Game SERIES Debate to the Death! The Legend of Zelda

Good gaming gods, last week’s debate was epic, and I do not use that word lightly. I had to go through all 235 comments twice, just to make sure no tallying mistakes were made. The outcome broke almost every debate record imaginable, but despite setting even more records last week, Half-Life was given quite the competition this time.

It started off trailing slightly, then by a lot, then it surged and my eyes widened as it took the lead. Then, M.G.S. refused to be ignored, and temporarily reclaimed the crown. In the final 50 votes, Half-Life fought to the top once again, only to lose it yet again, then juggle the lead back and forth on the very last page. The final few votes were a nail-biting experience like no other debate has ever given me. Here is the breathtaking final result:

  • Half-Life series (105 votes) — Wow!
  • Metal Gear Solid series (109 votes) — WOW! (Winner!)

I want to thank you all by partaking in such an exceptionally intelligent game debate and offering so much insight from all directions. I sure do show appreciation in an odd way though, because I’m rewarding your great work by giving you all yet another unfathomably large game debate to tackle.

Which game do you like the most out of the entire series, and why? What aspects of its game design, gameplay, visual and audio experience made up your mind? Give it some serious thought, share your thought process with all of us, and then get some Zelda friends to join in on the fun. Hit the jump for new bonus questions and next week’s debate topic!

[Update: I’ve included an expansive refresher summary of each game in the series, and also added this to the flash bar up top so that you can check back on the discussion for the next few days! Scroll down to take a nostalgia-filled trip down memory lane, and browse each game’s story and main features list, as well as a trailer or gameplay video.]

The Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Entertainment System, 1986.


Ganon invades Hyrule kingdom with an army to obtain the Triforce of Power, but princess Zelda takes the Triforce of Wisdom and split it into eight pieces, which she hides in dungeons across the world. Link saves Impa from a group of Ganon’s soldiers and she explains Hyrule’s impending danger. Link decides to save both Zelda and Hyrule.


  • Introduced several of the recurring beloved Legend of Zelda series items.
  • Nonlinear game design that set the standard for the action adventure genre.
  • Used rewritable discs to allow you to save your game, instead of using passwords.
  • Nine dungeons to complete. Six with visible entrances and three that are hidden.
  • After beating the game, a “Second Quest” challenges you to beat the game again. This time all the dungeons have different designs and contain harder enemies.

Video: Speed run of the entire game.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link on the Nintendo Entertainment System, 1987


Four years after the story in the first game, Link is now sixteen and discovers the triforce symbol on the back of his hand. After speaking to Impa it is revealed that Zelda’s father, the king of Hyrule, has died, and that Zelda’s brother was angry when she would not share his father’s family secrets about the triforce. Her brother befriends an evil wizard to put her into a deep sleep, which ends up killing the wizard. Zelda’s brother is filled with regret and locks her away and demands that every newborn female from now on in the kingdom must be named Zelda in her honor.

Impa reveals that the sign on your hand means that you are the chosen one to awaken her. The symbol will show you where to place each of the six palaces’ crystals, and then guide you to the Great Palace where you find the Triforce of Courage. You travel to the chamber where Zelda is sleeping in and the three Triforce pieces unite, and with your one wish you awaken the princess.


  • The top down perspective is still used for the overworld view, which is now just used to travel one area on the map to the next, unless engaged by an enemy.
  • The majority of the game is played and fought in a side-scroller setup.
  • Link is equipped with a sword and a shield, as well as magic spells he can use.
  • Low attacks can be done while crouching and high attacks can be used when standing.
  • Link can also jump, allowing him to also attack in upward or downward thrusts.
  • By defeating enemies you receive experience points that can be invested in life, attack, magic and stamina. Each can only be upgraded seven times.
  • Leveling up your life stat decreases the damage you receive when hit.
  • Leveling up your magic stat reduces the amount of magic points (MP) your spells use.
  • Towns are named after the Seven Sages.

Video: A walkthrough and explanation of the game.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, 1991


Link is awakened by a telepathic message from Zelda that she is locked up in the Hyrule Castle dungeon. You see your Uncle ready for battle, who runs out and tells you to stay behind. Disobeying his command, you travel to the castle and arrive in time to see him dying. Given his sword and shield, you manage to help Zelda escape through the sewers. You then learn that a wizard named Aghanim has seized the throne and plans to break the seal of the Seven Sages to release Ganon from imprisonment


  • Top down exploration exploration returns to the series for the entire game.
  • A wide variety of items is present again, with many new ones, including the Master Sword, added this time that would go on to be crucial to the series from then on.
  • The game is twice as large as it seems, with a Dark World version of its world map that becomes playable later in the game.
  • While most SNES games were 4 Mbit, A Link to the Past used a 8 Mbit cartridge due to its size.
  • You get to rescue the descendants of the Seven Sages.
  • Introduced the chicken fight series staple.

