Questions about Legend of Zelda

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quadeo

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Let me preface this by saying I did not get into video games until about 10 years ago and have been mainly a PC and Xbox gamer. That said, I have a strong urge to play through the main Zelda series and had a few questions.

1) What consoles will I need to play through all the main series? I own a Wii, 3DS and have been looking for a Switch. Is it possible to get them all on the Nintendo store, or will I have to go find a NES/SNES/N64?

2) What order should I play them? Is there a chronology or should I just go by release dates?

3) Are there any games I should skip? How integral are the GameBoy/DS games, should I just stick to console versions?

4) Is there anything else I need to know?

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Ezekiel

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#2  Edited By Ezekiel

@quadeo said:

1) What consoles will I need to play through all the main series?

None of them. I know this forum probably frowns on emulation, but you said "have to." Most of them are better experienced on a PC.

2) What order should I play them? Is there a chronology or should I just go by release dates?

Play them in whichever order you want. Most aren't connected, and the ones that are are barely connected at all.

4) Is there anything else I need to know?

Majora's Mask is probably the best one. I haven't played very many of them, but I'm still confident it is.

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bigsocrates

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1) I think you can play all the "mainline" games on those systems through the e-shop and other means. This means Legend of Zelda, The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword and Breath of the Wild.

2) The Zelda Chronology is...insane...and not really important. each game has its own story (though they are not heavily story driven games) and the main connection you will get between them is that places, species, and some characters repeat from game to game. If you're going to play in some order it should be chronological, though that's not important either, really.

3) You should play Legend of Zelda I just to get a sense for it, but if you're not into it it can be skipped. There's no real story. The Adventure of Link is sort of interesting because it's an action RPG with experience points and you fight in a sidescrolling perspective, but it's super hard and once again there's not much story. You can skip it. After that you can MAYBE skip Majora's Mask because it's sort of a weird side story, but it also influenced a lot of the rest of the series and there will be people who say it's the best game in the series. Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword are considered weak by a lot of people but are definitely mainline Zelda games.

The absolute no brainers to play are Link to the Past, Ocarina, Wind Waker, and Breath of the Wild. I might play as much as you feel like of the first game and then go through those 4 to get the "Zelda" experience. Then go back for Majora, Twilight, and Skyward Sword if you aren't burned out yet. Throw Adventure of Link in there too if you want, it's not a bad game, but it's not as essential as some of the portable games.

As for the handheld games, there are lots of them and most of them are very good. Definitely play A Link Between Worlds, which is a direct sequel to A link to the Past. Minish Cap is also excellent. The rest are generally good but a little YMMV. I don't think you HAVE to play Phantom Hourglass or Spirit Tracks but if you want more Zelda there's no reason not to.

4) There are CD-I games. You don't need to play them but you DO need to watch the cut scenes on Youtube.

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alexl86

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1) The main games are available on the Wii virtual console. However, I doubt the ownership will not transfer from the Wii to the Switch, as it did not for the Wii U (you received discounts for all games purchased).

2) While there is an official chronology of sorts, each game is largely self contained and they have almost nothing to do with one another.

3) I feel that A Link to the Past (SNES), Ocarina of Time (N64), Wind Waker (GameCube) and Breath of the Wild take precedence over everything else. The Legend of Zelda (NES) obviously has significance, but it's frankly not as good as those other four. I feel that these are the most important, but the others are good as well. The Gameboy/DS games I can't speak to.

4) I fairly certain all Zelda games, except those awful Phillips games, are available on the virtual store on the Switch. Most are available on the Wii, with the obvious exception being Breath of the Wild. The Wii U didn't have an exclusive Zelda game, but plays Wii games and Wind Waker HD, so it will play all Zelda games in one form or another.

