Within the first few seconds of the original Legend of Zelda, Link picks up a sword and sets the precedent for his default weapon for the next 30 years (and counting). He typically starts his adventures with an under-powered sword– sometimes even a wooden sparring sword– and has to gradually work up to whatever ultimate sword he needs to defeat evil and win the day. More often than not, that ultimate sword is the iconic Master Sword.
In the pantheon of all-time classic video game weapons, the Master Sword is right up there with the greats. While the Zelda games aren’t typically noted for their violence, it can easily be argued that, across all the games and playthroughs over the years, the Master Sword is responsible for as high a body count as almost any other video game weapon. It is even responsible for one of the most brutally violent final blows ever given to a boss in an otherwise family-friendly game… but more on that later.
Link has had a lot of neat gadgets and subweapons throughout his decades-long career, but when you visualize him, chances are you picture him holding his most powerful blade. It’s almost as much a part of his default look as his floppy hat.
Here are 15 Things You Never Knew About The Master Sword.
15. It Was Inspired by King Arthur and The Sword in the Stone
As the legend goes in most Zelda games, only the true hero can pull the Master Sword from its resting place, and upon doing so that hero proves his worthiness to take on Ganon and save Princess Zelda– or whatever that particular game’s specific goal(s) might be. Of course, Nintendo wasn’t the originator of that conceit.
The obvious inspiration for Link proving his worth by being the only one who can retrieve the Master Sword are the King Arthur legends, which tell the story of the mythical Sword in the Stone– sometimes that sword is Excalibur, and other times it is a separate sword depending on the version of the tale– and how Arthur Pendragon became the rightful king of England by being the only person who was able to remove the sword from the stone that it is plunged into.
14. It Didn’t Make Its First Official Appearance Until “A Link to the Past”
Despite the fact that the original Legend of Zelda has an extremely powerful sword that you can’t obtain until near the end of the game– and is required for entry into the final dungeon- -according to the official Zelda canon, that isn’t actually the Master Sword. The most common source of confusion about this matter is that the old man who eventually gives you the sword says “Master using it and you can have this,” which has led people to assume that that choice of wording is meant to imply that the sword is, in fact, the Master Sword.
However, no sword was called the Master Sword by name until A Link to the Past, and that remains the sword’s first official appearance in how we know it today, especially in its distinctive appearance which has remained relatively consistent in every game since since then that has a sword called the “Master Sword.”
13. It Has Gone By Different Names
Even among what are considered official appearances by the true Master Sword, the weapon has been called different things, mostly by characters within the games. It’s fairly common that the sword isn’t ever called by the name “Master Sword” within the games themselves, with that title tending to be more of a meta-name for the weapon than actually how anyone in the actual games refers to it.
Perhaps the most common way the sword is referred to is simply for it to be called the legendary sword, or some similar approximation of that. However, among the times that it has been given some sort of formal title within a game– but by all accounts it is still, indeed, the Master Sword–the blade has been called such interesting names as “Sword of Resurrection” and “Blade of Evil’s Bane.”
12. Sometimes It’s a Separate Sword, and sometimes it’s an evolution of Link’s existing sword
There is some inconsistency from game to game as to how Link comes to wield the Master Sword. In some cases, Link starts with a much weaker sword and obtains various stronger swords– each completely replacing the previous sword– before finally being able to have the Master Sword as a weapon. In such an instance, the Master Sword is its own separate sword.
In other games, Link’s existing sword basically becomes the Master Sword due to various circumstances that occur over the course of those games. In essence, Link being the true heir to the sword’s legacy allows an otherwise-ordinary sword to evolve into the Master Sword, rather than the Master Sword being a tangible sword that exists on its own. It’s basically “the Master Sword resided within you all along!” type of territory.
11. Link Takes It With Him For His Fighting Game Appearances
If you’re going to go toe-to-toe with Nintendo’s biggest characters, you’re going to make sure you have all of your best equipment with you. As such, Link uses the Master Sword as his weapon in all of his Super Smash Bros. outings, including many of the special abilities that are unique to the weapon.