Video: A walkthrough of the game.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on Game Boy, 1993


After the events of A Link to the Past, Link travels the seas on a boat, which gets shipwrecked on Koholint Island after a storm. After awakening and recovering his things, an owl tells him that he must awaken the Wind Fish guardian of the island, who is sleeping in a giant egg atop Tal Tal Mountain, and nightmare creatures are ruling his dream world. To free him you must collect the eight instruments of the Sirens, and play the Ballad of the Wind Fish on all your instruments.


  • Overhead perspective is dominant throughout the entire game, with minimal side-scrolling areas in dungeons
  • The first top-down Zelda game that allows Link to jump.
  • Doesn’t actually have Zelda, Ganon or Hyrule as main features.
  • Introduces the powerful concept of music to the series.
  • Includes late game cameos to older Zelda games, as well as other Nintendo games.
  • Eight main dungeons, but also bonus secret dungeons.
  • Offers a daunting side quest of gathering 25 secret seashells buried around the map. Collecting 20 earns you a secret, magical sword that can shoot beams of energy when you’re at full health.
  • Introduced an elaborate trading game side quest that has become a series staple.
  • Also introduces fishing and flying around the map on the back of a bird as series staples.
  • Can steal items from shops, but with funny and serious repercussions.
  • Re-released in 1998 in full color to celebrate the launch of the Game Boy Color.

Video: Link’s Awakening DX intro with color.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on Nintendo 64, 1998


Taking place before the four earlier Zelda games, the story starts when Link wakes up from a nightmare of events that will soon happen. Living in the Kokiri Forest outside of Hyrule with other children, Link is the boy without a fairy. Their guardian, the Great Deku Tree, senses an evil sweeping across the land and decides it’s time to reveal Link’s past to him, so he sends the fairy Navi to bring Link to him. After obtaining a Kokiri sword and shield, the Great Deku tree tells Link of his past in his last dying breaths.

Link is given the task to gather the three spiritual stones from the Deku Tree, Death Mountain, and Jabu-Jabu’s Belly, and then contact the princess, where his nightmare’s vision comes true. Hyrule is cast into the Dark World, and Link is sealed away in the Temple of Time until he is old enough to defeat Ganon. With the help of the Seven Sages, many backbone items from the series, and twelve powerful melody spells, Link must travel between the two worlds to defeat the five temples as an adult to slay Ganon and save princess Zelda.

By placing or removing the Master Sword, Link can travel back or forward in time, which allows him to modifies Hyrule’s past and present in his struggle to undue Ganon’s evil on the land. While adventuring through the two different timelines, Link explores the surrounding habitats and species of Hyrule.


  • The first 3D Legend of Zelda adventure.
  • The first game to let you ride a mount, in the form of Epona the horse.
  • Three dungeons as kid Link, five temple dungeons as adult Link, and the final Ganon level in Hyrule Castle, as well as various smaller dungeons, such as the graveyard and Lost Woods, and Hyrule Castle as a kid when sneaking in to talk to Zelda.
  • Many minigames that span horse races, archery contests, fishing, bomb games and guessing games, mask deliveries, an expanded version of the trading game, and many more optional missions.
  • Introduced the collection of golden skulltula tokens hidden around the entire world map.
  • Greatly expanded on the existing inventory in the series’ past. Introduced fire, ice, and light arrows, bombchus, magic beans, hookshot, and much more.
  • The first Zelda game to feature day and night sequences, which bring huge impacts in each area.
  • Allowed you to travel through time to past and present Hyrule, or change from day or night.
  • Let players explore more than just Hyrule, and ventured off the map into new directions, which gave an in-depth look into the lives of human villagers as well as the Goron, Zora, and Deku species.

Video: A recreated HD version of the TV commercial trailer for the game.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask on Nintendo 64, 2000


While Link is traveling through the Lost Woods, a skull kid with two fairies steals Epona and the Ocarina of Time from him and runs into a cave. Link pursues him, but is turned into a Deku scrub by the masked kid, who leaves behind one of his fairies as he flees. When Link and his new fairy, Tatl, exit the cave they find themselves in a new land called Termina, an alternate version of the people and places from Hyrule.

