Generally favorable reviews - based on 75 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 69 out of 75
  2. Negative: 0 out of 75
Buy On
  1. 100
    Zelda fans are going to love this - but the multiplayer mode is a little bit boring.
  2. 100
    The sights, the sounds, the characters, the environments, they all combine to make a game that may not represent as much of a move forward as its predecessor, but represents a high watermark in both handheld gaming and video games in general.
  3. 95
    The evolution of the series in Nintendo DS has left us open-mouthed, and makes us have great hopes for the next Wii game.
  4. Nintendo Power
    If you like Zelda games, you were going to buy Spirit Tracks no matter what. But rest assured that you will not only be getting another fine Nintendo DS installment, but one of the series's best handheld titles to date. [Jan 2010, p.82]
  5. This is the big launch of DS in 2009.
  6. Like previous offerings in the revered franchise, it brings plenty of new bells and whistles, but is still a mostly recognizable Zelda game at its core.
  7. The gameplay is also polished and strong as well, continuing to prove the impossible feat of designing a game with a multitude of complex game mechanics all being distilled into stylus-based touchscreen controls.
  8. Spirit Tracks is one of the best videogames in the Zelda's franchise and it has probably the hardest puzzles in the series. Although it hasn't the best story and a big longevity, it's a title that will pain you when it starts to end.
  9. 93
    While Spirit Tracks has some obvious deja vu elements and can drag on from time to time, Nintendo's latest pocket Zelda trumps the first game hands-down, delivering amazing bosses once again, now complemented with impressive dungeons, a truly epic challenge in the Spirit Tower, and a substantially longer adventure overall.
  10. 93
    The bold lines, simple colours and innocent aesthetic emphasises the idealism of the Zelda series at its finest: this tiny, wide-eyed boy can conquer unimaginable evil, and his stoic determination can achieve more than even omnipotent deities could manage. These games might be perfect for children, but they're as fine an example of gaming as any adult could hope to encounter.
  11. Nintendo Gamer
    Peril, puzzles, laughs and rabbits - everything you'd want for a cracking Christmas romp. [Christmas 2009, p.42]
  12. It's not quite as lengthy or extensive as a Zelda game for the Wii, but it certainly includes all those elements Zelda fans are looking for: lots of dungeon crawling, puzzles, good storyline, charming visuals, etc. Best of all, you can take it with you on your next trip and even play it with a friend.
  13. Games Master UK
    Despite echoes of Hourglass, Tracks emerges as its own game. And a delightful one at that. [Christmas 2009, p.58]
  14. Not a huge leap forward for the series but a wonderful game nonetheless. Enjoy. [Christmas 2009, p.91]
  15. A superb quest that doesn't rewrite the rules but delivers another engrossing Zelda adventure. If you own a DS, buy it.
  16. 91
    Like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, it's a direct follow-up to a recent release that exceeds its predecessor in every way. And while it may not hit the soaring heights of Mario's latest, it's a fine game in its own right.
  17. A fun time and very well executed game. If you’re looking for something to play on the road while on vacation, or hiding away from society in a bomb shelter until Christmas blows over, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks makes as good a companion as a Ghost Princess.
  18. Spirit Tracks is an absolutely fantastic way to cap off 2009. With so many great titles this year, it’s fitting that a series so many of us have grown up on is able to keep us entertained during the holiday period. Once again, it’s the story, interesting use of music and Link and Zelda’s partnership that makes this such a worthwhile title.
  19. All together, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks doesn't quite knock one out of the ballpark, but it's still a better game than Phantom Hourglass for the much needed changes to the Spirit Tower / Ocean King Temple mechanics.
  20. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is everything its predecessor was and more.
  21. Pelit (Finland)
    An overall improvement over Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks proves itself to be one of the best games on DS. [Jan 2010]
  22. Spirit Tracks addresses all of the shortcomings of Phantom Hourglass and delivers a brilliant experience. It hasn't done much to change up the established formula, but it's still a solid adventure that ranks as one of the better outings in the series.
  23. It boils down to this: Spirit Tracks is the most consistently inventive game on the DS, with the best touchscreen controls on the system.
  24. A superb game and one of the best DS games this year. The dungeons are top-tier, entertaining affairs, and the train is fun to ride around in as you journey through the interesting game world.