If you’re going to go toe-to-toe with the cast of Soul Calibur, some of the most proficient bladed weapon users in video game history, you’re going to make sure you bring your best sword. When Link joined the cast of Soul Calibur II as an exclusive character for the GameCube version, he naturally came equipped with his Master Sword– which carries just as much importance in the Zelda universe as the sword that the Soul Calibur series gets its name from, making for a game that has two of gaming history’s most significant swords in one place.
10. You Need To Have Both “Oracle” Games To Unlock It
Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages were two companion Zelda games for Game Boy Color that linked to each other in various ways. Unlocking things in one game could be carried over to the other, and the order in which you beat the two games would have various unique effects on your playthrough of both games.
Among the most important ways that the two games connected was that it was the only way you could use the Master Sword in either game. Although it could be done in either order– with slightly different parameters depending on which order you played them in– you needed to have one of the games completely beaten before you’d have the option of unlocking the sword in the other game. Otherwise, the most powerful sword you can get in either game is the Noble Sword.
9. Some games let you continue to upgrade it
Most of the time, receiving– or upgrading to– the Master Sword means you now have the most powerful sword in the game and are ready to take on the final dungeon where Ganon is probably hiding out and/or Zelda is probably locked away. However, there are some games where the Master Sword itself is further upgradable, meaning that you only initially receive a version of the sword whose true power hasn’t truly been unlocked yet.
The two most notable games where this is the case are A Link to the Past and A Link Between Worlds. In Past, the Master Sword is transformed into its Tempered and eventually Golden version, each progressively more powerful. In Worlds, the Master Sword simply has two additional levels that the sword can be upgraded to, and by the time you’ve hit level three your sword has quadrupled in strength from the original version. Whether that makes it four times as strong as the Master Sword of other games is tough to say, but it sure sounds impressive.
8. Other characters have wielded it under unique circumstances
Generally, the Master Sword is considered a special weapon that only a particular generation’s Link can use. But there have been a few examples of Nintendo letting that canon get played with a little bit and allowing other characters to be able to use the sword.
If Kirby swallows Link during one of the Smash Bros. games and absorbs his powers, he sprouts a Link hat as well as his own miniature Master Sword. It can be argued that its just a replica of the Master Sword and not the sword itself, but it still applies as it is effectively an exact clone of the weapon.
The other noteworthy time that another character is allowed to have the Master Sword is when Bayonetta wears the Link outfit in the Wii U versions of her games, at which point her regular katana takes on the visual properties of the Master Sword and even given a few of its abilities. It is the only time the Master Sword is ever seen being used in a more martial arts style rather than the medieval dueling style that Link favors.
7. It Shows Up as a Weapon in “Fire Emblem”
In the previous examples of characters besides Link using the Master Sword, it has still been in the context of those characters imitating or otherwise paying tribute to Link in some fashion. However, the Master Sword makes an appearance in Nintendo’s RPG series Fire Emblem as its own unique weapon, with no obligatory Link tie-in or outfit to accompany it.
A weapon called “Master Sword” first showed up in the Super Famicom game Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem. Other than being an extremely rare and powerful sword, it was really connected to the Zelda Master Sword by name only. It didn’t look more like the real Master Sword until that game’s DS remake, New Mystery of the Fire Emblem. Unfortunately, neither of those games have yet been localized outside of their native Japan.
6. “Breath of the Wild” where the Master Sword can be damage
Generally, the Master Sword is looked at as a mythical, godlike weapon that can attack and defend against anything and never suffers damage of any kind. Among the many ways that the recent Breath of the Wild reinvents the longstanding Zelda formula was in changing that tradition of the Master Sword being impervious to marring and otherwise all-powerful.
It can rust, it can get dirty, it can be negatively affected by lightning, and while it doesn’t actually break like the other weapons in the game, it can become unusable for a time and has to regain its strength before it can be used again. Sticking with its magical properties, however, it is able to repair itself and return to its undamaged form over time.
5. Its appearance changes based on its current state
While its no secret that the Master Sword is capable of glowing brightly, that isn’t the only physical change that the weapon is capable of. In Wind Waker, the cross guard– the part between the handle and blade that is perpendicular to the rest of the sword– is retracted and wilted-looking while the sword is in its weaker form, and more firm and pronounced while in its fully-powered form. The cross guard’s gem inlay is also either dulled or bright depending on the state of the sword.
