It goes without saying that 3D Zelda games are something that helped define the standard 3D adventuring genre of games. Dating back to the Nintendo 64, 3D Zelda has been a staple of larger Nintendo releases over the years, with many games in this line of Zelda titles being highly anticipated releases. So why not take a look back and see how these games stand up to each other?
Something to note before getting started here though, for all you avid Zelda fans, Breath of the Wild will not be on this list due to it being in a different ballpark altogether when it comes to how Zelda games are handled and organized. But with that out of the way, let’s get started.
5. The Wind Waker
First released back on the Gamecube and then remastered for the Wii U, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker brought an entirely new art style to the table compared to the more realistically designed games from earlier in the series. It was controversial at the time since a more realistic Zelda game had been advertised up until the game’s official reveal alongside controversy caused by certain parts of the game seeming rather rushed. Beyond this, some parts of the game, such as a late-game fetch quest across the entire world, made the pacing questionable in the eyes of many. Beneath these flaws though, there is still a fun game to enjoy with far more refined swordplay compared to the previous 3D Zelda titles.
4. Skyward Sword
The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword was first released on the Wii and is now getting a remake on the Nintendo Switch. It was the first game in the series to make use of motion controls by making them the main way that players interacted with the world around them. Nearly every part of the game was built to make creative use of the motion controls present in both the items and general swordplay as well as even being used for many puzzles. Skyward Sword also features one of the most refined stories in all of Zelda, with there being a very large focus on it as the game progresses. The dungeon design is taken to a new level as well with masterfully designed dungeons that truly feel like experiences to behold. But even with all of this in mind, the game suffers from a few major flaws that bump it down a bit on the list. The number one issues are that the game does tend to hold the player’s hand more than it probably should and that the motion controls are questionable at best.
3. Ocarina of Time
Harkening back to the Nintendo 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was the first 3D Zelda game to be released. Considering the series had been focused on 2D top-down games up until now, there was certainly a lot to take into consideration when making the leap to a fully 3D format. But even with this jump being a new one, they hit things out of the ballpark by masterfully transitioning the beloved gameplay of older Zelda games into this new format. The world was massive for its time and made for a wonderful adventure. With only a few minor design hiccups being present the game is pretty much a straight shot from the beginning of the game to the end of it in one fantastic experience.
2. Majora’s Mask
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask came out as a sequel to Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64 and made use of an incredibly unique gameplay system and new mechanics to keep things interesting. Stuck in an eternal time loop right before destruction, the entire game has you running around while always on the clock. The game’s mask system also helps keep things fresh and new by using them to expand upon the combat system from Ocarina of Time. The dungeons this time around are far fewer in number, but each one is much longer and they all have really unique mechanics to make them incredibly memorable. Put all of it together and you have a great sequel to an already great game.
1. Twilight Princess
Released on the Gamecube, Wii, and Wii U, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess stands to be the best 3D Zelda game to date. With the most refined swordplay in the series, it has some of the most enjoyable combat we’ve come to see so far. The dungeons and the items within them are all almost entirely new, with returning items getting a fresh coat of paint to make them even more enjoyable to use. The story takes on a much darker twist making for a very unique narrative experience that’s sure to keep players engaged with it. Overall, everything in this game comes together to make it one of, if not the best experience there is when it comes to 3D Zelda games.