  25. Vintage Nintendo. Maybe a bit too vintage - Spirit Tracks is, like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, a straight rehash, a derivative sequel of the kind the company used not to make, and based on a decades-old template. You could easily mark it down for that. But that would belie the fact that it's also a tighter and more rounded game, crafted with more care, than not just Phantom Hourglass but most modern games for grown-up consoles.
  26. It’s a quality game as was Phantom Hourglass before it, and even though at times it feels too much like a retread of past games, it remains a thoroughly enjoyable jaunt through Hyrule and puts most other DS titles to shame with its overall quality.
  27. While it's not quite as devastatingly original as Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks is still an utterly essential purchase and comfortably ranks as the undisputed DS event of the year.
  28. 90
    Spirit Tracks features some of the best labyrinths and inventive bosses in Zelda history.
  29. A new entry on the series, a new success. The Legend of Zelda is one of Nintendo's greatest franchises, and there's no doubt that it deserves it; Spirit Tracks is a huge game, beautiful, with an incredible cooperative gameplay and many things to do.
  30. Another little masterpiece from Nintendo, similar but better than Phantom Hourglass. If you have a DS, just buy it.
  31. We also have mixed feelings about the Spirit Flute, a musical instrument that, when played, reveals secrets. To do this, you'll blow into the DS microphone. While a novel idea, you look ridiculous doing it, on par with playing a game on Wii. We get what Nintendo wanted to do, but there was probably a better way to accomplish that, instead of having players spit all over their systems.
  32. Nintendo have really mastered this series and The Legend Zelda: Spirit Tracks is a prime example of this that features two popular gaming characters from this interesting mythology.
  33. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks may not feel like a real new chapter of the series, but the important improvements over Phantom Hourglass make this entry easily one of the best games ever on the DS.
  34. Spirit Tracks continues to take away, even going through the models and rules that define the core of a Zelda game, putting in place a sense of something already seen and played so many times.
  35. I know that it is almost certain that all the Zelda fans are going to buy all the titles related to the saga. I just ask you not to make the mistake of seeing "Spirit Tracks" as just an extra portable title. "Link’s Awakening" is enough proof that these versions are worthy enough and have distinguished the series since the beginning.
  36. 90
    It may not be completely flawless, but The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is definitely one of the DS 'must own' titles of 2009.
  37. Hyrule is a world where you want to be in. It’s so beautiful, with countless interesting people and exciting dungeons. So it’s no surprise that playing Spirit Tracks is truly a pleasure. The fighting, riding the train or solving puzzles: it’s all great to do. Spirit Tracks is a fantastic new addition to the series.
  38. A perfectly solid representation of Zelda. The puzzles are not easy, despite the cartoon appearance of the main character, the characters are interesting, the controls work well, and the story is adequate.
  39. Not the epic dimensions as in the former The Legend of Zelda games but it is a great game, not only for fans of Zelda. The simple and innovative controls also are also fitting for young players.
  40. LEVEL (Czech Republic)
    Link saves Zelda and drives the train – need to hear more? Ok – great look, great sound, great playability and great fun all the way! [Issue#187]
  41. Spirit Tracks is a solid experience in a familiar world. Fans of Zelda can really do no wrong by getting this game.
  42. 90
    Despite not straying far from the proven template, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks has genuine improvements over its predecessor and shows that the series is still the king of adventure puzzlers, console or handheld.
  43. Another excellent portable Zelda title in almost every respect; Spirit Tracks will keep you entertained for a good while just don't expect huge leaps and bounds in terms of innovation.
  44. The Spirit Tracks is a must own title for all those with a Nintendo DS.
  45. Excellent level and character design, superb graphics (for the DS), sumptuous music, incredible longevity, good multiplayer and some good elements of innovation: you name it, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks has it! Just go and buy it!
  46. Walk in with the realization that it won't be perfect and you'll have a fantastic time
  47. Riding the train is a tad slow-paced, but thanks to some great puzzles and a whole lot of enjoyable side quests, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is yet another great Zelda that will keep your DS running for quite some time.
  48. 88
    For me, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks definitely belongs in the world of Hyrule. It fits in perfectly with the other adventures of cell-shaded Link and that makes it a tad easy. Zelda-fanatics don’t need to worry, because there’s plenty of challenge to keep you occupied for a bit. Unfortunately, that means digressing from the storyline, something you’ll automatically do in a Zelda-tale. This lengthens the life of Spirit Tracks, but nevertheless it’s a short (but powerful) adventure.
