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Top 4 Zelda Games That Showcase Link As A Top-Tier Nintendo Hero

What makes a hero? Nintendo has explored this question in-depth since it established "The Legend of Zelda" IP back in 1986. Link, the courageous figure at the center of the franchise, has taken many forms over the course of the "Zelda" timeline, though one element remains the same: When evil threatens the Kingdom of Hyrule, Link picks up his sword and rushes to face it.

"I think many people dream about becoming heroes," series creator Shigeru Miyamoto said in "Innovation and Marketing in the Video Game Industry." "For me, it has always been important that the gamers grow together with Link ..." He later expanded on this idea in "Hyrule Historia." "We named the protagonist Link because he connects people together. He was supposed to spread the scattered energy of the world through the ages," he explained. "... but Link is you, the player."

Miyamoto accomplished his goal, delivering a top-tier hero who has evolved alongside a massive fanbase over the decades. But which "Zelda" entries do the best job of showcasing the qualities that make Link so special?

4. Breath of the Wild

More than just the wielder of the Master Sword, the Link in "Breath of the Wild" shines due to his flexibility and ingenuity. A survivor at his core, he awakens from a 100-year sleep as one of the few central figures to have made it through the Great Calamity. Missing his memories, Link must forge his own path ahead, living off the land and scrounging together what resources he can. He cooks, hunts, mixes elixirs, tames horses, and climbs mountains while rediscovering the remnants of the places and people he failed to safeguard.

The Sheikah Slate features prominently in the hero's problem-solving arsenal. Thanks to the magic of the ancient group, Link can interact with his environment in various ways. Whether taking pictures for the in-game compendium or creating icy stepping stones, he constantly learns from and adapts to his surroundings. Unlike his other iterations, he even has to contend with his weapons constantly breaking. Despite facing an endless succession of setbacks and barriers, he soldiers on to finish what he couldn't a century prior.

One of this Link's biggest strengths is his willingness to accept help from others. He likely would have died during the Great Calamity if Zelda had not intervened. Adrift without his memories, he often relies on the guidance and expertise of those around him. He gains access to the Divine Beasts and ultimately saves Hyrule by collaborating with the members of the various tribes. Rather than viewing this as a shortcoming, he understands that he can't handle every challenge alone. The bonds he forms during his quest only make him stronger.

3. Twilight Princess

"Twilight Princess" peppers its protagonist with a plethora of perils. In the darker take on Hyrule, Link starts out as a ranch hand in a small village. Far from the experienced warrior of "Breath of the Wild," he answers destiny's call to action with little preparation or training. But this doesn't prevent him from pursuing what he sees as right — even when he falls victim to strange magic, loses his human body, and finds himself imprisoned.

Though a manifestation of the corruption of the Twilight Realm, Link's transformation into a wolf gives him an edge over most other iterations of the character. Though he can't use equipment or secondary items in this form, his heightened speed and senses more than makeup for the loss. The ability to dig, unearthing treasure and new ways forward, sweetens the pot. Observing the spirits of the inhabitants of Hyrule also adds to the usefulness of the wolf guise, along with the atmospheric storytelling at play.

Beyond his shapeshifting, Link has the most useful companion in "Twilight Princess." Unlike the often distracting Navi, Midna strengthens Link in several ways. She has the ability to hurt foes and enables her warrior to move around the environment through long jumps and warping. With her help (and some assistance from Zelda and other characters), Link goes from a fresh-faced youth to a courageous combatant capable of taking on Ganondorf and saving the world.

2. Ocarina of Time

"Ocarina of Time" tests Link in ways unlike any other "Zelda" title (with the exception of its direct sequel). He begins as an orphaned child in the Kokiri Forest, where he faces stigma due to his Hylian origin and lack of a fairy companion. Though Navi joins forces with the youth, he fails to prevent the death of the forest's guardian, the Great Deku Tree. He manages to overcome this adversity and go on to save Hyrule, but not without great personal cost.

Though young Link tries his best to stop Ganondorf, he does not keep the Triforce out of the Gerudo king's grasp. With little say in the matter, he ends up trapped in the Sacred Realm for seven years, essentially forcing him into an adult body so he can make full use of the Master Sword. Older and better equipped, Link sets out to awaken the sages while navigating a Hyrule left to the mercy of Ganondorf for nearly a decade.

Link fulfills his destiny, defeating Ganondorf and enabling the Seven Sages to seal him in the Dark Realm. For his efforts, he gets shunted back to childhood. In this timeline, the people he assisted no longer know who he is or remember what he did. Even Navi leaves him. This paints him as a boy forced to grow up too fast who receives no reward or recognition for his sacrifices. While he amasses a number of useful abilities, items, and pieces of equipment throughout the game, it is his resolve and dedication to helping others that make the "Ocarina of Time" Link so strong.

1. Majora's Mask

The trial by fire of "Ocarina of Time" lays the foundation for the person Link becomes during the events of "Majora's Mask." His actions during the follow-up's central time loop solidify him as both a tragic figure and a top-tier hero. Scant months after saving Hyrule and returning to his child form, a chance encounter with Skull Kid derails Link's search for Navi. He loses Epona, the Ocarina of Time, and his human body all at once, transforming into a Deku Scrub due to Skull Kid's curse.

In Termina, Link finds himself trapped in a dark reflection of Hyrule. While the faces he encounters echo those of the individuals he met in his earlier travels, these doppelgangers once again do not recognize him. It's like a cruel joke designed to serve as a constant reminder of all he did and lost. Rather than give in to his own despair, he sets out to save the strange world from destruction. Along the way, he helps heal and inspire the inhabitants — despite knowing that much of his work will be undone when the clock reverses. Link also endures the excruciating physical pain of his transformations into members of the Deku, Goron, and Zora races.

Beyond the strength of his heart in the face of so much loneliness and trauma, this Link stands out due to the versatility of the many masks he collects. His three main alternate forms each come with unique abilities and advantages, while the other masks provide a wealth of situational uses. The effect of the Fierce Deity Mask, which transforms him into a large, god-like figure and manifests a potent helix-shaped blade, further distinguishes the Link of "Majora's Mask" from all the others.