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Zelda: Top 4 Versions Of Ganondorf That Prove He's A Top-Tier Nintendo Villain

Not to be confused with the beastly Ganon, Ganondorf has appeared throughout the "Zelda" franchise, often changing his appearance slightly as the antagonist is reincarnated – with his upcoming appearance in "Tears of the Kingdom" perhaps taking notes from Thanos. Some fans may argue that Ganondorf is a tragic anti-hero, but there's no denying that he is a top-tier villain. After all, he is often hatred and negative energy coalesced in human form.

This goes back to the personification of Demise, the beginning of the reincarnation cycle of Ganondorf. After all, when Demise is finally slain in "Skyward Sword," he (perhaps "it" is more accurate) vows to return to Hyrule again and again, as the manifestation of hatred and darkness, like a veritable plague Hyrule cannot shake. Ganondorf is the mortal embodiment of Demise — which is one of the theories behind Ganondorf's flaming red hair, which they both share (though, to be fair, Demise's hair is actually flame). Excellent character design aside, with his dusky green skin, furrowed brow, and menacing expressions, these are the top four versions that prove Ganondorf is one of Nintendo's most fearsome baddies.

Hyrule Warriors

While "Hyrule Warriors" takes place outside of the standard "Zelda" storyline, it's still an important part of the overall franchise. Focusing on hack-and-slash dynamics, this title's version of Ganondorf is possibly one of the most powerful. One of the best-selling Wii U games of all time, "Hyrule Warriors" creates a dynamic tale that only further demonstrates Ganondorf's prowess. 

Despite not being canon, Ganondorf's story — and his role as villain — are as complex and thrilling as ever. His soul has been splintered apart, and the new antagonist, Cia, is merely a pawn in Ganondorf's own plan to resurrect himself. When three of his four soul shards are released, Ganondorf is temporarily revived, only to be thwarted and once more sealed away by none other than Cia.

However, this doesn't last long. The final piece of Ganondorf is released, and he returns in full force. It requires all the heroes from Hyrule's history to defeat him, only for him to transform into his beastly form, Ganon. It once again takes a combined effort to beat him, but this peace is tenuous, needing constant vigilance to maintain the seal on Ganondorf's monstrous power.

The Wind Waker

Nothing (metaphorically) beats a villain with a killer backstory, and many developers could specifically look at Ganondorf from "The Wind Waker" as a prime example of villains done right. There's anticipation that builds and builds up to the final fight. Before reaching Ganondorf himself, Link must battle Puppet Ganon, a frustrating endeavor given the puppet's ability to transform and keep going even after hits from Link's Light Arrows. The protagonist must then ascend to the very top of the tower where Ganondorf waits, ready to dive into a classic villain monologue.

A sympathetic villain at worst and anti-hero at best, Ganondorf reveals his motives, which are, in a word, poetic. The winds of his homeland bring nothing but death, but the wind of Hyrule is peaceful, so he wants control of this wind, and by extension, Hyrule. The game provides just enough backstory to be emotionally involved, keeping a light hand that paints a subtle but striking picture for the player.

However, Ganondorf is foiled by the King of Hyrule in a way that can only be described as Shakespearean. After his hard work is tarnished, the fight with Ganondorf begins, and it's epic. He floats, wields dual swords, and moves with an ethereal elegance. It takes both Zelda and Link to defeat him, and the whole game ends in hopeful tragedy, with Hyrule itself sacrificed to stop Ganondorf.

Twilight Princess

"Twilight Princess" is yet another version of Ganondorf that shows him being a top-tier villain. Called Dark Lord, Ganondorf, Link must fight the godly antagonist multiple times: First as Zelda herself, then on horseback, and then in a one-on-one duel. The single "Legend of Zelda" game to be rated T for the violence, "Twilight Princess" has Ganondorf who is in a parallel (but distinct) timeline to "Wind Waker," and, while less sympathetic, is even more monstrous in power. Ganondorf has manipulated the secondary antagonist, Zant, into merging the Twilight realm with Hyrule — the Twilight realm, which itself was created by the three Light Spirits to seal away evil that had tried to conquer Hyrule before. Ganondorf has also been sealed into the Twili's realm after murdering the Water Sage in what was meant to be Ganondorf's own execution.

It's a tragic tale of death, sacrifice, and honor. Throughout the game, Ganondorf is a shadow who lurks, just out of sight. When Midna and Link finally meet him, he uses Zelda's own body to attack. He then transforms into the monstrous beast, Ganon, and then a ball of magic itself, which Midna faces alone.

Ganondorf appears to have slain Midna, then attacks once more in his human form on horseback. Even the Arrows of Light can't stop him — they just briefly slow him down. He falls; he rises again for yet another harrowing battle. When he finally does die, standing tall with the Master Sword lodged in his chest, his last words are haunting: "The history of light and shadow will be written in blood!"

Ocarina of Time

Known as the Great King of Evil: Ganondorf, the title alone demonstrates why "Ocarina of Time's" Ganondorf is, arguably, the most monstrous villain in the entire "Legend of Zelda" series. The fact that Link must battle against this great evil as a literal child only makes the stakes higher, more harrowing. The game begins with the death of Link's mother as she saves her baby from the ravages of war.

Link then loses his only parental figure, the Great Deku Tree, before being thrust into Ganondorf's wicked plot to control the Triforce. Ganondorf manipulates both Zelda and Link into opening the Sacred Realm, giving the evil would-be king access to the power of the Triforce, and allowing him to conquer all of Hyrule. Link is then held, imprisoned, and frozen as time passes, for years. He must then fight through the corrupted realms within Hyrule, with the aid of Sheik, Zelda in disguise, only for Zelda to be kidnapped by the villain himself.

Ganondorf is finally found, sequestered away in the inner sanctum of his castle, playing — like a villain from old — an organ, Zelda suspended above him and encased in crystal. Ganondorf tries to entreat Link to give up Courage, the last piece of the Triforce. Of course, Link refuses and battle ensues. When it is clear that Ganondorf is going to lose, he brings his own castle down, nearly killing Link and Zelda in the process.

As the dust settles, Ganondorf emerges once more: Only this time, he has been transformed into the monstrous beast, Ganon, the embodiment of the corruption within Ganondorf. Even as Link defeats him in battle, the Six Sages (well — seven if you count Zelda) need to seal him away to prevent him from rising yet again.