Nintendo, a company which is renowned for its family-friendly games and for its past censorship of popular games, has now grown up and decided to venture into the land of mature gaming. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this shift started. One could point to Eternal Darkness for GameCube as a good starting point. Becoming the sole publisher for Bayonetta 2 was also an effective way of solidifying its position.
This new Nintendo, which has a little bit of everything for everyone, has let its new direction seep into most of its franchises. The newest release in the Legend of Zelda series, Breath of the Wild, is certainly the darkest entry since Majora’s Mask, but it also manages to push the envelope with more than just scary stuff. It is a game which slips innuendos past the most alert of gamers and includes references to many adult activities, some of which are so subtle that it might go right past most kids’ understanding.
However, even before Breath of the Wild was released, The Legend of Zelda was often a surprisingly mature series for something which features elfish-looking kids and a classic good-vs-evil story line. We have decided to take a look at 15 of those occasions when The Legend of Zelda went a little overboard and decided to show children just what the adult world might be holding for them. As you will notice, Nintendo has been making an art form out of finding the line and gently stepping over it.
15 The Great Fairy Gets Grabby To Upgrade Your Armor (Breath Of The Wild)
The Great Fairies have been a part of Zelda since the start, and they have been taking on different parts to help Link along his way. In Breath of the Wild, their role is to upgrade Link’s different sets of armor for a small fee.
When upgrading an armor for the first time, the fairy will simply blow you a kiss. The second time, she will deposit a kiss on your lips with her finger. The third time, she will lean in for a full on kiss, leaving Link breathless. And for the fourth upgrade… only God knows what’s really going on. The Great Fairy, gigantic when compared to Link, will grab him and take him into her fairy fountain, away from prying eyes. In the end, the poor man is left motionless on the ground, and the player is left to imagine just what the hell was going on for those few seconds where the lights went out.
14 Whatever Is Going On At The Top Of The Statue Of The Goddess (Skyward Sword)
By defeating Groose and winning the Wing Ceremony, Link is granted a moment alone, on top of a gigantic statue and hidden from anyone who might spy on them, with Zelda. Away from everyone, Zelda asks if you really know what goes on at the end of the ceremony. The dialogue choices are “Nope”, “Sort of…” and “Uh-oh…”. Of course, none of this means anything, but the implication is very clear. After you answer, Zelda gets awfully close to Link, and leans in for… a kiss, maybe? Or something more? What does go on at the end? So many questions that can make for an awkward conversation between a kid just a bit too young for “the talk.”
Luckily, she just pushes you off the statue so you can try that new parachute she just gave you. Good job, hypothetical parents. You managed to dodge the birds and bees talk once more.
13 The Bottom Of The Well (Ocarina Of Time)
The Shadow Temple gets a lot of press as one of the scariest places in Ocarina of Time. However, many people seem to forget about its little brother, the mini-dungeon known as “The Bottom Of The Well.” There, a young Link has to crawl through a nightmare-inducing area infested with ReDeads, those groaning zombies that jump at your face and smother you to death.
Also in the well is Dead Hand, a chilling and unsettling creature which cranks and twists its head and jaw to unnatural positions while its long and bony hands reach from the ground to hold Link in place while he gets ready to devour him. Of course, this is all played out within a scenery reminiscent of a torture chamber, with hooks and chains hanging from the ceiling of prison cells. The Bottom of the Well is the reason I still don’t get enough sleep to this day.
12 Link’s Creepy Vision (Twilight Princess)
In Twilight Princess, when the time comes to restore the Vessel of Light, Link is gifted a vision, courtesy of the light spirit Lanayru. The vision starts normally enough, with a retelling of the creation of Hyrule. Things go south when Link’s vision of his friend Ilia gains white pupils and attempts to stab him with a dagger. Then, Link himself turns into some kind of zombie, confronted by three doppelgangers with glowing red eyes. Link screams at the sight, his face grotesquely deformed, but it is not over yet for it starts raining Ilias, and I mean literally. Dozens of clones of his best friend start falling from the dark sky, cackling creepily, while Link can only fall to his knees, defeated.