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bigsocrates

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@alexl86 said:

4) I fairly certain all Zelda games, except those awful Phillips games, are available on the virtual store on the Switch. Most are available on the Wii, with the obvious exception being Breath of the Wild. The Wii U didn't have an exclusive Zelda game, but plays Wii games and Wind Waker HD, so it will play all Zelda games in one form or another.

There are no Zeldas other than Breath of the Wild available for Switch. There is no virtual console on Switch yet. Those games may become available but they are not right now.

Wii U does play everything in one form or another, I think, but he can get by with what he has. assuming his Wii is backwards compatible for Wind Waker.

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FrostyRyan

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Just want to say a 3DS or 2DS is absolutely worth it to play through better versions of Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask

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Justin258

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I'm pretty sure you can actually play all of the main ones on the Wii U. 1, 2, LTTP, OOT, MM, WW, TP, SS, and BOTW are all playable on the WII U. You'll miss out on the handheld ones, though, which might all be playable on the New 3DS (which is also where you can play the better versions of OOT and MM).

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ValJean9430

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@quadeo: My vote is to get your switch and play the new one. Sounds completely out of order, but as others have pointed out above the zelda games largely focus as remixes or new interpretations of the same basic conflict. Just like in bioshock where there's always a man, a lighthouse and a city, in zelda theres always a link, a princess and a ganon. Each story can be experienced independent of the rest, and as even many of the same enemy types are re-used or repurposed, there is no real need to take them in order.

So, my advice is to get the new one and play it for a hundred hours. By then the virtual console might be on the switch.

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alexl86

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@bigsocrates: Thank you for the correction.

In that case, if you're really bent on playing through many of them, I would suggest getting a Wii U and buy virtual console games, Wind Waker HD and Breath of the Wild. I think there is a Wind Waker bundle, if you can find it.

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I'd recommend putting Links Awakening on GBC on the list. If you pick up a 3DS for Majora and OoT, you can get Links Awakening on the virtual console.

Also A Link Between Worlds is worthwhile if you enjoy Link to the Past.

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BeachThunder

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All of the best ones are available for the 3DS. So you're already set.

Forget playing them in order. It really doesn't matter in the slightest. Regardless, I'd recommend starting with Link's Awakening.

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eddiephlash

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not enough love for the Gameboy/Gameboy Color Zeldas on here. Link's Awakening and Oracle of Seasons/Ages are all great and still hold up really well. They are cheap on 3DS eshop. If you enjoy Link to the Past, these are absolutely worth playing.

Also, I enjoyed the DS games more than most, but I haven't gone back to them recently like I have with the earlier portable ones.

Also also, you can totally skip Majora.

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TanookiSuit

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How are you all forgetting about Link's Awakening? If by leaving it out, you're stating that it is not part of the core series, you're very wrong. It's also a great game.

Zelda 1, 2, Link's Awakening DX (GBC Version), Oracle of Seasons & Ages (GBC), Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Phantom Hourglass(DS) and A Link Between Worlds are all available in one form or another on the 3DS so I would recommend picking one of those up to play these if you are considering a handheld.

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pkmnfrk

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@quadeo: My vote is to get your switch and play the new one. Sounds completely out of order, but as others have pointed out above the zelda games largely focus as remixes or new interpretations of the same basic conflict. Just like in bioshock where there's always a man, a lighthouse and a city, in zelda theres always a link, a princess and a ganon.

Assuming this was strictly true (it's not), it would still be missing the point which is that it's about the journey, not the destination. Each game might share a similar structure, but that structure is filled with unique dungeons, places to explore and quests to do.

