For 35 years the Zelda franchise has held its place as one of the most legendary godfathers of gaming. It feels like only yesterday that we were given our first sword and told, “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.”
Over the years, we’ve done so much with Link and his friends. We’ve traversed the land of Hyrule to defeat the evil Ganondorf and save Princess Zelda, time traveled, traversed dungeons, made gross food, made good food, awakened a Wind Fish, and so much more.
It’s no wonder Zelda remains one of the best gaming franchises of all time. With such a vast collection of games comes an incredible cast of characters. However, for as much attention as Zelda and Link get, some of the best moments in the Zelda franchise are courtesy of Link’s many companions. After all, what is a hero without his sidekick?
Let’s saddle up, grab a Lon Lon Milk, and jump back in time as we celebrate the history of Link’s companions!
The Legend of Zelda may be turning 35, but it wasn’t until the series was 12 years old that Link gained his first partner in crime on his journey to save Zelda. This was, of course, the notorious fairy that gamers love, hate, and love to hate: Navi.
In the beginning of Ocarina of Time, Link lives in Kokiri Forest where all of the children are assigned a fairy by the Great Deku Tree. Link, sadly, is the only kid who doesn’t have a fairy. One day Link is awakened by Navi, who is sent by the dying Great Deku Tree to officially be Link’s guardian fairy.
Navi will quickly remind you of everything you need to be doing… maybe a bit too much. So many of us are haunted by her yelling, “Hey! Listen!!!” as she CONSTANTLY reiterates the task at hand. Her signature catchphrase will haunt gamers forever. If you progressed through the game as the developers intended, it might not have been so bad. But—let’s say—your neighbor had a GameShark and you happened to borrow it just to see what would happen, and you used the aforementioned GameShark to jump to the Ocarina of Time endgame but the cheats broke Navi into reminding you that “You need to go save Princess Ruto in Jabu Jabu’s Belly” over and over and over again… that might (hypothetically) get annoying real quick.
Navi was a true friend and ally to Link through and through. She was always there for him through the darkest of times, locking onto enemies and giving details about them. She also allowed you to communicate with Saria and ultimately gained the courage to aid Link in his final fight with Ganon.
Navi, we listened. Even though, at times, you may have been a bit much, we needed you. You’re a real MVP in our book.
Ocarina of Time also blessed us with the introduction of another recurring companion in the Zelda franchise: the great horse: Epona. Epona is first discovered at Lon Lon Ranch, where you’re introduced to her by Malon, the rancher’s daughter, who teaches you Epona’s Song. When Link returns as an adult, the ranch has been taken over by Ingo, who gives Epona to Link after Link beats him in a race. Ingo then locks the gates to the farm in order to prevent Link and Epona from leaving. That’s no problem for a horse like Epona, who easily jumps over the gates of the ranch, Free Willy-style, and officially joins Link on his quest.
Epona can be seen in several other entries in the Zelda series, including Majora’s Mask, Four Swords Adventures, The Minish Cap, Twilight Princess, and even in Breath of the Wild with use of an Amiibo, making her one of gaming’s most faithful steeds!
Majora’s Mask is the direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, and starts with kid Link looking for Navi. He is intercepted and scared off of Epona by the Skull Kid, as well as brother and sister fairies Tatl and Tael. They steal Epona, and though Link gives chase, Skull Kid uses Majora’s Mask to transform him into a Deku Scrub. Link attempts to chase them again, only to be stopped by Tatl, who prevents Link from following her brother and Skull Kid. However, when she realizes that she was left behind, she has a change of heart and begs Link to help her find her brother. Ultimately, she joins Link in helping him stop Skull Kid from destroying the world.
Personally, I love Tatl—her complexity and growth over the course of the game are a prime example of how dark, mature, and philosophical Majora’s Mask can be. She starts off by helping the lonely Skull Kid, who just wanted a friend and to be liked. At some point though, we all have to grow up. Tatl is a reflection of not wanting to give up your adolescence, refusing to grow up, but accepting that eventually, we all have to—and that’s not a bad thing. At one point, she even apologizes to Link for blaming him for her and Tael’s separation. She’s ultimately able to do exactly what she had set out to do: be with her brother, save Skull Kid, and make him feel like he’s not alone. I’d certainly call that “legendary”!
