Who Makes the Best Zelda Games?

A while back, we asked, "Who makes the best Mario games?" When it comes to long-running franchises, the creative minds behind the games we love change over time, or the brands end up being lent away for other teams and companies to dabble in. While the Zelda franchise doesn't offer anywhere near as extensive a discography as Mario, this particular pie has nevertheless seen quite a number of different fingers poking at it over the years.

So who makes the best Zelda games? Well, you tell us. We've condensed the groups responsible for the full run of original Zelda games (remakes, like Grezzo's Ocarina of Time 3D, excluded) into a handy list, including pros and cons. It's not an easy question to answer, and we're interested to hear your thoughts. Who's your pick?

Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development (under Miyamoto)

Nintendo's EAD division handled Zelda from its inception in 1986 up until Nintendo's big internal reorganization about 10 years ago. This is where Zelda began, under the direction of designer Shigeru Miyamoto. However, after Ocarina of Time, Miyamoto stepped back somewhat from the Zelda series and let Ocarina's co-director, Eiji Aonuma, take lead duties on the series. The following games are those that were overseen by Miyamoto in a direct role rather than a more advisory capacity.

Zelda titles created: The Legend of Zelda (NES, 1986); Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES, 1987); The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, 1992); The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Game Boy, 1994); The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, 1998)

The case for: Well, this should be obvious. Without Miyamoto's EAD team, Zelda wouldn't exist. The entire series got its start here; not only that, but several of these games (notably A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time) established a template that defines the structure of the games even now. Miyamoto's Zelda creations are true classics of the medium, and often could be quite unconventional (see: Link's Awakening).

The case against: Well, most of these games are classics, anyway. As with many older games, not every classic Zelda has aged well. The NES games can feel needlessly oblique, particularly Zelda II, which comes off like a game designed in part to help sell strategy guides.

Animation Magic

A rare instance of Nintendo outsourcing Zelda, Animation Magic's pair of adventures came into existence entirely for political reasons. Basically, Nintendo backed out of a deal with Sony and teamed up with Philips instead, and the result of that fruitless union was a handful of licensed Zelda and Mario games. They are widely regarded as terrible.

Zelda titles created: Link: The Faces of Evil (CDi, 1993); Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon (CDi; 1993)
The case for: The bizarre, overanimated cut scenes of these games is great for a laugh.

The case against: Terrible art, music, story, and game design. Nintendo doesn't even acknowledge these games' existence, and for good reason...

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