----

If I was going to pick the 5 most crucial games to play for someone fresh to the series in 2017, they would be:

  1. Ocarina of Time (preferably 3DS remake, but whatevs) - It is the platonic ideal of the 8 dungeon structure in a 3D game, one of the best games of all time, etc etc.
  2. Link Between Worlds (3DS) - A lot of people would call me crazy and say that Link to the Past is better, but LBW is in many ways the same game, so why not go for the new one?
  3. Minish Cap (GBA, might be on 3DS virtual console?? Ambasador's program is weird) - This is probably the best 2D Zelda in the traditional mold.
  4. Wind Waker (Wii U remake) - Finally, a console Zelda! This game mixes up the structure of the game a little bit and has a vast world to explore. Not as many dungeons as OoT, but makes up for it with a fresh take on the traditional Zelda story line.
  5. Breath of the Wild (Wii U or Switch) - I probably don't need to write anything here, but it's pretty great and completely different from all the above games.
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#16  Edited By blackmagicwolf

If you want the "essential" ones, you'll need an SNES, N64, Gamecube, Wii, and Switch. But I would recommend the others if you can get them off the Virtual Console, cause the handheld Zelda titles are awesome too. I don't believe there's an "order", but you should probably go earliest game to latest, the transition will be easier. Skips? Only if you can't get a game.

Just go into the games with an open mind so you can enjoy them all with no expectations.

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You can play all of these on a Wii U:

  • The Legend of Zelda
  • The Adventure of Link
  • A Link to the Past
  • Ocarina of Time
  • Majora's Mask
  • Wind Waker
  • Minish Cap
  • Twilight Princess
  • Phantom Hourglass
  • Spirit Tracks
  • Skyward Sword
  • Breath of the Wild
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GERALTITUDE

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I think playing them in release order is the best.

Not a hard rule at all, and definitely just up to you, but I do think that will allow you to appreciate not only the growth & change of the games, but also the origins of many features, characters, themes, puzzles, etc. Zelda has an incredible legacy that is carried throughout its games and I think it's one of the real joys of gaming to be able to follow that thread through such a long period of time.

Fortunately, and unfortunately (as regards time & money), pretty much every Zelda game under the sun is worth playing, on all platforms. Only exceptions are CDi. Every other game is either good, great or the best thing ever.

I am assuming from your OP you do not have any of the consoles mentioned in this thread?

If that is the case, as you can see from @takoyaki's post, the Wii U is the easiest place to play most of the games. I'd say that it would be worthwhile to start there. If you find you really love the series, and want to dive into every game, you can go from there. If you are willing to wait, it's likely the Switch will have a solid Virtual Console in the future which will match or hopefully exceed the Wii U offerings.

If I may suggest something...

You may sabotage your own experience if you come at it very intensely in a "Mission Mode" mentality. Zelda games are about exploration, trying things out, and really delving in to the nooks and crannies of the world. Rushing through "to see the game" will definitely mean missing the game. I think it's amazing you want to play through these games (what brought this up @quadeo - BotW?) and I reccomend hitting them with an open mind, and just taking your time.

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Personally, Ide be happier if I had never played ANY of the 3D Zeldas. To me, Zelda will always be a top down overhead game, and that what I want when I boot one up. I know its not the popular opinion, just mine. Zelda, Link to the Past, Links Awakening, both of the Oracle games, Link Between Worlds, those are my recommendations. Ocarina was honestly my least favorite Zelda game I've ever played, even though saying that may be considered treachery.

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@kingbonesaw: I really would call Link Between Worlds a "side" game. I would easily consider it better than at least 5 of the other ones on your list

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#24  Edited By BisonHero

1) Consoles. Everyone in this thread is quick to point out that the Wii U lets you cover almost the entire series due to a weird confluence of events, but really, don't buy a Wii U just for this "play all the Zeldas" mission. Your Wii and 3DS will cover a lot of ground, and if you eventually get a Switch, that will let you play Breath of the Wild. Let me break down the availability of Zelda games on what you currently have:

Wii:

