[Top 5] New Legend of Zelda Games

A bunch of Links
Link lost a lot of green in recent years

The Legend of Zelda is a fantastic and long-running series that can be tricky to know where to start. And while many of the older games are very accessible, many people would prefer to start with something newer. Zelda has expanded to include more than just the core action games, and while these other games are good, this list will stick to the ones that actually begin with The Legend of Zelda. Having said that, 2019’s Cadence of Hyrule is good if you like rhythm games, while 2020’s Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is mediocre and the other Hyrule Warriors is better (both are on Nintendo Switch). 


5. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening - 2019 (Nintendo Switch)

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening - Nintendo Switch Trailer - Nintendo E3 2019

 Despite starting as top-down adventure games fans have dubbed 2D Zelda, this is the only one in recent years not to be fully 3D. And it's not even a wholly new game but rather a remake of a classic Game Boy title. This doesn’t diminish its quality, but you should know it's pretty much a Game Boy game with a new coat of paint and some new features and not much else.

Without going into endgame spoilers, Link’s Awakening takes place on the strange Koholint Island, where you will find few recognizable faces from the other games. No Zelda or even Ganondorf in sight, with the closest you’ll get being Marin somewhat resembling Malon from Ocarina of Time. 

Fans of Mario will oddly recognize some things here, from the creatures that are just Chain Chomps to one enemy looking a lot like Wart from Super Mario Bros. 2. This was definitely during one of Nintendo’s quirky eras, and it shows. 

Link’s Awakening is one of the purest 2D Zeldas, which given the lack of them in recent years may require some explaining. They are quite simply adventure games where you progress through an overworld to reach dungeons, wherein you will find an item useful in your journey and defeat a boss to obtain a Magical McGuffin (the item type varies by game but they all serve the same purpose of opening the final dungeon). 

This is all done from a top-down perspective where you hack and slash at enemies, solve puzzles, and simply enjoy exploring the world. Which for most of them is quite a charming one.

The story isn’t too involved, as is the case for most early Zeldas. Link is traveling across the seas, he runs into a storm and washes up on the shores of Koholint Island. Here he is roped into helping the resident Wind Fish wake from his unending slumber. There is more to it than that, but the remaining details should be experienced playing the game and not spoiled here. All I’ll say is it's sad.

So what sets the Switch version apart from the original? Well, the visuals are the big one, giving it a very toybox look. It's a style I’m not a massive fan of, but it does at least suit the land of Koholint. 

Aside from that and various quality-of-life improvements, the most notable addition is the dungeon creator. Which… was extremely disappointing. An idea like that had a lot of potential, so what did they do? Let you only use prebuilt rooms, many of which you have to unlock. I get that giving you full creative freedom would have been hard, but this just feels like a half-step. 

So Link’s Awakening is a good but somewhat flawed game in the end. Of the 2D Zeldas overall I’d rank it somewhere in the middle, better than the Oracles and NES original, but the others outshine it in a lot of areas. It is the most accessible as of now though, and it's not a bad game by any means. So definitely give it a shot if it sounds interesting. 

Fun Factor: 85/100

The bizarre toybox world of Link’s Awakening, quite fitting for its bizarre world


4. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - 2017 (Wii U and Nintendo Switch)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Official Game Trailer - Nintendo E3 2016

To anyone who’s been a Nintendo fan or even a gamer in general over the last few years, Breath of the Wild shouldn’t need much of an introduction. The first console Zelda since 2011’s Skyward Sword, it had a lot to live up to. And for many, it is that and then some. And for others, myself included, it has some glaring issues many of its fans tend to downplay or ignore. 

But first the basics. This is an open-world game, or open-air as many have called it. Gone is the linear progression of the other Zelda games, here you are cast out into the open world (after the tutorial area) and told to explore to your heart’s content. You’re given story objectives, but they can be done in any order or not at all if you prefer.

And the story? Calling it all over the place is fairly accurate. You get some snippets in that tutorial, more cutscenes are scattered about as collectibles, and the areas you can take in any order each feature some as well, concluding with the usual fight against Ganon at the end. It's not a bad story, in fact probably one of the better ones when taken as a whole. Just this piecemeal method of delivering it isn’t the best.