Ricky, Dimitri, and Moosh
Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages for the Game Boy Color are BONKERS, Y’ALL. If you haven’t experienced these games, they’re insane. To actually beat the full game, you need to link Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages to each other, then beat both games to get to the final boss, Ganon. It’s a Game Boy Color must-play for sure.
Amidst all of this chaos are three companions who help Link through the lands of Labrynna and Natzu. These unique beings are Ricky the Kangaroo, Dimitri the Dodongo, and Moosh the Flying Bear. Each creature has their own abilities and helps Link at different moments.
Ricky carries Link in his kangaroo pouch and has the ability to jump to high ledges, punch enemies with his boxing gloves, and unleash tornadoes on enemies; Dimitri allows Link to jump on its dinosaur-like back, and can swim against strong currents and up waterfalls; and Moosh can carry Link as he flies over gaps and pitfalls.
At one point the player can purchase a specific flute which represents either Ricky, Dimitri, or Moosh, and which allows the player to summon that animal companion at any time. The game’s landscape actually adjusts based on the companion you pick, which is just so cool!
These definitely aren’t the companions I typically expect in a Zelda game, but I hope to see them return to the series at some point in the future!
King Daphnes Nohansen
In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Link travels the sea in a red boat, attempting to save his sister and, eventually, Hyrule. However, this isn’t an ordinary boat; this boat is actually possessed by the King of Red Lions, aka King Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule! That’s right, one of the Kings of Hyrule is your trusty companion in this high seas adventure! Lucky you!
Daphnes ruled Hyrule during the “Era without a Hero,” which is the timeline where the Seal of the Sages had broken, allowing Ganon to escape from the Sacred Realm and bring darkness and destruction to Hyrule. Since there was no hero to stop Ganon, Daphnes pleaded to the gods to aid him and his people in their time of peril. The gods responded by sealing Ganon and the land of Hyrule underwater and to have the people of Hyrule settle to mountaintops, which would become islands once Hyrule was submerged. Daphnes decided to split the Triforce into two pieces and kept one piece for himself which he would keep with him submerged in the kingdom of Hyrule.
The other piece went to Princess Zelda who moved to the mountaintops and passed down her Triforce piece generation after generation. Centuries later, Ganon was able to free himself, causing the Goddesses to wake Daphnes from his slumber. The Goddesses transformed him into a boat, the King of Red Lions, to search for a great hero to defeat Ganon. He finds Link and they set off to save Hyrule.
Daphnes has a lot going on for him—after all, he is the only kingly companion that joins you on your journey. You’ve gotta love seeing a king fighting on the front lines with our hero!
It’s a bird! It’s a cap! It’s a… Bird Cap!? Ezlo from The Minish Cap is next in our celebration of allies and happens to be a powerful Minish craftsman and Sage. He’s so powerful, in fact, that he creates the Mage’s Cap, a cap that grants the wishes of its wearer. Ezlo’s apprentice, Vaati, steals the Mage’s Cap from Ezlo and uses it to transform himself into a powerful sorcerer and turn Ezlo into a green hat-bird…. thing. Ezlo joins Link and is able to shrink Link down to Minish size, as well as give him useful information. Together they defeat Vaati, save Hyrule, and, with Princess Zelda’s help, use the magic of the Mage’s Cap to undo all the harm done by Vaati’s curse and close the Minish Door. At the end of the game, Ezlo transforms back into his former self and gives Link a green cap that looks just like how Ezlo looked in bird cap form, completing Link’s iconic look.
Midna comes from the Twili, a race of powerful dark magic-users in Twilight Princess that the goddesses had banished to the Twilight Realm. Midna was originally the leader of the Twili race, but had been overthrown by fellow Twili Zant, who then turned Midna into the small imp form that we see her as throughout the game. Midna leaves the Twilight Realm and decides to help Link (so long as he does everything she says).
Together, they go to different temples looking for Fused Shadows, which Midna is secretly collecting. The Fused Shadows will allow her to regain her powers and defeat Zant, ultimately returning her and the other Twili to their original form.
