I feel like all three of these Zelda games fall into this similar spot where they have their fans and they have their haters and it all kind of averages out to them being considered "not quite" up there with the best Zelda games (I'm talking consensus-wise, obviously individuals will put one or many of these are the top of their lists.) I guess you could say the same about Majora's Mask, but it seems to be a bit more loved overall around here
These three are also all really close in our ratings, at 9.29/10(Wind Waker), 9.27/10 (Skyward Sword), and 9.24/10 (Twilight Princess). So I'm interested in how they will stand against each other in a head to head poll. And I didn't include any cop-out answers for Communists who are afraid to put one above the others... you have to pick one or go home.
I also didn't include Four Swords Adventures because that's really a different thing there. And I didn't include Link's Crossbow Training for the same reason and also anyone insane enough to vote for that is insane and should not be allowed to vote anyway.
I like Skyward Sword the most. It had a sense of playfulness about it that reminded me of Link's Awakening in some aspects, and it did some sweet stuff with Motion Plus that made the gameplay feel fresh in my mind. The character designs were brilliant, I love the whole art style in general, the story was sweet, the environments interesting, and the soundtrack was easily the best since Ocarina of Time as far as I'm concerned. I don't have anything against the other two games, but they didn't suck me into their world the way Skyward Sword did. Hadn't had that much fun with a Zelda since the N64 days for sure.
Twilight princess was amazing, I even liked playing as the wolf. Midna was a great side character. Skyward Sword is close, and I loved the controls, but it just didn't have the impact on me that TP had. Wind Waker was not a very good Zelda game for many reasons. The dungeons were a joke.
I loved Wind Waker. Like, more than almost the entire rest of the series, actually (I think it's number 3 on my Zelda hierarchy). I think its visuals, music, and storyline are all the absolute best in the series, and it's exploration-driven gameplay was an atmospheric treat. The low difficulty was a bummer, but didn't bother me too much when the rest of the game was so enthralling.
For me it is a toss up between Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, but I have to go with Twilight Princess in the end. Honestly about halfway through that game I was prepared to call it the best 3D Zelda ever, although the second half, while still great, never quite took it to the next level for me.
I kind of suspected that Wind Waker would easily win this poll... we'll see.
Wind Waker wins no matter WHAT era you want me to consider. From NES straight through to today. Hands down. Not even close.
Well, kind of close. The original on the NES is a very close second. Then it's a light year to the third place game for me.
EDIT: Also I really loved how play-friendly Wind Waker was. The "lack of difficulty" some folks mention about it was a pro to me. I could just have FUN. Besides the original NES Zelda, Wind Waker is the only Zelda game I've ever seen to the very end, and definitely the only one I've considered playing more to unlock everything.
Skyward Sword for me. Had the best puzzles and pacing (outside of that one terrible recurring boss) of any 3D Zelda. And it's the only one where I actually enjoyed the combat. It had a great look and solid music, too.
Why would people vote for the clearly rushed, unfinished Zelda over the most jam packed Zelda of them all? Oh cuz it had a few similarities to OOT because people originally expressed disappointment in Wind Waker and cried for more OOT. Yes that's right.
WW is great but it's still way too short.
TP is still the Zelda to beat for me. If that game had better QUALITY (instrumentation-wise) music it'd be right next to perfect. Oh and maybe a few more fleshed out items that didn't feel like one-offs.
Best temples that's for DAMN sure.
SS was also really good but couldn't reach the heights of TP for me.
I rated Skyward Sword higher than Wind Waker, so I guess thats that.
I have issues with all 3 games though, certainly.
1. "Yo Dawg, I heard you you like Backtracking, so I put some backtracking in your backtracking" 2. Wide open please-let-me-do-something besides ride in this boat 3. Completely terrible, barf-inducing barf with barf-colored graphics
Easily Twilight Princess. Bosses, dungeons, items, exploration, partner, lore, NPCs, mini-games, sidequests, overworld... TP wins out over the other two in all of these, IMO. The only things that TP fell short of was story (TWW beats TP in this category, but SS doesn't even come close to either of them... it's a plot hole-filled mess, after all), economy (TP beats out TWW, but SS wins this one hands-down), music (TWW > TP > SS, IMO), difficulty (SS > TP > TWW), and maybe combat (I love the sword-fighting in SS, but in a lot of ways it feels more like they turned combat into a puzzle rather than having it actually be combat since enemies mostly just defend... it's very rare for a non-mini-boss or -boss to actually attack Link in this game, and I preferred having all the different sword skills in TP even at the sacrifice of good sword controls).
Plus Twilight Princess is my second favorite Zelda game in the entire series, so there's no way I couldn't vote for it given the parameters of this poll.