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Top 5 2D Zelda Games

From the NES to the Switch, here are the best of Zelda's origins

by Luna Wilkes


The origins of The Legend of Zelda series date back to the 2D Zelda games, which is how the series began and they’ve been consistently present over the years alongside the 3D games. Previously we’ve taken a look at how the 3D games stand up to each other, so why not do the same with the 2D series of games? There a lot more of the 2D games compared to the 3D ones, so today we’ll only be taking a look at what the top 5 of them are. So let’s get right into things by taking a look at number 5 on this list.


5. The Minish Cap

Released all the way back on the Gameboy Advance, The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap was a new installment in the line of Zelda games designed for handheld systems. This game focused on its unique mechanic, namely the ability to shrink down to minuscule size to explore new areas. The way you interact with areas can be completely changed thanks to this mechanic, with it even being capable of turning a normal town into a massive maze to explore. The dungeons make use of this as well with shrinking puzzles being present in them, or even by having entire dungeons being done while tiny. The story this time around is a fresh take on things as well, with Ganon not being the main threat whatsoever, in fact, he’s not even really mentioned. This helps make for a fresh gameplay experience compared to other Zeldas and is something that many of the other 2D Zelda games seem to take to heart as well.


4. Link’s Awakening

The first handheld Zelda experience there was, having even been remade for the Switch a few years back. Link’s Awakening is a joy to play through, despite it being one of the more simple Zelda games there are. It’s a classic Zelda experience in a sense, with the main focus being on overall design instead of there being some kind of revolving focus or concept throughout the game. The dungeons are well-crafted experiences with the puzzles in them being simple yet fun to figure out, and while the items in them aren’t exactly new for the most part they’re used quite well and creatively in the setting at hand. So with a mystery seemingly at hand on this mysterious island, it’s sure to be an interesting adventure for anyone willing to brave the journey.


3. Spirit Tracks

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, was the second of the two original DS-era Zelda games. With a focus on touch-screen and map puzzles as well as Trains, there’s a lot of unique stuff happening in this one. Much like Phantom Hourglass, the overworld is broken up into individual segments that can only be accessed by using a vehicle of some kind, with this game’s signature mode of transportation being a train. As the game progresses you unlock new tracks to travel on as you cross Hyrule to conquer the dungeons in each of the four main areas. After each dungeon, you find yourself returning to a tower in the center of the world that acts as an ever-expanding dungeon of sorts, with there being new places to explore on every returning visit. And once again the story focuses on a unique villain and threat, making for another totally new experience to play through.


2. A Link to the Past

Dating back to the SNES, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past may very well be what defined how 2D Zelda games are designed and formatted. With this game, the Zelda series saw itself gain a lot more overall structure through a more linear progression as well as the inclusion of a more present storyline. The added power of the new console allowed the game areas to become a lot more unique and interactive. And despite this being the first time the developers had a shot at making a much more involved experience, they hit it out of the ballpark by creating a massive and in-depth world to explore for the time period at hand. As one of the earlier games, Ganon was the main focus, except that this game helped to establish his presence a lot more by having his influence integrated into the very world surrounding the player. So with a sword in hand, this journey is one of the best that there are when it comes to 2D Zelda.


1. A Link Between Worlds

The signature Zelda for the 3DS that wasn’t a remake of a previous game of some kind, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds could very much be the best 2D Zelda experience that there is. Art and Paintings are the themes for this game, with a unique mechanic alongside a new villain to go along with it. With a special bracelet, you can merge into the walls and become a painting in order to slip through cracks and solve puzzles. Both the overworld and every major dungeon in the game make use of this ability to great effect, making for an interesting experience. And speaking of the dungeons, they are very different in this installment. For one, they can be done in nearly any order you want to do them in, with a few exceptions. The major items needed for the dungeons are also different, all of them are purchased from a special shop set up in your very own home instead of being found in the dungeons themselves, which now just hold optional power-ups instead. So go ahead and leap into this game, it’s one of the best Zelda experiences there are to be offered.


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