The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is here but that doesn’t mean it should be the only game in the series gamers should play. While Breath of the Wild was an entry point to the series for many who purchased the Switch, there are other best Zelda games that are worth diving into.
So, whether you decide to play these games before Tears of the Kingdom or after, just know that players will be in for a treat. Zelda games tend to have the most effort put into them by Nintendo and that shows with each of these entries in no particular order.
For the record, Breath of the Wild won’t be in this list. That’s not to say it’s a bad game as BOTW is quite excellent but we feel that most of you have already played it. Plus, it might sour those waiting for Tears of the Kingdom, since the gameplay is pretty similar.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Although this is technically a Zelda spin-off game developed by Koei Tecmo, Age of Calamity has that Nintendo seal of quality. Once you get over the 20 FPS, players can enjoy the addictive combat and innovative uses of the Sheikah Slates from Breath of the Wild. The story is a bit on the weak side as it pulls off some last-minute deus ex machina moments but its worthwhile to BOTW fans.
Moreover, players don’t have to settle with only using Link, as the game finally lets you use the Champions of Hyrule. These characters have unique fighting styles and can also use the Sheikah Slate to their liking. Granted, Link is still the best character as he can wield multiple weapons and change his fighting style, but it’s good to have variety.
Hardcore Zelda fans might prefer Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition, due to the oodles of fanservice and playable characters from classic titles. However, gameplay and story-wise, Age of Calamity exceeds, making it worth of a purchase.
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Now readily available for NSO + Expansion Pass subscribers, The Minish Cap is a rare first-party Nintendo game developed by Capcom. Gameplay-wise, this is a pretty basic Zelda game, but the shrinking mechanics and Wind Waker artstyle help it stand out from the crowd.
It might not be too innovative in the gameplay spectrum, but The Minish Cap does have oodles of charm with its gorgeous sprite work and fun writing. To this day, it’s one of the best “classic” games in the series and one we recommend wholeheartedly.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
Speaking of Wind Waker, we now have the game that introduced a controversial artstyle to this series. Thankfully, it has aged incredibly well and actually looks better than its “realistic” successor Twilight Princess, as shown in the gorgeous Wii U HD edition.
Beyond having a charming artstyle, Wind Waker also offered a great sense of freedom that would later be recaptured in Breath of the Wild. Sailing in your boat and travelling the vast ocean felt incredible, even if players had to stop and turn in the original Gamecube version.
Gameplay-wise, it’s not too dissimilar to 3D predecessors like Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask, but the unique artstyle and sailing helped it stand out. This game also has the best version of Link, who has so much heart and charisma in his facial reactions alone that we’re wondering why this hasn’t been ported to Switch yet.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Originally seen as the “worst” game in the series by purists, Skyward Sword has since been re-examined and enjoyed by many a fan. Its motion controls that received a mixed reaction from critics in the original Wii version is now optional in the Switch version. The port’s numerous quality-of-life improvements have also made it the definitive version of this underrated classic.
Numerous gamers once claimed that Skyward Sword’s linearity was its greatest weakness but many now see that as its greatest strength. In an era where live-service and open-world games rule, the self-contained linear nature of Skyward Sword is now very much appreciated. Also helping are the colorful graphics, which have aged fairly well, though not as good as Wind Waker’s artstyle.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
A Link Between Worlds is a very special game, not only being a stellar classic Zelda game but one of the best 3DS titles ever made. Using the Super Nintendo’s A Link to the Past as a launching point, it perfects the classic formula with easily accessible weapons and an unlimited magic meter that refills after overuse.
Perfecting the classic gameplay is one thing but A Link Between Worlds also lets Link merge into walls via becoming a wall painting. This mechanic is used to perfection when solving the game’s dungeons and travelling into the dark world.
What’s more, objectives are easily laid out for players who might get lost, making it one of the most accessible games in the series. Many of us are hoping that this classic eventually makes its way to the Switch, as it remains the pinnacle of classic Zelda.
Those are the Zelda games we feel players should check out that aren’t Tears of the Kingdom. While we’re sure that the sequel will defy expectations and break ground for the genre, that doesn’t mean these classics should be ignored. Variety is the spice of life and Zelda wouldn’t have lasted this long if it stuck to the same formula.