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Opinion Piece: L0rd Dann's Top 7 Zelda Games

With The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild out today, I've found myself caught up in the hype and saw no better way to celebrate than writing about my top 7 Zelda games. Read on as I give my thoughts on each one.

To begin, I'd just like to say that despite certain games appearing at the bottom of my list, I don't necessarily dislike them. They just didn't make it into my top seven Zelda titles. Anyway, if you haven't played some of these titles, prepare yourself for the spoilers ahead!

#7 The Wind Waker - Nintendo Gamecube 02/03, Wii U 2013
I think we can all agree on one thing: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is a beautiful looking game. Despite being released in late 2002 (2003 in the rest of the world), the original Gamecube version still holds up to this day. The cartoony/cel-shaded graphics were a breath of fresh air to my 10 year old self, as at the time I'd never seen graphics quite like it. The score was great and the game played brilliantly. That being said; the ONE thing I find to be a drag about this game is the excessive amount of sailing involved. Before you learn the song that allows you to quick travel to various points on the map, you have to sail to where you need to go which can take some time and can really slow down the gameplay. This is especially true endgame when searching the endless ocean for all of the Tri-Force Shards. As amazing as Wind Waker was, sadly, this was enough to earn The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker 7th place on my list. Still, it's a great game and if you haven't played it yet, buy it now.

Endless ocean...

#6 A Link to the Past - Super Nintendo 1991, Gameboy Advance 02/03
Okay, please don't shoot me for this one. I know a lot of you grew up with this, but I didn't. I was born in 1992 and didn't play it until it was ported to Gameboy Advance in 2003, so I don't have that attachment to it like so many of you do. HOWEVER, I do really like this game. I love the graphics and the game plays well, but what really does it for me is the music. More specifically - The Dark World overworld theme. Its an absolute joy to listen to. I've spent hours trying to find where to go in the Dark World and this piece of music was the only thing that kept me sane. I've included the theme below, so if you've never heard it before or want that caring kick of nostalgia, just hit play!

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is a really fun game, but not one I feel attached to, which is why for me, it only made it to number 6 on my list.

#5 The Legend of Zelda - Nintendo Entertainment System 1986
I feel a bit strange putting this here because I've only beaten it a handful of times, which is less than I've beaten Wind Waker. Still, the reason this is fairly high on my list is down to the exploration, of which I shall elaborate.

I played this one for the first time just a few years ago and originally found the game to be a bit vague, because I didn't know that to find secrets I had to bomb walls and burn down trees. There wasn't much to indicate which walls you had to blow up or which tree you had to burn down, but I persisted and slowly started to fall in love with the game, eventually finding my way to Ganon and taking him down.

What brought me back to this game a few months ago was a downloadable randomiser. What's a randomiser you ask? The randomiser is a modification of the original Legend of Zelda game which can randomise the location of dungeons, item locations (so you may find the silver arrow in dungeon 1, while the bow could be in dungeon 5), heart containers and Triforce locations within dungeons to name a few. When this modification came out I already knew the locations of everything important from playing the original, so it was really interesting to play the game again where I only knew the mechanics of it, blinding myself once more to the locations of every item, so it really changed the dynamic and once again, brought back the element of exploration. It's for this very reason I place the OG Legend of Zelda at number 5.

Despite being over 30 years old, I love the way it looks.

#4 A Link Between Worlds - Nintendo 3DS - 2013
If you're a fan of A Link to the Past but haven't picked this up yet, you owe it to yourself to do so. A Link Between Worlds was the sequel we all wanted and more. For the most part it's very similar to ALTTP. For example, the music, overworld and some of the dungeons gave me a very similar feeling to that I got with the legendary prequel and yet it was still fresh and different in all the right places!

Having the ability to be able to merge onto walls as a painting seemed gimmicky to me at first, but the way it gets incorporated into puzzles added an incredible amount of depth to the gameplay. Another interesting feature was that you no longer had to find items in dungeons. Instead, you'd rent them from a character called Ravio who sets up shop in your house. So for an unwanted guest he's actually quite handy. After Dungeon 3, this allows you to tackle dungeons in any order you like.

