The Legend of Zelda is one of the best-rated game series of all time, and so it’s no surprise that its games have consistently reviewed extremely well.
In fact, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, with its metacritic score of 99 based on 22 critic reviews, is the highest rated game of all time. We very much doubt anything will ever beat it – although part of that is modern major releases get many more reviews, meaning it’s more likely there’ll be a bigger spread of scores. (To compare, Tears of the Kingdom received 87 reviews as the embargo lifted, and we’ve no doubt more will trickle in over the next couple of weeks). But which are objectively the best Legend of Zelda games of all time?
We’ve gone through each Legend of Zelda game to be reviewed on Metacritic, and we’ve ranked the top 7 games based on their review score. Perhaps your personal favourites might differ – we know ours do – but these are the best Zelda games based on critic scores from Metacritic.
There are some caveats: where a Zelda game has released on multiple formats (i.e. Wii and GameCube) we’ve taken the primary release – the one with most reviews. We’ve also ignored re-releases, such as the 3DS’s Ocarina of Time 3D (although we have made mention of some of them).
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- Metacritic score: 99
- Nintendo 64, 1998
We don’t think we’ll ever see a game get as high a score of Ocarina of Time. The Nintendo 64’s flagship adventure is often cited as the best Zelda game, and the critical opinion would support that. Sure, it’s a little aged these days, but it’s still very much worth jumping into. A remaster came to 3DS in 2011 (94 on Metacritic), and it was also re-released on GameCube in 2003 (91 on Metacritic). These days, you can dive in on Switch if you have a Nintendo Online + Expansion subscription.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Metacritic score: 97
- Nintendo Switch, 2017
It’s been six years since Breath of the Wild launched alongside Nintendo Switch, but it’s still lauded as one of the best open world games of all time. Its brand new sequel, Tears of the Kingdom, has just missed out on beating it in the rankings, but it’s not far behind. It’s no surprise that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the second best Zelda game of all time. Despite changing the Zelda formula immeasurably, it provided one of the best adventures of this generation.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
- Metacritic score: 96 (based on 87 reviews)
- Nintendo Switch, 2023
The newest game on this list has come in at an impressive 3rd best Legend of Zelda game of all time. With it being so new – at the time of writing, reviews only went live yesterday – there’s a chance its score could change as more reviews come in. We’ll re-assess, and update its position if needs be. It’s not going to change drastically, however. With a Metacritic score of 96, it puts Tears of the Kingdom in best games of all time territory.
4. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
- Metacritic score: 96 (based on 80 reviews)
- Nintendo GameCube, 2003
With its unique cel-shaded art style that still looks sumptuous 20 years later, it’s no surprise that The Wind Waker ranks so highly on the best Zelda games of all time. In this one, Link leaves the kingdom of Hyrule behind, with his adventure seeming him take to the seas as he explores a series of islands.
5. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
- Metacritic score: 95 (based on 73 reviews)
- Wii (and GameCube), 2006
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was the first Zelda game to release on Nintendo Wii – but it also released simultaneously on GameCube. Actually, its Metacritic score is a little higher on GameCube – a 96 – but with only 16 reviews, we’ve gone for the Wii version as the primary release. It was a bit of a departure for the series, introducing the strange Midna, and giving Link the ability to change into a wolf. The Wii’s unique Wiimote and nunchuck controls also presented something new for the series – but clearly, we lapped it up.
6. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- Metacritic score: 95 (based on 30 reviews)
- Game Boy Advance, 2002
This is technically a re-release of A Link to the Past. And normally, we wouldn’t include re-releases, but its original – which released on SNES in 1991 – predates Metacritic reviews by some years. And so we’ve made an exception. Because, let’s face it, the wonderful 2D Link to the Past is undoubtedly one of the best Zelda games of all time. It may well be top of our personal list: despite being more than 30 years old, its wonderful art style means it doesn’t feel at all dated. You can play it on Switch if you have an online subscription.
7. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
- Metacritic score 95 (based on 27 reviews)
- Nintendo 64, 2000
Despite being ranked 7th on the best Legend of Zelda games of all time, plenty of fans of the series will rate this as their personal favourite. It’s not hard to see why: its darker style compared to previous Zelda games gives it a mysterious air. It’s also a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, giving fans some continuation to Link’s adventures. Plenty of Zelda fans have been crying out for a remake – it has been 23 years, after all. What do you say, Nintendo?