Nintendo has a penchant for making recognizable characters, and no series uses its vast cast as well as The Legend of Zelda, with regular appearances from characters across its games. The series takes place in different timelines of Hyrule, spanning thousands of years, yet characters with consistent appearances and the same name pop up in multiple titles. This holds true from the protagonist all the way down to side characters like a proprietor of mini-games. The destiny of Hyrule is a recursive tale, and The Legend of Zelda‘s characters follow suit.
Inextricably linked to the eternal struggle of Zelda‘s Hyrule Kingdom are four characters: Link, Zelda, Ganon, and Impa. Each character appears in numerous games in the series, members of pre-ordained lineages destined to come into conflict. Link, the iconic protagonist, appears in every mainline Zelda title, and it is a rare occurrence when at least one of the other three doesn’t join him. All four of these recurring characters are directly connected to the Goddess Hylia, and are instrumental in every Zelda entry’s narrative, practically defining the series in and of themselves.
These first four are only the beginning in terms of recurring characters in The Legend of Zelda – being so intrinsic to the series, their importance requires more than a paragraph or two. At the other end of that spectrum are the numerous recurring characters that ultimately have a very small footprint on the series as a whole. These generally fall into three separate categories.
The first tier of recurring characters is mostly comprised of characters who reappear because of their presence in one of Zelda‘s direct sequels, such as Tetra’s pirate crew or the many reused Ocarina of Time characters in Majora’s Mask.
The second group recurring characters usually tied to gameplay mechanics, such as those who offer upgrades (e.g. Great Fairies, Syrup, and Biggoron), or are sometimes required to finish the game (Epona in Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess, or Lord Jabu-Jabu in Ocarina of Time and Oracle of Ages). The third category is comprised of recurring enemies, which are usually named. These include Dark Link and Phantom Ganon, and could be extended to some bosses which have reincarnations – like Gohma – but those often come with varied names as well.
When separating the characters of utmost importance to the mere existence of Hyrule, and those who wholly embody the term side character to varying degrees, what’s left is recurring Zelda characters who make numerous, widespread appearances. Some have a great impact on the course of Hyrule’s history, while others simply carry their very distinct personality traits on through the eras of The Legend of Zelda.
Beedle is an iconic video game merchant, and the most prolific of Hyrule. He first appeared in The Wind Waker, traveling the Great Sea in his floating shop. Beedle, despite his wide stare and downturned lips, frequently expresses excitement upon seeing Link in his various shops. He often sells items important to side quests, and even offers Link membership programs. Occasionally Beedle can be found ineffectively disguising himself as his alter ego, Beedle’s Assistant.
The odd, entrepreneurial merchant also appears in The Minish Cap, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, Skyward Sword, and Breath of the Wild. His shop is typically a reflection of the particular game’s version of Hyrule. In Skyward Sword, for instance, he pedals a bike to keep his floating shop in the air, and he travels the roads of the ruined Hyrule on foot in BOTW, like many other Hylians.
Dampé is the reclusive and morbid gravedigger in The Legend of Zelda. He first appeared in Ocarina of Time, tending to the graveyard in that version of Ocarina’s Kakariko Village. Dampé was also integral to completing the game, since beating his ghost in a race awarded players with the Hookshot, a requirement for beating the Forest Temple. Though typically unassuming, Dampé is frequently the holder of important information, or provides Link pivotal help on his quest.
After his debut in Ocarina of Time, Dampé appears in Majora’s Mask, Four Swords Adventures, The Minish Cap, A Link Between Worlds, and was an addition to the Nintendo Switch remake of Link’s Awakening. Although his shack is near the Koholint Island’s graveyard, Dampé does not appear to tend to it, and is instead responsible for building chambers that players can use in the Link’s Awakening remake dungeon maker.
The three Golden Goddesses are notable side characters for being the creators of Hyrule itself. They are Din, the Goddess of Power, Farore, the Goddess of Courage, and Nayru, the Goddess of Wisdom. In addition being the progenitors of Hyrule, they also created the Triforce and entrusted it to the Goddess Hylia. The Triforce is the de facto symbol of The Legend of Zelda, and is used in game as a powerful artifact with the power to grant wishes.
Din, Farore, and Nayru were first named in Ocarina of Time, and represented by the above image in a cutscene detailing their creation of the world out of the chaos that existed before. Though they don’t have consistent designs, they are seen throughout the series in statues, location names, items, and lesser incarnations – such as the eponymous Oracles in Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons, or the Light Spirits that preside over the regions of Twilight Princess.
The Great Deku Tree makes a surprisingly small number of appearances in The Legend of Zelda despite his importance and widespread recognition. The spirit of Kokiri Forest first appeared in Ocarina of Time, where he instigated the game’s plot, sending Navi to retrieve the sleeping boy destined to save Hyrule. He acts as Ocarina of Time‘s first dungeon, afterward falling victim to the evil power of Ganondorf, but not before divulging to Link the task before him. He plays a very similar role in the Forest Haven of Wind Waker, and Breath of the Wild‘s Korok Forest, bestowing Link with items integral to his quest.
Part of The Great Deku Tree’s guardianship duties, which is intrinsic to his character, is protecting the small creatures that call his surrounding forests home. In Ocarina of Time, he is revered by the Kokiri – a group of short, unaging woodland folk which Link believes himself a part. Sometime after the age of the Hero of Time, the Kokiri evolved into Koroks, the tiny tree-like people in the Forest Haven. They retain this form until the time of the Second Great Calamity, hiding all over Breath of the Wild‘s Hyrule.
Tingle, perhaps the most eccentric of Zelda characters, is an original creation of Majora’s Mask, first appearing as a map maker who believes himself to be a fairy. His personality in following titles revolve around these two characteristics, he often believes Link is a fairy as well, and frequently spouts his catchphrase, “Kooloo-Limpah.” Tingle is especially important to the main quest in Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker, and also makes prominent appearances in Oracle of Ages, Four Swords Adventures, and The Minish Cap.
Tingle has a father in Majora’s Mask, but in The Wind Waker and The Minish Cap he has two brothers, Ankle and Knuckle, and an unrelated, but strikingly similar colleague named David Jr., who apparently works for Tingle either against his will or better judgment. Tingle’s signature costume and recognizable bright red nose has made him a regular figure in The Legend of Zelda, to the point where he makes appearances in games where he’s not even a character. His likeness can be seen in Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, and Skyward Sword. Outside of the mainline series, Tingle has had a handful of spin-off games bear his name.
The Legend of Zelda as a series largely involves a giant, recurring cast of characters. Some are the actors in the dire circumstances around which the games revolve, while others are merely recognizable faces that benignly fill roles in the game world. A subset of side characters have had such important reincarnations that they’ve become recognizable in their own right, though not always integral to the game they appear in. Nintendo has created many of the most iconic characters in video games, and The Legend of Zelda is one of the best exemplifiers of that fact.