The other game where this is especially noticeable is in Skyward Sword where, again, the firmness and pronouncement of the cross guard is affected by the state of the sword. It is possible that those physical transformations were always envisioned by Nintendo, but the technology didn’t exist for such small visual tweaks to an in-game weapon until fairly recently in Zelda‘s history.
4. It’s the only one-of-a-kind weapon in “Hyrule Warriors”
Built on the foundation of the Dynasty Warriors series of large-scale hack-and-slash games, Hyrule Warriors is a major departure for the Zelda franchise. One of the unique aspects of the game is in the nature of the weapons. Rather than each weapon being a unique item that you could only ever obtain one of, almost every weapon and item in Hyrule Warriors could be amassed in bulk– meaning you could have, say, ten boomerangs instead of just one.
One of the only exceptions to that system was, of course, the Master Sword. You are never able to have additional Master Swords in your inventory, even if you complete the task required to obtain it multiple times. Even in a game that takes so many liberties with the rules and guidelines of the Zelda universe, Hyrule Warriors knows to treat the Master Sword as a special, one-of-a-kind prize.
3. It can be deadly to Link
While the Master Sword seems to be the ultimate expression of all that is good and noble about Link and exists only to help him destroy evil and regain peace, the weapon is capable of hurting Link under certain circumstances. In Breath of the Wild, if Link tries to pull the sword from its resting place before he is ready– meaning, before he has the proper number of life hearts– he will progressively get weaker as he struggles to retrieve the sword, and can even eventually die from the physical exertion.
More famously– and slightly less morbidly– in Ocarina of Time, the Master Sword’s magic is designed in such a way that if Link tries to take the sword before he is meant to, he’ll be sealed away and kept in a magical slumber until he reaches the proper age. As Link attempts to take the sword seven years too soon, he is forced to arbitrarily sleep seven whole years of his life away until he’s old enough to use the sword– rather than just getting some kind of friendly “Hey, come back in seven years!” message, which seems a lot less severe than the alternative.
2. It’s part of one of the most gruesome deaths in Nintendo history
While there is a fair amount of death in the Zelda games, the violence is generally quite tame. Even though Link is using a long, sharp sword to dispatch his enemies, the weapon generally kind of swings “through” the bad guys in that acceptable video game way. What’s ironic is that one of the most violent things he’s ever done with his sword occurred in the Zelda game that was initially derided for being too childish-looking.
Most Zelda fans eventually got over the initial shock of Link’s youthful, animated look in Wind Waker. The game really does look like a living cartoon, and has some of the most whimsical characters and environments in the franchise’s history. Even Ganon himself looks just a little cuter and more cuddly than he typically does–which makes it all the more jarring when Link finishes him off at the end of the game by plunging his sword directly into Ganon’s forehead! And not just a few inches deep, either– we’re talking blade so deep its probably down in Ganon’s stomach. It’s a shockingly violent finale to what was initially a shockingly cartoonish game.
1. “Skyward Sword” Is said to tell the official story of its creation
To be clear, the whole notion of all of the Zelda games being part of a consistent, ongoing universe is a fairly contentious notion to a lot of longtime fans. Especially since Nintendo only started claiming such fairly recently, seeming to retroactively try and fit the previous games into some arbitrary chronological order. But, Nintendo is the keeper of the franchise, and if the company says it has an official timeline, then it does. Nintendo also says that Skyward Sword is the earliest game to be released thus far in the Zelda timeline.
On that note, Skyward Sword also purportedly tells the origin story of the Master Sword and how it first came into being, starting out as the “Goddess Sword” and, through the events of the game, becoming the Master Sword that would be used to kill and seal away Ganon for many subsequent generations. Your guide in the game, Fi, is also said to be the spirit that enters the sword and lives within it indefinitely, helping to control the magic that guides the sword and its path to future Links– and locks one of them away for seven years for no good reason.
Do you have any trivia to add about the Master Sword from Legend of Zelda? Leave it in the comments!