From shooting galleries to fishing ponds, Zelda is full of fun mini-games designed to give you a nice change of pace and break up the main gameplay. Best of all, they often yield great rewards, whether it’s an inventory expansion, a new bottle, or a good old heart piece. We all have our preferences for what we could spend hours doing instead of saving Zelda, and throughout the series, we’ve had some real standouts in my opinion. Here are my top 7 favourites in 3D Zeldas, which I’ve rated based on how fun and how rewarding they are.
7. Roll Goal – Twilight Princess
I think everyone probably hates roll goal because of how finicky it is with the motion controls. I personally found it really addictive though. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the Monkeyball games, which are all good fun. Despite its increasing difficulty, making precise tilts with the motion controller feels so satisfying when you finally roll that ball to the goal. I love how Hena, the creator, knows when you try to cheat too by riding along the edges. No roll goal hacks for me I guess.
I’ve put this mini-game quite low down on the list because the rewards aren’t great. You only get rupees after each level, and when you finish them all you get the frog lure, which is only used for fishing, and fishing is also not that rewarding.
6. Collecting Big Poes – Ocarina of Time
I’ll always remember how hard I found this quest as a kid. There was always that one last big Poe I’d miss, and I could never remember which ones I’d already found. Despite that frustration, it’s one of the more enjoyable mini-games in Ocarina of Time, mainly because you have to do horseback combat. By the end of it, I could probably shoot an enemy halfway across Hyrule. I love the collector too. He went from being a bored Hylian guard to an eccentric ghost fanatic – with a creepy red eye no less. How did he get it, I wonder?
I rate this a little lower than other mini-games because, although it is fun and gives a great reward – a bottle – it’s time-consuming. Plus, by the time you get around to completing it, you probably don’t need extra bottles all that much anymore. In fact, it would have helped having the extra one beforehand to catch the Poes quicker! Kinda ironic. I think something else would have been a better reward, like a heart piece.
5. Sand Seal Racing – Breath of the Wild
Seal surfing is just mega fun, that’s all there is to it! The sheer sense of speed you get riding a seal powering through the sand, while Link swings back and forth behind on his shield, is invigorating. This mini-game was, for me, also a fun throwback to the energetic chase with Vah Naboris, which I loved. I enjoy the fact that the sand seal racing mini-game sets up a track for you, to test your skill manoeuvring the seal and managing its speed.
I would put it higher if not for the fact that you can use sand seals anytime you want, and that the reward is just a shrine. Why not reward me with my own personal sand seal that I can call any time I’m in the desert, like a horse? That would have been cool.
4. Goron Racing – Majora’s Mask
Goron racing tops sand seal racing purely because you have a lot more control over Link and it’s much more challenging. In fact, losing is very easy if you continuously mismanage your magic and let the other Gorons bully you. I love the whole atmosphere around this mini-game too. The Elder’s Son and some Gorons cheer you on, while others are completely competitive and want to beat you. Plus, the reward is truly one of a kind: the gold dust that helps you get the Gilded Sword.
The only downside is that it takes a lot of time and effort to actually get to the Goron Racing. You have to beat the Snowhead boss, get the keg, carry it the whole way without letting it explode, and throw it safely up to the top – every time you want to play. It’s often just not worth it for a few laps once you’ve got the sword.
3. Auctioning – The Wind Waker
The auctioning mini-game in The Wind Waker is also incredibly addictive, especially because it has so many great items to win, such as the magic armour, and you never know what’s gonna come out next! I thoroughly enjoy taking on the Windfall townsfolk in a game of ‘who has so much expendable cash that you’ll literally send everyone crazy’. Their reactions when you bid a high amount are so funny, as is Link jumping around like a giddy kid! I love how Link will go from dancing up and down to then angrily staring down whoever challenges his bid. What are you gonna do with a treasure chart anyway, Linda?!
I rank this one pretty high given how many good items you can get and because of just how entertaining the characters’ reactions are to watch. It would rank a little higher if it wasn’t simply a game of having a ton of money and mashing buttons though.
2. STAR game – Twilight Princess
Let me just start out by saying that I LOVE the double clawshot. I hope it comes back in future Zelda games! Can you imagine having it in a Breath of the Wild setting? It’d open up exploration to a whole other level. But I’m getting off track – I love the STAR game mini-game in Twilight Princess because I enjoy this weapon so much. Lining yourself up perfectly to get a full row of orbs is so satisfying, and the whole aesthetic is really interesting. Playing the game in a cage with fangirls watching and cheering you on is like being a circus attraction.
And let’s not forget the guy who runs the show. He’s clearly meant to be Tingle and a straight up con artist. He doesn’t want people who can actually win to participate. Jokes on you, Tingle man! I always win.
1. Mail Sorting – The Wind Waker
Oh boy, if sorting mail was this fun in real life I’d sign right up to be a courier for Royal Mail. It’s the most addictive thing ever. The sign of a truly good mini-game is one that you continue to play even after receiving all the rewards, and mail sorting in The Wind Waker is that golden mini-game.
I think the main thing that makes it so satisfying is the sound effects. For whatever reason, the plucking sound that plays as you shift between shelves, the whooshing noise as the letters fly forward, and the ‘ding’ that rings when you succeed triggers all the right reward centres in my brain. Getting into a rhythm makes you feel like an unstoppable mail-sorting machine – one that even the postman from Majora’s Mask would envy.
Those are my top 7 picks! What about you? What are your favourite mini-games in Zelda? Let us know in the comments or on social media!