May 25, 2019
The Legend of Zelda series is among the few that has remained consistently high quality throughout its history. Among the online community, it’s a running joke that we rate Zelda games on a scale of eight to ten. I am no different, and this made the concept of a worst games list rather difficult to put together, but I think I came up with a list I can stand behind.
This article goes along with my top five best Zelda games list, and is not objective, it’s just my opinions about which games in the series fall very slightly short of the bar I expect from the series. None of them are downright dreadful; (except the last one) in fact I love all of them, (except the last one) but these are what I would rank as my least favorite games in the series.
#5: Minish Cap
Minish Cap had great dungeons and a story, and forging the Four Sword was an incredible undertaking. Hidden Skills and the shrinking mechanic made for some of the most unique 2D gameplay in the series. So why does it not rank higher? Two of my absolute favorite elements of the Zelda series; music and exploration.
In this game, the soundtrack featured a plethora of tracks borrowed from past games, particularly Ocarina of Time. The issue that presents itself is that the Nintendo 64’s sound processing technology was far superior to that of the Gameboy Advance, which left most tunes feeling like a watered-down version of something familiar.
Exploration in dungeons was fine, but the overworld was among the worst in the series. Right from the get-go if you’ve played any previous Zelda game, you will be finding yourself constantly noticing roadblocks that will be taken care of by some dungeon item or another, and you just have to go through dungeons until you find the right one.
This is a mechanic that has been utilized in most Zelda games, but in this one it feels like they didn’t even try to hide it. The whole world is a constrained, railroaded mess. The overworld feels superfluous. I would rather have seen them go the route of Tri Force Heroes, eliminating the overworld entirely for the sake of better dungeons.
#4: Spirit Tracks
Remember how mad the railroading made me in Minish Cap? The only way to make it worse is to put Link on a LITERAL RAILROAD. Again the story was fine, albeit cheesily shoehorning in a railroad mechanic, but the fact that the game just gave you an auto travel mechanic to the next town and dungeon after you beat each one was, in my opinion, stupendously stupid.
Other than that, I really did like the game and Phantom Hourglass as well. The touch controls in each did not seem over utilized. I like traditional controls better, but for a change of pace it was fine by me. The graphical style of the two DS titles has always irked me simply because of how large Link’s head looks, but all in all I would recommend them, just not over most Zelda games, and of the two, Phantom Hourglass is by far the superior game.
#3: Majora’s Mask
I’m gonna say it, it’s a cult classic. If this is your favorite Zelda game, you are in a very vocal minority than makes it appear as though it has a larger fanbase than it actually does. Now of course, that doesn’t make it a bad game, but I think it’s worth mentioning to its followers that 90% of the world disagrees with them, since I feel when talking about this title its biggest fans are always very forceful and annoying with their arguments, touting that it is objectively superior to Ocarina of Time or whichever other title is on the debate table, without actually presenting any hard facts to back up their claims. Yes, it runs on the Nintendo 64 Expansion Pak, so it’s technically on more powerful hardware, and Link does cool flips when he jumps, but that hardly makes it a better game. By that logic, Sonic ’06 is better than Majora’s Mask because it ran on XBox 360 and Sonic moved faster than Link.
To really define what makes this game rank so low on my list, it’s about ninety percent the Three-Day system, and ten percent Tingle. Every cool thing about this game was harder to see for me, and I know I’m not alone, just because saving was a major pain in the ass, and it felt like every time you saved you were losing progress. Even if you stored your rupees in the bank, having to farm arrows and bombs before you could get back to the action was tedious and unnecessary, and if you took too long in a dungeon, restarting it and not hurling your controller at the TV was a Major Test of Strength.
In my opinion, it was the single worst mechanic ever implemented in a Zelda game, and the only reason the game ranks this high is because the music and dungeons were enough to make it enjoyable, I just wish it could be enjoyable the whole time instead of just once you get through the slog of reloading your save, farming items, heading to the next dungeon, having to reload again to have extra time in the dungeon once you’ve got there, and… you get the idea. It’s tedious to do anything, and the simple overworld kinda kills my exploration buzz. This would be an incredible game if it weren’t for all those glaring problems.
#2: Skyward Sword
Hot damn, 1:1 motion control sword fighting, that sounds amazing and the execution was great! Ooh, there’s also 1:1 control on your bird? Um… okay, I guess I’ll take it. Oh look, 1:1 motion controls on flying the new Beetle item. I mean it’s a cool utility, but why can’t I just use the thumbstick? All right, now you’re telling me I have to rotate the Boss Key with motion controls to put it in right? You gotta be friggin’ kidding me!
Skyward Sword was a ton of fun fighting certain enemies, but many were effectively more powerful clones of others, and at the end of the day, most of the things you used motion controls for felt shoehorned in to get some more use out of the latest gimmick.
Okay, I’ll give it credit where credit is due, what about the highly praised story with all those memorable characters? Well it wasn’t bad but it just didn’t do it for me. A large chunk of the narrative was an annoying tween drama a la High School Musical, and all those memorable characters came from previous Zelda games with the exception of Groose. Impa, Link, Zelda, and Demise, all felt basically the same as they had in past games, albeit Demise was the first incarnation of what would later become Ganon, and I admit I liked the duality of the two Impas, but in the end they all served the same role as they did in Ocarina of Time. Then our new villain, Ghirahim, was only memorable because of his effeminate demeanor and creepy personality. Other than that, he was pretty much a copy and paste job for Zant, but at least Zant felt like a real villain for half the game. Pretty much from the start of the game, you knew Ghirahim was working to revive a demon even more powerful than himself, and even at the early stages of this game I had a gut feeling it was Ganon, and I was eighty percent correct.
I have to say as well, the linearity and easiness of the game simply made it not feel like a Zelda game. Even Ocarina felt more open, despite the fact that the world was clearly smaller and had just as much railroading. The presentation of that railroading didn’t feel obvious, where here it feels unavoidable. In addition, walking through every dungeon was easier than the Divine Beasts in Breath of the Wild that got so much hate. They were bigger, but the enemies were easy, the bosses were easy, and overall the puzzle design is the only thing that kept me going, despite being easy. Great dungeons and an okay story don’t make up for an oversaturation of motion control gimmicks and the worst bosses in the series.
#1: Adventure of Link
What can I say that I haven’t said in a dozen other articles? If you would like to hear my full thoughts on the matter, you can check out my Lens of Truth review, but to summarize, hit box detection is terrible, combat is unfairly designed, and I don’t mind difficulty if it comes out of good game design, but here it’s unfair for the sake of unfairness, and an awkwardly implemented combat system.
A Metroidvainia take on Legend of Zelda has a ton of potential, and absolutely none of it was realized. I like every other game on this list, and would rate them, as I said, on a scale of eight to ten, but Adventure of Link is truly the worst game I’ve ever played. Superman 64 was annoying and had a downright dim-witted core mechanic, but it was at least playable. If given the choice, I would pass on this game in favor of a punch in the nuts. If you’ve never experienced it, my recommendation would be to listen to the soundtrack on YouTube and then forget it ever existed. Stay far away. You have been warned.
Don’t worry, I’m ready to deal with any flack I get for writing this, since I know the fans of some of these games are going to be appalled that I would hold such preposterous opinions of their favorite games, but I would love the discussion, so by all means tell me why I’m wrong and we can start a flamewa… I mean so we can keep the conversation trabsmitting!