What is the internet's favourite Zelda game?

15th September 2021

The Legend of Zelda is one of the oldest and most famous series in gaming history.

Of course it is: you know that. Unless you've been living under an Octorok since 1986, you'll be intimately familiar with all of the trappings and tropes of Nintendo's premiere action adventure franchise - from the Triforce of Power to the land of Hyrule, rupees, the Master Sword, Gorons, Zoras, tunics, and, uh, Tingle.

As of the time of writing, there have been no fewer than nineteen Zelda titles released to date - and that's not including the many remakes, remasters, and tangentially related spinoffs such as Link's Crossbow Training, Cadence of Hyrule, and Hyrule Warriors, to name just a few.

If there's one thing that can be said about the series as a whole, it's that it has set a consistently high benchmark for quality. Just about everybody and their dog will give a different answer when asked which entry in the series is their number one favourite - so is there any consensus as to which one is definitively the most beloved?

Fortunately for us, Zelda fans on the Internet have been asking each other this question for a long time. So, I took to the information superhighway with my data collection hat on to scour every forum conversation and Reddit thread I could find, creating an exhaustive tally of votes for each game (looking not for evidence for which game was objectively the best, but instead which entry in the series people were citing as their favourite).

There were a few controls in place for my laughable "research project", namely that I only took into account posts that met the following criteria:
  • They had to have been posted after March 2017 (a.k.a the release date of the newest entry in the series, Breath of the Wild).
  • Commenters had to pick one game only as their favourite (so any posts that indicated a two- or three-way tie between multiple games weren't included).
Yes, that means that if you've weighed in on your favourite Zelda game online in the past couple of years, I've probably seen your post and counted it as part of this exercise. Exciting, no?

So, with all that having been said, it's time to stop waffling and get to point!

The Internet's favourite Zelda game

Check it out! I made an actual pie chart for some ungodly reason.

Zelda Pie Chart

Clear as mud, right? Let's break it down with a proper results table:

Ocarina of Time 17%
Majora's Mask 16%
Breath of the Wild 15%
Twilight Princess 14%
Wind Waker 10%
Skyward Sword 7%
A Link to the Past 6%
A Link Between Worlds 4%
The Minish Cap 3%
The Legend of Zelda (NES Original) 2%
Spirit Tracks 2%
Oracle of Ages 1%
Link's Awakening 1%

No surprise to see Ocarina of Time topping the charts with more votes than any other game, although Majora's Mask is certainly no slouch with a whopping 16%.

I must say I was a little surprised to see how little love there was for Wind Waker, as I personally would consider it one of the best in the series and would certainly choose it over Twilight Princess (don't @ me).

I half expected Breath of the Wild to come out on top, as it's an extremely good game with a legion of fans - but it seems as though you can't beat nostalgia.

I've heard a fan theory that for most people, their favourite Zelda title is generally the first one they ever played, and I think there might be something to that. Something about the series does tend to invoke nostalgia, and I do wonder if the use and re-use of common Zelda tropes can make other games in the series feel like bizarro world versions of the first one you encountered (even though they are all so different).

I mean, it's not actually true in my case (I played A Link To The Past first, and didn't like it all that much), but still: the point is there...

What does this mean for Zelda?

Link with a bow

Well, it looks like Nintendo have got their work cut out if they're hoping to topple the N64 classics as gamer favourites (given that even the mighty Breath of the Wild couldn't quite manage it). BotW did at least manage to take the crown for the most-sold game from the previous record holder, Twilight Princess.

Of course, the as-yet-unnamed Breath of the Wild 2 is still in the works, and we'll just have to wait and see what happens when that one drops.

Can it beat Ocarina of Time - or is the Master Sword of nostalgia just too powerful? Only time will tell, but until then, the message is clear: the Internet thinks the series may have peaked in the late 90s.

As for me, I like many of the instalments in the series, but Breath of the Wild and Wind Waker are the ones I keep coming back to.

In any case, it's certainly been eye-opening to learn that some of the entries I didn't particularly care for are solid fan favourites.

And it's a testament to the breadth and quality of the franchise that almost every game in the series has been nominated by somebody as their pick of the bunch - and generally for excellent reasons.


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