This year marks the 35th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda series, and we could think of no better way to honor this fantastic series of games than by compiling a list of our top 35 favorite things about it! All month long, we’ll be counting down from thirty-five to one the people, places, items, and activities from The Legend of Zelda series that make the games special, memorable, and well-worth playing. Per our usual schedule, watch for new posts on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and share your own thoughts on the series in the comment sections. And so, happy 35th to The Legend of Zelda – let’s keep this party going!
9. Ganondorf, Link’s Constant Nemesis
Jacob: Depending on the game, Ganondorf is either a great villain or just the antagonist. I’d say he’s at his best in A Link to the Past and Twillight Princess since his motivations are more fleshed out and he actually is something of a character. In the other games, it’s cool to see him, but otherwise he’s just kind of there. He always looks cool and intimidating though, so it’s always fun seeing him pop-up again.
Duck: Ganondorf serves the same purpose as Bowser in the Mario series, the recurring baddie that our hero must face time and time again. But unlike Bowser, I’d have to say that Ganondorf is far more intimidating, his goals revolving around ruling Hyrule and obtaining the Triforce, which can grant the user godlike powers, rather than merely kidnapping a princess. Probably my favorite appearance of this iconic villain was in Wind Waker, where Ganon actually provides his motivations behind wanting to take over Hyrule, explaining how the harsh climate of his own country made him jealous of the far more verdant Hyrule. It’s not much, but it was enough for this version of Ganondorf to seem a bit more…human in my mind. Still irredeemably evil, but human, nonetheless.
Cary: The Duck made the best comparison here – you can’t have a Mario game with Bowser (or some form of him), and you can’t have a Zelda game without Ganondorf (or some form of him). His motivations change from game to game, but he’s always there as something of a thorn, if not worse, in Link’s side. One might think that after all these year, Ganondorf would be tired of trying to wrestle Hyrule from the hands of a kid who just happens to be good with a bow and arrow, but no. Just like Bowser, he always comes back for more.
8. The Shadow Temple in Ocarina of Time
Jacob: Scariest temple ever! The sheer ghastliness of the Shadow Temple is enough to ensure that it stuck in just about any fan’s mind, but for me it’s all about the background. This is a place used to imprison, torture and execute the enemies of the royal family, and it’s huge! Who knows how many people perished within its confines? Heck, the Sheikah eventually had to seal it off in order to contain the darkness/evil growing there. Not a good place at all, the Shadow Temple, and it leaves one wondering how good things actually are in Hyrule under the royal family.
Duck: Being a huge fan of creepy things, it’s no wonder then that the Shadow Temple is my very favorite dungeon in the series. From invisible statues wielding scythes to that weird ferry that carries you across a river of fog, as its twin bells toll before eventually just dropping off into the abyss. There are traps and enemies that can only be seen with the Lens of Truth and other strange things that I can only wonder are…torture devices? This whole place just exudes death and mystery, leaving one with the unshakable feeling that the Shadow Temple was clearly made for some sinister purpose that is better left an enigma…
Cary: The Shadow Temple is a great example of the truly eerie side of Hyrule. There’s no escaping the fact that the Zelda series combines lightness and darkness in the most usual (nobody likes spiders) and most unusual ways. Besides being traditionally spooky, the Shadow Temple is extremely unusual with its twists, turns, and traps. It’s a place that no one wants to be, and yet, it’s fascinating to explore!
7. The Hookshot, and its Variations
Jacob: Point. Shoot. Profit! I love this thing in all its iterations because it offers an awesome sense of mobility! This thing is just out and out fun, so it’s no wonder that’s shown up in so many of the Zelda games!
Duck: Out of Link’s admirable arsenal of items, the hookshot easily comes out on top (even if I recall a Game Theory stating that using the hookshot would yank Link’s arm out of its socket…yowch!). My very favorite variation is the double clawshot from Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, which makes even tricky locations a breeze to traverse. I only wish I had my very own hookshot…if it wasn’t for, y’know, the whole arm thing.
Cary: Much like in Super Metroid when obtaining the grapple beam changes the literal course of the game, obtaining the hookshot in any Zelda game in which it exists is a game-changer. Oh, the places Link can go with it! From high spots, to low spots, and everything in between. No area is off limits with the hookshot. Not to mention that it also serves as a device to reach far-away things, and can also hit enemies in a pinch. It’s a multi-tool to end all multi-tools!
Up next, #6-4!