Characters are just as important as the story, and Breath of the Wild has some solid ones. Link has some personality through the flashbacks despite never speaking, and this Zelda is one of the best through her actually having flaws. And of course, there are the four Champions, of which everyone is practically guaranteed to have one they’ll defend to the death and one they either can’t stand or couldn’t care less about. 

Back to the gameplay, the open approach this game takes has major pros and cons. Such a massive level of freedom in a game is certainly a good thing, but populating a world of this size with interesting things to do isn’t easy. And on that front Breath of the Wild gets… let’s say half points. There are enemies and side quests aplenty, but there’s lackluster enemy variety and most side quests are little more than fetch quests.

Then there’s the shrines, 120 of what are essentially mini puzzle rooms. Some of these are unique and have interesting things to solve, but a lot are doing the same thing over and over. Plus they all have the same music and visual design, which can get old quickly.

Actual dungeons are a trademark of Zelda and this one… doesn’t really have them. The Divine Beasts tied to each Champion are meant to be dungeons, but they just don’t hit the same. 

They’re too short and don’t have the same sense of progression. Not to mention they all share the same visual design, whereas past dungeons were all unique. At least Hyrule Castle at the end is pretty good.

All of this is essentially me trying to say that while I did somewhat enjoy my time with Breath of the Wild, it has a fair number of flaws (several of which I didn’t even touch on here) that prevent me from loving it to the extent that many others do. To me, it's a solid open-world action game that’s simply lacking a lot of what makes Zelda Zelda. So if you want a good game, try it by all means. If you want a good Zelda, maybe look elsewhere. 

Fun Factor: 90/100

Welcome to Breath of the Wild, where everything wants to kill you


3. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD - 2021 (Nintendo Switch)

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD – Launch Trailer (Nintendo Switch)

The last console game before Breath of the Wild was remastered on the same console but released after Breath of the Wild. Aren’t remakes fun? All jokes aside, Skyward Sword is a bit of a controversial title due to its excessive handholding, linear structure, and obligatory motion controls. Where do I fall on this? It's one of my favorites in the series, not just of the recent games.

Skyward Sword has one of the better stories in Zelda and one of the only ones where I actually felt some romantic chemistry between Link and Zelda (in most games they feel more like friends at best). Coupled with an epic story and a great companion in Fi (unfortunately also the last companion in the series), Skyward Sword may have my favorite overall story in the series. Just bring some tissues, the ending gets sad.

Speaking of Fi, that’s where the handholding complaint comes in. And while I get it to a degree, the Switch version does allow you to turn off/skip the more obtrusive moments. But really it fits Fi’s character to be talking this much. As the spirit of the Master Sword, she comes to view Link as her master, and the bond the two form is very sweet.

Then there’s the motion controls. Another thing the Switch version allows to be toggled off, and another thing I didn’t mind aside from a couple of finicky sections. They allowed enemies to only be harmable from certain angles, which added another layer of complexity to combat encounters and even puzzles. Although yes some of them were annoying in tense situations. 

The final complaint leveled at Skyward Sword was the linearity, which… I fail to see the issue. Yes, the game requires you to progress in largely a straight line with little room for freedom, but with a couple of exceptions, the whole Zelda series is like that. 

Sure it might be a bit more noticeable here, but why aren’t the likes of Ocarina of Time subjected to this criticism too? That doesn’t make much sense to me and Skyward Sword is perfectly fine the way it is.

One final note is the dungeons and items. Without spoiling them for people who haven’t played, Skyward Sword has some of the best clever items and memorable dungeons in the series. There’s a few lackluster dungeons but no downright bad ones, and if it wasn’t for one other entry I’d give it the title of best dungeons. 

The bosses are excellent for the most part too, along with the characters (shoutout to Groose and Ghirahim in particular).

So if you’d like to experience a classic 3D Zelda on the Switch, this is definitely the way to go. Don’t be put off by the bad press, especially since most of the complaints are gone in this version. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the watercolor art style is beautiful. 