I really enjoyed A Link Between Worlds and felt completely charmed by it's graphics and much like A Link to the Past, the music was a highlight here. To me, A Link Between Worlds felt very much like ALTTP only better and that's why it has earned the respectable ranking of number 4 on my list.

Ravio: The cheeky little sod who lives in your house rent free and has the audacity to charge you for items.

#3 Twilight Princess - Nintendo Gamecube + Wii 06, Wii U 2016
At number three, this is where things started to get difficult for me, but still, I'm going to bite the bullet and just jump straight into things - If you're a fan of The Legend of Zelda then I'm sure you remember the wait for this game and the wait for the Nintendo Wii. This was one of the launch titles and what a title to go with!

 After The Wind Waker I have to admit, I still wasn't satisfied. As much as I liked it, I wanted something more similar to 'Ocarina of Time' and that's exactly what we got with this. Twilight Princess felt like the true sequel to Ocarina of Time. The story was dark, the music really helped shape the atmosphere, the items were unique, the overworld was HUGE and the boss fights? Incredible.

As one of the most prominent examples, I have to credit the designers behind the boss within the City in the Sky. The boss itself was a huge dragon which you fight by using your double Clawshots to grab onto it before equipping your iron boots to pull it down, right out of the sky! The fact that you could learn new swordplay moves made the combat so much more interesting, especially with the finishing move where Link would jump on top of a fallen enemy, plant his sword into them and watch as they were flung into the afterlife (much like in Zelda 2). Then there was the amazing (but hidden) skill - The Mortal Draw, where if timed correctly, Link would one shot the enemy.

Twilight Princess was and will always be an incredible game. I could go on about it for hours, but I'm not going to. Instead, I'm just going to say this game lived up to the hype in a world where very few games do. For these reasons and many more, Twilight Princess earns its place at number 3 in my list.

Twilight Princess has Wolf-Link, if it wasn't dark & brooding enough already.

#2 Ocarina of Time - Nintendo 64 - 1998, Nintendo 3DS - 2011
If you were expecting this to be at number 1, I wouldn't have blamed you. It was definitely a hard decision, seeing as many people and critics alike consider this to be the best game of all time. When it released, it was an instant classic, up there with the likes of Final Fantasy VII and more recently, The Last of Us.

Ocarina of Time was the first Zelda game I ever played and that was back in 98 when I was 6 years old. I remember leaving the Kokiri Forest for the first time ever to see the Hyrule Field and if you don't share this experience with me then it's very hard to put into words, but if you played FFVII, try to remember what it was like for you when you left Midgar for the first time to see the rest of the world. That's how I felt the first time I discovered the Hyrule Field. You play as 9 year old Link who is told he needs to gather the three spiritual stones and the Ocarina of Time, to obtain the Triforce before the games main villain Ganondorf beats you to it.

Once you accomplish this and eventually gather all three spiritual stones (along with the Ocarina of Time), you head off in your search for the Master Sword - A sword so powerful it can destroy all evil. You then enter a lengthy cutscene to find out that seven years has passed and that Link is now 16 years old. Plus, Hyrule is in ruins and it's up to you to save it.

As a 6 year old I had just received this for my birthday and didn't really know much about what was going on. So naturally I thought I was playing an upbeat game and was happy enough running around doing those tasks as young Link, so when I discovered there was far more to it and watched as young Link became an adult, hype levels raised through the roof, on par with finding out for the first time ever that Darth Vader being Luke Skywalker's father. This was a HUGE deal for me. 

