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The Truth About The Worst-Selling Legend Of Zelda Game Ever

The Legend of Zelda is one of the world's most iconic game franchises. It debuted in 1986 with the original title for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and is still going strong over three decades and 15 original entries later. With all that content, a few are bound to be duds, right — at least in terms of sales? 

As it turns out, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures takes the crown as the worst-selling Zelda game. However, despite its overall low numbers, the title was reportedly considered the third best-selling release of June 2004 in North America. According to fan-collected statistics, Four Swords Adventures moved just 0.81 million copies overall.

In comparison, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the franchise's best-selling game, sold 18.6 million units for the Switch and 1.69 million units for the Wii U, according to a ResetEra user. That's a big difference. But why didn't Four Swords Adventures do so well?

Four Swords Adventures was experimental in nature

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures differed from the standard formula of the other games. Instead of the usual action role-playing elements, Four Swords Adventures eschewed an open world setting for individual, mini sandbox-style levels. In some ways, it was already more limited than other titles within the franchise. It seemed Nintendo intended it as an experiment following the two player-only experience from 2002's The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Four Swords for the Game Boy Advance.

In Four Swords Adventures, you're tasked with rescuing princess Zelda and her six shrine maidens from Vaati, the Wind Sorcerer. It contains a decent single-player campaign, but ultimately this title was designed as a multiplayer experience from the ground up in an era where online play was still a novelty. Destructoid called Four Swords Adventures "a highly unique idea and something way too ahead of its time" due to its attempts at multiplayer innovation.

According to Destructoid, the game failed because of its cost. Not only did you need a GameCube and a copy of the cartridge, you also needed four Game Boy Advance systems and four link cables so everyone could play. That's a lot of dough to shell out for one title. However, fans have also said in online forums that Four Swords Adventures lacked the fun, magical feeling of the preceding entries and didn't necessarily feel like Zelda.

The GameCube factor

Although plenty of people loved the GameCube, it wasn't Nintendo's most successful system. Given this, part of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures' poor performance could come down to simple numbers. With 21.74 million GameCubes sold over six years, GameCube was Nintendo's second biggest console flop (the Wii U sold just 13.56 million units).

Compare that with the Nintendo DS, which sold 101.64 million units. There simply wasn't as big a market for games that landed on the GameCube. Even the bestselling GameCube game — Super Smash Bros. Melee — only sold 7.41 million copies. Add that to the fact that Four Swords Adventures failed to excite the usual Zelda audience because of its experimental nature, and you have a recipe for, well, not disaster, exactly, but "hidden gem" status for sure.

Still, the time may be ripe for a return. After all, what was novel in 2004 is pretty standard now, and battling as four Links with and against your friends either through local co-op or through online multiplayer sounds pretty fun. Considering it has always received positive reviews and many still like the game, it's not hard to imagine Four Swords Adventures could get new life on the Switch.