The Legend of Zelda is a series millions of gamers know and love, with a level of high regard comparable to Mario and Pokemon. With such a massive following, it’s interesting to see just how far the series has come. That’s why we’ll be taking a look at the top 10 Zelda games ranked by how many copies they sold.
This list will only look at each game’s sales through its console’s life cycle. Games that have been released on multiple consoles at once, such as Breath of the Wild and Twilight Princess, will have their sales combined. Re-releases won’t be considered in this list, though, so don’t expect to see Ocarina of Time 3D or the Switch version of Link’s Awakening on here.
All images of box art taken from Unofficial Zelda Wiki
One of the few Zelda games to not feature Zelda herself, Link’s Awakening sees the titular hero end up on a mysterious island. Only by collecting instruments and waking up the sleeping Wind Fish can he hope to escape. It’s a simple title, but one that garnered enough attention to warrant a modern-day remake. The remake actually sold better than the original game, according to Nintendo’s reports, making it clear just how much of a classic this title really is.
9. Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons - 3.96 Million Copies
While these are technically two separate games, they have such similarities and cross-compatibility that they’ve been lumped into one for this list. Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons feature Link bending the laws of reality to save powerful beings from evil foes. If you owned both games, you could get a completely new ending in the one you play through later - a feature that surely helped these two titles make it to this top 10.
As the second-ever game of the Zelda series, Adventure of Link features a play style that’s unique even today. Being purely focused on sidescrolling, platforming action, Adventure of Link has you go on a quest to prevent the return of the greatest evil the land has ever known. The gameplay is vastly different from its predecessor, but Adventure of Link helped shape the series into what we know it as today.
While its art style might not have been what fans were hoping for, Wind Waker still managed to become a vast success. By going on a journey across the sea, you set out on a quest to explore various islands and brave daunting challenges in order to save your friends and family. As the second 3D Zelda title, it refined on mechanics the ever-popular Ocarina of Time introduced, influencing the series even today.
With the extra power of the SNES, A Link to the Past gave players their first taste of an expansive Zelda story with massive worlds and varied gameplay. Even today, many people rank it as the best 2D Zelda game of all time. It’s no wonder this game made it to the top 10 - it’s a true classic.
The first Zelda game for the Nintendo DS - and one of the more unique ones at that - Phantom Hourglass featured a control scheme never seen before. Players would control Link through the touch screen, tapping on enemies to attack them and progress through dungeons. This gimmick was pretty hit-or-miss for most players, but as a Zelda game on a console that sold over a hundred million units, it’s no surprise that Phantom Hourglass did well regardless.
Breaking into the top 5 is none other than the original, very first Zelda game. Legend of Zelda was the title that started it all, from Link to Ganon and the quest for the Triforce. While the gameplay styles have changed drastically over the years, this game is constantly looked upon by newer titles as a major influence. Some might find the NES Legend of Zelda dated, but its history can’t be denied.
And just after the first 2D Zelda, we have the first 3D one. Ocarina of Time introduced a new dimension to the series - literally - with in-depth combat and intricate puzzles for players to face. Featuring numerous sidequests, optional challenges, and unique items, it managed to be the third best-selling Zelda game and the fourth best-selling N64 game, as well. It’s unsurprising to see high regard for this title being held even now.
Twilight Princess had some great timing going for it, releasing with darker themes and a more mature spin on the Zelda series just after Wind Waker’s debut. It also helped that it was a fantastic game in its own right, giving fans a brand-new experience that was still definitively Zelda. It’s plain to see how Twilight Princess managed to stay as the top game in the series for so long.
At least, until Breath of the Wild happened.
In a stunning upset, Breath of the Wild managed to completely blow the entire series out of the water. While its overall content might not be as impressive, it takes advantage of being the first fully open-world Zelda game by giving players the most freedom they’ve ever had. As a launch title for the Nintendo Switch, it quickly became essential for anyone and everyone. And now, almost half a decade later, Breath of the Wild has managed to be the best-selling Zelda game ever - and its numbers continue to grow.
The rate at which the Zelda series has expanded, especially in recent years, is truly amazing. While it’s hard to say whether or not future titles will come close to these numbers, it’s hard to believe the series will end up in danger. And that’s something I’m sure millions of people will find welcome.