  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (A Gamecube/Wii game, the Wii controls are fine)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (A Wii game that is so motion-based that I wonder if they will ever rerelease it on future platforms. Wii and Wii U use Wii Remotes which is why it works on both. Maybe the Switch could eventually see a rerelease of it if the JoyCons could properly control the game)
  • The Legend of Zelda (A NES game, available as a download from the Wii's online store)
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (A NES game, available as a download from the Wii's online store)
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (A SNES game, available as a download from the Wii's online store)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (A N64 game, available as a download from the Wii's online store)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (A N64 game, available as a download from the Wii's online store)
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (A Gamecube game, which if you can find the physical disc somewhere, is backwards compatible on original Wii models, provided you also have 1 Gamecube controller and 1 Gamecube memory card. If you bought a Wii late in the lifecycle, those models no longer have Gamecube backwards compatibility, and the console ceased to have ports for Gamecube controllers and memory cards)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (A Gamecube multiplayer game, which doesn't function well as a single player game. Do not play this.)

3DS:

  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (A 3DS game that is a reimagining of sorts of the SNES' Link to the Past)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes (A 3DS multiplayer Zelda game. Do not play this.)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (A 3DS remake of the N64 game with improved graphics)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (A 3DS remake of the N64 game with improved graphics)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (A DS game, which if you can find a physical copy somewhere, is backwards compatible on all 3DS models)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (A DS game, which if you can find a physical copy somewhere, is backwards compatible on all 3DS models)
  • The Legend of Zelda (A NES game, available as a download from the 3DS's online store)
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (A NES game, available as a download from the 3DS's online store)
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (A SNES game, available as a download from the 3DS's online store, but only if you have a *New* 3DS, since the original 3DS wasn't powerful enough to emulate SNES games or something)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (A Game Boy Color game, which is itself a rerelease of Link's Awakening for Game Boy, except in full colour and with very minor additions, available as a download from the 3DS's online store)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons & Oracle of Ages (2 Game Boy Color games, released as a pair of games like Pokemon, although they are two entirely different games with some password stuff that unlocks stuff if you beat both games, available as a download from the 3DS's online store)

Games you can't play with your current hardware:

  • The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (A GBA game, the physical version of which is playable on a GBA or DS, or a digital version is available on the Wii U)
  • HD remakes of The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess (Wii U games, remakes of the Gamecube games)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U/Switch game)

The ones you're unable to play aren't super critical and it's quite a small list. Breath of the Wild is the must play, which you can play on the Switch eventually. Also, you can play the NES/SNES games on either platform you own, and the N64 games you have the choice of playing with the original graphics on the Wii or the updated graphics on the 3DS.

2 & 3) Series chronology, entries that are integral/skippable. The chronology isn't especially important and you can safely ignore it. There isn't an overall storyline that is going anywhere. Over the course of generations, some guy is the Link for his generation, who rises up to fight a bad dude of that generation (the bad dude is often Ganon or Ganondorf). The cycle repeats, and you could kinda jump into any Zelda and more or less "get it." For a while it seems like Nintendo was just kinda reimagining the same premise over and over with each game, and later on they added more references to previous games to sorta tie them together, but it's not super important usually. To the best of my recollection, there has never been a Zelda game that is "to be continued", or that contains references to a completely confusing, unexplained thing that is only explained in a future entry.

So what do you want out of this experience? Playing all of the Zeldas available to you would be quite a few purchases and quite a lot of time, and I do need to stress that you're almost never missing critical "storyline" by skipping any of them because it's all so cyclical. I'll give my condensed list of what I think of as the integral ones, if you want to get the general idea of what people are talking about when they talk about Zelda. Play them in release order, I guess, because chronological order would be some real nonsense.

