We love the unique and classic feeling hybrids of RPG and adventure experience can deliver. We thought of these elements when searching for other games like Zelda.
The Legend of Zelda has 19 canon games since its 1986 debut. The franchise follows a formula, anesthetic, and storytelling across its many years.
Selecting Games Like the Legend of Zelda
We already recommended games like Breath of the Wild, which reinvented the series with a free-roam open world. For this time around, we’re focusing on the classic Link adventures.
So, we think fans like you would like games with a mix or a twist of classic Zelda elements:
- Genre: These are action-adventure / JRPG games. Across its titles, there’re elements of platforming, puzzle, exploration, and action-RPG as well.
- Setting: You play in a medieval fantasy land, Hyrule. Unlike most other myths, it has unique creatures, magic, and lore.
- Map design: The classic formula has these area types: the semi-open map that connects all areas; hubs to interact with NPCs; and dungeons.
- Plot: Each title is a stand-alone entry. You’re an incarnation of Link, a man who saves Hyrule and helps or saves Princess Zelda.
- Silent character: Link doesn’t speak in any game; he just listens, acts, and makes noises during combat.
- Storytelling: The story comes through dialogue with other characters and cinematic cuts. The saga is heavy on plot, lore, and events.
- Tone: The general style is often charming and quirky, with a dash of severity. Children and adults can enjoy and understand its heroic stories.
- Character progression: You can’t level up, but you can unlock more HP combat moves and stamina or find tools and gear.
- Items and gear: Another natural progression is finding new items and tools. These include magical swords, bows, slingshots, shields, and magical devices.
- Combat: Combat varies across the games. However, it focuses on a hack-and-slash style where you block, swing, and use ranged and melee abilities.
- Bosses: Boss fights are memorable because of their mechanics, design, music, and challenge. Moreover, you have to identify how to defeat them.
- Metroidvania: Sometimes, you need to find items or learn abilities to unlock areas and puzzles in the overworld.
- Temples: Most gameplay happens in temples, dungeon-like areas full of puzzles. You’ll often need to find a special tool to complete its challenges.
- Puzzles: Zelda games are full of puzzles that don’t include many pointers. You mix using tools, jumping, and special abilities to solve them.
- Exploration: Zelda games have minimal side quests and map markers. However, exploring rewards with extra items, abilities, HP, and gear.
- Quality: Lastly, each Zelda game seems ahead of its time. You’d see it in its gameplay, music, story, and smooth performance.
We think the saga is a hybrid between action-adventure and RPGs with puzzles. Other games like The Legend of Zelda should keep these core qualities, plus other aspects from the list above.
Games Like the Legend of Zelda
Ori and the Will of Wisps
- Developer: Moon Studios
- Publisher: Xbox Game Studios, Iam8bit
- Release Date: March 2020
- Platform: Windows, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Ori And The Will Of Wisps is not the clearest title. Yet, Zelda fan, I guarantee you’ll love the second part of Ori’s journey. It’s a puzzle-platformer and action-adventure RPG with combat inspired by Zelda games.
The title has a 2D semi-open-world map that connects all areas. The other regions are hub-like places where you interact with NPCs and labyrinth-like dungeons and caves where you’ll defeat a boss to find a key plot element.
The combat is hack&slash, where character progression is learning moves and finding items. You fight in 2D with a series of evolving combat, ranged, magical, and traversal moves. In particular, boss fights are especially memorable because of their unique mechanics and puzzle-solving requirements.
Then, abilities you learn as you progress the story serve to unlock map areas and dungeons and complete quests. It’s the “Metroidvania” feature it has as part of its DNA. Moreover, you can help develop a hub town by finding resources and assisting the NPCs. This unlocks items, skills, and lore information.
As for plot and presentation, Ori sets a high standard. You play as a silent spirit on a journey of bravery and self-discovery to heal the forest. The experience goes along with a stellar OST, and if you play it on the Xbox Series X, it plays with enhanced 4K graphics and frame rate.
- Developer: Capcom
- Publisher: Capcom
- Release Date: December 2017
- Platform: Windows, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Okami HD goes for those of you who loved Twilight Princess. Moreover, the gameplay is like playing as the Shadow Wolf. And even without the similarities and the knowledge of the Zelda game, Okami is a masterful action RPG.
