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Greatest Video Game Couple of All Time: Link & Zelda

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Greatest Video Game Couple of All Time: Link & Zelda

Since the early days of video gaming, there have been many iconic couples, from Princess Daphne and Dirk the Daring of 1983’s “Dragon’s Lair” to Princess Toadstool and Mario. With that said, none of them have gone through as many iterations or as much development as our pick for the greatest videogame couple of all time: Zelda and Link.
Transcript
Since the early days of video gaming, there have been many iconic couples, from Princess Daphne and Dirk the Daring of 1983’s “Dragon’s Lair” to Princess Toadstool and Mario. With that said, none of them have gone through as many iterations or as much development as our pick for the greatest videogame couple of all time: Zelda and Link.


Right out of the gate, audiences are introduced to the first incarnation of Link and Zelda in the 1986’s Nintendo classic, “The Legend of Zelda”. The story goes as follows. A villain kidnaps a princess in an evil bid to acquire the all-powerful magical macguffin and the young hero sets out to rescue her and stop the bad guy. While legendary, this isn’t exactly the stuff of legends. So how did such a simple, bare bones relationship eventually become video game’s best romance?


Before we look at why they are so important as a pair, let’s take a look at them individually.

Link hasn’t always been the most exciting hero ever. As with many video game heroes, Link is the blank slate whose behavior and personality is left largely up to the player’s imagination and interpretation. We are of course discounting the infamous Zelda CDI games for the 90s as well as the Saturday morning cartoon show. Both of these were early interpretations of Link’s personality but because he was meant to be relatable to children that just meant making Link an obnoxious little brat.


Starting in 1991’s SNES masterpiece “A Link to the Past,” our Hero of Time begins to develop a personality and follow a consistent character arc, with a key characteristic being that Link is an outsider. An adopted member of a family or a community, he never quite fits in, but following events beyond his control, our hero is thrust into action thus beginning the first steps of what Joseph Campbell calls The Hero’s Journey.



Link will usually find himself additionally ostracized and challenged, further compelling him to act. Notable examples of this are in “Link to the Past,” where he is a wanted man hunted down by the palace guards, and 2006’s “Twilight Princess,” where Link are turned into a an actual wolf. This necessary push to return a balance and find your place in the world may not seem at first like it has anything to do with the titular princess, but is actually a central element in what connects the couple together over the course of over a dozen games.



Zelda is, by and large, the face of the monarchy in her kingdom, Hyrule, and in “Twilight Princess” an active sovereign. That Zelda is in some way greater than her own self, a goddess, or descendent of a goddess, has been explored everywhere from 1998’s “Ocarina of Time” to 2011’s “Skyward sword,” with her well-being often tied to the fate of the kingdom. This plays into the old, and complicated, Japanese concept of kokutai, the belief in the divinity of the head of the state, wherein the ruler is not just the leader of the country, they are the country. So, if the idea that she is the physical embodiment of Hyrule is taken into account, it makes the relationship between her and Link much deeper and interesting.



It is important to note that throughout the series there is very little explicit romance between Zelda and Link. One of the most notable exception being in “Skyward Sword,” where they start off as friends and equals, and as they individually fulfill their destinies so too do they grow together as a couple. But more often than not, Link and Zelda exhibit the tropes of western Courtly Love, which emphasizes Link’s chivalry and Zelda’s inherent nobility. That affection and honor are one and the same is underscored by Zelda’s semi-divine status, so when Link acts on the behalf of Hyrule it is by extension an act of love.

While, individually the storyline of each game is more often than not, fairly straight forward, trying to connect all the different game together will keep fans busy for the next thousand years. Sometimes Link and Zelda meet for the first time, sometimes only one knows about the other and other times they have a pre-existing relationship. Whatever the case, they always come together, whether by choice or by fate and regardless of what you want to call it, love, romance, partnership, the bond between Link and Zelda is transcendent. Unlike say, Mario or Peach, who also share a relationship that spans decades worth of games, Zelda and Link’s connection takes on so many different forms, faces many different challenges, and spans millennia, yet still the two always manage to find each other.



With a pairing far more complicated and deeper than simple romantic affection, it is little wonder that they keep pulling each other, and gamers back in, and with every new incarnation proving over and over that they are the greatest video game couple.
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