better than Majora’s Mask?! Listen, Jack, on the off chance you’re reading this: please explain.
We give this list 3/10, because at least some of the great games are on there., and it certainly is an excitingly different ranking to all the others, which mostly fight over the same three games. We should treasure differences in opinion, especially as journalists. At the same time, Twilight Princess is not better than half the games on this list, and we’re wondering if we should challenge Mr Webb to a Nintenduel.