If Twilight Princess is played by a kid, this is definitely the game’s Pan’s Labyrinth moment.
11 Nabooru Will “Do Something Great For You” (Ocarina Of Time)
Ocarina of Time is full of those little moments where it seems like young Link is on the cusp of learning what being an adult is, but nothing gets more inappropriate than when he encounters Nabooru, a grown Gerudo woman.
When they meet, Nabooru is trying to make it to the Spirit Temple, but the entrance can only accommodate a child. She offers Link to crawl into the hole (hehe), and in exchange, she will “do something great” for him. We never get to know what it is, as she gets kidnapped by Koumé and Kotaké before she can give Link his reward.
Seven years later, once she is freed from her captivity, she remarks that Link has grown into a handsome young man, making her wish she had kept her word all those years ago. What does it mean exactly? Nobody knows, but it’s easy to play “connect the dots” from there.
10 The Sword Instructor Is A Lonely Man (Majora’s Mask)
The instructor at the Swordsman School in Majora’s Mask might look like a dirty hippy, but he is a fairly competent man who shows Link everything he needs to know about sword fighting. Getting this good at something means spending a lot of time alone practicing, and it sure seems like the loneliness has gotten to him. If Link approaches him while wearing the Great Fairy’s Mask, the instructor starts giving a little too much information, telling Link that the mask is so beautiful that it makes him lose his concentration, and that he cannot teach Link while he’s wearing it. Fair enough, but he then offers Link to hold on to the mask for him, if he wants. You know, for all those cold, lonely nights. Because the trick to properly handling a sword is all in the wrist.
9 Ashai’s Class On Marriage (Breath Of The Wild)
Breath of the Wild is such a gigantic world that in order to make it feel alive, every nook and cranny is filled with details that give its character a distinct personality. One quirk of the world is that the Gerudos are all born female, and that they must venture outside of town to find a mate. In Gerudo Town, Ashai is busy teaching classes full of “Vai” just how to catch a husband, and things are far from going smoothly.
During an extended sequence which plays out like an exaggerated talk about birds and bees, Ashai fields questions from her students, who don’t seem to know any better. When asked about good techniques to seduce men, one student talks of kidnapping a man and twisting his arm until he agrees to marry. Things are well on their way to getting out of hands, but thankfully, the class stops before anyone is quizzed about proper mating techniques.
8 Link Plunges His Sword In Ganondorf’s Head (Wind Waker)
At the time of its release, Wind Waker was criticized before it even made it to the shelves because fans were displeased with the cartoonish style displayed in the trailers. They were afraid that the game would be too childish when compared to the previous 3D Zelda, the extremely dark Majora’s Mask.
Perhaps as a pre-emptive measure against those vocal critics, or simply because they like surprising their audience, Nintendo decided that the best way to finish an adventure full of vibrant colours and cute characters was by stabbing the bad guy in the head. That’s right. At the climax of his battle against Ganondorf, the player delivers the final blow by stabbing the Dark Lord, right in the middle of his forehead, very graphically, with the Master Sword. The striking juxtaposition between the ridiculous, over-the-top violence and the cartoonish visuals is to this day hard to ignore.
7 The Soldier Dying Alone In An Alley (Ocarina Of Time)
One thing that is precious about childhood is the innocence which is often lost too quickly. That magical time when you think you are invincible and everyone you love will be there forever. Well, Nintendo thinks it’s important to learn from a young age that people die and that there’s isn’t a damn thing anyone can do about it.
While the Castle Town Market is usually a happy and busy place, things change once Link acquires all three spiritual stones. If you go into the back alley, you will notice a dying soldier leaning against a wall. He will tell you of Ganondorf’s betrayal of the King before taking his final breath, after which Navi will inform you that he is not moving anymore should you try and initiate conversation. It is not the first time death is mentioned in Zelda, but it’s the first time it appears so raw and simple.
