The Evolution of Link

Hello, and welcome to Evolution, a brand-new BIGBITE series that sets out with one aim and one aim only; to explore the design history of your favourite video game characters.

This week we’ll be focusing on The Legend of Zelda’s Link. Throughout the franchises’ 30 year history, there have been many different incarnations of the Hylian hero; and some major design changes to boot. Join me as I delve into the Nintendo archives and dig up some of the most iconic Link artwork from both the past and the future.


A Hero Is Drawn (1986)

A lot of our favourite video game characters have very humble beginnings, and Link is no different. I wonder if any of the artists illustrating this chubby, short and extremely pale chap, could’ve imagined just how famous he would go on to become.


The Adventure of Link (1987)

Link became much more slim-line for his second outing, 1987’s The Adventure of Link. His skin and hair were made several shades darker and his once red shield began to glisten gold.


A Link to the Past (1991)

1991’s Link looks like he’s been dragged straight out of Clip Art. Lively is the buzzword here, with lime green clothing, bright blue eyes and shiny blonde hair, Link certainly stands out.


Link’s Awakening (1993)

The official artwork for Link’s Awakening focuses on using a much more earthy colour-scheme. Mossy greens and muddy browns replace the rather vibrant look of ALTTP’s design.


Ocarina of Time (1998)

Link’s first 3D outing saw him receive a complete rework. This is the design that most people seem to imagine when the name Link is mentioned – and for good reason, it’s nothing short of heroic.


Majora’s Mask (2000)

The first thing you notice about the Majora’s Mask artwork is the unprecedented amount of black, setting the tone for a pretty dark game indeed.


The Oracle Games (2001)

Contrastingly, in both Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons, Link has never looked happier. In fact, there’s not one dot of black to be seen. It’s all summery, colourful and downright cute.


The Wind Waker (2002)

The Wind Waker’s Link borrows his cell-shaded design from games like Okami – and it pays off big time. It’s an art-style which really fits the Zelda IP; making for a damn beautiful game.


The Minish Cap (2004)

No real changes for 2004’s The Minish Cap, I just had to include it because I’m in love with this image of Ezlo squawking at Link.


Twilight Princess (2006)

Well how about that for a U-turn? What’s the best way to follow up a super-cartoony and much-loved Link? With an ultra-realistic one of course.


Spirit Tracks (2009)

This games’ art was created much in the spirit of The Wind Waker, only cuter. The cell-shading has been removed, resulting in this adorable little fella.


Skyward Sword (2011)

This is… different? By far the most bulky Link appeared in the artwork for Skyward Sword. Even the Hylian Shield looks chunkier than ever.


A Link Between Worlds (2013)

Pastel colours dominate this quirky little re-design. ALBW’s protagonist looks as if he’s been ripped straight from the pages of a fairy tale book.


Tri Force Heroes (2015)

For the first-time ever, a trio of Links appeared in this 3DS title. Tri Force Heroes takes place in a ‘Fashion-forward’ world; evidenced by these colour-themed central characters.


The Legend of Zelda (2017)

In an exceptional move, 2017’s The Legend of Zelda will see Link scrapping his customary green garments in favour of a bright blue and white ensemble. I mean I’m all for tradition, but you’ve got to admit he looks damn cool.


It’s astounding that, no matter what form he takes, Link still remains so instantly recognizable. His flexibility is a sheer credit to the simplicity and class of his original concept.

I’ve been Jay Michael, you can find me on Twitter @Jayswriting and on the Rooster Teeth Website at JayMichaelWriting.

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