But Okami still has its unique qualities. For example, it has a hand-painted style, a deep and evolving combat system, exciting character designs, and a colorful, folkloric world to explore. Specifically, the game uses a SUMI-e ink art style, and the HD version is a full-screen 1080p of the 2006 game.
You play as Amaterasu, a white wolf helping the world against dark spirits. You’re the Japanese sun goddess, and the quest is defeating the eight-headed demon Orochi. Your job is to bring life back to the cursed land. The plot is epic and features mythical characters like Zelda’s deities and races.
The setting is a semi-open world where the main map connects various hub areas, cities, fields, and dungeons. Yet, the game’s structure is mostly linear. You need to complete story points and earn new powers to unlock areas.
Lastly, Amaterasu is silent, but she travels with a little companion that hints at the steps you need to take. It’s also an element it takes from Twilight Princess and other Zelda games where fairies and other beings guide your way.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
- Developer: Nicalis
- Publisher: Nicalis
- Release Date: July 2011
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, SteamOS, PS4, PSVita, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii U, New Nintendo 3DS
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a rogue-like dungeon-crawler. It’s also a remake of The Binding of Isaac, an indie title by Edmund McMillen. Additionally, it’s a highly popular game with over 12K daily concurrently players on Steam.
It’s the darker game on our list, certainly. It follows Isaac, a young boy trying to escape his murderous mother, who believes God sentenced his son to death. The setting won’t take you to gorgeous sights, rather depressing and bleak dungeons.
Moreover, there’re no puzzles in the game. It’s instead a rogue-like dungeon-crawler where you “run” a series of levels, as far as you can, until you die and go back to the beginning. It will feel familiar if you like the classic Zelda dungeon design, interface, and mechanics.
The gameplay delivers randomly generated areas, and you fight with RPG shooter mechanics. You’ll find treasures that grant supernatural abilities and secrets to uncover more plot points along the journey. For example, some of these secrets are additional playable characters.
Because of the rogue-like design, the title features over 500 gameplay hours. There’re also dozens of challenges, hundreds of items, and various endings with animated cinematic cuts. Lastly, you can play it in co-op with another person online or locally.
- Developer: Acid Nerve
- Publisher: Devolver Digital
- Release Date: July 2021
- Platform: Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch
Death’s Door is an action-adventure isometric RPG with a stellar presentation. You play as a Reaper, an employee of a bureau that delivers souls to the otherworld. The plot starts with a quest to track down a stolen soul in the realm of the dead.
Here, you’ll learn a fast-paced hack & slash combat with a top-down perspective. You use melee, ranged, and magical abilities to defeat beasts and demigods with overlapping battle mechanics. One of these mechanics is dodging, a key defensive ability to survive multiple boss fights.
The RPG systems allow you to customize your character stats and unlock or upgrade new abilities as you level up. Moreover, you’ll unlock abilities and items that grant access to areas in previous levels. There’re also puzzles in the game, which require a mix of tools and skills.
The map design is similar to Zelda’s. The world is a semi-linear open world, wherein you often have a single path, but it feels like you’re making a discovery. And aside from the main world, there’re also dungeons and areas you can explore for secret upgrades.
The main character is silent, and the story comes through dialogue and interactions. You’ll discover a conspiracy around Death’s Door, the reapers, and souls throughout the journey. That said, the world is bleak and has a hand-drawn style. The story, though, is somber, dark, but also comedic and light-hearted.
Nobody Saves the World
- Developer: DrinkBox Studios
- Publisher: DrinkBox Studios
- Release Date: January 2022
- Platform: Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5
Nobody Saves the World is a charming, hilarious, fast-paced 3D action RPG with a top-down perspective. It looks like classic Zelda games, focusing on procedurally-generated labyrinthic puzzles.
You play as “Nobody,” an unforeseen hero who learns the ability to shape-shift. As you play, you’ll unlock new shape-shifting forms, each bringing a set of buffs and abilities. This is, essentially, your skill tree, but you can also mix and match shapes with skills and buffs of other forms.
Similarities include a silent character, a dream-like world, and quirky NPC characters. Also, there’re not many side quests in the title, but there’s a rogue-like element: when you die in a dungeon, you’ll go back to the start of the area.
