Considering the best-selling Mario game reached the heady heights of 40 million units sold, it’s somewhat alarming that no Zelda game has sold even a quarter of that.
Still, The Legend of Zelda remains to be one of Nintendo’s best loved franchises – and one of my all time favourite adventure series. While Link’s adventures may not have sold nearly as many as his red plumber friend’s, that doesn’t mean these figures — well into their millions — are to be scoffed at. Here are the five best-selling Zelda games of all time.
It’s worth noting that I’m only counting the original releases. Several Zelda games have been re-released either in terms of a HD remaster or via virtual console. Nintendo don’t make their virtual console sales figures known, so it’d be impossible to include these.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, SNES (1991)
Approximately 4.61 million copies sold
A Link to the Past is my favourite game. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that about 50 times across numerous articles I’ve written here in the past couple of years, but I’ll say it again: A Link to the Past is my favourite game. I’m pleased it appears in the five best-selling games — it deserves it — but I’m rather surprised it doesn’t feature a little higher.
A Link to the Past released for Super Nintendo in 1991, and while it was the first Zelda game that I played (c’mon, I was only three when it released!), the series had already been well-established by that time. It’s one of the top 10 best-selling SNES games of all time, and still does well to this day thanks to its virtual console release.
It’ll also be on the Mini SNES when that releases next month, so if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on it, you’ll get to experience what might just be Link’s best adventure yet. Well… apart from Breath of the Wild. Maybe. I can’t quite make my mind up.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, DS (2007)
Approximately 5.05 million copies sold
Phantom Hourglass is a strange one. Sure, we loved it — it was Zelda, after all — but Link’s first foray onto the Nintendo DS saw him take on a new art style and some new gameplay quirks. For the most part, it was great fun… but oh, those dungeons. Once was enough.
Like most games on this list Phantom Hourglass is now available via Virtual Console on Wii U, but the DS cartridges are still easy enough to pick up and play well on modern 3DS consoles.
The Legend of Zelda, NES (1986)
Approximately 6.51 million copies sold
Imagine living in a world where nobody had heard of The Legend of Zelda; before the green-suited Link was ever a thing. Back in 1986 that’s where we were at. Still, despite being naught but a new idea, The Legend of Zelda still sold well, shifting over 6.5 million copies in its lifetime. In fact, it was the first NES game to sell over one million copies, and is the fifth best-selling NES game of all time. (Of course, Super Mario Bros. dominates that list.)
Being somewhat before my time, I have to admit that I’ve never played The Legend of Zelda. I know, I know, as a self-proclaimed Zelda fan, that’s pretty terrible of me. I’ll pick it up on Virtual Console one day, I promise.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Wii (2006)
Approximately 7.26 million copies sold
Ah yes, Twilight Princess. The game in which Link becomes a wolf. Because of course, that makes perfect sense. It may have been a bit of an anomaly in terms of the ‘canon’ of Zelda, but the Wii’s Twilight Princess was still a brilliant entry into the series, and perhaps one of the Wii’s best ever games.
Playing with the Wiimote and Nunchuk meant it was a very different experience from any other Zelda game, but it added a more ‘fun’ element to the game — firing an arrow had never been so fun, and getting to run around as a wolf, as bizarre as it seemed, was enjoyable. That Midna though… Link’s impish sidekick was something we could have done without. Every time her annoying little laugh echoed through the Wiimote’s speaker made me want to throw it through the screen.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, N64 (1998)
Approximately 7.6 million copies sold
You shouldn’t at all be surprised to find Ocarina of Time as number one on this list considering that Metacritic rank it to be the number one highest-scoring game of all time, with a Metascore of 99. It’s a great game; there’s no arguing with that. It’s the fourth best-selling game on Nintendo 64, being beaten to the post by Mario 64, Mario Kart and Goldeneye 007. (Can’t grumble too much at that, really; they’re all bloody good games.)
The 3DS remaster of Ocarina of Time sold an additional 4.86 million copies, which is mightily impressive in its own right. Being that most of us don’t have our Nintendo 64s set up anymore, the 3DS version is the best way to play the game (and thanks to the Nintendo Selects re-release, it’s dirt cheap) — and is a fantastic way to enjoy the game. Nothing can quite beat using the beast of a controller that came with the N64 though, but at least we can play it on the go.
There we have it; as of right now, those are the top five best-selling Zelda games of all time. I say ‘right now’ because it’s only a matter of time before Breath of the Wild sneaks its way up this list. As it stands, the Switch launch title has sold 3.25 million copies which is nearly as many as the Switch itself. The console launched less than six months ago and is still hard to get hold of in some regions, so as more Switches sell, so will more copies of Breath of the Wild. Will it overtake Ocarina of Time? Well, watch this space.