As adult Link you had access to new items, the Bow and Arrow replaced the Slingshot that you had as a child, the Hookshot replaced the Boomerang and so forth. You also had access to Epona, a horse that you could ride around Hyrule field and other areas. This game broke boundaries, had some of the best music known to gaming and one of the most endearing stories of all time. So much so that I still actively play it to this day. I must have beaten Ocarina of Time well over 50 times during the course of my life and that's not even an exaggeration. This title is one that I hold dear and know many others do too. Although it pains me to say it, this is why it's number 2 in my list and man, do I wish I could choose two number 1's.

Nintendo gave Link long underwear as an adult because they believed he looked too cool.

#1 Majora's Mask - Nintendo 64 - 2000, Nintendo 3DS - 2015
Anyone who knows me will know EXACTLY how I feel about this game. I love Ocarina of Time, but I love Majora's Mask that little bit more. I spent years playing and trying to beat it. I just couldn't find where to go or what to do next, but in constantly getting lost I often found myself discovering new side quests and secrets. This was the year 2000 - A time before the internet was so easily accessible, so I couldn't just look up a walkthrough to see where I needed to go. I had to figure it out by myself. I'd been able to get through Ocarina of Time without much trouble, but this was a different beast. It took me 6 years of on and off playing to finally get to the end. I remember exactly how I felt when I did. There hasn't been a feeling like it in gaming for me since. The journey was the biggest part of the game for me. So much to do, so much to see. If you haven't played this one before then I implore you to do so!

Now for a bit of background on the story: After the triumphant success of Ocarina of Time, Nintendo decided to create a direct sequel. This was Majora's Mask. Taking place directly after the events of Ocarina of Time, we see young Link on top of Epona walking through an unknown forest until Link is jumped by a mischievous little character known as the Skull Kid, with two fairies by his side - Tatl and Tael. Mysteriously, Skull Kid is wearing a mask - Majora's Mask to be exact. This is a mask which possesses and grants a huge amount of evil power to the wearer. It is then that Link is separated from his horse and turned into a weak Deku Scrub. Shortly after we're told that we have just three days until the moon falls and crushes the new land of Termina that Link has arrived in.

Sounds pretty terrifying right? This game in my opinion is the darkest one yet. Everywhere you go you see an array of different emotions. It's dark, sad and there's a constant sense of impending doom that the game doesn't want you to forget about.

Listed below are the emotions and locations you find them:
  • Clock Town - Denial. You have people in Clock Town refusing to believe that the moon is actually falling (They're wrong by the way, just to be clear).
  • Woodfall - Anger. The Deku Princess is missing. The Deku King is NOT happy about it. He's angry, he's irrational and willing to blame whoever he can for her disappearance. Going so far as to blame it on a poor little monkey.
  • Snowhead - Bargaining. In this area Link meets with the ghost of a deceased Goron hero who begs and pleads with you to help save his people and heal his soul.
  • Great Bay - Depression. Link meets a dying Zora who reveals that a band of female pirates have stolen his lead vocalists (Lulu's) eggs and has isolated herself to the point where she will not speak to others.
  • Ikana Canyon - Acceptance. This is the valley of the dead. The area in which things get resolved. There are no new abilities for Link here, though the item found at the end of it? The Light Arrows. Link has found his light at the end of the tunnel.
This game is such an emotional journey and has so much depth to it. The music is incredible. A Zelda game has never been more atmospheric. Those suffering from a type of grief may find Majora's Mask somewhat relatable and therapeutic, possibly even finding a kindred spirit in Link, who in one of the fan theories is believed to be grieving over the loss of his friend. I've never felt so emotionally connected to a video game before and it's all of this which continually draws me back to it.

For me, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is the best Zelda game ever created and deservedly takes the crown at first place in the list of my top 7 Zelda games.

The three forms of Link: Deku scrub, Goron and Zora.

Wow, that was a difficult list. How do you decide the order of seven fantastic games? Zelda is definitely a subjective series, but an incredible one. Having experienced so many interpretations of the Zelda Universe, I'm looking forward to Breath of the Wild and hope that it'll be the best one yet!

Agree with the list? Would you have done it differently? Let us know in the comments below or hit me up on twitter - @L0rd_Dann

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