The Legend of Zelda series is full of instances of “video games logic": things which make sense within a game’s universe, but which lack common sense, or become downright bizarre if applied to the real world. Sometimes, this kind of video games logic will simply be used to comical effect, but when taken to the extreme, it can become weird, if not downright disturbing. So why not just decline some of those side quests then?
The Legend of Zelda has often given the player a choice when it comes to answering a non-playable character’s question. However, that choice is often a fake one. Even if you refuse to help a character, one of two things might happen: it will keep insisting until you relent, or the game will give you a different piece of dialogue which still leads to the same result. Because of that, Link is rarely allowed to make any real decisions and must fulfill any demands made to him. An experienced Zelda player will have seen dozens of those peculiar requests over the years.
The quests on this list fall somewhere between bizarre and disturbing. Some of them expose the darker side of the character which gives the quest. Others are simply unexpected or defy logic.
But the first time you encounter them, most will leave you stunned, thinking that maybe you should slowly back out of Hyrule and put the controller down for the day.
15 The Reaching Hand (Majora's Mask)
Majora’s Mask would be the strangest of all Zelda games simply by its premise: the moon, now with a dark grin, will fall on Termina in three days unless you find the necessary mask. Still, it’s the quests available that send the game over the top. Majora’s Mask deals with many uncomfortable subjects such as death, vengeance, and bullying, and yet, its most unexpected side quest is a simple bathroom incident.
In Clock Town, if Link goes into the inn at night, he will notice something peculiar in the bathroom. Indeed, there is a human arm reaching from inside the toilet, desperately asking for paper. Unfortunately, the Zelda universe has not yet heard of 24 hours stores, so Link has to improvise with what’s lying around: a land title deed, a man’s letter to his mother, or a love letter. Whichever paper you decide to use, the hand is instantly relieved and rewards you with a piece of heart. As for the precious words of love that you just sent down the drain, don’t worry about them. You can just warp back to the start of the 3-day cycle and act as if nothing happened.
14 The Truth Is Out There (Majora's Mask)
While we are on the subject of Majora’s Mask, the game also deals with a first for the franchise: Aliens. Well, the game never really uses the term “aliens,” instead referring to the entities as “Them.” The implications, however, are very clear.
Every year, two days before the Carnival of Time, “They” kidnap the cows from Romani Ranch. Romani is getting ready to defend her cows this year, and because Link is a good guy, he decides to help. When the time comes, “They” come down from a giant ball of light in the sky. Should you succeed, the aliens retreat, and everyone is happy, but should you fail, “They” rip the roof off Romani’s barn, take the cows into their floating light and abduct Romani as well. When you return the next day, Romani is back, but she suffers from amnesia, her knowledge of the events having been erased by the entities.
The game never acknowledges this as an alien abduction, but the events and the setting are classic scenarios. The only thing missing is the cattle mutilation. Plus, what happens to Romani also happened to Scully in the X-Files, and that’s enough for me to believe.
13 Too Young To Be Married (Ocarina of Time)
This one is part of the main quest of Ocarina of Time, but still worth mentioning. In order to obtain the third spiritual stone, Link must venture inside the belly of the gigantic fish Jabu-Jabu and find Princess Ruto. The princess, it turns out, has been eaten alive by the creature. Once inside, Link realizes that not only are Jabu-Jabu’s insides about ten times bigger than the actual fish, but that his digestive system is home to an entire ecosystem of bad guys. In the end, Link saves the day, and the Zora Princess. She gives Link the spiritual stone, and … they get engaged?
Turns out that the Zora Sapphire, which Princess Ruto gives to Link, is also some sort of engagement ring in Zora culture. This is problematic because Ruto and Link are both 10 years old at the time of their engagement. And before you think that this is just a throwaway joke, it is brought up when Ruto and Link meet again seven years later. She proceeds to berate him for being away for so long, and only agrees to call off the wedding when she realizes that she must accept the responsibilities of being a sage. She must live in a different realm of reality, which can certainly put a strain on a relationship.