Also, you acquire new forms rather than getting new items and skills. These are necessary to complete puzzles and unlock areas. For example, turning into a rat allows you to fit in wall cracks. Or turning into a ghost allowed you to travel through biochemical areas.
The combat focuses on hack& slash, although there’re definitely more RPG elements. You’ll find yourself cycling between the shapes for their unique abilities and bonuses. Battles as fast and features dozens of enemy types, environmental challenges, and a tough AI.
Hyper Light Drifter
- Developer: Heart Machine, Abylight Studios
- Publisher: Heart Machine, Abylight Studios
- Release Date: March 2016
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, SteamOS, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS
Hyper Light Drifter is a 2D action RPG. It has lo-fi visuals, a haunting soundtrack, and plenty of secrets to discover. Aside from these winning elements, it’s a homage to 16-bit and 8-bit games.
Lead developer Alx Preston describes the game as a combination of Diablo and A Link to the Past. So, you explore, dungeon-crawl, solve puzzles, unlock gear and tools, and use an addictive and evolving combat system.
You play as the Drifter, a character with access to long-forgotten technology. You’re exploring the world to help solve the mystery of an unspecified illness affecting the survivors. The world is fully open, and you can free-roam towards dungeons, towns, and other areas.
You have an energy sword for combat, and the action is hack&slash. Character progression relies on finding modules to expand your arsenal, weapons, and skillsets. You’ll find these modules as you explore the world. It’s a necessity, as the world features increasingly challenging monsters and challenging puzzles.
The game features no voice-acting. The story relies entirely on the music and the visuals. That’s a feature it takes from SNES games. Lastly, the tone is savage, bloody, and full of hand-animated characters.
Shadow of the Colossus
- Developer: Team ICO, Japan Studio
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Release Date: October 2005
- Platform: PS2, PS3, PS4
Shadow of the Colossus is the evolution of the Zelda formula up until Breath of the Wild. The PlayStation exclusive is an open-world action-adventure RPG with puzzles, epic storytelling, no markers, and no side content.
You play as Wander, a young warrior traveling by horse across a vast territory. The goal is to defeat 16 giants, the “Colossi.” The whole story revolves around these monsters, as there’re no dungeons, NPCs, or enemies to defeat aside from the Colossi.
So, the entire gameplay revolves around these massive boss battles. Each battle can take up to an hour if you don’t realize the way of using your tools and skills to take them down. The puzzle part of the experience is that discovering the boss’s weakness is a core mechanic.
The title starts at a central point of the map. Here, you’re free to search and fight against either a Colossi. However, finding the monsters also revolves around puzzle solving and using unique mechanics to reveal a path on the map. Remember, there’re no markers.
Combat is complex but familiar and easy to learn. You fight as you right your horse, but you can also climb the monster, swim, dodge, block, and slash. Lastly, there’s no progression beyond what you, as a player, learn and discover.
- Developer: Pixpil
- Publisher: Chucklefish
- Release Date: September 2021
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Nintendo Switch /li>
Eastwards is a story-rich action-adventure RPG game with a comedic tone, charming characters, and pixelated graphics. The experience looks, feels, and sounds gorgeous, and it comes from a Chinese indie developer.
You play as a hardworking miner, traveling with a young girl, e looking to find a place to live happily in a vast, collapsed world. The setting is a wasteland where a toxin is putting humanity at peril.
The title focuses on lo-fi exploration and fluid combat. You have various melee abilities and psychic powers you can develop over time. Also, you can use multiple weapons, like a frying pan or a flamethrower. Similarly, puzzles are easy but greatly satisfying as they require just enough brainpower to solve.
The map design is semi-open. You explore the story mostly in a linear manner. Still, to unlock secrets, you can go back to previous areas with your newfound powers. You’ll explore towns, forests, campsites, dungeons, and a cross-country railway.
Lastly, you can switch between John, and the girl Sam, to solve environmental puzzles and combat. You can also separate the duo to discover additional paths, or they can work together to solve the greatest challenges.
- Developer: Analgesic Productions
- Publisher: Analgesic Productions
- Release Date: February 2013
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Anodyne is an action-adventure title with NES-era graphics and music. Moreover, the mechanics, map design, and pace cues from classic Zelda games like Link’s Awakening and other 16-bit entries.
