Aonuma shares his top three Zelda games, most underrated entry - Nintendo Everything

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Aonuma shares his top three Zelda games, most underrated entry

Posted on February 22, 2017 by (@NE_Brian) in 3DS, DS, GameCube, General Nintendo, News, Wii, Wii U

In conjunction with its month-long coverage on Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Game Informer asked series producer Eiji Aonuma about his three favorite games in the series.

He ranked Twilight Princess third “because I wanted to create something better than Ocarina.” Ocarina of Time was next, which he says “is a game that gave me the opportunity to create a 3D world.” Finally, he picked Phantom Hourglass as his top choice.

Aonuma’s reasoning:

“This is something my wife also likes, Phantom Hourglass. That’s number one. I was developing Twilight Princess, and the goal for that was to make something better than Ocarina. But then that game was something I proposed as a new style of gameplay, and I was a producer on that game for the first time, so I have a lot of sentiment for it.”

As for the most underrated Zelda, Aonuma went with Tri Force Heroes. “I wanted the users to play a little bit more of that game and have that experience,” he said. “I love that game.”


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  • speedyclax

    Can’t wait to hear this site’s reaction to his top pick.

    Personally, I loved the DS entries.

    • you’re wrong tho

      • Supporter

        They said personally. How can they be wrong if they’re stating an opinion?

    • Thomas_NE

      I love Spirit Tracks. I really like the DS controls. But man, that temple of the Ocean King is a pain in the butt. Making Phantom Hourglass my least favourite Zelda.

  • R.Z.

    It seems I don’t share Aonuma’s tastes in Zelda games mostly …
    But yeah, I agree that OoT is king tier and Phantom Hourglass is not that bad.

    Personally my top 3 is :
    2.Link’s Awakening
    3.Majora’s Mask/Wind Waker (It’s a tie so I get to put 4 games)

    • Carlos

      Mines almost like yours except Wind Waker is on top and the other 2 move down one.

  • Lucas Bandeira Gobo

    I liked Spirit tracks more than PH :3
    It was funny that rabbit sidequest ^-^

  • Eileen the Pizza Queen

    “He ranked Twilight Princess third ‘because I wanted to create something better than Ocarina.’ Ocarina of Time was next, because he didn’t.”

    (I don’t even necessarily believe this, but c’mon, Aonuma, you set yourself up for that one)

    • Roto Prime

      Ahahahah, good one!!

    • tbh Twilight Princess is so much worse than Ocarina it’s ridiculous. For someone who’s spent nearly 20 years trying to recreate it, Aonuma himself doesn’t really seem to understand what made that game good, and I’m convinced Miyamoto and Koizumi were more responsible for its success than he was.

      • menschmaschine

        Considering Koizumi has basically never worked on a bad game, I’m sure he was the secret sauce for OoT and Majora’s Mask considering how many roles he had for each of those game.

        • The three-day cycle in MM was literally all Koizumi’s idea. What would the game be without that?

          • R.Z.

            The cycle idea though was Aonuma’s but he wanted it to be a whole week or do I remember the story wrong ?

          • Eileen the Pizza Queen

            Aonuma himself says Koizumi’s the one who proposed the cycle idea. You’re right about it having originally been a week though. Apparently they cut it down to three days to make it easier to keep track of all the different characters’ schedules. (And possibly also because their complex routines were taxing on the N64, even with the expansion pack….I feel like I heard that awhile back, but I can’t find any sources on that one.)

      • Eileen the Pizza Queen

        Have you played Ocarina lately? I mean OG N64 Ocarina. It’s stiff and clumsy and there’s a lot of points where you goal isn’t clearly defined in the least. It’s also a classic that I absolutely love, but what made Ocarina “good” was the fact that it was new and pioneering, qualities that would by definition be missing in an attempt to do another Ocarina. TP fixed those problems I mentioned, but in every other way it just feels so much less special. Wow….now that I’m talking it out, I think I agree with my original joke more than I thought.

