Link is the preeminent silent protagonist in modern gaming (we’ve been waiting on Gordon Freeman for almost a decade), but he hasn’t always fought the good fight alone. The greatest sidekicks in Hyrule’s history deserve their time to shine.
Later this year, fans will once again don the tunic of Link for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and for the first time in years, Link is going in without a sidekick to walk him along (or clones). So with that in mind, here’s some who helped in Link’s other adventures.
Honorable mention: Kiki
Kiki the monkey isn’t a companion per se, but he was the first other character to actively help Link in-game. While Link explores the Dark World of A Link to the Past, he bumps into a small avaricious monkey who follows him around (as long as it’s safe), then helps him solve some puzzles (for a price). He shows up again (sort of) in Link’s Awakening, and other (mostly nameless) monkeys have appeared in subsequent games. It’s a good bet a monkey will help Link at some point in Breath of the Wild.
Honorable mention, yet again: Ex-Patriot Monsters
In several of the 2D Zelda games, Moblins, slimy Bots, bat-like Aches, and others have betrayed Gannon to help (or at least not interfere) with Link at various times. So far only one has ever taken an active role fighting alongside Link (and we’ll get to him in a bit), but with any luck, the new game will have at least some friendly foes.
This seems like something of a cop out, but I’m leaving the normal (for lack of a better word) people at the bottom of this list. Various incarnations of Zelda have followed, guided, and fought alongside Link at various times (she even had a few of her own apocryphal adventures), and she’s worked with him as the pirate leader Tetra, the ninja Sheik, and as a Phantom-controlling ghost. He’s also worked closely with the conniving Linebeck, and in the early games, was guided in subtle ways by Zelda’s aide Impa and the wise man Sahasrahla (say that five times fast).
I’m lumping the fairies together because they are so visually similar, and they rank near the bottom of the list largely because of Navi – she’s not a bad companion, as companions go, but she set the trend of having most Zelda games talk Link through every step. This may have been necessary in the early days of 3D gaming, but even the youngest gamers can adapt to games with a decent learning curve. The formula was greatly improved upon with Tatl, the antagonistic companion fairy from Majora’s Mask. While technically serving the same purpose, Tatl gave her advice with piss and vinegar, making for more lively one-sided conversations. Other fairies (and similar spirits) have appeared in subsequent games, while fairies of early games were merely sources of nutrition energy.
Rikki is a kangaroo wearing boxing gloves from Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages that allows link to ride around in her pouch. That is not as cool as it should be.
11. King of Red Lions
A king trapped in the form of a wooden sailboat, the King of Red Lions makes for a strange companion, but he journeys with Link throughout Wind Waker. As companions go, he’s less intrusive than Navi, though not as inspirational or inscrutable as the Great Owl. Visually however, he is very striking.
Sure, Link usually can’t wait to bomb some Dodongos, but he makes an exception for Dimitri. This little Dodongo with a broken horn is unusual for a couple reasons. For one, he’s the only creature normally classified as an enemy that became a full-fledged partner to Link (depending on how you played Oracle of Ages or Oracle of Seasons). For another, Dodongos traditionally live in lava or stone environments and breathe fire. Dimitri, on the other hand, is scared of children and lives in the water. He’s an odd duck, for a lizard, but a good friend.
9. Crimson Loftwing
The Loftwings were a great addition to the legends of Hyrule, as mountable bird familiars make for breathtakingly beautiful imagery. The visual design of the Loftwings isn’t as graceful as one would imagine for the fantasy setting, but it’s still distinct – plus, each rider has a personalized Loftwing that looks or acts like them in some way (even if this isn’t as easy to see during gameplay). Strangely, Link’s Loftwing is not identified by name, only color, but the Crimson Loftwing of Skyward Sword is a powerful companion who will fight to be by Link’s side, if need be.
8. Kaepora Gaebora
The first owl to appear in the Zelda series was in Link’s Awakening, and while the exact nature of that Great Owl is uncertain, and it didn’t follow Link through his adventures as a true companion, it was the first time a character provided regular advice and encouragement to Link throughout a game. Kaepora Gaebora of Ocarina of Time also served this role. Though he wasn’t as ever present as Navi, his appearances were always significant and his words deep and thoughtful. Owls have become a reoccurring symbol in the Zelda series, with Owl Stones serving as save points. Plus, he’s been part of the reincarnation cycle that has kept the heroes and villains of the story returning in different forms, with Gaebora appearing as a sage, an owl, and even Zelda’s father, on one occasion.