On his journey to retrieve his items and return home, Link discovers that the moon is crashing into Termina in three days, and that he must help save the land from destruction if he is ever to make it home. By manipulating time, Link is able to set back the clock and repeat the three days over and over to constantly prevent the end of the world. This allows him to see each NPC’s paths and plans over the three day span, and makes him able to help each one of their needs.

Along the way Link receives many more masks from the happy Mask Salesman, with the three main ones transforming him into a Goron, Deku, or Zora version of himself. Other masks give him other abilities and open up new possible ways to interact with each NPC’s fate. After defeating each of the four main dungeons, Link is able to gather the help of the Four Giants to stop the moon from crashing into Termina, and the evil Mask of Majora that the skull kid was wearing leaves and travels to the nearby moon above. Link follows the mask to the moon to defeat Majora once and for all.


  • Four main dungeons, with many smaller ones to explore and defeat as well.
  • Navi is replaced by the fairy Tatl, who is even more helpful with tips and strategy.
  • A sprawling, functioning world of NPC characters with their own journeys over the course of the last three days of the world, which equate to roughly an hour of real time.
  • The Ocarina of Time has many new songs to learn, some of which let you manipulate the flow of time even more than in the past. You can change from day or night, jump ahead in the three day timeline, or even slow down the flow of time around you.
  • Allows players to take the focus off of just dungeons, and instead focus on interacting and altering the course of a wide variety of NPC lives within the world.
  • Offers not just one main story, but a multitude of smaller stories of the NPC’s lives over the three fateful days.
  • Many of the series’ staple items make a return, but largely expands the variety of available masks you can wear.
  • Three main masks transform you into a Deku, Zora, or Goron, each with their own special abilities.
  • All NPCs have entirely different things they say, do, or ask of you depending on which mask you are wearing when interacting with them.
  • The introduction of the camera item.

Video: HD version of the game’s intro:

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages on Game Boy Color, 2001


These are two alternate games that further explore the game mechanics of time travel. In Oracle of Seasons, the Triforce sends Link to the the land of Holodrum, where he sees Din, the Oracle of Seasons, kidnapped by Onox. However, if you play Oracle of Ages, then Link is instead transported by the Triforce to the land of Labrynna, where he sees Nayru, the Oracle of Ages, kidnapped by Veran. To complete the entire story of either games, you must also beat the other game as well for the entire plot to be revealed.


  • Introduces the Harp of Ages item that can advance time forward and backwards.
  • Also introduces the Rod of Seasons item that changes the seasons.
  • Both games explore story and puzzle designs that revolve around the changing of seasons/time.
  • Both games can be hooked up to one another to expand on each others’ story, levels and inventory.
  • By beating one of the two games, players are given an alternate version of the other game to beat.

Video: The intro video from both games.


The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker on Gamecube, 2002

Story Setup:

Taking place 100 years after Ocarina of Time, the story from Ocarina has become a legendary tale that families tell their children to instill courage in them. Dressing like the fabled Hero of Time on his coming of age birthday, Link is given a telescope by his sister as a present. Using his new item he spots a bird carrying a girl in the sky, who is dropped into a nearby woods. Leaving the house near the beach where he lives with his grandmother and sister, Link rescues the girl, only to return and see the same bird carry off his younger sister.

The girl you rescued, Tetra, reveals that she is the captain of a pirate ship, and follow the bird to Forsaken Fortress where Ganon has many young girls captured. After an unsuccessful attempt to free them, Link falls off the fortress to the sea below, and is saved by a talking boat named King of Red Lions. Your new boat companion gives you the Wind Waker instrument that allows you to control the flow of the winds, and you’re off to travel the seas in all directions and many adventures to save your sister and the rest of the world from Ganon once again.


  • Cel-shaded graphics.
  • Much more detail in lighting and animation within the game’s environments.
  • Characters have much more facial animation detail.
  • Extensive sea exploration that spans many ocean islands with new puzzles, people and items for Link to come in contact with.
  • Many old items that are classic to the series are upgraded with new or improved abilities.
  • The Wind Waker is one of the many new items that aids Link in manipulating the environment.
  • Enemies contain much more intelligent A.I. and animations.
  • The ability to use items dropped by defeated enemies.
  • A buried treasure map sidequests that spans the entire sea in various locations.
  • In-depth naval battles at sea.
  • The introduction of new collectible items like figurines that are created from pictures you take.
  • After completing the game, you can replay a new version with minor modifications.

