Runner-up: The King of Red Lions (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker [GCN])
What can you not say about a talking red ship? Toon Link's traveling companion while traversing the rough waves of the Great Sea, the King of Red Lions is a valuable partner in Link's quest to secure the lost pieces of the triforce. The boat also just so happens to be the vessel upon which the king of Hyrule (a place now submerged underwater) takes residence.
Winner: Ezlo (The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap [GBA])
A Minish elder who was transformed into a hat by the power-hungry Vaati, Ezlo is Link's companion in the lone original Zelda title on the Game Boy Advance, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Not only does he seldom butt in for inane "I already know that" comments, but when he does have something to say, it is incredibly entertaining and humorous. The moment when Link enters his own room Ezlo states something along the lines of "So this is your room. So does that mean it is now my room, too?" Comedic moments like this make Ezlo hat and shoulders above the competition.
[Best Art Style]
Runner-up: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
The watercolor world of Skyward Sword makes great use of the tech inside the less-than-impressive Wii. Enemies look stellar, Link looks almost better than he has ever looked before, and the environments are teeming with personality and charm. From the Faron Woods to Eldin Volcano, there's beauty within every section of land within the realm of Skyloft.
Winner: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN)
At a Spaceworld event Nintendo showed off a tech demo showing off an adult Link facing off against Ganondorf. Their blades clashed within a dark environment. When years flew by and Nintendo unveiled a new, cartoon-y look for Link, the Internet exploded with stupidity, as it is wont to do. When players got a hold of the actual game, The Wind Waker, all fears were put to rest. The emotions and expressions on Link rival that of Dreamworks films, the cel-shaded world was crisp and colorful, and the special effects such as bombs exploding all added together to create an unforgettable graphical experience.
Runner-up: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)
For the first time ever the dungeons of the Zelda franchise were in full 3D. This meant players had to think in three dimensions as well. Switches were hidden on ceilings, blocks needed to be pushed between floors, and puzzles like the series had never seen before had to be solved. From the Forest Temple's Poe hunting to the Fire Temple's Goron saving to the Water Temple's water level changing, each dungeon in Ocarina of Time offered something completely new.
Winner: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii, GCN)
Without a doubt my favorite Zelda in terms of dungeon design, Twilight Princess blew the proverbial lid off the joint. Helping out monkeys in the Forest Temple, rescuing Gorons in the Goron Mines, altering the flow of water within the Lakebed Temple, spinning across the surface of sand in the Arbiter's Grounds, and my personal favored dungeon, venturing through a wintry mansion in Snowpeak Ruins. The puzzles presented to the player were more challenging than Ocarina of Time even if the combat wasn't.
Runner-up: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
With a massive collection of items in Link's possession by the conclusion of A Link to the Past, this game offers a tremendous variety of weaponry and magic. From the appearance of the Hookshot to the Fire and Ice Rods to the Magic Cape to the mystical canes to the magical medallions used to obliterate every foe presently on the screen to the Boomerang and Flute, A Link to the Past has 20+ items worthy of use.
Winner: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii, GCN)
Offering an abundant amount of new items and fresh takes on classic ones, Twilight Princess has the best variety of items in a Zelda game. Cruising around using the Spinner to cross over chasms and quicksand as well as riding along specially marked walls, using the Dominion Rod to make otherwise nonliving armored statues come alive and move, chucking the Gale Boomerang to turn the blades of a windmill, and making terrific use of the Double Clawshot to reenact everyone's favorite webhead superhero are all possibilities with Twilight Princess's items.
Runner-up: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii, GCN)
From a reanimated skeleton to a possessed by Twilit forces yeti, the bosses in Twilight Princess were highly creative. Yes, they did not pose that great of a challenge as the entire game was easy, puzzles aside, but they were still a joy to play through. Using the Spinner to rise up walls and slam into Stallord or using the Iron Boots to get a foothold to grab the chain of the Twilit Igniter, Pyrus, were all memorable moments in a truly memorable game.
Winner: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
The battles against the big bad bosses of The Legend of Zelda: Sjyward Sword were always intense as unlike past 3D Zeldas you couldn't really be passive in your actions. You had to be sharp and always on guard. Bosses dished out more damage. With the ability to attack them with multiple sword strikes from varying directions and speeds, the battles themselves were puzzles. Facing off against Ghirahim for the first time was an effort in futility without knowing how to defeat him and defend against his myriad of menacing maneuvers. For incredible and challenging boss battles, look no further than Skyward Sword.
Runner-up: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (GB)
Koholint Island may have been merely a dream, but the memories of trekking through the Mysterious Forest, Tal Tal Heights, and Animal Village are tangible. Each destination on the map had something unique to offer whether it was a signpost maze, a murky swamp, a river rapid ride, avoiding falling boulders on the mountain, or pushing aside spiked enemies with Link's shield on the beach. It impressed because the world was all contained on one small Game Boy cartridge.
Winner: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
Filled to the brim with things to do, the overworlds (yes, overworlds) of A Link to the Past were fairly easy to get around and with plenty of time to spare. From the Eastern Palace on the east to Hyrule Castle in the center to Kakariko Village and the Lost Woods to the west to Death Mountain to the north, Hyrule was one of the most realized worlds in a Zelda game. Double your pleasure and double your fun with the Dark World which was its own overworld to itself. I've never had so much fun exploring a world than I did with A Link to the Past's Light World and Dark World.
That ends yet another awards show. Just remember that the big one starts on December 27th. That is the date where the SPC Best of 2011 Awards begin where I will announce a profusion of categories, winners, and runners-up.