The Best Handheld Zelda Games Of The Series (Ranked)

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After more than 35 years of Zelda, the series has amassed a fair amount of handheld titles.

Some of Zelda’s most famous and beloved titles belong in the handheld realm. From the Game Boy to the 3DS, every single Nintendo handheld has had at least one.

Still, like in all things in life, some are better than others.

Let’s take a look at the library of handheld Zelda games and find out which are worthy of being called “the best”, along with those that maybe fell a bit short of the mark.


15. Triforce Heroes (2015)

Triforce Heroes gameplay for 3DS

Available on Nintendo 3DS

After the massive success of A Link Between Worlds (2013) on the 3DS, expectations were high for a sequel or another high-quality Zelda project on Nintendo’s powerful handheld.

Instead, we got Triforce Heroes – a co-op adventure in the fashion-frenzied Kingdom of Hytopia.

Don’t get me wrong, Triforce Heroes can be a lot of fun with a couple of friends.

But it’s just nowhere near as good as its predecessor.

It’s a good game, but it feels superfluous.


14. Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland (2007)

Freshly-Picked Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland screenshot

Available on Nintendo DS

Sometimes, Nintendo releases a game so bizarre it’s hard to believe.

This unique touch-based adventure follows Tingle, a middle-aged man in green spandex who becomes a Rupee-seeking fairy to escape his mundane life and reach Rupeeland.

This will take Tingle across three continents, where he’ll have to fight, solve puzzles, and negotiate to get Rupees.

Rosy Rupeeland is a bizarre treat for any Zelda fan, with an unusual but charming art style and great self-aware humor.


13. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Four Swords (2002)

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Four Swords on GBA

Available on Game Boy Advance

This GBA compilation offers two very different experiences.

On the one hand, you get a port of the SNES classic A Link to the Past (1992), considered one of the best action-adventure games of all time.

On the other, there’s Four Swords – a co-op adventure where four color-coded copies of Link challenge dungeon after dungeon on a quest to rescue Zelda from the evil Vaati.

It was the first Zelda multiplayer title, and it remains super fun if you’ve got the Game Link Cable.


12. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (2007)

Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass / NDS screenshot

Available on Nintendo DS

Phantom Hourglass is the direct sequel to my favorite Zelda game – The Wind Waker (2002).

It features the same cartoonish art style and tasks the player with sailing the open seas in search of towns, dungeons, and all sorts of exciting islands.

Being a DS game, the adventure’s scale is a cut below what it was in The Wind Waker. But it’s still a lot of fun – and you can’t ask for a better supporting character than Linebeck.

The touch-based gameplay was a bit of a turn-off for people at first, yet it’s actually surprisingly fluid if you give it a chance.


11. Ripened Tingle’s Balloon Trip of Love (2009)

Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love / NDS gameplay

Available on Nintendo DS

The 35 years-old fairy is back at it again in Ripened Tingle’s Balloon Trip of Love.

A significant part of the game revolves around gaining the favor of five eligible bachelorettes in a fantasy world by performing heroic acts like solving puzzles and playing mini-games.

You’ll meet characters inspired by The Wizard of Oz and enjoy the same hilarious, off-beat humor Tingle is known for.


10. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (2009)

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks / Nintendo DS game

Available on Nintendo DS

The sequel to Phantom Hourglass caught a lot of flak back in the day for abandoning ocean sailing for building railroads, which isn’t half as satisfying.

Look past that, and you’ll find a polished action-adventure that further improves PH’s touch-based gameplay.

Using a steam locomotive to explore New Hyrule feels really exotic, much like sailing from island to island did back when The Wind Waker came out.


9. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (1993)

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening / GBC Screenshot

Available on Game Boy & Game Boy Color

The first handheld Zelda game marked the expansion of the franchise beyond home consoles, and its success assured the future of handheld Zelda titles.

Link’s awakening contrasts with other Zelda entries because its story centers on Link on an adventure far away from Hyrule, Ganon, and Zelda.

The gameplay follows the top-down action-adventure formula to a tee, but the level of polish made people realize handhelds could support gaming just as seriously as home consoles.

An improved & colorized version was released for the GBC in 2002. If you can get that one, it’s the best choice.


8. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons & Oracle of Ages (2001)

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons & Ages / GBC screenshot

Available on Game Boy Color

Nintendo’s developers took their experience from working on Link’s Awakening DX (2002) for the GBC, and used it to create a new and improved adventure on the same console.