12 Step Back From That Ledge My Friend (Breath Of The Wild)
The world of Breath of the Wild is a bleak one. Ganon has taken over the castle a hundred years ago, and evil beings have been roaming the land ever since. Every effort to make things better is a futile one, as the blood moon will undo any progress that has been made. Such a hopeless world might make some people feel like giving up. Breath of the Wild acknowledges that possibility, but also wants to let everyone know that things can get better. Enter Brigo, the guardian angel of Proxim Bridge.
Every morning, while making his usual rounds, Brigo hangs out on Proxim Bridge to talk people off the ledge. Should Link try to jump off the bridge, Brigo will plead with him to reconsider, and that life is worth living after all. Past the clichés, he will do the one thing which suicide prevention experts say one should do in that kind of situation: he will simply offer to stick around for a while and have a chat, should the player wish to. Suicide is an extremely serious subject, one which I do believe is approached here for the first time in the series. To see Nintendo tackle it in such a thoughtful manner is unexpected, but in the end, it is an effective message.
11 The Malo Mart Empire (Twilight Princess)
Twilight Princess is often seen as one of the most mature entries in the series. The art style, the story, and the cut scenes all come together to paint a very grim story. If one stops long enough to look at what’s going on in the periphery of the main quest, cracks start showing in the tough and serious exterior of the game. For example, isn’t it weird that the best business mind in all of Hyrule is a four-year-old child?
After being rescued by Renado, the Ordon village kids stay in Kakariko Village for a while. Malo, the youngest of the bunch, takes this opportunity to open up a legitimate shop in one of the abandoned buildings. A toddler owning his own shop would be weird enough, BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
After a little while, Malo starts taking donations to repair the bridge leading to Castle Town. Once the bridge is restored, Malo buys out the Castle Town general store and rebrands it as a second Malo Mart, a place where there’s always a deal, and the party never stops. If you think that this Honest Ed’s-style story is not bizarre enough, then just take a look at the official Malo Mart dance, and be thankful that Walmart does not ask the same of its greeters.
10 Lenzo Just Likes To Look, Really (Wind Waker)
When Link brings his Picto Box to Lenzo in Wind Waker, the bearded man recognizes a fellow photography enthusiast and asks him to become his assistant. If the player agrees, he is then tasked with taking some pictures to prove his worth. What kind of pictures you ask? Well…
The first picture you need to take is of a man mailing an anonymous love letter. The second one is of a man who is in a vulnerable position, to prove he is a “coward” according to Lenzo. The third one is of a couple secretly exchanging glances, because they do not want their situation to be revealed. Is Lenzo using Link to blackmail people? It’s hard to see any other use for any of those pictures.
Anyway, once you have taken a cold shower to cleanse yourself of that dirty feeling nagging at the back of your mind, you can go back to Lenzo, who will give you a Deluxe Picto Box for your troubles. This allows you to take colour pictures, unlike the naughty ones which you took back to Lenzo. Those were black and white, because smutty pictures are more tasteful in black and white.
9 The Troubled Spirit Of Lynna Village (Oracle Of Ages)
Most Zelda games have a long-winded trading sequence, one where a character gives you an item which looks useless at first, but which another character will be ready to kill for. So you keep trading until you end up with something worthwhile, like a piece of heart or a sword. Oracle of Ages is not exempt from that trope, and over the course of the sequence, you will end up in Lynna Village, where you will find a small building near the western end of town. In the building is… a hand reaching out of a toilet? And the hand needs toilet paper?
In Nintendo’s idea of a running gag, the unnamed spirit of Majora’s Mask’s toilet makes a comeback in Oracle of Ages, and its needs have not changed. Thankfully, you should have a piece of stationery in your inventory, which will allow the hand to finish its personal business. This time around, you do not get a piece of heart. Instead, you are gifted a “stink bag,” which is only described as being “smelly.” Based on where you got it from, it’s easy to assume what’s in the bag. Now what are you supposed to trade this for?
