Top 7 Best Selling Zelda Games

    The best-selling titles in the Zelda series.

    We are now just over three months away from the next mainline The Legend of Zelda game hitting the Switch. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom releases on May 12, 2023, and after the trailer at the latest Nintendo Direct, the hype train is in full gear. Because of the next Zelda’s imminent release, I thought it’d be a good idea to look at some of the highest-selling games in the series. This list is based on individual releases, so I’m not combing sales. For example, I’m not combining the Gamecube and Wii releases of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Also, I am including remakes.  

    7. The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past (original release) – 4.6 Million Units – Super Nintendo / The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (original release) – 4.6 Million Units – GameCube

    The joint seventh best-selling individual games in the Zelda series are The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES), and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Gamecube). Both these games sold around 4.6 million copies. Selling just under 5 million copies is definitely a commercial success. Generally, in the videogame industry, selling over 1 million copies is a success. Usually on Nintendo platforms, Zelda games are one of the best-selling series. That is, before The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild which has boosted The Legend of Zelda series into a much more popular franchise. Zelda is now up there with Animal CrossingMario KartSuper Mario, Pokemon, and Super Smash Bros in terms of sales.

    Zelda Wind Waker Gamecube Screenshot

    Two Legendary Classics

    The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was the third game in the series, and the first and only on the Super Nintendo. It expanded on the story and lore, although it was more linear than the first game in the series. It introduced the Master Sword as well as many other gameplay concepts including the hook shot and dual worlds. The dark world in the game was a corrupted version of the main overworld, crawling with monsters and generally not a nice place to be in (although it was fun to play in).

    The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was the third 3D Zelda game, and the first to release on the Gamecube. It was a massively underrated game by many videogame players around the time that it was first released, mainly because people judged it by its art style and wrote it off as a kid’s game. However, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, is an accessible, fairy tale of an adventure game. The first half of the game especially is one of the best videogame experiences you could ever get to play and is the most heartwarming entry in the Zelda series.

     6. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (port) – 5.82 Million Units – Nintendo Wii

    Zelda TP

    Coming in at number 6, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was a more realistic, and expansive take on the Zelda formula. This is the Wii version, which sold significantly more than the Gamecube version. However, the title was originally designed for the Gamecube, so this version counts as a port. 

    The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was partly created as a reaction to the poor sales of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (maybe due to the cel-shaded art style), but that is giving neither game the credit that reflects what works of art they are. Wind Waker was a charming tale with great combat, story, art, and sound that holds up better than 95% of games made in the early 2000s. Twilight Princess is a dark, epic adventure, with a wolf form mechanic and is one of the lengthiest Zelda experiences. It also is the reason Nintendo fans had a Zelda title at the Wii’s launch.

    5. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (remake) – 6.08 Million Units – Nintendo Switch

    Zelda Link's Awakening Remake Screenshot

    Number 5, is a remake of the classic Game Boy game The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. The remake uses great 3D models from a top-down perspective and brings light, color, and great detail into the world of the Wind Fish and Link’s AwakeningLink’s Awakening on Switch stays pretty faithful to the original, and doesn’t add much that’s new, but is great if Link’s Awakening was one of your favorite Game Boy games as it hasn’t ruined old experiences like first encountering the owl.

    I think, partly the reason this title makes this list is the success of the Switch. Not that Link’s Awakening isn’t great, but the Switch has now hit crazy numbers with over 122 million units sold. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD which is also a Switch remake sits at just under 4 million units. With the Switch still selling well, both these titles should sell more in the coming years.

    4. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (remake) – 6.4 Million Units – Nintendo 3DS

    Zelda Ocarina of Time Remake Screenshot

    The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time remake on 3DS had various quality-of-life improvements that made the game easier, and more fun to play, and gave the game GameCube level graphics. It also introduced Ocarina of Time to a new generation, and is, in my opinion, one of the best experiences on the 3DS. 

