Next to Mario, Link is arguably the most recognizable character in video games. In the first few years of the Nintendo Entertainment System release, there were only a handful of games available. Then came The Legend of Zelda, a game that was different from some of the other NES fare that the system had to offer. It wasn’t a platformer like Mario, yet it wasn’t exactly a role-playing game like Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior.
The silent protagonist known as Link became an instant favorite. Beneath his child-like exterior beat the heart of a true hero who started virtually unarmed only to grow in strength as the game progressed. This is probably Link’s most appealing characteristic, pixelated proof that through hard work and determination any obstacle could be achieved. As players, we took that journey with him.
Although Link was a man of few words, that doesn't mean he was boring. In fact, there is quite a history to his character. Here are 15 Things You Never Knew About Link.
In 1987, Shigeru Miyamoto, developer of the popular Mario Bros. franchise, envisioned a game that reminded him of his time adventuring in the wilderness of Sonobe, Japan. As the story goes, a young Miyamoto happened upon a cave and, after much reluctance, decided to enter it with his small lantern to explore its depths. The experience stuck with Miyamoto and he wanted a game that recalled the excitement he felt that day.
The Legend of Zelda was soon released in 1987, and as players pressed Start for the first time, they were introduced to the game’s young hero; a green tunic wearing adventurer by the name of Link. The story revolved around the young hero finding the eight shattered pieces of the Triforce throughout the medieval inspired world of Hyrule. Upon acquiring the pieces and reassembling the Triforce, he could then finally take on the evil Ganon and save Princess Zelda from his clutches.
If you think that Link looks a bit familiar, believe it or not, Nintendo actually planned it that way and the secret lies in your old Disney Black Diamond VHS tapes. Miyamoto wanted Link to seem familiar to audiences the moment they saw him, so he asked designer Takashi Tezuka to craft Link's appearance based on popular Disney characters. Tezuka looked to Peter Pan for inspiration, giving Link a green tunic, a long floppy hat, and pointy ears similar to an elf.
But Link isn’t the only character based on the J.M. Barrie story. A recurring element in the Zelda franchise is the existence of fairies who help Link along his journey. In the original Legend of Zelda, fairies help refill Link’s health bar when he has taken too many hits. In later games, the fairies would also help Link by giving him special tools like the Magical Boomerang in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The fairy is based on Peter Pan’s faithful companion Tinkerbell, whose fairy dust allows Peter to fly to and from Neverland.
If there is one thing that will always anger a fan of Link, don’t ever call him Zelda. While it’s entirely true that Zelda refers to the princess in the game, if you really want to get specific about names, Link might not be entirely accurate either. Miyamoto envisioned a game where the player could be completely immersed in the adventure on the screen.
One extra way to help achieve Miyamoto’s plan was the ability to name your character. Turns out, when the file select screen comes up and asks you to register your name, they actually meant your name. The hope was that players would feel more connected to the adventure if the hero was a reflection of them.
As good of an idea as this was, having a character with an undetermined name is a branding nightmare. What do you call him? The hero? You? They needed a default name.
Since the original plan of the first Zelda game was to have the hero travel through time, they settled on an early name, Link, which represented that he was the “link” between past and present.
In another attempt to connect the hero to the player, Link is rarely ever shown talking. The hope was by making Link voiceless, characters would be less inclined to identify him as a separate person from the player. In games like Tomb Raider, we know Lara Croft searches for treasure because she talks about it all the time. In Zelda though, Link’s drive to search for the Triforce and save the princess is never expressly said and thus is entirely on you.
That isn’t to say that Link is mute or incapable of speech, though. Certain games in the franchise hint that Link is completely capable of communicating with other characters within the series. In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Jaggle makes note that Link’s voice travels quite well over long distances. Also, in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Link breaks the fourth wall when he finds the mirror under a table in the town of Saria and announces it to the player.
In the world of right-handers, being a lefty isn’t easy. Writing left to right means countless trips to the sink to wash your hands, guitars and golf clubs need to be special ordered, and, in terms of video game heroes, lefties are sorely underrepresented.
Well, lefties can rejoice, because Nintendo’s most famous adventurer swings his sword just like you would. As a general rule of thumb, Link is left-handed. This has been reflected in just about every Zelda title, with just a few exceptions.
When Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword came out for the Nintendo Wii, Link’s sword hand had to be changed to account for all those righties who wanted to use the console’s motion controls. Unfortunately, Nintendo never added a left-handed feature to allow Link to appear as left-handed on the screen for those southpaws who wanted to use the Wiimote.
Sorry lefties. Looks like you just can’t catch a break sometimes.
Since the first game, Link’s age has been a topic of much confusion. In the original Zelda game, he appears short and child-like. Even in art in the original game manual makes Link appear to be quite young. It isn’t until The Adventure of Link that we actually get an actual age of 16 but, despite being a direct sequel to the original Legend of Zelda, it’s unknown how much time has passed between to two games.
In The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, players finally got a chance to play as either the child or adult version of the pointy eared adventurer. In the game, Link is sent to a time where Link is older and another one where he’s a kid. As a more matured hero, Link is able to perform various acrobatics to elude enemies. Also, as to be expected, he is also a bit stronger and able to handle heavier weaponry.
Although Link might not speak words, that doesn’t mean he’s completely silent. Link yells, grunts, groans like anyone else subject to the rigors of adventuring. As a result, someone has to give a voice to Link, and over the years there have been several different voice actors.
The first time Link could be heard was the Gamecube title The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. His adult version was voiced by Nobuyuki Hiyama, who continued to be the voice of Link up until the 2002 Gamecube release of Soulcalibur II, where Link was a special playable character.
But for the younger version of Link, developers wanted a voice that was a little less gruff. As a result, Young Link is commonly performed by a female.
The two most famous women to play the hero are Fujiko Takamoto from Ocarina of Time and Sachi Matsumoto, who began voicing Link in Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Both women have made repeated appearances in the series, with the two of them voicing different versions of Link in Hyrule Warriors. Takamoto voiced Young Link while Matsumoto played Toon Link.
Music has always played a large role in The Legend of Zelda series. Link’s first appearance playing an instrument was in the original Zelda game. Link could acquire a recorder which, when played, called forth a whirlwind that could transport our hero to other places on the map. This was followed up by the flute in A Link to the Past, which acted in the same way but instead called upon a bird to whisk you off.
Most famous, though, is the ocarina from Ocarina of Time, which Link uses to solve puzzles and open the famed Door of Time.
But Link isn’t just limited to woodwind instruments. Link plays a mean harp in Oracle of Ages as well as in the recent Wii excursion Skyward Sword.
He also knows how to rock the percussion. In the Nintendo 3DS game A Link Between Worlds, Link chimes a bell to transport him around, similar to the flute from A Link to the Past.
The Triforce is a major element within the Zelda series and is often the penultimate goal, next to rescuing Princess Zelda. It is an ancient artifact of immense power. The Triforce is composed of three segments: The Triforce of Wisdom, The Triforce of Power, and The Triforce of Courage. If someone manages to collect all three Triforces, the person is given almost god-like powers.
Traditionally the three pieces of the Triforce are naturally associated with the three main characters of the Zelda universe. Zelda, Ganon, and our hero, Link. Zelda is commonly in charge of guarding the Triforce of Wisdom, Ganon’s lust for control is reflected by the Triforce of Power, and finally Link’s heroism makes him a natural choice for the Triforce of Courage.
In many games, Link bears the symbol of the Triforce on his hand, signifying he is chosen by the Triforce of Courage to be the hero of Hyrule.
Most iterations of the Zelda franchise seem like they begin in a vacuum, with Link just beginning his quest with no recollection of past events. But games like The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link are true sequels where Link continues his journey. So what is it? Are only some games sequels?
It turns out all of the games are connected.
In Ocarina of Time, Link’s adventure is split into two timelines, one as a child and one as an adult. But anyone who has watched Back to the Future II will tell you that just because you leave one timeline, doesn’t mean that the other isn’t still active.
What happens is a split where, as a child, Ganondorf never comes to power, and another where Adult Link must seal him away. One timeline continues with the child Link in Majora’s Mask and leads into the Twilight Princess saga, while the other follows the reincarnated Hero of Winds in the Wind Waker series.
Other series also are connected, like Skyward Sword, which is actually the beginning of the entire Zelda universe.
But that’s not all…
If you felt like the first two Zelda games seemed a bit bleaker than the rest of the franchise, you’re not wrong. In the first Zelda, Link must stop Ganon in a barren Hyrule where people are living in caves and under trees. In Zelda II, Link must stop the revival of Ganon as his minions desperately work to revive him. So why is Hyrule so dark?
