Ocarina of Time- totally nailed 3D design, dungeon design, world, controls, everything. It's a revolutionary game and it deserves credit for so much. Everything has since followed the design set forth by Ocarina.
Majora's Mask- totally nailed atmosphere, the game is creepy as hell. Visual design is also far ahead of the N64's capabilities, good stuff. Dungeon design enters a new level of complexity with this game as well. There's only four of them but because of that they come off as significantly more labyrinthine. It also deserves significant credit for the world as the sidequests fill up the bulk of the game's content and really let you appreciate the characters more.
Wind Waker- totally nailed atmosphere and visual design. The world is fascinating as well as the story and characters. Dungeons are a little weaker and the game could have used those two cut dungeons in place of that Triforce fetchquest in the game. Combat in Wind Waker was actually far more satisfying than in OoT and MM. It was a very solid step up and I still view it as the best of the button-based combat. Again another spectacular showdown against Ganondorf and in terms of story this showdown is potentially the most satisfying.
Twilight Princess- totally nailed dungeon design. I love Twilight Princess' dungeons. Arbiter's Grounds is one of my all-time favorites, but Snowpeak Ruins, Temple of Time, City in the Sky all could make my all-time favorites list, and the remainder were all spectacular. Twilight Princess also succeeds in building the world and story spectacularly. You look at the first 5 hours it takes before you hit the first dungeon, but then you realize that the game is like 60 hours long. It nails the dual world theme and the use of Wolf Link spectacularly to enhance the gameplay and features one of my favorite showdowns against Ganondorf.
Skyward Sword- totally nailed the potential of the Wii and motion controls. Just saying that alone is enough to justify this game's existence. It nailed design based on motion controls. It nailed combat based on motion controls, going so far as to make each fight feel like a puzzle in itself. It has the most exciting boss battles I have seen in the series. It nails the sense of discovery and exploration you felt in Wind Waker, except on foot. You have to explore the Faron Woods, the Eldin Volcano and the Lanayru region. They are essentially uncharted territory and you step into those places never sure of where to go. Navigating the land to reach the dungeons felt fresh and while the dungeons were shorter as a result, the quality of the actual world itself was significantly boosted over other entries. It is also the most challenging game in the series I have ever played. I also liked how you faced Ghirrahim multiple times, but that the first time you face him when you battle him he basically toys with you because you still aren't that comfortable with the concept of motion controls. The second time, well into the game you can lay the smackdown on him much easier and I love how that translates to a showdown with him later where it's just totally different and requires all of your focus.
The series, I've only played the 3D games mind you, is spectacular. I love all five of them.
The way I look at the Zelda games is based on design, and each of these five games feel timeless. That 1998's Ocarina of Time feels fresh and relevant today is proof of its greatness, while something like Goldeneye has faded significantly in my eyes and can't retain its status as a classic. The Zelda games have retained that sense of being timeless and I get it from watching the younger children humming Saria's song when they play outside all the way up to someone like my grandmother who can recognize Zelda and Link in a heartbeat.
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