Rank 'Em: The Legend of Zelda (#5 - #1)
***This is something I wrote over 3 years ago for a now-defunct personal blog. However, I think it's one of my better posts from that blog, so I thought I'd touch it up and share it.
Read Rank 'Em: The Legend of Zelda (#11 - 6) here!
#5 - "Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening" - We're getting to the best of the best Zelda's here. Link's Awakening (more specifically, the GBC re-release Link's Awakening DX) is THE reason I got my first Game Boy, and THE reason I got into handheld gaming at all. All the majesty of Link to the Past was taken, trimmed down ever so slightly, and crammed into one of the greatest handheld games ever. I'm sure I'm not the only one inspired to purchase a Game Boy solely due to Link's Awakening.
#4 - "Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" - Twilight Princess is another polarizing game. To me, it basically took everything Ocarina of Time was, shined it up, and created the epitome of what a Zelda game should be. The problem was that Twilight Princess was the first time I felt the Zelda style was starting to get stale. I'm not saying that I didn't love the game (I mean, it's #4 on my list) but sometimes it felt like I knew exactly what was coming next. I'm still not 100% sure how to view Twilight Princess (as the absolute pinnacle of Wii gaming or the first game where I realized my tastes in gaming were evolving). I'm interested to see where Twilight Princess (and even Skyward Sword) stand in Zelda history in 5-10 years from now.
#3 - "The Legend of Zelda" - The first game of them all, loaded with nostalgia. Classic overhead shots of Link killing anything and everything in his path, juiced with items to help him get wherever he needs to go. Now it's true that if someone picked up this game for the first time, they would probably have no idea where to go without using some sort of guide. (I definitely used a guide playing it over the years). But the game is an absolute classic and it was far more acceptable at the time for games to not point you in the right direction nearly as often. If you've never played the original Legend of Zelda, I encourage you to do so. I also encourage you to use a guide when you're confused where the next dungeon is, it doesn't make you a wimp. Good luck with those ghosts! (They're technically called Wizzrobes, but I always just call them Ghosts).
#2 - "Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past" - In 1993, A Link to the Past pretty much perfected the Zelda genre. The game looked amazing. Over 20 different items you can use. 10 dungeons. Tons of heart pieces to collect. The game never really held your hand, but you always knew what to do next, where to go, and what you needed to advance. The addition of the light world/dark world was excellent and it was thrilling to see the same landscapes change as you went from one world to the other. Simply put, for it's time, A Link to the Past was pretty much perfect. Hell, it still is.
#1 - "Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time" - The only way to top a near perfect game is with another near perfect game. Nintendo did this in 1998 with Ocarina of Time. It was Link in a 3D world, but it was much much more than that. Players at the time were still getting used to joysticks and moving in 3 dimensions, well I know I was. Ocarina's controls were implemented perfectly. They did everything exactly right. Ocarina pretty much perfected a targeting system, something that was used in 3D games for year to come. The bosses and characters were all fun and great to look at. There were at least 9 dungeons to explore, a wide array of collectibles, heart pieces, side quests, and traveling back and forth through time for young and old link. (Very similar and just as cool to the light/dark world). Along with Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time set the bar for a new generation of video games, and proved to the world how great video games can and should be. After 15 years, Ocarina of Time is still my favorite game of all time.