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The Legend of Zelda franchise is among the most revered in gaming. Year after year, generation after generation, Nintendo's crack team of developers release consistently great entries that are almost always Game of the Year contenders. With the latest entry in the series, Breath of the Wild, right around the corner, we're looking back at the core games to this point and ranking them.
In our December 2009 issue, we ranked the top 200 games of all time. As you can imagine, several entries from The Legend of Zelda series appeared throughout that list. That list had different criteria than this one, but you below you can see how Link's adventures stood up to the rest of the list on our list of the top 200 games of all time in 2009.
1. The Legend of Zelda12. A Link to the Past20. Ocarina of Time61. Link's Awakening63. Majora's Mask90. Twilight Princess94. The Wind Waker
For the purpose of remaining focused on the core entries of The Legend of Zelda franchise, several spin-offs and obscure titles are omitted. Titles like Hyrule Warriors, Link's Crossbow Training, and the CD-i games are left off. Even with those missing, we still have nearly 20 games where Link battles the forces of evil to save Zelda, Hyrule, or whatever equivalent exists in that respective game.
Despite the large number of releases over the course of over three decades, the Zelda franchise has yet to strike out. Even the lowest ranked games on this list are worth playing. Because of this, the order of this list was highly contested from top to bottom. In 2009, we ranked the top 200 games of all time in our 200th issue (see sidebar). While that list was more about ranking games in terms of quality, importance to the industry, and cultural relevance, this list is just about the favorite games in the series according to the current Game Informer staff.
If you want to read more of our rankings of game series, check out our ranking of the Super Mario series and our ranking of the Assassin's Creed series.
18. Tri Force Heroes (3DS, 2014)As a game that encouraged players to work together to solve fun puzzles and progress through a colorful world, Tri Force Heroes is a fine game. Unfortunately, when stacked against the rest of the core Zelda titles, Tri Force Heroes isn't up to snuff. The humor and puzzles serve as the highlight, but the forgettable action sequences and repetitive gameplay loop prevent it from standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the other games in Zelda's storied franchise.
17. Spirit Tracks (DS, 2009)Spirit Tracks stands out as a different take on the series that delivered inconsistent results. Using touchscreen controls, players guide Link as he travels by train from location to location. The dungeons and combat are generally improvements over the previous Zelda game on DS, Phantom Hourglass, but by having Link ride the Spirit Tracks in the overworld, the game removes one of the best parts of the series: the exploration. When combined with an inconsistent quality of level design, this makes it one of the lesser entries in the series.
16. Four Swords (Game Boy Advance, 2002)Taking several cues from A Link to the Past, Four Swords delivers strong gameplay, but the multiplayer focus made it difficult to play due to the hoops to jump through to connect four Game Boy Advance systems. In addition, the randomized dungeons sometimes led to poorly conceived designs. To make it even more of an uphill battle, Four Swords was packaged with the Game Boy Advance version of A Link to the Past, putting it in direct comparison with that beloved entry. Despite this, Four Swords is a strong entry point for the series, possessing surprising depth and fun multiplayer. For those who want to play it now, the Anniversary Edition added a single-player mode and additional content.
On the next page, we continue our countdown to the top Zelda game of all time.
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