8 The Hero’s Unfinished Business (Twilight Princess)
In Twilight Princess, Link acquires new sword skills by meeting with a ghastly golden wolf. The wolf takes him in limbo, where he turns out to be a scary skeleton who just wants to teach him some tricks with his blade. That skeletal being only wants to be known as “The Hero’s Shade.” By putting the dialogue together, you can figure out that he is, in fact, a hero of the same bloodline as Link, one who regrets that most of his exploits have been forgotten, and who wishes he could have passed down his skills to the next generation.
The book Hyrule Historia officially confirms that the Hero’s Shade is indeed the Hero of Time, also known as Link from Ocarina of Time. Twilight Princess is a part of the “Child” timeline, and in this version of the event, people forgot about the hero once Ganondorf was executed. Link’s regrets were such that he could not pass on to the other world and his spirit became bitter and gloomy. He now wants to prove to himself that’s he’s still a good person by teaching the next generation of hero. That’s incredibly dark, and I for one have not seen such a sad and tragic ghost story since 1995’s Casper.
7 The Windmill Man’s Paradox (Ocarina Of Time)
You know what else is dark and tragic? Being responsible for your own demise. That’s exactly what the Windmill musician in Ocarina of Time did. And to get to his lowest point, he needed the help of a good old time traveling paradox.
When Link first meets the Windmill Man as a child, he is having problems finishing his composition. Link can’t do much for him at this point, so he goes and takes his very long nap in the Temple of Time. Seven years later, Link meets the man again, who has been extremely angry for a very long time. His life has been ruined seven years ago when some rascal came in with his ocarina and messed up his windmill. He teaches the song that caused his problems to Link, who promptly goes back in time, plays the song, and … messes up the windmill.
So how did the man ever learn the song? After all, he’s the one who taught it to Link so he could go back in time and teach it to his younger version. He would never have learned the song in the first place had he not taught it to Link. Thinking about it too long may cause your brain to melt, so if there’s one thing to remember, it’s that the Windmill Man screwed the Windmill Man.
6 Shoplifters Will Be Prosecuted (Link's Awakening)
The shop in Link’s Awakening works a little differently from those in other games. Instead of looking at an item and paying for it immediately, the player has to pick up the item physically and bring it to the register in order to pay. This means that it is also possible to pick up an item and simply run out the door to get it for free. The game immediately shows what it thinks of shoplifting by asking you “Are you proud of yourself?”, but it does not stop there.
The inhabitants of Koholint Island are extremely serious about shoplifting, to the point where every character you meet until the end of the game will now refer to you as “Thief” instead of your given name. Finally, when Link goes back to the shop, the shop owner decides that, like Judge Dredd, he is judge, jury, and executioner. Furthermore, the penalty for stealing shall be death. At that point, the owner shoots lightning from his hands, like he is Emperor Palpatine, until Link loses every last one of his hearts.
As a kid, I found this turn of event extremely traumatizing. I have to thank Link’s Awakening for having set me on the proper path at a very young age.
5 The Oocca. Everything About The Oocca (Twilight Princess)
The Oocca have to be one of the creepiest, strangest-looking races in all of Zelda history. Resembling chickens with poor approximations of human heads, the Oocca have an unpleasant appearance, and everything about them makes the player uneasy. For example, their children. Young Oocca ditch the chicken body, instead, they are free-floating, eerie human heads with tiny wings attached to the sides.
Ooccoo, the first Oocca which Link meets, decides to stick with him for most of his adventure. However, in the later parts of Twilight Princess, an entire dungeon is designed around these bizarre little creatures. Indeed, the City in the Sky is home to many Oocca, one of which runs the shop, and most of which roam free around the city. The Oocca can be used like the Cuccos, meaning that Link can grab on to them to gently float down from high places.
I mean, their origin is not particularly dark, as they’re supposed to be beings close to the Goddesses of Hyrule. It’s just their general appearance which is disturbing. The hairless torso, the beady red eyes, the icy expression… I miss the Gorons.
