Legendary Encounter: Link vs. Zelda – Heroic Duel for Hyrule!

Legendary Encounter: Link vs. Zelda – Heroic Duel for Hyrule!

In the world of video games, few characters are as iconic as Link and Zelda. Both have been around for decades, first appearing in the late 1980s on NES. But when it comes to a clash between these two heroes, who would come out on top? Today we’re delving into the history of both characters to see who has the stronger past, present, and future — proving once and for all who is the true hero of Hyrule. Let’s journey through the ages of their adventures to discover who holds the mightier legacy.

The first two games occur in an alternate timeline where Link failed to defeat Ganon in The Ocarina of Time.

While The Legend of Zelda (1986) may not have been the first open-world game, it certainly is the most influential. Both Link and Zelda rose to prominence in this classic game, but don’t let the title fool you: Zelda is not the main character. As with most Legend of Zelda games, Link is the hero on a quest to save the princess from the evil Gannon. Think of their relationship the same as Mario and Peach. However, both characters in The Legend of Zelda get little personality, and unless you read the manual, you have no clue what’s going on in the story.

Things don’t really change in the sequels during this time. Both The Adventure of Link and A Link to the Past provides vague explanations of what’s going on or who these characters truly are. Zelda is the same princess that needs to be rescued, while Link remains the lifeless figure the player controls. In the Classic Era, players need to use their imaginations more. While we may not have A backstory or character traits, players can imprint their personalities onto Link. He is whoever we want him to be. The player is the hero of Hyrule, not Link.

Due to this mandatory interpretation, Link and Zelda tie in the Class Era. Neither one of them comes out on top. In the story, Zelda puts herself in harm’s way to save her kingdom but needs help from the brave adventurer Link. But this doesn’t come across in the game, and you don’t truly feel it. Something doesn’t become true just because the developers said so. Zelda is helpless to the players, and Link is only brave because the players are brave for defeating monsters and dungeons. Some players even thought Link’s name was Zelda, which shows how connected the two were or how disconnected they came across to players.

Classic Era Winnner: Tie

The Legend of Zelda: Majoras Mask
The box art for Majora’s Mask 3DS version is based on scrapped artwork for the original game.

The move from 2D to 3D mostly stayed the same regarding personality. Link remains a silent protagonist, while Zelda gets dialogue, giving players insight into her identity. But this battle isn’t just about personality, so what happened during this 3D Era? Well, Link made 3D games mainstream with Ocarina of Time, considered one of the greatest games ever made. This is followed up with Majora’s Mask, which doesn’t even have Zelda in it, except for one brief moment.

Link during this time became an icon. While The Legend of Zelda games were extremely popular on the NES and SNES, they took a backseat to Mario. Ocarina of Time gave us the look of Link that we all know and love today. No longer is he just a 2D 8-bit character on the screen; we have a complete character model with sound effects and movement. Ocarina of Time treated Link as his own character. He still lacked personality enough for the player to put themselves in the game, but you could see clear characteristics. 

Ocarina of Time has the same goal of rescuing the princess and saving Hyrule like the first game, but Link is center stage. Zelda took a backseat with the introduction of other NPCs to meet and the time the player spent exploring with Link. She did give Link the ability to time travel which is a plus, and we can’t forget about Sheik. But in Majora’s Mask, the game gives an overall sense of doom and a sense of sadness to Link. With Epona being stolen and the descent into a strange land, Link is as clueless as the player.

As Link became more iconic, led the gaming world to 3D, connected with the player more, and Zelda took a backseat to other characters. This Era has to go to Link.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was first playtested as an 8-bit game.

The problem with comparing these two characters is that each game doesn’t contain the same people. Each Zelda and Link, for the most part, are different entities from different timelines. Plus, each game follows the same formula and Hero’s Journey plotline. Link is the more iconic of the two and who people will recognize more. Zelda has never had her own game, while Link is the face of each title in the series. So does any of that change in the Modern Era? No, not really. But we get more emphasis on Zelda as the games go on.

Zelda in Spirit Tracks is hilarious and provides memorable moments for players. She has an active role in the game and a real character arc. More of an emphasis gets put on her character as the games continue, including Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, and more recently, Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom. While Link stays relatively the same throughout the games, Zelda becomes more prominent, and each game adds to her. Before, she was just the princess who needed saving, but the modern games have her provide more aid on Links’s journey. She is the background character who is always present and willing to help.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Zelda got her own title in the future, giving players a fresh take with new abilities to help explore and defeat enemies. So while the games still focus on Link, the developers keep pushing Zelda more and more into the light. And it’s because of this rise to prominence the Modern Era goes to Zelda. She offers more personality and support than any other “damsel in distress” like Princess Peach, whos always in another castle.               

Modern Era Winner: Zelda

Shigeru Miyamoto explained that Zelda was named after Zelda Fitzgerald, an American author and the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Results: Tie

While the results may be underwhelming, ending in a tie is fitting. They rely on each other to succeed. One cannot survive without the other. Without Zelda, there is no end goal. Link’s quest could be to save Hyrule and leave Zelda out entirely, but doing so takes away a part of what makes the games. Without Link, there is no hero to journey and adventure throughout Hyrule. This duo is as iconic and important as Ganon or even Hyrule Kingdom.

Link may be more prevalent in mainstream media, but there is a reason the games are called The Legend of Zelda. Both have loyal fanbases, especially in games like Super Smash Bros., where the two are staples on the roaster. Truth be told, these two need each other, and players will keep playing to see them together, saving the kingdom one enemy at a time.       

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