It's either Ocarina of Time or LTTP depending on when you were born I guess, with Majora's Mask as a dark horse for all those non conformist rebels.
It's Ocarina of Time for me though as that was my first Zelda game and it's the greatest game of all time.
The best zelda? Ocarina of Time. It did everything you could want from a zelda game and did it almost without a flaw. I tried and failed to get into the 2d zeldas (although I'm currently working through Awakening on my 3ds) so cant really speak to them but the 3d ones post ocarina are largely too iterative to be the best.
Majoras Mask is a wonderful game but also a very odd one. It's time mechanic along with the futility of all your efforts being undone at the end of the cycle cripple the usual sense of achievement. On the flip side the mask sidequest is probably the best the series has ever had and is tons of fun. I cant help but feel most of the love for MM is down to it being the edgier younger brother of OoT. ("Oh you love OoT? Well it was nowhere as good as Majora's Mask. Oh you never played it? No it was fairly hard to get hold of and only the true fans got into it")
Wind Waker is six months short of brilliance. The stuff thats there is great but the game suddenly runs out half way through. I mean theres only 4 dungeons! Come on! And two of them have the same theme pack stuck on! The hunting of the triforce is lame beyond imagine and forces you to add every single island to your map, something which should have been relegated to the level of side quest alone and certainly not the main meat of the second half of the game. The changes to the gameplay are welcome (such as the super spin and the different buttons for drop and throw objects) and help make this a great playing game even today (although you cant uninvert the controls. wtf nintendo?). I love this title but it's failings make it nowhere near as good as OoT.
Twilight Princess is an odd one. Whilst technically a great game, it just doesnt ever feel quite right. The towns lack the charm of those in OoT, MM or WW and the whole game ends up feeling like an homage to OoT and LTTP rolled into one. The graphic upgrade from WW is pretty great but completely fails to wow on the limited power of the Wii. If this was in hd I cant help but feel it would have been better for it. The changes made here are minor or useless. In particular the wolf sections are pretty painful, especially the hunt for the shadow bugs which feels pretty grindy. Much like WW triforce quest, the bugs here feel like padding after game testers found the game too short.
The DS zelda games (The Phantom Hourglass and Spriit Tracks) are both great games with some of the best puzzles in the zelda games so far. The ability to draw on your map make the scope of puzzles stretch far beyond what is in the current room, something the 3d titles never seem to manage (the only counterpoint I can remember is in OoT the 23 is number 1 deku shrub puzzle in the deku tree which requires you to remember the sequence for all of 5 minutes. Right near the end of WW you have two doors, one left and one right. The left one has four candle sticks with a different number of lit candles on each, indicating an order. In the room to the right there are four crystals to activate in an order. Instead of you having to remember this order, when you enter the room on the right the camera zooms in on the crystals in the order you need to hit them. The time between you seeing the hint and it giving the answer is two very close doors. I guess another example of playtesting damaging WW) The DS games suffer from a similar problem to TP in that its very forgettable. I cant remember any of the new characters or any piece of music from either DS game.
All of that being said they are all still a ton of fun. Zelda games are the only games I've ever replayed. Like ever.
Sorry you did want my opinion right? :)
A link to the past is the best Zelda game by miles as It was all about the puzzles!
I had many happy hours playing & watching this game with my father. In fact I feel honored to have played this great game.
BTW This thread is making me feel old with all the talk about Ocarina being a classic. That game was the biggest disappointment in my life!!!
The Windwaker, I felt it had the strongest story and a charm that's completely unmatched. Getting the master sword in that game was completely epic, where as in Twilight Princess, it didn't feel like a big deal at all and was never mentioned again after you acquired it.
Link to the Past is a close second. Perhaps it's because it was the first Zelda game I played, but I just really love everything about it.