35 years of adventure: The 10 best moments in The Legend of Zelda series

Ganon is defeated 10 best moments The Legend of Zelda moments Nintendo franchise

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was one of the first video games I played. Fittingly, my first experience with the game was in Greece, surrounded by the ocean and gorgeous beaches. That was a fun holiday and resulted in my getting a GameCube when I got home. The Wind Waker delivers a sense of adventure like no other. When Link travels across the ocean for the very first time, you are hit with one of the most ingenious pieces of video game music, “The Great Sea” by Kenta Nagata. It is the perfect composition for a game primarily focused on the journey, not the destination. Along those lines, The Legend of Zelda turns 35 years old in February, and with a history as deep as Zelda, there are lots of moments that deliver a similar impact. Therefore, I am going to attempt to rank 10 of my personal favorite moments from The Legend of Zelda series.

10. Intro to the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)

Breath of the Wild Opening 10 best moments The Legend of Zelda moments Nintendo franchise

As an open-world adventure and a radical departure from many series staples up to that point, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild had to nail the introduction to get players invested. Nintendo smashed it out of the park. Breath of the Wild‘s opening is perfect.

The game revels in the fact that people had been hyping it up for years, myself included. When you load up the game for the very first time, instead of some grandiose title credits, we get “Nintendo Presents The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” in a basic font. Then a magnificent introduction to the sprawling open world follows, which is complemented by a beautiful score. Breath of the Wild has the perfect opening and is a Zelda moment that I’ll always remember.

9. The Giant’s Mask

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000)

10 best moments The Legend of Zelda moments Nintendo franchise Giant's Mask

You have probably heard this before, but The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is weird. It is a dark Zelda game with mature themes that often feels brooding. One of my favorite aspects of Majora’s Mask is the boss fights though. Compared to in other Zelda games, there are fewer dungeons and bosses. However, the saying of quality over quantity shines through. The best (and often most annoying) boss fight in Majora’s Mask is Twinmold, the Stone Tower Temple final boss.

Unlike when facing the other bosses in the game, Link utilizes the Giant’s Mask, which basically transforms him into the Incredible Hulk. Link grabs Twinmold by the tail and spins it around like he just doesn’t care. The only disappointing part about this encounter is it’s the only time that the Giant’s Mask is used.

8. Entering Hyrule for the first time

The Legend of Zelda (1986)

hyrule the legend of zelda nes 10 best moments The Legend of Zelda moments Nintendo franchise

The original Zelda was obviously the start of this phenomenal series. It is easily one of the most influential games of all time, and the NES cartridge version came with an internal battery to allow players to save their progress. You’ll be saving your game often across the first sweeping quest to save Princess Zelda.

The Legend of Zelda kicks off by throwing you straight into Hyrule without a weapon. Exploration is the key to progression as you discover secrets, complete dungeons, and defeat various enemies. Breath of the Wild repeats this intro in a more modern environment, but there’s no denying that the original paved the way for future installments.

7. Tetra is actually Princess Zelda

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2002)

Zelda Tetra 10 best moments The Legend of Zelda moments Nintendo franchise

Link arrives at the depths of Hyrule alongside Tetra and the King of Red Lions. The boat that has served as Link’s mode of transport reveals itself to be Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule, the king of the submerged kingdom. Tetra, the lovable cocky pirate captain, is subsequently revealed to be Princess Zelda. This moment is powerful, as Tetra learns of her true heritage accompanied by a rendition of “Zelda’s Lullaby” by Koji Kondo. We also see the Triforce of Wisdom, as it is then bestowed to Zelda. These moments with Zelda provide some of the most impactful revelations in The Wind Waker.

6. Link transforms into a wolf

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)

Wolf Link twilight princess 10 best moments The Legend of Zelda moments Nintendo franchise

Link is chatting away with his friends from Ordon Village. Suddenly, King Bulblin charges through the gates and starts attacking everybody. During the attack, Link is knocked out and, upon reawakening, starts chasing after his captured friends. Our hero then runs into a slight problem — the path forward is blocked by a Twilight gate.