Because, in this timeline, Link lost.
Aside from the two timelines we already mentioned, a third exists where Ganon defeats Link. Upon defeating the hero, Ganon plunged Hyrule into darkness, which led to the Imprisoning War where Ganon is sealed in the Dark World. This led to the events of A Link to the Past, where Link must fight a freed Ganon.
Years later, Hyrule falls into decline and a resurrected Ganon captures Princess Zelda and steals the Triforce of Wisdom. This barren Hyrule is the setting for the events of the original Legend of Zelda and concludes with The Adventure of Link.
Hyrule Warriors was a Wii-U spin-off game created by Koei, the same people who brought you other hack and slash titles such as Dynasty Warriors and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Much like the Dynasty Warriors series, characters from the Zelda universe must fight their way through swaths of enemies to eventually take on the boss. The game spawned a port for the Nintendo DS entitled Hyrule Warriors Legends which featured much of the same as its predecessor, with some added content.
One of these added features was the story of Linkle, a young girl who wants to prove that she is the reincarnation of the legendary hero from the stories she has been told.
Like Link, Linkle wears a similar green tunic but forgoes the hat for a hoodie. Rather than fight with a sword and shield, Linkle prefers to use a set of crossbows in each hand.
Originally, Linkle was designed to be Link’s kid sister, but since Link already has a sister named Aryll in Wind Waker, the idea was scrapped allowing Linkle to have her own quest.
Almost everyone had Nintendo fever in the late '80s and early '90s, so it made sense to infuse the characters of popular video games into the mainstream anyway they could. Most people are familiar with the Super Mario Bros. movie, but Nintendo even had its own breakfast cereal!
One of the other ways Nintendo wanted to conquer every avenue of our existence was on television. In 1989 The Super Mario Bros. Super Show hit the airwaves. It was a variety show hosted by Captain Lou Albano and Danny Wells, as Mario and Luigi respectively.
Among the animated shows on the Mario Bros. Show, The Legend of Zelda starred a reluctant Link who was hired to guard the prim and proper Princess Zelda.
The show depicted Link as somewhat of an irritating buffoon, constantly vying for the affection of Princess Zelda while at the same time continually ridiculing her with his sing-songy catchphrase, “Well, excuuuse me, Princess!”
The character was apparently popular enough to make an appearance on the Nintendo-inspired television show, Captain N: The Game Master, although most Zelda fans see the Zelda TV show as a black spot on the series.
In 1989 Nintendo and Sony were in talks to partner up to create a CD add-on to the Super Nintendo. Unfortunately, Nintendo got cold feet and decided on partnering up with Philips instead to create the CD component. After seeing the low sales of the Sega CD, Nintendo and Philips' partnership ended up falling through. Sony, on the other hand, would go on to make their own console, which they called the Sony PlayStation.
As payment for Nintendo backing out of the Philips deal, they offered Philips the use of 5 of their franchise characters, three of which were Ganon, Zelda, and Link.
From that payoff, Philips created two Zelda games for their multimedia platform the CD-I. Legend of Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon and The Faces of Evil were two adventures starring Princess Zelda and Link respectively. The games were received with mixed reviews, with animated cutscenes reminiscent of the ill-fated Legend of Zelda Animated Series.
To this day the games have not been recognized as canon, but some claim that the games are overlooked. The Wand of Gamelon is also the only Zelda game that features Princess Zelda as the main protagonist.
So with all we know about the Zelda series’ different timelines, the question is where does the new Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild take place. It’s clear from the gameplay we’ve seen that this new Zelda game features a rich and vibrant Hyrule for Link to explore. But a few eagle-eyed Zelda fans have noticed some specifics in the available gameplay that could point to a specific timeline.
First is the appearance of the Korok’s from Wind Waker, who are basically like the Kokiri from Ocarina of Time. Some items have also been found that point to a post-Wind Waker timeline. One is a piece of rock salt which is described as coming from an “ancient sea”.
But most telling might be the art style shown in Breath of the Wild. Much of the new game is cell shaded, which would also point to the same graphical style used in the Wind Waker series. Also, from gameplay seen at E3 2016, we know that this Link wakes up after a supposed 100 years of sleep. Whether this is the same Link from Wind Waker all grown up or yet another reincarnation is unknown.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is set for release in 2017.