6 The Guy Who Wanted To Plow His Ancient Oven (Breath Of The Wild)
This is the story of a hard-working scientist named Robbie, who spent so much time working on his technology-spewing machine that he eventually decided to give her a name. He picked the name of his first love, Cherry, because he’s creepy like that. Time passed, and Robbie decided that giving Cherry an AI and a human voice would make his days less lonely. He lived happily with his machine, talking about it to strangers in a semi-lewd manner, until he met an actual human being. Because everybody in Hyrule could see that Robbie wanted to get it on with an Ancient Oven, she kindly asked him to cut it out, which he reluctantly did to buy peace. To this day, despite returning Cherry to its robotic voice, he still reminisces about the good old days when he could just get busy with his machine whenever he felt like it.
5 Your Favourite Horse Can Die (Breath Of The Wild)
As a kid, I learned that my dog would one day die by watching All Dogs Go To Heaven. It was a devastating movie, and I was not ready for the implication that my dog would not be by my side forever. Once again, Breath of the Wild teaches the real things to children who might be playing by letting them adopt a horse, which quickly becomes their inseparable companion. They can name it, and feed it, and pet it, and get it some special clothing… until you encounter a particularly angry Lynel who decides to shoot shock arrows in your general direction. The horsy gets hit… and dies.
Now, of course, there’s a hidden fairy fountain which contains the Horse God, but it is not advertised anywhere, and is situated out of the way. So unless the kid playing got particularly lucky, then the cute little pony just isn’t coming back.
4 Tingle Gets Rewarded In A Naughty Manner (Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland)
Outside of Japan and Europe, not many people played the creatively-named spinoff Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland. Most of the game’s crunchiest moments thus flew under the radar, but make no mistake about it. It is by far the raunchiest game in the Zelda universe.
One such moment comes after Tingle completes a mission for the fairy Pinkle, which had promised him a sizable reward. Should the deed be completed, the screen then goes to black for fifteen seconds or so, while moans and groans can be heard in the background. When the lights come back on, cartoon hearts are floating around, and the fairy adds a cherry on top of the gift: a hologram of herself, for when Tingle “feels lonely.” I don’t know what it is about the fairies in the Zelda series, but they sure like to show their appreciation.
3 Ghirahim (Skyward Sword)
After decades of Ganondorf leading the villainous side of things with the occasional apparition from Vaati, Skyward Sword went in a completely different direction with two brand new villains, and no swerve to reveal that the burly Gerudo was behind the entire thing the whole time. While Demise was the game’s big bad boss, it is Ghirahim who handled most of the work, and the results were… uncomfortable?
While Ghirahim is a great villain in the sense that he utters very quotable threats (“You’ll deafen yourself with the shrill sound of your own screams”), but he’s a bit too much with the personal space invasion. He’s like that creepy guy on the subway who never breaks eye contact and stands too close to you, except that he also wags his tongue around and licks Link’s ears. I guess it’s never too early to teach kids about harassment.
2 The Arrow Lady Really Wants A Good Nock (Breath Of The Wild)
When visiting Kakariko Village, it is easy to read the tension between the woman who works at the arrow shop and the man who raises Cuccos. The dialogue hints at some marital problems between the two, which according to the “Journal of Various Worries,” lead to an eventual separation. Now back on the dating market, the arrow lady has certainly noticed Link’s arrival, and boy did she write all about it in the town’s journal.
Among her messages to Link, she remarks that he really knows how to tune a bow, and that she would really like to get her “arrow nocked" by the new guy in town. I don’t even think this qualifies as an innuendo. Basically, she wants the tip of Link’s arrow, and she makes sure to put on the heavy flirting when Link visits her shop.
1 When The Moon Finally Crashes (Majora’s Mask)
Let’s say that you let a kid play Majora’s Mask. Chances are that the kid will not be able to save Termina on the first try. So, what happens should you fail?
A cutscene starts where The Moon falls on Termina with its menacing grin, crushing Clock Town to dust. Should you have summoned the wrong number of Giants, well, they die too, one by one, falling down from exhaustion. The shockwave of the explosion then sends rocks and rubble in every direction, until the camera switches to Link, standing in the dark. Then, in a sequence not unlike the nuclear nightmare of Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, fire and brimstones sweep Link away with his last scream, killing everyone in the world. And then, you have to go and convince the poor kid who just witnessed all of this to go to bed tonight.
Sweet dreams, kid.