4 A Mermaid For The Old Wayfarer (Phantom Hourglass)
Let’s say you meet an old man who is completely obsessed with mermaids. It’s a peculiar hobby, but no reason to be alarmed, right? Now let’s say that the old man abandoned his wife and son in order to pursue his need for “adventure”? The red flags are starting to pile up, but Link is a good guy, so in Phantom Hourglass, he keeps helping this man.
The man refers to himself as “The Old Wayfarer.” His mermaid obsession is such that it is all he can talk about with Link, asking him to say something should he encounter one. In Zelda, a request never goes unfulfilled, so Link can indeed meet with a mermaid and let the old man know. The Wayfarer is, of course, overjoyed, and the next time Link visits him, the mermaid in question can be seen in a kiddie pool in the corner of the man’s hut. Despite mermaids being self-aware and conscious beings, he decided that capturing it and keeping it with him forever was the best course of action. The whole joke is that the creature he keeps around is not even a real mermaid: it is simply a woman named Joanne, who enjoys dressing up as one.
Facilitating an abduction nets Link a brand new fishing rod, so at least there’s that.
3 Playing Hide And Seek (Breath Of the Wild)
Breath of the Wild offers a living world unlike any other Zelda game before, and every last non-playable character seems to have a unique story to tell. Unfortunately, not all of these stories have a happy ending.
In Kakariko Village, Link will encounter a child named Cottla. She asks Link to play a game with her, which becomes a side quest. Cottla has been playing hide and seek with her mother for a long time and still can’t find her, so she needs some entertainment in the meantime. In the same village, Link also meets Dorian, who is Cottla’s father. Dorian has his own side quest to offer, which results in a new shrine being discovered. The details of it are pretty mundane. What makes the quest disturbing is Dorian’s confession after its completion.
As it turns out, Cottla’s mother is not playing hide and seek. That’s a lie that Dorian has been telling her because he does not have the courage to tell Cottla that her mother is dead. Dorian used to be a member of the evil Yiga clan, and they murdered his wife when he deserted their cause. The murder part is messed up enough, but the father hiding it from his daughter for so long also crosses the line by a few miles.
2 Stockholm Syndrome (Wind Waker)
The early stages of The Wind Waker play a little bit like Taken, if Link was Liam Neeson: Ganondorf has been kidnapping young girls all over the Great Sea, and it’s up to Link to save them. After that part is taken care of, Link can still visit the girls he helped for better or worse. One of them, Maggie, has a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome, and has indeed fallen in love with her prison guard, a moblin. For the record, this is a moblin. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and all that.
Link is then tasked by Maggie to bring a love letter to Moe, the moblin in question. Moe cares enough to write back to Maggie, and the letter in question contains these romantic words: “…I want to eat you for dinner.” Maggie is smitten, and interprets it as a marriage proposal.
I can see at least two things wrong with this whole thing, but I am not sure which one is worst: the fantasy of being devoured by a moblin, or the fact that it’s a ten years old girl infatuated with an adult-sized pig monster?
1 Cawlin’s Love Letter (Skyward Sword)
I have never noticed before how much of The Legend Of Zelda revolves around love letter side quests. In Skyward Sword, a boy named Cawlin has a crush on a girl named Karane, who is a senior at the same academy. Being too afraid of rejection to give her his love letter himself, he asks Link to deliver it in his place. At this point, Link is presented with two options. The first one means that Link does indeed deliver the letter to Karane, but she ends up choosing an older boy named Pipit instead of Cawlin, sending the poor kid running in tears.
If the thought of breaking a kid’s heart is too much to bear, Link can always pick the second option. Go to the second floor of the academy, where… a voice is calling from the bathroom? And then a hand reaches from the toilet and asks for paper?
Come on, Nintendo!
Unlike the versions from Majora’s Mask and Oracle of Ages, this one comes with a twist. The ghost, named Phoeni, assumes the love letter written on the toilet paper was meant for her, and thus she spends the rest of her nights caressing a shuddering Cawlin’s head. So good job, you match-maker you.