The Legend of Zelda series is justly acclaimed for its design, whether it's the dungeons, gadgets or boss encounters, the level of detail rarely fails to impress.
This care also extends to the characters that Link meets on his adventures. Nintendo has a knack for creating a memorable, interesting, and often tragic supporting cast that add colour and texture to the games.
Picking the best is a difficult task, but as a starter here’s a run-down of ten we love:
The reason for Beedle’s inclusion is rather simple, his voice is just plain funny, his camp gasps of exclamation making every shopping trip a treat. There’s also something endearing about the way he cheerily puts his heart into his job, whether by sailing Wind Waker’s oceans or peddling furiously to keep his shop aloft in Skyward Sword. And it’s in the later game that we discover that there is more to Beedle than meets the ear when a night-time trip to his home reveals a vocabulary of some depth. Is Beedle all he seems?
Midna is another character defined by her sound design. Her cheeky, teasing giggle belies the sad truth of her cursed past. It’s refreshing for Link to have a companion that is both enchanting and untrustworthy, her motives are never quite clear and her actions often result in trouble for Link. That she remains so loveable is a testament to her design.
8: Kafei and Anju
One of the most engaging story lines in Majora’s Mask is the tale of Kafei and Anju. It’s one of the more substantial plot lines to manage in the game, requiring an intricate exchange of items twice over to ensure that the two love-birds are reunited. Bringing them together to complete their vow provides an emotionally satisfying pay off that is heart-warming from a story perspective, and gratifying due to its game-play complexity.
7: The Postman
The Postman appears in several Zelda titles, but most notably in Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess. In his first appearance he’s instrumental to completing the tale of Kafei and Anju. In Twilight Princess he keeps Link updated during his quest, impervious to the monsters around him. The Postman is reliable and defiant in the face of impending danger, just wanting to do his job. It’s this commitment to his work, and those little white shorts, that earn him a place on this list.
6: Talo, Malo and Colin
Now here’s a hard trick to pull off, a group of kids that a story insists you should care about, that you actually do care about. In part it’s down to their design, the cute foreheads and puppy eyes make them instantly adorable. But it’s their sadness and concern for each other that make them memorable. The moment in Twilight Princess when Malo opens up a the Malo Mart is plain bizarre and plain brilliant.
It starts with the Song of Storms of course, that infectious tune combined with the sight of Guru-Guru playing his phonograph in an endless loop. All Guru-Guru does is get a little angry with Link, but it’s one of the most iconic moments from the game, a moment where your actions in one time line have an effect on the other. Guru-Guru is at the centre of it, a delightfully this macabre little character that exists just to move the story along, but is memorable nonetheless. He returns in Majora’s Mask revealing himself to be a somewhat guilt ridden character.
Makar is Zelda’s version of Wicket the Ewok. Adventurous, bold, impudent with his means just falling short of his ambition. Makar comes to life beautifully on screen, a masterpiece of simple animation and sound that works perfectly within Wind Waker’s artistic direction. Strictly speaking he’s not an NPC, but Makar is certainly one of the most charming and fun characters from the series.
Tingle is a character that you love to hate and hate to love, but nonetheless he manages to cast a mischievous charm. There’s something grubby about Tingle and his inclusion in the Zelda series almost feels inappropriate. It’s as if a 35 year old man who cosplays in a mankini has somehow managed to infiltrate the game. And yet, and yet, it’s impossible to leave him out. Tingle does that. He gets in your head.
Poor Salvatore, he looks so miserable, as if he is at the end of his tether. You can imagine that he was once an actor, now reduced to performing to kids and occasional passers-by, his games the only outlet for his Thespian talents. It’s the contrast between his deadpan demeanour and the gusto of his performances that win me over, his nautical sound effects splish and splosh in the memory long after you finish the game.
Malon gets the top spot due to one moment in Ocarina of Time. It’s the moment when you approach Hyrule Castle at night and find her singing in the moonlight. The combination of her voice drifting through the air, backed by nothing other than ambient sound is startlingly affecting. It’s a moment that encapsulates her vulnerability and character, so that when Link returns to Hyrule seven years later freeing her from the odious Ingo becomes the most important thing in the game.
There are many more characters that could have made this list, who would you include and why?