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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D screenshot of Link pulling the Master Sword from a stone. Navi is helpfully circling around.

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Where to (officially) play every Legend of Zelda game in 2023

From the 1986 original to Breath of the Wild, here’s your definitive list

Image: Nintendo

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With The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom on the horizon, you might find yourself looking to revisit Link’s history. The Zelda series has graced every official Nintendo console over the last (almost) 40 years, been (re)released on Virtual Consoles, and a few games have even been remade or remastered. And that means replaying the games is not exactly easy.

In 2023, Polygon is embarking on a Zeldathon. Join us on our journey through The Legend of Zelda series, from the original 1986 game to the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and beyond.

We’re going to focus on the mainline Zelda games here and skip over games like Four Swords, Four Swords Adventures, Tri-Force Heroes, Link’s Crossbow Training, and Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland. We’ll also ignore games on consoles like the Phillips CD-i or the Barcode Battler II.

The short answer here is: If you only have a Switch, you can play seven of the 15 main story games. The longer answer is: If you have a Switch, Wii U, and 3DS, you can play most of them — for now (more on this below). The longest (and most unlikely) answer is: The surest way to be able to play all Zelda games is to already own physical copies (or find physical copies) of the games along with the consoles they were released on — but, if that’s the case, this guide really isn’t for you (and we are jealous).

Below, we’ll list where you can play every mainline Zelda game in 2023 (for now) and talk about our caveats to the list.

Some caveats and notes...

We’re going to stick with the mainline games here and not branch off into the many spin-offs or releases on, frankly, forgotten systems. We’re only going to cover the main 15 games in which Link is the protagonist, and that more or less belong to the official timeline.

We’re also going to keep our options limited to the Wii U (remember the Wii U?), 3DS, and Switch, along with their respective stores, Virtual Consoles, and Nintendo Switch Online service (which requires a Nintendo Switch Online subscription for $19.99/year or $49.99/year for a Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack).

GameCube controller photo (Flickr: luftholen) 1280
Maybe dust off that GameCube.
Luftholen on Flickr

We’re not going to include any old consoles you might still have, or might pick up on eBay along with physical copies of old games — it’s possible, and more power to you, but it involves things like an HDMI converter, and that sounds like a whole thing.

We’ll also include the the NES and SNES Classic Edition consoles (Nintendo no longer lists these machines in their store, but you can still occasionally find them at third-party retailers for around $200) and the Nintendo Game and Watch: Legend of Zelda standalone device for the couple of games it gives you access to.

The biggest caveat, though, is that you’ll have access to some of these games for only a couple more months, as of this writing, because…

The Wii U and DS eShops are closing

[Ed. note: The below section has been updated to further clarify the process through which the Wii U and 3DS eShops will be closing.]

It’s important to note here that the Wii U and 3DS Stores will be discontinued and no longer supported by Nintendo as of March 27, 2023. You can make purchases (and download your games) up until then, but only if you link your (old) Wii U/DS Nintendo Network ID wallet with your (new) Nintendo Account wallet.

As DubiousBench points out in the comments, almost all Wii U and 3DS games have already been removed from the Nintendo online store, so the only way to purchase these games is through the eShop on the console/handheld itself.

Unfortunately, the Virtual Consoles for both consoles will also stop working on March 27. The Wii U and 3DS Virtual Consoles are the digital library apps for those consoles, much like the NES, SNES, and N64 apps that Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack grants access to. (Using the Virtual Consoles is different from buying and downloading games through the eShop.)

When the Virtual Consoles shut down, you’ll only have access to the games you own (and have downloaded) through the eShop before that date.

Where to play every Zelda game

With all of the caveats above in mind, you’ll find a list of where to play all of the main story Zelda games below.

To cover them all, you’ll need a Switch, Wii U, and a 3DS, along with access to their Virtual Consoles. If you’ve only got a Switch, you’ll miss out on eight of the 15.

The Legend of Zelda (1986)

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1988)

  • Switch: Nintendo Entertainment System - Nintendo Switch Online
  • Wii U and 3DS: Nintendo eShop - Virtual Console
  • Other: NES Classic Edition and Game and Watch: Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1992)

  • Switch: Super Nintendo Entertainment System - Nintendo Switch Online
  • Wii U and 3DS: Nintendo eShop - Virtual Console
  • Other: SNES Classic Edition

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

A Switch screenshot of Link’s Awakening. Link is looking at the camera, very happy about the fish he caught.
Link’s Awakening on the Switch.
Image: Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

  • Switch: Nintendo 64 - Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack
  • Wii U: Nintendo eShop - Virtual Console
  • 3DS: Nintendo eShop

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

A screenshot of Link and Skull Kid from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.
Link and Skull Kid.
Image: Nintendo
  • Switch: Nintendo 64 - Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack
  • Wii U: Nintendo eShop - Virtual Console
  • 3DS: Nintendo eShop

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (2001)

  • 3DS: Nintendo eShop - Virtual Console

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2003)

  • Wii U: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD was released for the Wii U in 2013.

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (2004)

  • Wii U: Nintendo eShop - Virtual Console

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)

  • Wii U: The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess HD was released for the Wii U in 2016.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (2007)

  • 3DS: Phantom Hourglass was released for the DS in 2007, but no longer seems to appear on the My Nintendo Store. The 3DS is backward-compatible, so physical copies are playable.
  • Wii U: Nintendo eShop - Virtual Console

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (2009)

  • 3DS: Spirit Tracks was released for the DS in 2007, but no longer seems to appear on the My Nintendo Store. The 3DS is backward-compatible, so physical copies are playable.
  • Wii U: Nintendo eShop - Virtual Console

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011)

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

A 2D paper version of Link from A Link Between Worlds
A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS.
Image: Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017) and The Master Trials and The Champions’ Ballad DLCs (2017)

Link fighting bokoblins in front of a skull-shaped cave in Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild on the Switch.
Image: Nintendo

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