The Legend of Zelda has a long history in the gaming world. Celebrating 35 years this year, the franchise is a pop culture staple, one that even non-gamers can identify and recognise. With all appearances of the famous Link and Zelda duo in gaming history, let’s discuss which version of the duo is best.
Zelda and Link are seen as that of greatness among gamers, having solidified their legendary status through their many appearances over the past three decades. What’s more, almost every single Zelda title has given us a completely different incarnations of the duo. Fans of the series are constantly debating which versions of the characters are the best. And while most Zelda games are masterpieces in their own right, the best ones all have one thing in common: an intriguing narrative helmed by its titular character and her loyal hero. Ones that clearly stand out in the pack. Here are what I believe to be the top five versions of Link and Zelda.
5. Spirit Tracks
One of the most underrated Zelda games, Spirit Tracks furthers the fun and colourful nature of Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass. This version of the duo builds upon the design of its predecessors but moves away from the sea and towards the land of New Hyrule. What makes this incarnation of Link and Zelda unique is that it is the first time Zelda serves as a sort of playable companion to Link throughout the majority of the game. It is the only real time we are able to see the two characters grow and develop together and see the connection between the two bearers of the pieces of the Triforce pieces. Being around each other adds for an interesting dynamic, one we have still yet to see.
What makes this rendition of them so great is that they are a team. The title of the games makes sense in Spirit Tracks; it really is “The Legend of Zelda” when you play through this game. Similar to Twilight Princess, this game incorporates a real look into the role of the princess and the dynamics of the fictional worlds monarchy and government system.
Chancellor Cole is also a very underrated villain, one that garners great reactions and facial expressions from Link and Zelda. Spirit Tracks may not be everyone’s go-to Zelda game, but it’s absolutely worth playing purely for the real relationship we get to see form between its two central characters.
4. Twilight Princess
Twilight Princess Zelda embodies the idea of quality over quantity. While Princess Zelda only makes a small appearance this game, it is the greatest representation of her as an actual ruler, of a woman who bares a wisdom beyond her age. Regal and effortlessly poised, Twilight Princess‘ Zelda is a woman bearing the weight of her entire Kingdom on her shoulders. Her decision to surrender to Zant in order to protect her people from slaughter is a choice that epitomises what it means to be both a ruler of a nation and the bearer of the Triforce of Wisdom.
While her screen time is quite minimal, her importance is not. Her sacrifice in saving Midna ultimately sets the events of the second half on the game in motion, while also allowing our favourite Twili to continue assisting Link.
Link finds himself as a humble farmer in the era of the Twilight. He is more rugged and physical than our previous Link’s. Not only that, but he does also have a strong connection to another fan favourite Link, the Hero of Time. Both Zelda and Link’s greatest moments in this game are when they are together—the ending battle together an obvious standout of the whole game. The scene in which Link extends his hand to Zelda and the horseback chase that follows is thrilling and ambitious. The way they work with and around each other with a no-nonsense attitude and unspoken trust just highlights their connection through adult experiences and sacrifices.
3. Skyward Sword
Skyward Sword gave fans the most romantic version of the couple yet. Having grown up as childhood friends, Link’s quest to rescue Zelda this time ’round is a lot more personal. It’s not about saving a Kingdom or stopping Ganon. As is the Zelda way, there is of course darkness that rises up, but the crux of the journey is simply that of a boy wanting to find and save his friend. It’s the ultimate origin story to what has become one of the most recognisable duos in all of gaming.
Given that Skyward Sword has such a focus on storytelling, it’s no surprise that this incarnation of the duo is more fleshed out than many others. Zelda herself is a compelling character, proving that she’s more than just a princess. She’s a great character without the title, witting and charming and a great balance to the silent knight that is Link.
Skyward Sword’s hero of the sky is also a very memorable Link. He’s given more avenue to laugh and grow, developing into a true hero by the end of the game. And while the motion controls of the game are heavily discussed by fans, they really create an opportunity for the player to immerse themselves as Link. With Nintendo recently announcing a HD version of the game coming to the Switch, one can expect people to once again be talking about the great version of Link and Zelda this game created.
2. Breath of The Wild
As the most recent version of the character we’ve seen, Breath of the Wild’s Link and Zelda are still fresh in the minds of many fans. The recent instalment of the game shifted the traditional design of Link and Zelda. Gone was the green tunic and princess dress. In their place, a royal blue tunic for each of the characters. It’s a much more modern and practical design but one that mirrors the unique nature of these incarnations. They’re the future of these characters both literally within the game, but in a more broad sense.
The complexity of the relationship between these two is what makes it one of the best versions we’ve seen. Through flashbacks, we see Zelda’s animosity for our protagonist in clear view. We see Zelda struggle to live up to her destiny and we see her struggle. This vulnerability is a stark contrast to other versions. It’s this humanity within her that makes her so great. She’s not perfect, but she’s the heart of this game in the same way that she is the heart of the whole series. This game flips the usual Zelda formula on its head, with her saving Link at the beginning of this game and her power being able to seal Ganon away.
And in regards to Link, his Breath of the Wild journey is one of a man coming back from the dead to avenge his fallen friends and save the land he swore to protect. There’s nothing more compelling than a hero on a quest for redemption, after all.
1. Ocarina of Time
As the first 3D versions of the characters, Ocarina of Time’s iconic princess and hero combo are still the greatest of them all. Thanks in large part to the time traveling elements of this game, which gives gamers the opportunity to play as and interact with both young and older versions of each character. By playing as these characters through time, we see them grow and develop into their roles. And while it may seem like Zelda plays the stereotypical damsel in distress, she is anything but. Her disguise as Sheik, a mysterious wanderer that helps adult Link throughout the game, showcases just how capable this Zelda is. As Sheik, she manages to evade not only Ganondorf but all the enemies that inhabit Hyrule.
Similarly, Link’s appearance in this game truly encapsulates and cements his standing as a great hero. He is stoic and brave, but most importantly he is a musician of the highest quality. While many games include Link using music to further his quest, none are quite as iconic as Link and his ocarina. When I think of the most well known silhouette for Link, it would be one that has him holding up his ocarina. Nothing says “iconic” quite like Link and Zelda from Ocarina of Time.
With the series still continuing to build upon its already amazing legacy, the future of these characters holds endless possibilities and potential to explore. For now though, these have been some of the best versions of the characters we’ve seen to date. Which version of Link and Zelda do you think is the best? Let me know in the comments below