        For the record, my current top 3, so you all can judge me too:
        3. Skyward Sword (what can I say? I liked the swordplay)
        2. Majora’s Mask
        1. Wind Waker

        • I actually did replay Ocarina just a couple years ago (albeit the 3DS version) after spending some time on the “OoT is overrated” bandwagon, and ended up falling in love with it all over again. I have a whole thesis about why it’s good and how I would answer a lot of the common critiques leveled against it (many of which I think are actually retroactive critiques of the subsequent Zeldas but not nearly as pertinent to Ocarina) but that’d probably be a wall of text and I’m p tired

  • Mark

    Makes sense. I mean, as a developer, he’s ranking these on -his- experience, which is very different from the experience of someone who only played the game.

    • Is he? I didn’t read the full article, but is he actually ranking these in terms of which ones he most enjoyed developing, or which ones made him proudest of the final product?

    • Agreed~. That he includes his wife’s enjoyment of the game indicates that too. He mentions how proud he is, so I think there’s that technical level (which is probably hard for him to separate), but he says it in a way as someone who’s appreciating the game from a player’s standpoint more than anything.

      Also, that specific pose of Layton is so perfect for your comment. x’D

  • Roto Prime

    I am playing Phantom Hour glass for the first time now…….its kicking my butt -____-

    top three

    A Link between worlds
    Wind Waker/HD
    Links Awakening!

  • MusubiKazesaru

    Phantom Hourglass is pretty underrated but considered the high bar for the entire series it’s hard for it hold up.

    There are a lot of cool things in the game though, from the use of the touch screen with things like bombchus and boomerangs or plotting your course then there’s cool stuff like the grappling hook usage, and Linebeck is up there with Midna for the best companion.

    • R.Z.

      Drawing maps was awesome too, I had my mind blown by that whale-island puzzle.

      • MusubiKazesaru

        That was really interesting too. Drawing the maps and figuring out the islands’ secrets was really nice. I wish there were more islands to be honest.

    • Thomas_NE

      Agreed with you on all of that… but that giant temple you have to replay like 5 times, man.

      • MusubiKazesaru

        Yes the Temple of the Ocean King drags it down, though it’s not a badly designed dungeon even if the stealth aspect is annoying.

  • Bart

    My favourite Zelda games are Alundra and Golden Axe Warrior…

    Sorry, couldn’t resist, probably Ocarina of Time and Link between Worlds for real. (Still haven’t played Link to the Past actually, should probably get on that sometime.)

  • Ehh…PH is ok. ST manages to do all it did without as many flaws though.

    • 23PQ

      Agree. Imo ST is inherently better in every way, though to be fair many sequels are bound to be improvements.

  • JasonBall

    Wow, great to hear he loves PH. It’s maybe sixth or seventh for me? There’s some legit great design elements there in a solid package people forget about due to the “boo hoo timed dungeon” aspect.

  • Mihael Keehl

    Yes sure Triforce Heroes is awesome. For people who have more than 1 friend.

    • Reggie

      At least TFH had wifi. Try playing Four Swords Anniversary Edition on your lonesome.

      • Astrocapsule

        My thoughts, in deed…

      • MajoraMan28

        I actually managed to do that. And dude, it was painful.
        FS is my least favorite Zelda of all time.

        • Reggie

          Someone gets it.

    • Advance*

      I only played it online and I loved it. I actually let the reaction discourage me from getting it until there was a buy 2 get 1 free deal. I’d agree with him that it’s the most underrated.

  • Reggie

    The only thing I didn’t like about PH was the Temple of the Ocean King. Everything else was fairly good — maybe not the sequel that TWW deserved, but it was a fair game on its own. I think that people are just too hard on the DS games, I actually liked ST.

    • R.Z.

      That was my favourite part of the game, but it seems I’m the only one to like it … :-/

      • Reggie

        To each their own.

      • The temple is good. What I don’t like about it is having to replay it so many times. Which is why most people ended up hating it. But the temple itself was actually good.

        • R.Z.

