Top 5 Legend of Zelda games

It's no secret that I absolutely love the Legend of Zelda series. For years, it has been my single favorite video game series, though certain games therein rank higher than others. The Legend of Zelda series has always excelled at presenting a wonderful adventure gaming experience, though some of the titles in the long-running franchise go above and beyond. Below is a list of my five favorites - the absolute best of the best, as far as I am concerned.

#5 - Wind Waker: To be completely honest, I was highly skeptical of Wind Waker when it debuted, sporting cartoony cel-shaded graphics. But what appeared to be a game largely aimed at children proved to carry across one of the most endearing and mature coming-of-age stories the series has ever exhibited. The fact that it continued on the story of Ocarina of Time hit a nostalgic sweet spot for me, while the vast expanse of the ocean and its many islands continually fed my hunger for adventure.

The game paced itself very well, though the sluggish quest for the shattered triforce pieces proved a bump in the road. The dungeons proved varied and creative, the sidequests were in abundance, and the characters were lovable. Wind Waker was a breath of fresh air - not just for the Zelda series, but for adventure gaming as a genre.

#4 - Majora's Mask: Another Zelda title that is heavy on artistic direction, Majora's Mask is frankly one of the eeriest games I have ever played. It is also one of the most challenging, and the lack of direction the game provides early on prevents it from earning a higher ranking on this list. Still, it does just as well as Wind Waker with regards to delivering an enjoyable story and presenting a bevy of sidequests.

In fact, Majora's Mask is largely dependent on sidequests. More than half the experience would be lost without their inclusion, and forcing players to seek out new items and locales broadens the story with each step taken. There are so many memorable characters and events that are unveiled as part of the exploration. And to put icing on the cake, the soundtrack to Majora's Mask is one of my all-time favorites. Give the Stone Temple Tower and Deku Palace tunes a listen and you'll know why.

#3 - Skyward Sword: Prior to its release, a number of sources touted Skyward Sword as having the potential to trump Ocarina of Time as the best in the series. Every trailer that I saw for Skyward Sword building up to the release date increased my excitement - from footage of boss fights with Koloktos and Lord Ghirahim to items like the Beetle and Double Clawshot, the game looked like a ton of fun. That, coupled with the fact that it was a prequel to Ocarina of Time, made me the most hyped for a game release in the better part of a decade.

For those who have read my review of Skyward Sword, it goes without saying that this game did not disappoint. It succeeded in every gameplay aspect I could have hoped for, while throwing me some welcome curveballs like the Timeshift Stones, which made the gameplay more dynamic and thought-provoking. The story was delivered in a gorgeous manner, and despite the overworld hub setup, every inch of the land that would one day come to be known as Hyrule looked breathtakingly gorgeous. Each boss fight was different and presented equal parts challenge and fun, while the final showdown was just as epic as it was intense.

#2 - Oracle of Ages: I loved both of the Oracle games - to this day, I can only think of a few handheld releases that even come close to these two in terms of clever design and overall fun factor. While the Rod of Seasons may have aided Oracle of Seasons in crafting a more visually pleasing look and well-designed overworld, Oracle of Ages had arguably the better dungeon layouts and boss fights. The items were plentiful, and each saw pretty even usage. The whole idea of correcting the course of history by travelling back in time was entertaining and engaging, and Veran proved to be a devilishly perfect villain. The sidequests may not have been as memorable as those found in the console Zelda titles, but there was still a lot to do in the land of Labrynna.

#1 - Ocarina of Time: This number one spot should come as no surprise. I have found many games that have come very close to Ocarina of Time - Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Shadow of the Colossus, Metroid Prime - but none have yet managed to dethrone it as my favorite game of all time (and subsequently, my favorite Zelda game). What Ocarina of Time managed to accomplish for the day of its release is astounding. The dungeons are about as close to perfect as one can get, even with the Water Temple's reputation of being particularly frustrating. Link's story is a great fantasy tale; one truly deserving of all the praise it has earned over the years since Ocarina of Time's original debut.

Before anyone plays the nostalgia card, let me be clear on one thing: every two to three years, I sit down and play through Ocarina of Time. I do this not only because I love the game just as much today as I did when I first played it, but to remind myself of what a perfect game is. Whether it is on the N64, Virtual Console, or 3DS version, Ocarina of Time is simply a classic - one of those rare games that every gamer owes it to themselves to play.

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