After a failed attempt to defeat Zant, Zant takes the Fused Shadows from Link and Midna, leaving Midna for dead. Zelda then sacrifices herself to give life back to Midna, vanishing into thin air as a result. Midna realizes what Zelda has done and decides to help Link defeat Zant—not for herself, but for Hyrule. The Sages then reveal that Midna is the true Twilight Princess.
Once Zant is finally defeated, Midna uses the power she gained from the Fused Shadows to turn into a giant spider. She confronts Ganon, who is in possession of Zelda’s body. Link defeats Ganon, and Midna uses her new power to bring Zelda back to life. Though Midna sacrifices herself, Link is able to defeat Ganon, and the Light Spirits revive Midna. She is returned to her original form, allowing her to return to the Twilight Realm. Even though Midna shatters the connection to the Twilight Realm, she will remain in our hearts forever.
Ciela is Link’s fairy companion in Phantom Hourglass. She joins Link on his quest to rescue Tetra from the Ghost Ship. Ciela fought against the evil phantom Bellum—however, after she lost, she had her memories wiped. (It’s after this point that she meets Link.) Eventually, Ciela is fused with a fairy by Oshus the Ocean King, and she remembers that she is actually the Spirit of Time and Courage.
When she’s not aiding Link in dungeons or squaring off against Bellum, she’s butting heads with the explorer Linebeck. These moments are some of the most fun in the game, Ciela constantly has to keep Linebeck’s attitude in check, and she never hesitates to call him out when he’s being self-absorbed. The Zelda series has so much fun with fairy NPCs, and Ciela is another great example of this.
Okay, look. Swords on the table: this article is ACTUALLY an excuse to gush about Phantom Hourglass’s treasure-hunting captain extraordinaire, Linebeck. This Jack Sparrow-esque explorer is self-centered, greedy, and cocky… and yet we absolutely love him. Linebeck is the key to finding the Ghost Ship as he also happens to be looking for it–he and Link have so much in common! After Link and Ciela save him in the Temple of the Ocean King, Linebeck agrees to use Link–ahem–help Link find the Ghost Ship so that Linebeck can claim the Ghost Ship’s treasure for himself.
The team uses Linebeck’s steamboat, the SS Linebeck, and sets sail to find sea charts that will bring them closer to their goal. The Captain is a huge scaredy cat and does not hesitate to run away at the first sight of danger. At one point in the game, Linebeck learns that the Ghost Ship’s treasure is not real and almost stops helping Link in his quest entirely. However, Oshus offers to grant him any wish he wants if he can help Link fulfill his quest, so he presses onward.
Linebeck is also pursued in-game by a pirate girl named Jolene. Linebeck and Jolene used to be great friends (and maybe even something more once) but one day Linebeck betrayed Jolene and stole her treasure. She’s been after him ever since. How fun is it to see Link defend the SS Linebeck from Jolene while Linebeck hides in a crate? I’d honestly play a whole game based on these characters.
Over the course of their journey, we learn that Linebeck actually has a soft spot for some folks. In the fight against Bellum, he even gains the courage to use the Phantom Sword on Bellum while Link is petrified. Linebeck also gains respect for Ciela by the end of the game, even though they constantly butt heads.
This may be a controversial take, but I find Linebeck to be such a fun, rich character that often gets completely overlooked. His story has closure in Spirit Tracks, when Link discovers Linbeck’s gravestone. It shows that he continued to journey onward to the newly established kingdom of Hyrule and had a family. You even meet his great-great-grandson Linebeck III in Spirit Tracks, who looks EXACTLY like him. You may be gone, Captain, but you are definitely not forgotten!
At long last, Princess Zelda is a playable companion in the canon for the first time in Spirit Tracks! In this iteration, Zelda joins Train Conductor Link on a journey to the Tower of Spirits to figure out the mystery behind the disappearance of the Spirit Tracks. It’s revealed that the creepy Chancellor Cole is behind the disappearance of the Spirit Tracks, and that the Spirit Tracks are actually in place to keep the Demon King Malladus imprisoned. Cole even steals Zelda’s body to use as a sacrifice in order to reawaken Malladus. Zelda’s soul, however, is able to escape and meets up with Link as he is the only one who can see her. Together, Link and Zelda team up to restore the Spirit Tracks seal to prevent the return of Malladus. In-game, Zelda is able to possess and pilot Phantoms in dungeons. In the final showdown with Malladus, Link shoots a light arrow at Zelda’s body–which has been possessed by Malladus–pushing him out and allowing Zelda to re-enter her body. Together, Zelda and Link (with the help of a little prayer to Zelda’s great-grandmother Tetra) are able to defeat Malladus and prevent total destruction. There’s nothing like seeing Zelda and Link work together as a team!