Fun Factor: 95/100

Skyward Sword still looks good today with its watercolors and bright designs


2. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom - 2023 (Nintendo Switch)

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom - Official Launch Trailer

Tears of the Kingdom is what Breath of the Wild should have been. Not all the grievances I had with the original are gone, but a lot has been fixed here. As the newest game that hasn’t even been out for a month yet, I’ll be a bit more vague on story elements for this one.

Taking place after Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom starts out dark and stays there. While not exactly achieving this in the same way as the other notably dark title Majora’s Mask, the constant presence of the “Gloom” throughout Hyrule sets a certain level of atmosphere the original lacked. 

Along with some new additions, people who played the original will recognize the four successors of the Champions, who now play more prominent roles in the Champions’ absence. While not as memorable a bunch as the Champions, they’re not a bad group of characters. And yes, Purah is no longer a child in this and the internet loves it.

But going back to the gameplay, the world here has a lot more to do than the original ever did. The addition of crafting elements alone gives so many more angles to exploration. And the enemy variety and other side content? It's not perfect but it's so much better it's not even funny. Just comparing the list of enemy types between the two games will make it clear Tears will keep you seeing new things a lot more than Breath ever did.

Another major area of improvement is dungeons. While not the best in the series, they’re still uniquely themed, take some time to complete, and have distinct bosses. That’s a step in the front direction and gives Tears much more of that Zelda feel.

While breakable weapons are still a thing and still can be annoying, the weapon fusion feature does make it something I can put up with better now. Honestly, the only major knock against the game as far as lacking the Zelda feel is the lack of linearity and new abilities granting you access to new areas, a staple of nearly every Zelda game. 

But as it would be tricky to combine that and open-world design, this is likely the closest open-world Zelda will come to capturing that original magic. And if that’s the case, it's definitely not a bad attempt.

Fun Factor: 97/100

Tears of the Kingdom Link can drive…. Wait, I don’t think that man has a license!


1. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD - 2016 (Wii U)

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD - Launch Trailer (Wii U)

Okay, this isn’t exactly a new game as it came out in 2016, and on a dead console. But I’m not going to pass up any opportunity to talk about Twilight Princess. As my favorite 3D Zelda and second favorite Zelda overall, I have a major soft spot for this game. It's more than just edgy Ocarina of Time, it's one of the best worlds Nintendo has ever produced.

Touching briefly on the new features of the Wii U version, there isn’t a lot. There’s a bonus trial dungeon you can only access with an amiibo, it looks nicer, and it uses the Gamecube orientation instead of Wii (the whole world was flipped in the Wii version). Aside from having access to hard mode (or Hero Mode as Zelda calls it), that’s pretty much it aside from small changes. It's still the same game at its core.

Because why mess with what works? As you would expect from its dark world, Twilight Princess has a very dark story. This features around Midna, the titular Twilight Princess and Link’s companion throughout the game. Midna for me has the best arc of any character in the entire series, and a moment with her near the end still shocks me that Nintendo allowed it in one of their games.

Remember when I said one game beats Skyward Sword when it comes to dungeons? This is that game. Twilight Princess features nine dungeons, and in order they are good, alright, great, amazing, incredible, clever, very cool, somewhat cool, and the best final dungeon. That’s a track record nothing in the series can come close to. 

Then there’s the items. Twilight Princess has your usual bombs, bow, sword and shield, all that stuff. Then you get a ball and chain, a rod that can control statues, and a spinning yo-yo thing you can ride. Yeah, some of these are wacky, and I love it.

That’s not to say Twilight Princess is perfect, there are some grievances. Like the horse combat sections being annoying, and the wolf sections being confusing at first. I will defend the wolf portions of the game overall, especially with the Midna banter, but I’ll also acknowledge they can get annoying.

But overall I can’t help but love this game, no matter what console it's on. The dungeons and items are top-notch, the dark world is a joy to explore, and the story is memorable. And of course, Midna, who remains to this day my favorite Zelda character. That little imp is just too much fun (and her true form isn’t bad either.)

Fun Factor: 100/100

Twilight Princess remains uniquely dark and foreboding, and it has Midna 


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Gamer Since: 2002
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D, Deathloop, Final Fantasy IV, God of War (2018)
Top 3 Favorite Games:Mass Effect 2, Assassins Creed Syndicate, Mark of the Ninja

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