The gameplay revolves around solving puzzles and using a broom to fight enemies. However, unlike Zelda, the title lacks clarity regarding the plot, the character, the story, and the jumping platforming segments.
You play as Young as you explore a surreal world on a “Zelda-lite” experience. The setting is creepy, surreal, and abstract as you explore Young’s subconscious. In essence, you have to find special collectibles in each area to progress towards the other on a linear-progression system.
You’ll talk to NPCs along the journey, explore 16-bit dungeons, and hunt down keys you need to complete temples and castles. Gameplay is about using your broom for fighting and your shoes for jumping. Moreover, most areas are dungeons with rooms full of puzzles and enemies and open areas for exploring.
The title comes with low-res pixel art, but the tone is violent, darker than you’d expect. The action is descriptive as you stab, slash, and leave dead bodies behind. We don’t recommend it for children.
- Developer: Runic Games
- Publisher: Runic Games
- Release Date: September 2017
- Platform: Windows, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Hob is a puzzle platformer action RPG with a fluid combat system. It’s also an open-world title with a beautiful world to explore. However, it’s a short breeze, as it takes about 10 hours to complete.
The adventure is quite simple. This is an action/puzzle/platformer with combat and exploration as the core mechanics. And because of its open-world design, you have wide paths to explore for secrets, lore information, and power unlocks.
The exploration opens up after the small area of the game’s introduction. Then, as the story flows, you’ll be able to deviate for puzzles, platforming segments, and more. The game will reward you with power unlocks and extra puzzles.
Then, the combat system relies on four simple actions. You can punch, slash, charge, and roll. You can unlock advanced combat movements and find items to improve your health and energy. All in all, progression is quite similar to Zelda’s titles.
Lastly, Hob comes from the team that creates Torchlight and Torchlight II. At the same time, these developers were part of Diablo’s original developer team. For these reasons, the world feels suspenseful, dark, and deep.
- Developer: Toby Fox
- Publisher: Toby Fox
- Release Date: September 2015
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, SteamOS, PS4, PSVita, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Undertale doesn’t use common conventions of any genre, so it doesn’t feel much like Zelda…at first. But once you look deeper, you’ll find its expansive world feels organic, unique, charming, and heartful. Also, this is a retro 2D RPG where choices matter.
The gameplay revolves around exploring dungeons and towns. You play as a human who fell into a secret underground full of monsters. The goal is finding a way out, but the title has choices, branching paths, different endings, and new endings after a first playthrough.
Another unique element is how reactive the game is. On dialogue, you’ll find NPCs even know what you do in-game. That includes choices you made on your last playthrough, NPCs you have killed, or how many times you have died recently.
Moreover, the title uses 16-bit graphics, an offbeat OST, and mostly black & white graphics to deliver its hilarious story. This goes along with its main gameplay mechanic, which is combat. The action is similar to classic space shooters: you time your attacks and dodge enemy attacks on 2D screens.
Yet, combat starts on a screen reminiscent of classic Pokemon games. Here, you have various options for combat, like charming or persuading your enemies. With these options, you’ll be able to have a non-violent run if you wish.
- Developer: Supergiant Games
- Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
- Release Date: July 2011
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, Xbox 360, Xbox One, iOS, PS4, PSVita, NIntendo Switch
Bastion is a hand-painted action-RPG game with unique storytelling by a successful indie company developer. Like Zelda, the protagonist is silent, a vehicle for the story. But, a narrator guides you through the game and reacts through your actions.
The title is linear, though. You explore dozens of hand-painted areas and discover the secrets of a surreal catastrophe that shattered the world. Your job is to stop the event, the Calamity.
The gameplay is action-packed, but it doesn’t focus on exploration. From a top-down perspective, you wield a growing arsenal of weapons you can upgrade and battle against savage beasts. The game will reward you with reward opportunities if you play with finesses.
But then, the story presentation is stellar. There’re hours of reactive narration, which explores the story, the backstory, the lore, and the character. There’s also a highly-acclaimed original soundtrack making the title even more beautiful.
Lastly, the title has a New Game Plus mode that unlocks extra attack moves. It also allows you to keep your arsenal to keep playing against increasingly powerful enemies.