Best Video Game Series: (1) The Legend of Zelda

This is Objection Network’s countdown of the top 25 video game series of all-time. The countdown has led us to the top pick; for more info on the voting process, click here.

1) The Legend of Zelda (6 votes, 685 points)

Chris: Three first-place votes, a second, a third and a fifth. That’s how unanimous support was for the Legend of Zelda being the best video game series ever — and that’s without counting Breath of the Wild, which came out just three days after we finished our voting, and has since challenged Ocarina of Time for perfect review scores and critical acclaim.

This is a franchise that has a legitimate claim to be the best in a few different genres: action/adventure, RPG, maybe puzzle. It has innovated significantly throughout its history, so much so that Breath of the Wild was conceptualized on a world based on the NES original in an attempt to bring things full circle. The protagonist — while still called Zelda instead of Link by some poor, ignorant, ill-informed few — has become one of the most adored in video game history, and he hasn’t said a word.

There are a few specific games that I want to talk about here, although one of the reasons Zelda scores this high is that there aren’t any duds in its catalog (no, we don’t count bullshit like Wand of Gamelon).:

  • Link to the Past is still my ride-or-die pick for the best in the series, but it’s very close. When you look at everything that game created and how it influenced everything that’s been released since, it’s almost absurd (the Master Sword, countless other items, getting the whole Triforce and making a wish, alternate worlds, etc.). Other games have had more majestic stories and larger worlds, but the Super Nintendo classic is my fave.
  • Ocarina of Time is often mentioned as the best game ever made, and it deserves a mountain of credit for its Z-targeting system and bringing the series into the third dimension. Its commercial and critical success is what truly launched Zelda into the stratosphere; before OoT, there had only been two releases in the past 11 years.
  • Wind Waker is an absolute gem that somehow keeps looking better and better as time passes (not to mention thanks to the HD remake). It’s almost unbelievable that people despised this game before it was even released, and while I’ve had my share of missteps and dumb opinions over the years, I knew Wind Waker was a winner from the start. Gorgeous, emotive and wonderfully scored.
  • Majora’s Mask is such a cool concept. It’s a clever move by Nintendo to reuse the resources it created for Ocarina of Time, but in a brand-new setting. That moon scared the shit out of me when I was younger, and knowing there was less than 72 hours before it dropped on my head produced the perfect blend of urgency and anxiety.
  • A Link Between Worlds gets slept on a bit, I think. Its item system and the ability to traverse the dungeons in just about any order was a welcome switch from the linearity of the series, and I’d imagine was a driving influence in Breath of the Wild’s vast open world. I don’t think it’s the best or anything, but it might be the most fun I’ve had with a Zelda game from start to finish.

As evidenced by BotW’s success earlier this month, Zelda isn’t going anywhere. Its concert series continues to tour for the sixth straight year, its sales have eclipsed the 75 million mark just among its 19 main releases, and its importance to Nintendo staying afloat can’t be understated. We’ll be seeing Link, Zelda and Ganon for years and decades to come, which is an awesome thought for a franchise that’s already been around for more than 30 years. It’s a bona fide pick for the best video game series of all-time.

Michaela: The Legend of Zelda is a series that has reinvented itself time and time again to become timeless. Each installment is different and unique, with colorful characters, gorgeous worlds, and ingenious game design. Zelda could have become a series trapped in rehashing the familiar, same formula, but instead, it went out of its way to be new and unique every time. Where other Nintendo series have fallen out of relevance over the years, Zelda pushes onward and captures the love of millions of fans around the world. I can’t really imagine a world without the Zelda series, and with the success of Breath of the Wild, I think the Zelda series has only been further cemented in gaming history as one of the most innovative, excellent video game series of all time.

Cary: In my personal list, I ranked Mario (#4) right above Zelda (#5) because of all the things I said in the last post about Mario  –  I honestly don’t know that there’d be a gaming industry today without him. That said, without The Legend of Zelda, the entire RPG genre might not have existed. But even more to Nintendo’s credit is this series is one that they been able to both evolve and yet maintain. By that I mean they’ve maintained well Zelda’s universe, its characters, the world of Hyrule, the sights and sounds, even the collectibles. All that’s enough to keep fans of the series as true fans. But the games have also successfully evolved in different ways – mostly in design and mechanics — which helps to attract new audiences. Regardless about whatever one’s feelings might be toward individual Zelda games, for thirty solid years Nintendo’s been successful at keep its long-time Zelda fans happy while changing new games enough to meet current standards and demands. That measure of achievement remains elusive in the finicky games industry.

Michelle: I don’t have a ton else to say that hasn’t already been said. The Legend of Zelda series 100% deserves this spot as #1, even though I personally didn’t put it in the #1 spot. Its influence, general consistency across titles, and ability to grow and shift with the demands of gamers is frankly incredible. Seriously, how do they do it? With Breath of the Wild already getting rave reviews and being as gorgeous as it is, it looks like they’ve done it again. And sure, some of the games are better than others (Skyward Sword being my least favorite of the games), but don’t let that detract from the thousand foot view. These games are a remarkable success story that deserve the hype. They’ve earned it.

RELATED LINKS:
(2) Mario
(3) Ace Attorney
(4) Final Fantasy
(5) Mass Effect
(6) Pokemon
(7) Metroid
(8) Kingdom Hearts
(9) Mario Kart
(10) Smash Brothers
(11) Fire Emblem
(12) Street Fighter
(13) Batman: Arkham
(14) Metal Gear
(15) Fallout
(16) Persona
(17) Tales
(18) Saints Row
(19) BioShock
(20) The Sims
(21) Grand Theft Auto
(22) Halo
(23) Animal Crossing
(24) Silent Hill
(25) Donkey Kong
#50-26
Intro/Honorable Mention

PREVIOUS TOP 25s:
Video Games
Pokemon
Male VG Characters
Female VG Characters
Zelda Items
Animated Movies
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