  49. Another great entry in one of gaming’s most prolific series. It’s not without flaws, but it also offers some of the most fun handheld gameplay this year.
  50. Don’t let some minor quibbles prevent you from playing this very enjoyable chapter of the Zelda series as Nintendo effectively brings together several gameplay ideas together to form a great game overall.
  51. Spirit Tracks' exciting new mechanics and classic gameplay make it one Zelda adventure that has got a full head of steam.
  52. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is a solid, if uninspired, addition to the franchise. Everything's been tightened up a bit from Phantom Hourglass, but not a lot has been done to make the game really stand out.
  53. Nintendo delivers a new epic adventure, and even if the train sections are quite boring, puzzles and dungeon design greatly entertain the player.
  54. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is a good Zelda game. Its fault can be found in the similar gameplay structure of its predecessor. Still, the experience is something unique and teaming up with princess Zelda it's extremely fun.
  55. Edge Magazine
    Spirit Tracks' aging tricks continue to carry you cack into the narcotic realms of pure ritual, until you're deep in the caverns yet again, holding the magic yellow boomerang once more, and wondering what quirky brilliance it will bring with it this time. [Christmas 2009, p.92]
  56. Though parts of Spirit Tracks are a little disappointing, most of those low points are offset by its terrific puzzle design and a great, fun story that feels noticeably different from the standard "save the princess" saga that series fans are used to seeing.
  57. In my tenure as a game critic, I haven’t come across a game that fluctuates between highs and lows as frequently as Spirit Tracks. I often found myself taken aback by an amazing puzzle, only to be bored to death on a train moments later.
  58. This is my problem: loving Spirit Tracks means excusing failings games in other less-loved series might not get away with. Criticising it, on the other hand, does a disservice to how wonderful it truly is. Which horn do I run into? The answer is: both.
  59. A relative low point in Zelda history but still a hugely addictive and superbly well designed adventure.
  60. 80
    While it isn't perfect, Spirit Tracks does enough things right that you won't regret persevering through the initial sluggishness. Once the game picks up momentum and speed, it packs a locomotive sized punch, one that doesn't reinvent the wheel but still manages to do the storied franchise proud.
  61. If you like Zelda—if what makes Zelda good for you is the Zelda-y stuff that’s always in these Zelda games—then you’re going to find more of it here. All the charm, all the polish. All the thoughtful puzzles and gorgeous detail. But if you’re looking for something new, you’re going have to wait until the next train arrives. This is another The Legend of Zelda game: The formula we know, the formula we love.
  62. 80
    Spirit Tracks is still such a polished and wonderful game that its faults are only relative to other entries in the series and is therefore still better than 99% of all handheld games out there.
  63. 80
    The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is an excellent addition to Nintendo's celebrated franchise and a great way to close 2009.
  64. 80
    A list of each small nuance would make for a pretty boring review, so as superficial as it is we've given away as little of the story and the temple-to-temple action as possible. Much of the joy is discovering it all for yourself.
  65. Maybe its developers should have paid more attention to secondary missions, as the main adventure is too lineal. But even with that minor flaw the game is very well designed, with great graphics and entertaining playability.
  66. 80
    The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks brings little new to the franchise, and that would be fine if what it did introduce wasn't tedious and clumsy. The train is an abomination. And, while there are good puzzles and fun dungeons, everything seems a little tired, brief, and empty.
  67. games(TM)
    It's a fine submission in a long run of fabulous games, but not one that will swing Zelda in a brand new direction. [Issue#91, p.108]
  68. 80
    In summation, it looks great, the music is wonderful and no matter how frustrated the player gets with any one puzzle, it's an enjoyable enough experience that they won't want to stop until they've finished it.
  69. If you own a DS, and you agree that touching is good, then The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is for you, and anyone looking to embark on a casual quest that looks and feels good will feel right at home here.
  70. Without question a solid game experience, but you still can't wash off that feeling of the Zelda-franchise getting a little exploited here. As a direct sequel to Phantom Hourglass it does it's job good, but maybe too good since it's almost a carbon-copy of the previous game. The railroads are a new addition of course, and the time-limit is gone, but in all other aspects this is the same game more or less.
  71. Spirit Tracks is the weakest title in the series. It isn't a bad game, but it symbolizes a need to retire Link before his career is tarnished.