          I really liked the shortcuts and treasures you could access when coming in with new items. That and the time limit that forced you to play well made me enjoy the temple quite a lot.

  • Nowhere Man

    Lol PH and TFH.

  • Donovan Tull

    Man, I disagree with that. I didn’t like Twilight Princess, and of the handheld Zelda’s, I preferred Spirit Tracks.
    Windwaker for the win though.

  • hi v3.0

    We need TFH 2 for Switch !

  • me

    Didn’t even mention Okami

  • NintendoPSXTheSecond

    The DS Zelda games are probably the worst in the franchise. Sadly it’s not the game’s fault perse but it was during the time when they were still trying to force the stylus controls into any and every game on the console.

  • Kenshin0011

    I really like Phantom Hourglass! I remember being so excited to play a direct sequel to Wind Waker, my most favorite Zelda game! (that is, until I play BoTW)

  • Suraimu

    Someone else in nintendo needs to have a shot at making Zelda games.

    • Agree with this immensely. It’s great that ALBW and BotW are experimenting with genuinely evolving the franchise (likely in no small part because they’ve seen Aonuma step back to a more general executive role) but it’s time to let someone with a real vision come in and do what they want with Zelda. That’s how we got all the best entries in the past, and I’m sure that’s how we’ll get better ones going forward. He may not even realize it, but it seems like Aonuma himself is tired of being “the Zelda guy”; he’s been running on autopilot for a decade.

    • Jaxon Holden

      After seeing Breath of the Wild? I never want anyone touching Zelda now. Aonuma proved he has what it takes to step it up. He actually went and played games like Skyrim and The Witcher to see the quality of western open world games… and it shows, it really does show…

    • I agree with that for a specific reason. That reason being I would love to see Aonuma be given the opportunity to work on a new project. A new series entirely. I’m very interested in what he would do.

  • AJK

    Twilight Princess is the only Zelda game that left me a bit underwhelmed. The world just felt so empty and I never felt like I was exploring, more just moving from point A to point B. It had some amazing dungeons though which partially made up for the dull over world. I’m really hoping BotW doesn’t feel empty. The gameplay I’ve watched gives me hope that there’s lots to do and I’ve seen so many things in the videos that I want to explore.

    • R.Z.

      Same thoughts on TP, only I think the dungeons are trash too.

      • The later dungeons had some clever puzzles and gimmicks, but like everything else in the game they were needlessly bloated and padded with tedious sections to extend the game length and make everything seem “bigger”. Plus the items and room designs never felt as organic or intuitive as their equivalents in earlier games, and the bosses were insultingly easy and formulaic.

      • Jaxon Holden

        After seeing Breath of the Wild? I never want anyone touching Zelda now. Aonuma proved he has what it takes to step it up. He actually went and played games like Skyrim and The Witcher to see the quality of western open world games… and it shows, it really does show.

    • Cavalier

      I’m currently replaying TPHD just to warm up for next week.
      Currently at the Temple of Time but I agree this is one of those games where age in mechanics shows.

      The only thing I haven’t seen in BOTW is the classic items with specific purposes like the Hookshot or the Boomerang hopefully they are still there not necesarily for the dungeons but as another tool to mess with the world.

      • R.Z.

        Have you tried OoT, MM or WW recently ?
        I honestly don’t think TP’s mechanics are aged as much as they were just badly designed from the get go.

        • Cavalier

          I have WWHD but for some reason I only feel that when playing TP.

      • What makes the hookshot and boomerang so good is that they DON’T have specific purposes, they’re tools with simple and intuitive uses that turn out to have a wide variety of creative applications and means of interacting with the game environment. Contrast with that stupid top thing or whatever in TP.

        • Cavalier

          To be fair, that fight with Stallord was good but after that yeah thing was useless.
          I really liked fighting that cursed sword ghost.

        • AJK

          Link Between Worlds felt like a return to more classic Zelda design. But yes, the 3d Zelda’s have not been the same since Wind Waker. Heres to BotW for being both a return to old school Zelda design, plus a massive reinvention for the series.