There is suspenseful music playing as Link is then dragged into the Twilight Realm by a Shadow Beast. It is at this moment that the scene reaches its climax as Link’s hand glows with the Triforce, which obviously scares the living daylights out of Mr. Shadowman. Link’s body reacts differently to being in the Twilight Realm, and he transforms into a wolf. As he roars in pain, he is then dragged away and meets his companion, Midna — quite a setup for Twilight Princess!

5. Ballad of the Goddess

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011)

Ballad of the Goddess

Music is an important part of any game, especially Zelda games. Link often learns songs to play on whatever instrument is bestowed to him. In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the Goddess Harp is the instrument in question. The first song you learn in the game is called the “Ballad of the Goddess,” which you may recognize as the main theme of the game. After playing the song for the very first time, a full-scale rendition begins to play, and it is easily one of the best music-centric moments in the Zelda franchise.

4. Sheik is actually Zelda in disguise!

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

Zelda is Sheik

If you were to speak to most Zelda fans, this would probably be on their lists too. We assumed that Princess Zelda was either hiding or had gone missing. Upon returning to the Temple of Time, Sheik reveals herself to be Princess Zelda — probably one of the most famous and surprising plot twists of its era. Zelda delves into why she disguised herself as another person and reveals that Link holds the Triforce of Courage. All of this culminates in the princess being captured by the King of Evil, Ganondorf. Link then heads to the castle to fight his most difficult battle yet.

3. Entering the Temple of Time and becoming adult Link

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

temple of time

After completing the first three dungeons of the game, Link returns to Hyrule Castle Town but discovers that the kingdom is under attack by Ganondorf. The antagonist is chasing after Zelda and Impa, and they throw the titular Ocarina of Time into the nearby mote for Link to collect. Ganondorf, bridled with rage, attacks Link before continuing his pursuit. This all leads to Link entering the Temple of Time and playing the Song of Time, which allows him to claim the Master Sword. This transports Link to the future, where he realizes that he is now an adult. This is easily the most memorable moment in the game, as it serves as the bridge between both timelines.

2. Link defeats Ganondorf

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2002)

Ganon is defeated

Link’s final battle in The Wind Waker is probably my favorite. After defeating Puppet Ganon, he makes his way to the top of Ganon’s Tower. This is a beautiful boss encounter surrounded by the game’s beautiful water. Zelda is helping Link by shooting Light Arrows at Ganon. It all culminates in Link impaling Ganon in the head with his sword. An amazing credits sequence then wraps up the adventure, as Link proceeds to leave Outset Island with Zelda, who has reverted back to being Tetra.

1. The Couple’s Mask Quest

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000)

Majora's Mask Anju and Kafei

This is easily the longest quest in any Zelda game. The Couple’s Mask quest from Majora’s Mask is a tale of loss, love, and redemption. It follows the story of Anju and Kafei, a couple who is about to become married. Unfortunately, Kafei has disappeared before the wedding, and it’s up to Link to find out what’s happened. There is a lot going on in this quest, with Link obtaining a variety of masks along the way. It turns out that the malicious Skull Kid, using the power of Majora’s Mask, transformed Kafei into a child.

In the land of Termina, it is tradition for an engaged couple to present a mask to one another during the wedding. Kafei’s mask was stolen by Sakon, and there’s this whole operation where you break into his stronghold. The quest wraps up with a heartfelt moment where Kafei faces Anju, and the two perform a private ceremony before the moon falls. The ending is tragic as both of them face death together, but the game’s credits resolves this sad ending with an actual wedding taking place.

There were a lot of Zelda moments I wanted to include in this list that are just as impactful. The Legend of Zelda franchise is a series that covers a variety of different themes, ideas, and storylines. I’ll undoubtedly be covering more Zelda moments in the future, as this year is the 35th anniversary of the series. What are your favorite moments from the Zelda series?

Jaimie Ditchfield
Freelance Writer. Work seen on GGRecon, Zelda Universe, and BackToTheGaming. Studied Games Journalism and PR for three years, and is relentless at spreading his love for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.