The first Legend of Zelda game was released way back in 1986, following a little pixel boy that we know as Link. Since then, there have been several new entries into the Legend of Zelda series, each featuring Link. Over the decades, Link has naturally changed over time though.
Here, we are going to look at the ways that Link has changed through the series. This ranges from physical appearance to his own character development. As we will be talking about just Link, there will only be some light spoilers; we won't look too closely at the plots and end of games.
6 Different Reincarnations
Firstly, we need to talk about reincarnation. Throughout the series, Link appears to be roughly the same age. If it was the same Link in every game, it would only be natural that he ages. This isn't the case though, as the Legend of Zelda series involves the reincarnation of Link, as well as Zelda and Ganon.
With this in mind, a major change in Link throughout the series is that he is physically a different person. The 'Link' spirit is still there, but it's not the same physical body. This can explain his ever-changing appearance. The pixelated Link from the first game is definitely not the same Link that we know from Breath of the Wild.
5 Personality & Motive
Link is a silent protagonist; we never hear him speak. Sure, he may nod and grunt from time to time, but he never actually talks. This hasn't changed throughout the series, but still, he gains more of a personality. As video games become more advanced, we are able to see crisp facial expressions. Although Link doesn't talk, we can see his face react to the world around him, giving him a bit of personality. This wasn't possible in older games when technology was more limited.
In the first games that were released, Link had one goal, which was to save Zelda. This remains pretty constant, even into Breath of the Wild, but the goal has become more complex. In the 1986 game, Link is told by Impa that Zelda is in danger, and sets out to save her and the kingdom of Hyrule. He has no real ties to Zelda, but he sets forth anyway. In later games, it's more than 'save the kingdom, save Zelda'; Link has a reason. This may be due to a childhood friendship, or even love.
4 The Chosen One
As we mentioned above, the first Zelda game doesn't place any importance on Link. Why is he the one to save Zelda? He saves Impa from Ganon's henchmen, but prior to this, he is not a 'chosen hero'. Throughout the series, this quickly changes.
At the start of Ocarina of Time, Link meets Navi, who then brings him to the Great Deku Tree. Here, Link is told that only he can stop Ganon, and is given the Spiritual Stone of the Forest. Link is essentially the 'chosen one'. While we don't know what makes him this, we do know why he sets out to save Zelda and Hyrule.
3 Growing In Maturity
As time goes by, we also see Link become more mature. Although there are many versions of Link due to reincarnation, he still seems to be both physically and mentally mature. Rather than being a young child, he grows into a teen. In some games, Link has a cartoonish style, but overall, he 'ages'.
Twilight Princess is a darker game compared to others in the series, so it makes sense that the Link of this game is more mature. He starts the game as a teenager in Ordon Village, but must quickly grow up as he travels through 'Twilight' regions of the world with Midna. The overall tone of the game is more serious than others like Wind Waker.
2 Defined & Notable Appearance
Close your eyes and picture Link. You've probably pictured something similar to the image above. Chances are, you don't think of a Link from the 90s. Over time, Link's appearance has solidified. We no longer picture a pink or brown-haired Link with little to no detail.
His appearance is not quite standard, but it's definitely notable. Rather than changing in design, we have a blueprint for Link, which may slightly change over the games.
Lastly, we have Link's backstory. This isn't often emphasized in the games, especially those prior to Ocarina of Time. Link was just a simple boy living in Hyrule, that may or may not have been the 'chosen one'.
Over time, Link developed a backstory. There is no consistent story between titles, but the game presented bits of information for us to get an understanding of Link. For example, in Skyward Sword, we know that Link is a knight-in-training living in Skyloft. Since Skyloft is a closed location high in the sky, we can assume that Link grew up here, studying and training to become a knight.
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