Which Zelda game should you play first?

Image: Nintendo Life

The announcement of a solid release date for BOTW2 The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom marked the beginning of a new phase of more intense excitement for one of the most anticipated sequels of the decade. Of course, a new Zelda game is still big news, but when it comes to a follow-up to one of the most warmly-received video games of all time – and the one that gave the Nintendo Switch a launch title to rival Super Mario 64 – the Excitement levels will peak in the coming months as it nears its launch in May 2023.

While series enthusiasts like us will wonder how Eiji Aonuma and co. let’s build on what we know about Breath of the Wild and also somehow exceeding our skyward expectations, all this brouhaha will no doubt attract the attention of players who have never grabbed the master sword and given Ganon a sonic beating. After more than five years on the market, there are more than 111 million Switches out in the wild, and many of them are owned by people who might think Zelda is the pointy-eared guy in green (or blue). Among them will be people, maybe your family and friends, who want to know why everyone is so pissed off, and with your help, we’re here to advise you on how to hook them on the show. .

Where to start with a big franchise like this is a dilemma we’ve discussed before, but today we thought we’d focus specifically on Zelda which would be best at bringing in new players from the perspective of Tears of the Kingdom. We have our individual thoughts on this one – which are surprisingly diverse! – but you’ll also find a poll at the bottom showcasing all the main games in the series.

So let’s see what the NL team thinks is worth integrating into the *count on fingers* seven and a half months until TOTK descends on us. Lots of time to get up to speed, right?

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)

Editor: nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD

Release date: November 23, 1998 (UNITED STATES) / December 11, 1998 (UK/EU)

Available on Switch? Yes, as part of the Nintendo Switch Online expansion pack subscription.

I am in no way suggesting that I have played Zelda games in the perfect order, it just so happens that the game I think should be played first is the one that, coincidentally, I have did play first. Ocarina of Time ignited my love for the franchise and I’m pretty sure it would do the same for anyone coming to the games for the first time. The 3DS version is definitely the way to go if you wanted a little less frustrating time (we’re looking at you, Water Temple), but frustration is an integral part of every great Zelda game and the original gives it to you by the bucketload – with the added bonus of those sharp nostalgic N64 graphics!

Adding to its sheer adoration is the fact that the game incorporates everything that makes up a great Zelda title. It has open-world exploration, a battle with the series’ main villain, seven clearly defined and unique temples, and an almighty musical instrument. All this combines to make one of the most beautiful Zelda experiences, it is true, but also one of the most Zelda-y Zelda experiences. It’s everything great about the franchise and more – the perfect starting point. Jim Norman

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

Editor: nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD

Release date: April 13, 1992 (UNITED STATES) / September 24, 1992 (UK/EU)

Available on Switch? Yes, as part of the standard Nintendo Switch Online membership.

For someone to get the “real” Legend of Zelda experience, it might be prudent to start with one of the 3D titles in the series, because the likelihood of Nintendo reverting to the top-down 2D perspective soon is, well, thin To say the least. Still, for the quintessential Zelda experience, look no further than The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Released for the SNES in 1991, A Link to the Past looked like everything perfection after the failure of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. It’s got everything you’d expect from a Zelda game: exploration, challenging dungeons, a wonderfully well-realized cast of characters, and the first appearance of what would become a staple of the Zelda franchise, parallel worlds.

While many believe the best place to start with any franchise is at the very beginning, there’s no denying that the NES iterations of Zelda have aged considerably in the decades since their respective releases. A Link to the Past, meanwhile, is a game that still plays beautifully to this day, with visuals that pop whether you’re on the SNES itself, the GBA, or the Switch. Ollie Reynolds

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

Editor: nintendo / Developer: SPD Nintendo

Release date: March 3, 2017 (UNITED STATES) / March 3, 2017 (UK/EU)

Available on Switch? Yes, and Wii U. Stop laughing at the back.

Jumping into a huge open world like the one you can find in Breath of the Wild can feel like diving into an ocean for the first time rather than dipping your toe in Zelda’s pond. But, listen to me, the amount of freedom and creativity makes it such a sandbox of ideas and inspiration that it feels Phone a good place to jump in.

Not only does it let you do whatever you want – whether it’s roam the map for hours, collect Korok seeds, or simply terrorize local Bokoblins over and over again – but it gives you the setting of a Zelda game. , although in a different way. Of course, shrines aren’t temples, but these (along with the four main dungeons) are a great way to show off Zelda’s dungeon potential, as well as Link’s abilities and combat prowess.

But really, the magic of Breath of the Wild comes from how you feel like a kid going on an adventure. It’s like a mountain-sized choose-your-own-adventure book with an endless amount of layers. The players are still discover new things about this beautiful and desolate Hyrule. And we have another chance to explore it in next year’s Tears of the Kingdom. If you have an insatiable appetite for exploration and a boatload of curiosity, Breath of the Wild is sure to draw you in and draw you into the series. Alana Hagues

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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN)

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN)

Editor: nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD

Release date: March 24, 2003 (UNITED STATES) / May 2, 2003 (UK/EU)

Available on Switch? No, despite rumors, this is still only available on GameCube or Wii U (in its remastered HD form).

With such a wealth of Zelda action available on Switch, it’s rude to recommend one that you can’t download and play on your current console. Awkwardness aside (and hey, all of the options above are perfectly fine and valid too!), I’m going to go with Wind Waker. It’s an imperfect – and some might say unfinished – game to be sure, but I’m banking on its timeless art style that draws new players in while they master the basics.

Yes, the opening stealth section is atypical for the series, as is all of the serene navigation. And the trip to visit Hyrule under the waves would probably be more difficult if you had a history with the series. But even with all those caveats, the looks of the thing and the sheer beauty of the animation will surely capture a newbie’s attention long enough for the Zelda model to sink in and claim another delighted victim. I put all my chips on what I call the Cuphead effect. And setting expectations appropriately when it comes to Triforce shard hunting and 10-minute sea voyages (go make a nice cup of tea and you’ll be there by the time you return), there’s no no reason why it shouldn’t be a perfect introduction. , launching the epic land quests from other entries.

While there’s too much lighting for my liking, I’m not opposed to the tightened HD version, although it’s probably easier to track down a used Wii and GameCube disc than pick up a Wii U Nowadays. Either way, I’d say no other Zelda has quite as much surface-level charm; perfect for landing bites in a blue ocean of new fans. Gavin Lane


Zelda Tears of the Kingdom
Prepare for it — Image: Nintendo

It’s tough, that’s for sure. Think Skyward Sword is a better choice? Sacrilege to suggest anything other than the original? Let us know if you agree with any of the above in the comments and vote in the poll below to let us know where you would recommend to start your Zelda adventure.

To note. For the most part, we’ve listed the remakes and the originals next to each other. We’ve omitted a few ports, mainly because it’s unlikely anyone will pick up, say, the GBA port of LttP on the SNES version, especially when the original is available via Nintendo Switch Online. We also left out multiplayer games.

About Jason Zeitler

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