  1. The Legend of Zelda (NES game, downloadable on your Wii or 3DS). It started it all, but I don't know what your tolerance is for NES-era game design where you have to find a lot of hidden stuff using trial and error or poorly translated in-game clues that are very short due to text limitations. Play it until you get bored of it, as frankly the later parts of the game aren't THAT different than the early parts of the game. The dungeons are basically you wandering around finding keys and bombing random unmarked walls to progress, but mostly beating up a shitload of enemies. Notable that the game is somewhat nonlinear, allowing you to discover dungeons in a fairly flexible order, though the "later" dungeons are far from the starting area and have high-damage, high-health enemies that would be difficult to face with the low damage sword and low health you start the game with.
  2. The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past (SNES game, downloadable on your Wii, possibly your 3DS). It fleshes out the premise and mythology of the NES game into a more fully featured game, with more story contained in the game, and a more linear progression through the world and dungeons. The dungeons have a little more puzzle solving using the various items you acquire, with less of a focus on "clear this room of 12 enemies to unlock the door" like the previous game had. Still lots of wandering around in dungeons, finding keys and pushing a block to open the way forward, but generally very little "you have to bomb a completely unmarked wall." Also, it has a light world/dark world mechanic that is done quite well. This game is the blueprint for just about every single Zelda game that followed, introducing recurring elements such as the Master Sword and Sages, and many items/weapons that became series staples; by comparison, Legend of Zelda for the NES had a lot of items that were never seen again after that one game, such as the candle, raft, and ladder.
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64 game, downloadable cheaply on your Wii, "HD" remake available for 3DS). Translates the series into 3D, and does so admirably. Further fleshes out the premise and mythology of basically the Link to the Past storyline, this time with a present/future mechanic instead of a light world/dark world mechanic. The dungeons have considerably more puzzle solving, occasionally in a more environmental fashion than previously seen in the series, and the combat features a lock-on mechanic, and lower enemy counts compared to when you would be occasionally swarmed by 4-10 enemies in some rooms of previous games. The combat and overall gameplay are now of quite a different pace and style, though Nintendo arguably translated them as best as possible when going from a 2D to 3D world. Many future games make references to a few broad concepts introduced in this game, such as Link being the Hero of Time, the existence of a humanoid Ganon named Ganondorf (previous games only feature Ganon), and many races in the Zelda world are invented in this entry or reinvented in a way that more or less disregards how they were portrayed in the previous entries.
  4. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Gamecube game, buy a disc copy somewhere to play on your Wii, you'll need a Gamecube controller and Gamecube memory card). Mechanically, very similar to Ocarina of Time. Notable exceptions include an overworld that is ocean instead of land, that conveys a good sense of vastness and lots of little things to discover out at sea. Very memorable graphical style and music. One of the more original storylines of a Zelda game.
  5. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii game, buy a disc copy somewhere). Mechanically, very similar to Ocarina of Time. Notable exceptions include that the sword combat is motion controlled and there are some motion controlled items unique to this game. Also the first Zelda game to include minor elements of material gathering and crafting/upgrading (in 2011, lol), which was used much more in Breath of the Wild. These features alone are not nearly enough for me to recommend it because overall the world and dungeons of this game are typical Zeldas following the formula of Ocarina of Time. But if you're committed to the storyline-heavy Zeldas, this is the prequel that pretty much sets up the entire series, and what events led to there being generations of Links, Zeldas, and evil bad guys often named Ganon or Ganondorf. Honestly, none of this world setup is any kind of M. Night Shyamalan mind-blowing twist, and you could've vaguely guessed a lot of it by yourself, but if you end up caring about the world history/mythology, this game gives a lot of backstory about that.
  6. The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds (3DS game, still in most retail stores, or downloadable). Mechanically, very similar to Link to the Past (it is a sequel/reimagining of Link to the Past, more or less). This game is kinda just Link to the Past's overworld, but slightly tweaked in many areas, because it doesn't have the exact same items as Link to the Past, but there is some overlap. The dungeons are all new. Notably, it is the first nonlinear Zelda since the first one on NES, as you can obtain the game's items (and use them to complete dungeons related to those items) in any order you choose. That alone makes it markedly very different from how most of the aforementioned Zeldas play. It's also just a very polished, likeable game.
  7. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U/Switch game, retail or downloadable). Play it, it's pretty good! It's too close to release for me to want to comment on what makes it a significant entry in the Zelda series, but it's very original relative to previous Zelda entries, and also just very new and different compared to other open world games in video gaming as a whole.