    This is reflected in the fact that, over the 3DS’s lifespan, it sold 6.4 million units. This made it one of the best-selling Zelda games ever. It was released in the summer of 2011, near the 3DS’s launch. Ocarina of Time 3D has new 3D models and textures, and the sound has been redone (although it’s hard to tell). However, the remake couldn’t beat the sales numbers of the original.

    3. The Legend of Zelda  – 6.5 Million Units (original release) – NES

    Zelda Screenshot

    Back in 1987, the original The Legend of Zelda was released on NES. The game was basically, an early 8-bit ‘open world’ game where the emphasis was put on exploration and finding secrets, rather than trying to beat a high score like in many games of that era. While its direct sequel Zelda 2: Adventure of Link, also on NES, was more of an RPG, the first game laid the foundations of exploration, dungeons, and bosses that is iconic of Zelda games.

    The concept of an RPG or role-playing game is often hard to define, and lots of games, like Zelda, have RPG elements. Zelda games aren’t your typical turn-based, lengthy, traditional RPGs and have more puzzle elements. The original The Legend of Zelda sold 6.5 million copies and is the sixth best-selling NES game. The title has had many re-releases including a Game Boy Advance port, which was branded as an ‘NES Classic’ in a lineup that also included Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros.

    2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – 7.6 Million Units (original release) – Nintendo 64

    Ocarina of Time Screenshot

    The original The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was released on the Nintendo 64 in 1998 to commercial success and critical acclaim. The game innovated with its z-targeting system, and its cinematic approach to storytelling. It went on to sell 7.6 million units making it, as an individual release, the second best-selling Zelda game, ever.

    The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is packed full of secrets, multiple paths to take, and side quests. Its dungeon and sound design are some of the best in the series, and it was the first to take the traditional Zelda formula into the third dimension. While its graphics look dated now, at the time, it was a real showcase of the power of the N64. Maybe we’ll get an HD version on Nintendo’s next console.

    1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (port) – 29 Million Units – Nintendo Switch

    The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

    It’s no surprise that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Switch, is the best-selling individual release in the series. The number of units sold is slightly surprising, as it blows past all its predecessors. Its 29 million units are almost four times the amount that the next best-selling individual title, Ocarina of Time (N64), managed. Breath of the Wild is a seminal open-world action RPG that offers a sandbox and crafting experience that has no equal on the Switch.

    Breath of the Wild was originally intended to release exclusively on the Wii U, but after various delays, and because the Wii U sold poorly and didn’t have a large install base, the game was also ported to the Switch for its launch. It is unique in that, maybe because of the collector’s edition, the game actually sold more than the console itself in the first few weeks. It’s amazing how many copies Breath of the Wild has sold and it just goes to show how polished Nintendo make their games, and how the open world, action RPG style of Zelda game, appeals to consumers.

    Will The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Sell Well?

    Zelda Tears of the Kingdom

    The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom releases on May 12, 2023, and is highly anticipated. With a new trailer for the game shown off at the latest Nintendo Direct, the hype train is in full swing, and we will have waited a full six years for this game. Will it sell as well as Breath of the Wild? Well, traditionally sequels don’t usually sell as well as originals, and Tears of the Kingdom is thought to have the same overworld as Breath of the Wild so maybe it won’t sell as well. I feel that my excitement for this game has faded away because of how long we’ve been waiting, and honestly, the trailer was a huge letdown for me. There doesn’t seem to be much difference in this sequel compared to Breath of the Wild.

    The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask was created using the same engine as Ocarina of Time in one year. Tears of the Kingdom has taken six full years. We haven’t even had a quirky, novel side game at this time (we had Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity but that’s not a Zelda game in terms of genre). I feel ripped off by Nintendo because of this to be honest. I really don’t want to step back into the same world that I’ve already spent 300 hours in. However, the time that’s been given to it will mean it will be really polished and full of nice little touches and secrets. I think it could hit 20 million copies sold, making it one of the best selling Zelda titles, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

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