“We’re flying, Link! We’re flying!” That’s right, Skyward Sword introduced us to Link’s flying companion: the Crimson Loftwing. This is a special guardian bird that Link was able to connect with at a very young age. The students at Knight Academy in Skyloft take part in an annual race, the Wing Ceremony, which Link and the Crimson Loftwing enter. Jealous of Link, the misfits Groose, Cawlin, and Strich kidnap the Crimson Loftwing to stop Link from competing in the race. Link is able to find his companion and frees it just in time to participate in (and win) the Wing Ceremony. After these events, Link is able to journey to other Sky Islands and to the land beneath the clouds thanks to the help of his trusty Crimson Loftwing.
Move over, Siri–we’ve got a Goddess Sword who’s able to give us answers to all the questions in the land beneath the clouds! Fi is the super smart humanoid spirit that resides within the Goddess Sword in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Her purpose is to help the Goddess Hylia’s chosen hero defeat The Demon King Demise. Fi speaks to Link in his dreams, eventually guiding him to the Statue of the Goddess, where he finds the Goddess Sword.
Once Link pulls the sword from its pedestal, Fi introduces herself. She tells him of the land beneath the clouds, where he must go to fulfill his destiny. Fi helps Link discover more about the land beneath the clouds (soon to be named Hyrule), and together they seal away Demise in the Master Sword.
In short: they’re a pretty amazing duo. In the end, Fi instructs Link to return the Master Sword. She fades into it, waiting to encounter him again.
The Champions (***Age of Calamity Spoilers Ahead!!!***)
The Champions are the most recent companions to help Link and Zelda in Breath of the Wild and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. Four heroes are gathered by King Rhoam and the Royal Family of Hyrule in order to pilot the four Divine Beasts, thereby stopping Calamity Ganon from returning. This group contains Zora Princess Mipha, Goron Warrior Daruk, Gerudo Chieftain Urbosa, and Rito Warrior Revali. Princess Zelda acted as their commander, with Link as Zelda’s appointed knight.
Though this team is clearly stacked, they’re not enough to stop the Calamity from spreading. Ganon had summoned four Blights that took control of the Divine Beasts, killing Mipha, Daruk, Urbosa, and Revali in the process and trapping their souls within the Divine Beasts. A century later, Link wakes up in the Spring of Restoration and is informed by King Rhoam of what had happened. Link takes this knowledge and journeys onward to defeat the Blights, take back control of the Divine Beasts, and seal away Calamity Ganon once and for all.
Upon defeating each of the Blights, Link is bestowed with the power of his fellow Champions, whose souls travel with Link as he fights for the land of Hyrule. Their powers include Mipha’s Grace (Healing), Daruk’s Protection (Shield), Revali’s Gale (Updraft), and Urbosa’s Fury (Lightning).
In Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, the rise of Calamity Ganon is prevented before the destruction of Hyrule thanks to Zelda’s small Guardian friend Terrako. Terrako sees the destruction caused by Ganon and time travels back in time to warn Zelda about the oncoming Calamity. With proper preparation, some time-traveling allies, and the Champions all in tow, Zelda and the gang are able to prevent Ganon’s destruction from happening and live in an alternate reality in a peaceful Hyrule.
The Legend of Zelda continues to blow us all away with its incredible cast of characters. There are so many phenomenal NPCs that I could talk about as well (here’s looking at you, Tingle). Overall, the sheer number of grade-A characters is evidence of the true legacy of The Legend of Zelda, and I’m so excited to see who will aid Link’s quest next.
Want to learn more about the characters in The Legend of Zelda? Be sure to check out our Zeldapedia wiki page. It’ll be legendary!