Major entries I'm not recommending to you:

  • most of the handheld games: Link's Awakening was a reimagining (sorta) of many of the gameplay ideas in Link to the Past but capable of running on the Game Boy hardware, an impressive feat for its time. The Game Boy Color games, GBA game, and DS games are also good. If you really like the 2D entries on the NES and SNES more than the later 3D console entries, consider playing the handheld Zeldas. In many ways they're just doing more cool ideas loosely based on the 2D, overhead framework established by A Link to the Past.
  • the multiplayer Zeldas for Gamecube and 3DS: they're not nearly as fun if you play them by yourself, and just aren't really what people are talking about when they refer to Zelda as one of the great Nintendo series of games.
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link: it's a very different game from the rest of the series, and most of the Zelda series uses the first NES Legend of Zelda or A Link to the Past as gameplay reference points more than this game. It did introduce a few characters, enemies, gameplay ideas to the series, but overall the game is not representative of the Zelda series.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: It's got a bizarre, original premise compared to most Zelda games, and significantly reuses character models and enemies from Ocarina of Time. You can transform into nonhuman versions of Link, that each have different abilities. It's a cool game, but also feels like almost an expansion pack/DLC to Ocarina of Time.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: It's very derivative of Ocarina of Time mechanically, just on a more powerful console, with a really phoned in light world/dark world thing except you never truly go to the dark world and the mechanic disappears halfway through the game. You can turn into a wolf, which has much lamer abilities than any of the transformations in Majora's Mask. Overall, it's the most formulaic Zelda that is desperately trying to capitalize on the popularity of Ocarina of Time, copying many ideas very directly from Ocarina of Time and Link to the Past, and tries very few new things to set itself apart. Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword are both very formulaic to be honest, but at least Skyward Sword goes to the effort of giving a whole bunch of backstory by the end of the game. Twilight Princess, unfortunately, just has a very bland premise and storyline in addition to the other weaknesses I've mentioned.

Good luck with whatever you decide! I think a lot of this depends on how willing you are to play some old games. Personally, I find I have a hard time playing NES games I don't already have nostalgia for, because the game design is just so archaic and the games are so primitive. So if you don't think you have it in you to start with NES Legend of Zelda, it's not the end of the world if you skip it and start with A Link to the Past instead. Or if any of the games I recommended are too expensive, you can skip any one of them pretty easily. The only game that a LOT of future Zeldas make reference to is Ocarina of Time, so I do recommend you try to play that one in some form more than any other game on the list. It's also one of the best games to ever come out during the N64/PS1 generation of consoles.

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@quadeo: I agree with basically everything @bisonhero said.

I'll just say that I think Zelda II: Link's Adventure is worth playing if you like Metroidvanias (Super Metroid, Symphony of the Night etc) as it arguably was one of the very first. I honestly that game would have been considered an all time great if the save system wasn't so unfriendly ( a fact rectified by save states). Although the very original game is my favorite, I'd argue Z2:LA's gameplay holds up better for today's gamers.

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#26  Edited By doctordonkey

Perhaps a bit of an unpopular opinion, but I'd only play 3 Zelda games. OOT and A Link Between Worlds on 3DS, and Breath of the Wild on Switch. I feel like that is really all you need to grasp the best of Zelda.

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ValJean9430

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@pkmnfrk: I agree with your point that it's about the journey and not about the destination. That's why I suggested botw as a great jumping off point; it is one of the best playing and most intuitive while still very much in the same narrative world. Since there is no strict story progression among the other games, there is no reason not to start here. Botw is not the destination, just a convenient place to start especially considering that the op is looking to buy a switch and that the vc should be coming rather soon.

While I very much appreciate many of the earlier games, I recognize their limitations as well.

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