  72. 70
    Aside from the travel issue, Spirit Tracks is, in every way, a better game than Phantom Hourglass. Sadly, the travel gets so frustrating later in the game that it really drags the whole thing down.
  73. Maybe it's indicative of Nintendo's current business model; making family friendly games that are simple, and won't rock the boat. Yes, they had a winner with Phantom Hourglass, but Spirit Tracks reeks of complacency.
  74. But like the train you conduct, much of Spirit Tracks feels rigidly stuck on rails.
  75. Your 15th trip through the barren Hyrule countryside sums up not just dodging trains in Spirit Tracks, but basically the entirety of Spirit Tracks.

Awards & Rankings

#3 Most Discussed DS Game of 2009
#4 Most Shared DS Game of 2009
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 292 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 25 out of 292
  1. Jun 9, 2011
    Huge improvement over Phantom Hourglass. Improved DS Stylus control, better story - Princess Zelda is the best companion you will ever have inHuge improvement over Phantom Hourglass. Improved DS Stylus control, better story - Princess Zelda is the best companion you will ever have in a Zelda game and is actually funnier, difficulty is a bit more balanced but just not there yet (Nintendo should stop catering for casual gamers on difficulty, it's like they might cry if they keep dying or can't do it and this was a huge setback for Phantom Hourglass. A challenge would actually benefit them) and a more reasonable handheld length. Though the train travel is actually more tedious than the sailing in Windwaker and Phantom Hourglass, it's actually nice to travel on something new in a Zelda game. Full Review »
  2. Oct 21, 2012
    I hated Phantom Hourglass. The over world sucked, the music was bland, the puzzles were insultingly easy, and the plot was an excuse. So whyI hated Phantom Hourglass. The over world sucked, the music was bland, the puzzles were insultingly easy, and the plot was an excuse. So why does this game get a perfect ten from me? Because it did just about everything right. Admittedly the over world wasn't as good as in the 3D Zelda games, but it's still a vast improvement. The music offers some of the best tracks in the entire franchise, such as the Sacred Duet and the Overworld theme. The puzzles were easily the best out of any Zelda game, making it a bit more of a puzzle game than an action-adventure title. Finally, the plot was probably the best in the series, involving many great characters with a lot of life to them(Especially Zelda and Byrne). This game is different than other Zelda games, but as we established with Majora's Mask and Skyward Sword, different doesn't mean bad. Full Review »
  3. Oct 11, 2017
    The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is easily still one of my most favourite games to play, despite it being almost 8 years old. The entireThe Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is easily still one of my most favourite games to play, despite it being almost 8 years old. The entire game itself is simplistic but still makes you think enough for it to be classed as a puzzle game. The storyline isn’t entirely a prominent feature it’s more just woven through everything else to progress certain parts without it not making sense, it is however still a good storyline for those who enjoy a good plot.

    The story begins in Link’s home village whilst he’s being told the story of why the spirit tracks actually exist, this obviously sets up the base for the whole game or else nothing would make sense. It quickly begins the tutorial of how to use controls by weaving it into the story instead of just simply stating what to use for what, it’s more immersing using the story as a way of teaching controls.
    It soon begins the real story when Link has to make his way to Hyrule Castle by train to see the Princess and gain his engineer’s certificate, again the train journey mainly being used as a way to teach the train controls rather than being anything else important.
    A lot of cutscenes later the first ‘real’ playing begins when Link has to help Princess Zelda escape so that she can investigate why some of the tracks are mysteriously disappearing, this of course eventually leads to the typical “something bad happens to the princess and she needs saving by the hero himself, Link”.

    After the story is set up for the princess needing to be saved the real and true story begins filled with travelling, puzzles and enemies of all shapes and sizes.
    One of the best features, personally, is the use of the spirit flute for puzzles and shortcuts since it’s a new feature for spirit tracks which adds to everything else.

    The graphics are interesting since it’s much more basic compared to the other games and it’s played more on a 2D basis since you use the stylus to tap and walk around whereas in a game like Ocarina of Time you use the control pad to walk and look around, however I think that it makes it much easier to navigate and fight since you have more control using the stylus, therefore the overall game experience becomes better as you spend less time grasping the controls.

    If you were a fan of Phantom Hourglass you may find yourself a big fan of Spirit Tracks too since they are very similar in style, just you drive a train rather than a boat.
    Full Review »