Video: A gameplay trailer for the game.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure on Game Cube, 2004


Strange, recent happenings in Hyrule have Zelda worried that Vaati’s seal is weaking, so she brings Link to the Four Sword Sanctuary where maidens protect the shrine. She gives Link the Four Sword, which splits the one who wields it into four clones. However, A Shadow Link doppelganger sneaks in and kidnaps the shrine maidens.


  • 4 person multiplayer with overhead perspective from the original NES game.
  • Hyrulian Adventure mode: players cooperate to advance through the world in episodic levels, competing to outscore one another by gathering the most rupees, while still working together to advance to the end of each level.
  • Battle mode: Two or more players fight each other until only one is left standing.
  • Allows players to use their Game Boy Advance as a controller, which gives extra information on the handheld’s screen.

Video: A Japanese commercial showing multiplayer gameplay.

The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap on Game Boy Advance, 2004


Vaati has petrified Zelda, and the King of Hyrule needs the help of the Picori to free her, but only children can see the Picori, so he chooses you to help him. On his journey, Link rescues a bird-like hat named Ezlo, who joins him and can shrink him to the size of the Minish to help him on his adventure.


  • The ability to shrink in size and explore environments from a tiny perspective.
  • Several dungeons, items, and sidequests.
  • Expanded stories for already existing characters in the series.
  • The introduction of new characters and creatures in the series.
  • The introduction of new collectible items like Kinstone medallion fragments.

Video: A Japanese trailer commercial.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on Gamecube or Wii, 2006

Story Setup: While working on a ranch in Orton Village, Link witnesses shadow beast monsters attack its inhabitants and kidnap all the young children. When he pursues them to rescue the children he runs into a wall of Twilight and a shadow beast pulls him through the wall, which turns Link into a wolf and imprisons him. An imp named Midna helps Link escape and informs him that he needs to restore the Light Spirits in order to restore Hyrule to its former state. Midna joins you on your quest to return to your human form and rescue Hyrule once again.


  • Nine dungeons.
  • The new wolf form to play as, with new abilities.
  • The new companion, Midna, who offers hints and even more new abilities.
  • Horseback combat.
  • Larger environments, villages, and battles.
  • Additional sword combat actions.
  • Better graphics with improved 3D models and higher resolution textures.
  • Many of the traditional Zelda items, as well as few new ones and improved older items.
  • Wii remote controller compatibility, with different movement functions used for different items and places in different ways.
  • Wiimote audio interactivity with the environment

Video: Trailer.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass on Nintendo DS, 2007

Story Setup:

The plot continues from the aftermath of Wind Waker, with Link traveling the Great Sea with Tetra on her pirate ship. They discover a ghost ship, and when Tetra boards it to explore she screams and disappears. In his attempt to follow her, Link slips and falls into the ocean, later waking up ashore on island by a fairy named Ciela.

After exploring the island, Link finds a Phantom Hourglass with Sands of Hours and enlists the help of Captain Captain Linebeck and his ship, the S.S. Linebeck. Link, Linebeck, and Ciela travel together across the Great Sea using maps and clues hidden in the Temple of the Ocean King to find the Spirits of Courage, Wisdom, and Power.


  • Cel-shaded 3D graphics
  • More sea adventures on ship.
  • More island dungeon adventures on foot.
  • DS stylus navigation and gameplay via the touchscreen.
  • Using the top DS screen for additional information.
  • During some events or battles, the top screen is used instead for a larger view window.
  • Includes a one-on-one multiplayer battle mode.
  • Many classic items from the series reappear for gameplay, with the addition of the Phantom Hourglass and the Phantom Sword.
  • Some classic items from the series receive gameplay imporvements that utilize the DS stylus.

Video: Trailer.



BQ1. What is your least favorite game in the series? Why?

BQ2. What is your favorite item in the series? Why?

BQ3. What is your least favorite item in the series? Why?

BQ4. Who is your favorite side character in the series? Why?

BQ5. Who is your least favorite side character in the series? Why?

BQ6. What is your favorite level in the series? Why?

BQ7: What is your least favorite level in the series? Why?

BQ7. What is your favorite ocarina song?! Why?


Each week I will post what next week’s debate will be, and allow you to all post your own “bonus questions” in the comments for next week’s debate. I’ll choose the best of the bunch and then we can get some serious feedback from all different gamer perspectives on not just each game/series, but also a few individual aspects of those games/series. Have something you’re dying to know what other games thought of in the game or series? Post your question in the comments and find out what the response is!


What’s your favorite Super Mario game in the whole series?

As usual, there’s always an open door policy on suggesting future game debates in the comments. So don’t be shy!

Tom Fronczak