The “Oracle” duology follows a similar principle to Game Freak’s Pokémon series:

“If I release the game in two colors, I’ll make twice as much money.”

Luckily for us gamers, the differences between Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages are massive.

They run on the same engine, sure.

But the color palettes, the dungeons, the towns, and almost everything else are unique between the titles.

Exploring Holodrum and Labryna is a challenging pleasure, and the puzzles requiring Link to travel through the seasons and ages are pretty cool.


7. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Remake) (2019)

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Remake) / Switch gameplay

Available on Nintendo Switch

Here’s one you probably weren’t expecting.

Considering half of the Nintendo Switch’s appeal is playing on the go, I think it’s fair to call it a handheld console.

I won’t be filling the list with spin-offs like Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (2020), but there are a couple gems that need your attention.

This fantastic remake of Link’s Awakening brings us the same charming world and challenging dungeons with a modernized retro look I can’t get enough of.

It features hand-drawn animated cutscenes and customizable dungeons you can tackle at any time for Rupees and other rewards.


6. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (2004)

Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap game screenshot

Available on Game Boy Advance

The Minish Cap is the handheld Zelda game with the staunchest fans.

Whenever you discuss Zelda with any number of people, at least one will point out you’re missing out if you haven’t tried this GBA gem.

Well, I tried it.

And they were mostly right.

The game has the cutest art style in the series so far, and it pays off to keep an eye out for nooks and crannies to explore as miniature Link.

It’s relatively short, but every moment is memorable. Definitely recommended.


5. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (2011)

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D gameplay

Available on Nintendo 3DS

Considering the N64 original is regarded as one of the best games ever released, it follows that its 3DS remake of Ocarina of Time (1998) would get into the top five for our list.

This release features significant improvements in graphics and sound quality. Plus, you can play in 3D if you’re into that.

There are also mirrored versions of the rearranged dungeons from OoT Master Quest (2002) and an all-new boss rush mode for when you just need a quick fix of monster slaying.


4. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D (2015)

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D / Nintendo 3DS Screenshot

Available on Nintendo 3DS

After the resounding success of OoT’s remake, it was only fair to give Majora’s Mask (2000) the same treatment.

Many didn’t know how to feel about the N64 original, given its darker atmosphere and greater difficulty.

It also sold less than half what its predecessor had, making it a bit of an underrated gem.

If you always found MM too difficult or eerie to clear, this is a fantastic chance to reconnect with one of the darkest entries in The Legend of Zelda franchise.


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

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild / Switch gameplay

Available on Nintendo Switch

As I said before:

The Nintendo Switch is a handheld at least 50% of the time – so the absolutely amazing open-world adventure of Breath of the Wild can’t be missing from our list.

It would be a cop-out to give what’s clearly intended as a home console game the top spot. But if I was judging by the sheer quality and fun factor, it’d be #1.

The graphics are the prettiest the Zelda franchise has had since The Wind Waker, and the soundtrack is a work of art.

If you like high-tech gizmos, lush massive worlds to uncover, and Dark Souls, you need to play this ASAP.


2. The (New) Zelda Game & Watch (2021)

The (New) Zelda Game & Watch screenshot

The year 2021 brought one of the most exciting collectible Zelda releases ever – an all-new Zelda Game & Watch.

Back in 1989, Nintendo released its first TLoZ Game & Watch. This was a basic handheld console meant to play a single game.

In this case, it was a new adventure inspired by Zelda II.

For the franchise’s 35th anniversary, the Big N revisited this concept. This much upgraded Game & Watch includes Zelda, Zelda II, and Link’s Awakening – along with an extra mini-game.

If you can get your hands on one of these, it’s totally worth it.


1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (2013)

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds gameplay

Available for Nintendo 3DS

By far, the most influential and frankly surprising handheld release in Zelda’s history is A Link Between Worlds, a polished 3DS adventure that perfectly marries the old and the new.

The game is a love letter to the classic A Link to the Past, loosely following the same story with significant changes.

These changes include the introduction of Lorule, a dark counterpart to Hyrule.

Link also has the all-new ability to become two-dimensional and move on walls as if he was graffiti. It’s one of the most important exploring and puzzle-solving mechanics and the only way to access Lorule.

If you’re looking for something unique that could only exist on a handheld, this is it.

It’s a dream for long-time fans and a great game for newcomers to try as well.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely playing games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.