  • Lucciano Bartolini

    Well, everybody has the right to have an opinion, even if we don’t agree:

    1.- Twilight Princess.
    2.- Spirit Tracks
    3.- Ocarina of Time.

  • AJK

    My top 3 would be:

    Ocarina of Time
    Link Between World’s
    Majoras Mask

  • Anti-Fan

    Ocarina of Time
    Link’s Awakening
    Twilight Princess

  • Adrian Brown

    1. Skyward Sword
    2. Twilight Princess
    3. Majora`s Mask

    I have a felling that this top 3 will change in the next few weeks.

  • bakedapplepie

    1. Skyward Sword
    2. Twilight Princess

  • Jacob Groves

    My top 3 best Zelda games in the series;

    1. Breath of the Wild (We all knew this one is best Zelda in the series)
    2. Ocarina of Time
    3. Wind Waker HD (better than original version)

    Rest of all other Zelda games is brilliant!!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    • burchdude65

      Some people will say it’s too early to place BotW at the top of the list, but I genuinely believe it has a 99.9999999999999999% chance of becoming my favorite game of all time.

  • Wow that’s… I don’t even know how to react to that.

    Other than saying that I really want Koizumi to take over Aonuma’s position on the next Zelda, because arguably the actual three best entries (Link’s Awakening, OoT and Majora) were all heavily influenced by him.

  • Operative

    I’m glad aonuma himself is appreciative of phantom hourglass. That and spirit tracks were very great games.

  • Ry L

    Are all these available via VC? Assuming the Switch gets everything, I’d love to have it as my Zelda machine. There are a bunch I’ve never played.

    • R.Z.

      They all have been available but on different machines (not sure about spirit tracks though).
      If Nintendo keeps up its current policy in publishing VC titles it will be a long time before they are al available on Switch.
      Plus it will be hard to re-create DS gameplay on that console (there are certainly ways around it like having both screens displayed on one but they don’t seem very elegant to me).

      P.S. Actually I think all of these games are on WiiU, 3DS exclusives are all GB(C) episodes.

      • Evan Gustavson

        Spirit Tracks and Phantom Hourglass are on the Wii U VC.
        The Oracle Series is on 3DS VC.
        If you want to play the definitive versions of everything, well:

        Wii U has Wind Waker HD, Twilight Princess HD, and Breath of the Wild as Wii U games, as well as Skyward Sword, (you need a wiimote+ and a Nuchuk), A Link to the Past, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, and the Minish Cap on Virtual Console

        The 3DS has: Ocarina of Time 3D, Majora’s Mask 3D, A Link Between Worlds, Tri Force Heroes, as 3DS titles, as well as Oracle of Seasons, Oracle of Ages, and Link’s Awakening DX on virtual console.
        (I think you can get A Link to the Past on either platform, but iirc, only New 3DS systems can install or purchase SNES titles

        (Also, Four Swords Anniversary Edition, a DSiware port of a pack-in with A Link to the Past for Game Boy Advance was downloadable for a short period of time regarding some promotion relating to a Link Betweem Worlds, but… you’d need to buy a used 3DS with it pre-installed, so)

        (TBH, im disappointed there was no rerelease of the anniversary edition of Four Swords for 30th. My DSI corrupted, and I missed my chance to DL it again for 3DS due to being on hiatus when ALBW was released. I was like, “you brought it back for something that had nothing to do with anniversaries, come on! Give me the game again!)

        Anyway, the only game that’s outright missing from the 3DS AND Wii U library is Four Swords Adventures for GameCube.
        (And then there’s the fact that Four Swords for GBA was only avaliable in a limited capacity, and that A Link to the Past is the original SNES version instead of the GBA version which had a minor aesthetic facelift, and a ton of content that wouldn’t matter without Four Swords being included anyhow)
        (I was secretly holding out for an 30th anniversary edition of A Link to the Past which would have alternative ways of accessing the cross-save content of Four Swords the same way the 25th anniversary edition of Four Swords did for ALttP’s cross save bonuses, I was never able to learn the Great Spin in ALttP or unlock or play through the Temple of the Four Sword…)

  • Invitado

    Phantom hourglass is great only the bad is the temple, you must do everything all again one, two… Times is boring.