As a companion, Midna fluctuates between being mysterious and interesting like the Great Owl, and annoyingly condescending, like a fairy, but as a fighter, she is a force to be reckoned with. The most powerful member of the Twili race (rivaled by her enemy Zant), Midna could probably have saved the day in Twilight Princess all by herself, if she didn’t need Link for various “hero” duties. She returns for smaller roles in Smash Bros. and Hyrule Warriors, showing off her skills as a solo-fighter, and man, can she pack a wallop!
Links green hat talks. Alright, it used to talk, does that count? In the offbeat Minish Cap adventure, an origin is provided for Link’s famous green hat, and the titular cap was once a mouse-sized sorcerer named Ezlo. As headwear goes, Ezlo is horrible, to be honest. He constantly complains, gets cranky, makes demands, and has a beak as sharp as his tongue, but for all his faults, he really and truly cares for Link, plus, he provides useful magic throughout the game. Familiar creatures like fairies and talking weapons or vehicles are common throughout fantasy works, but few heroes are brave enough to go into battle wearing a talking bird for a hat (no, Johnny Depp doesn’t count).
With her constant reminders, instructions, warnings, and probability analysis, Fi is probably as annoying as Navi, and narratively, she does little more for the story than King of Red Lions does (which is to say, she’s important to the plot, but not much for personality). That said, she is visually very impressive – at once unlike almost anything in the series and yet very much a part of the series – and more importantly, she is the master sword. As the titular Skyward Sword in the game of the same title, Fi gives a really interesting backstory to the long-revered Master Sword that has followed various incarnations of Link throughout the games (which means she technically appeared in almost every Zelda game). Plus, her mysterious origins imply even greater depth to the already massive Zelda mythos, as she is the most advanced technology ever shown in this series, yet zero explanation is given for exactly why she is so advanced. It can be inferred that long before Skyward Sword (the game Nintendo considers the “first” in any timeline) there was a super-advanced, highly technological society. Plus, she comes with Scrapper. Love him or hate him, this little robot (which is more advanced than other stuff in the “modern” world of the game, but still not as old as Fi) has a ton of personality, and when he appears on screen, his obsession with Fi is infectious, helping the player better appreciate the ballet-dancing talking sword. Of course, the big question is, what happened to Fi over the centuries? Considering how many times the Master Sword has been broken and reforged, she may be long dead.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention BowWow. Mario characters have a way of sneaking into Zelda games pretty regularly, but in Link’s Awakening, Link actually takes a Chain Chomp for a a walk! Though this is technically just a fetch-quest, as you have to save BowWow for his owner, returning him to his dog house (Chain Chomp house?), while you walk BowWow, he actually helps you by fighting (and eating) enemies, and he’ll take a nice photo with Link as part of another sidequest.
Too soon? It seems like a cheat to include Link as a companion to Link, especially in a game in which, as I said at the top, Link goes it alone, but what we’ve seen of Wolf Link so far is pretty amazing. Canonically, Wolf Link was the hero of Twilight Princess, cursed into a wolf’s form for much of the game. He’s not an animal, but a young man trapped in an animal’s shape. In Breath of the Wild however, Wolf Link is very much a pet wolf, loyal to the point of death. How this could (or should) be explained in story is up to the player’s interpretation, but the idea of having a companion as powerful as Link (depending on how much experience the Amiibo-based character earned in the older game), and with the intelligence to actually provide combat support, is amazing! If Wolf Link’s inclusion is well received, perhaps Nintendo will bring a wolf back in a future Zelda game as part of the game’s main story.
Epona is a horse. Just a horse. Not visually striking, not superintelligent or superpowerful – just a horse. And yet, what a horse! Even though she doesn’t offer a lot in terms of plot or character, players get excited for each game she’s confirmed to be in. She has become as iconic a part of Hyrule’s lore as the Master Sword itself, even if she only appears in bits and pieces of some games. Plus, she epitomizes the side-quests that have long been a strong part of the series. Link often has to earn the right to ride her, sometimes work to train her, and if nothing else, learn how to ride her into battle.
Some may have forgotten the monkey, and others may have been nonplussed by the kangaroo, but were willing to excuse it because, to be frank, she just doesn’t look like something that’d look that great rendered in the style of Twilight Sword or Breath of the Wild, but appearing alongside that kangaroo (and the Dodongo, for that matter), is the banana-loving, peace-spreading, totally chill, Moosh. The real star of Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons (as far as I’m concerned), Moosh is a giant blue bear that moves slow, but packs a powerful stomp. And he flies. Sure, he isn’t as fast as Epona, he can’t fly as high as a Loftwing, and his attacks don’t even have the range of Rikki’s, but you know you want to see more Moosh in future Zelda games. It is a crime against video gaming that Moosh isn’t in every Zelda.
Did I forget any? Disagree with the list? Let me know why I’m wrong in the comments below!