11. Twilight Princess (2006)
These blog posts are going to be pretty short from now on, probably. I don't have the spare time or energy for long ones.
The combat in this game is not as fun as Wind Waker's. In Wind Waker, you could press a button to do a parry. In Twilight Princess, you can learn a few hidden skills, and do the parries manually. There is a version of Twilight Princess in some parallel universe that does this well, but the one we've got doesn't. It's fun when it works, but it's essentially random when it works, depending on which way the enemy is facing. In Wind Waker, you could engage large groups of enemies, have them weaken each other, and move in with some parries, and you'd be fine. In Twilight Princess, you have to try to lure one enemy around to get attacks on it, and you'll still probably get hit unless you're fighting fairly weak enemies. Darknuts are awful in pairs, because you need to very specifically roll around one to damage it, and that will almost certainly get you hit by the other. The combat works overall, and even innovates a bit with horse combat, but it's much less polished (and fun) than I'd like.
I like how this game changes areas dramatically over the course of the game. Faron Woods starts out un-poisoned, and then becomes infested with poison mist on your first return visit. You walk through on foot, and then you follow a monkey with your lantern through the mist, and then you jump through as Wolf Link. Two bridges get broken over the course of the game, and you can find the missing pieces in parts of the game you've already explored. You explore most of the areas of the game in Twilight first, and then return once you've restored light to them. A change I particularly like, with some caveats, is the way the Sacred Grove area changes. Finding it at all is a nice "change" of an area - it's not on the map and not a place you can travel to at first. You have to return later in the game as Wolf Link. Later still you return again and find ANOTHER hidden area inside of the Sacred Grove. It adds to the game, if only a bit, to see the same zone in different stages and at different times.
I'm a big fan of Midna. She's not nice when you meet her. She's rude, and demanding. She treats you like a servant, like a pet, even. She uses you to get what she wants - the fused shadows from the first few dungeons. She abandons you when you're locked in your first burning shack, in Kakariko Village. It takes half the game for her to become more of an ally than an antagonist you're temporarily aligned with. When you save her life, she finally treats you as an equal. Her dialogue loses the demanding bits from earlier in the game, and she's finally somewhat friendly. Twilight Princess puts enough dialogue hooks in as Midna's personality changes to make the whole thing seem plausible. It's fun, and I'd like to see more Zelda games where your sidekick is a total pain and then grows out of it (or, just more rude sidekicks in general).
Twilight Princess has a reserved part of my heart because it was a game I played fairly early. I had fond memories going in and was happy to relive a game I haven't played in probably a half decade. Replaying Twilight Princess brought a few issues with it back to mind. Twilight Princess has some rough bits around the combat, even with the motion controls cut out. It suffers from trying to be a new Ocarina and from trying to swing the pendulum back from Wind Waker's tone and art style. It also tries a bunch of new ideas with dungeon layouts and items. It's also fun, honestly, when you're not fighting the rough bits. I'm glad I got back to it (and will enjoy coming back for 100% on my new completed save file).