    My top 3:
    1. Wind waker
    2. Oracle’s seasons
    3. A link to the past
    Ocarina isn’t in my top 7.

  • Umegames Official

    1. skyward sword
    2. Oracle of ages
    3. twilight princess

  • 1 link to the past
    2 link between worlds
    3 ocarina

  • Blanco8x8

    1. Ocarina of Time
    2. Twilight Princess
    3. Majora’s Mask
    4. Skyward Sword
    5. The Wind Waker

    Breath of the Wild could break my top 3.

  • MajoraMan28

    1. Skyward Sword
    2. Ocarina of Time
    3. The Wind Waker

  • Hexodious

    I don’t really have a favorite but if i had to choose to replay one right now it’d be Wind Waker HD

    I need to get onboard on those DS titles, feels like i’m missing out, skipped the DS and went straight with the 3DS when it launched

    • Evan Gustavson

      If you get used copies of the DS titles, they run on any 3DS just fine.
      3DS is backwards compatible with DS games.

  • 1. WW HD
    2. ALttP
    3. MM

  • burchdude65

    3. The Wind Waker
    2. Ocarina of Time
    1. A Link to the Past

    Breath of the Wild will likely top all of these on my list.

  • DeltaPeng

    1. Ocarina of Time
    2 + 3. Zelda 2 and Link’s Awakening (GB or GBC)
    4 + 5. Link to the Past and Wind Waker
    6. Majora’s Mask
    ~7 + 8 + 9. Twilight Princess + Hyrule Warriors + Zelda original
    + others were just ok, imo

    Though original Gamecube Four Swords seemed interesting, but didn’t have the equipment for it. Haven’t tried Spirit Tracks, but I’d be interested to try it.

  • Vigilante_blade

    The DS entries were pretty trash. Mine are Wind Waker, OOT and Majora’s Mask in no particular order.

    • Supporter

      “The DS entries were pretty trash.”

      I’m sorry you didn’t like them. I’m glad they have their fans though. The underrated games need supporters too!

    • Phantom Hourglass was bland but nifty enough; it made a much bigger splash in Japan than here which I suspect is why Aonuma is so fond of it. Spirit Tracks was completely irredeemable for me outside of some decent dungeons. In both games the mandatory touch controls were mostly a pointless drag.

      • Vigilante_blade

        Yeah, Zelda is at its best without pointless gimmicks. I’d rather a solid game than a so-called original game that is annoying to play.

  • Supporter

    I’m happy Aonuma supported Tri Force Heroes. Besides some moments, the game is actually pretty enjoyable in single player (based on my experience). Tri Force Heroes, Skyward Sword, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks seem to constantly get slammed by fans even though they’ve received positive reviews.

  • Carlos

    Mine are:
    3. Link’s Awakening
    2. Ocarina of Time
    1. Wind Waker

  • The only thing that’s ever consistent with my top rankings for the Zelda games, is Majora’s Mask being number one. I adore OoT, but it rotates around with TP and WW. I enjoyed the Oracle games, but don’t rank them very high. (Still need to play Minish Cap! Haven’t played enough ALttP or the 3DS games.)

    I get the feeling that when I get to the DS games, I’ll rank them pretty well. BotW will probably take second place. Depending on the NPCs, it could topple MM.

    I like Aonuma’s choices though, and his standpoint for them.

  • Tlink7

    I liked PH back in the day, but the stylus controls are a bit eh now. Linebeck was a great character though πŸ˜€

    My top three in no particular order: Wind Waker, Minish Cap, Twilight Princess

  • The DS games are very underrated indeed. They have very unique dungeon puzzles and boss battles thanks to the touch screen controls.