As a man, he was known as Ganondorf, The Gerudo King of Thieves, The Prince of Darkness, The Dark Lord, and The Demon King. As a beast, he was Ganon, a near invincible, pig monster personifying hatred and evil. If you haven’t heard one of his names then you’ve probably heard the other and if you’ve heard neither, then you might be living under a rock.
Ganondorf, Ganon, or whatever you want to call him is probably Nintendo’s most iconic villain next to Bowser. He’s been Link and Zelda’s archenemy for over thirty years now, appearing as the antagonist in more games than most Zelda fans are comfortable with. Unlike Bowser, however, Ganon’s relationship with the aforementioned protagonists lacks the same playful back and forth Mario and Bowser share.
Bowser and Mario can put their differences aside to go kart and play tennis, while Ganon and Link are destined to do battle and kill each other until the end of time. Ganon has been portrayed as menacing from his first appearance, but Nintendo’s always been the kind of company looking to one up themselves, so Ganon’s actions get considerably more disturbing as the series progresses.
He’s ruthless and he stops at nothing for what he wants, which is what makes him stand out from other villains. He doesn’t want to form a bond with Link or try to understand him, he wants others to understand his power and bow down to it. Worst of all, he’s not just a brute: Ganon is cunning. Sporting more charm and ingenuity than any other Nintendo villain, Ganondorf has committed his fair share of evil acts in the series.
15 He Kidnapped Young Girls From Around The World To Preemptively Stop Zelda
While not presented as overtly disturbing in the game itself, there’s something morbid and unsettling about Ganondorf preemptively trying to stop Zelda in The Wind Waker when you think about it. Nobody knows who’s kidnapping their daughters or why, they only know that girls with pointy ears are being directly targeted. In a world that’s pretty much all ocean, a kidnapping is basically a death sentence.
We know, of course, that Link goes on to save the kidnapped girls, but they’ve been imprisoned for months at that point and it doesn’t change the scariest thing about the scenario: Ganondorf’s plan is actually kind of genius.
Had he succeeded in kidnapping Tetra, which he very easily could have under the right circumstances, he would have had access to two pieces of the Triforce right then and there. Link could have still tried to stop him by assembling the Triforce of Courage like in the main game, but Ganondorf would have had such a huge advantage it’s unlikely if Link would have actually succeeded. The kidnappings themselves may not be explicitly disturbing, but the cunningness behind the plot certainly is.
14 He Slaughtered Almost Anyone Who Could Stop Him In Breath of the Wild
Ganon in Breath of the Wild is more a force of nature than anything else. He’s not so much a character, as he is a legitimate natural disaster that terrorizes Hyrule. He has one specific moment, however, that shows just how dangerous Ganon can be. For 10,000 years, Hyrule readies an army ready to challenge Ganon and, when he finally arrives, he takes over what he can of the army and murders everyone else in a day.
Link’s memories in Breath of the Wild contextualize the backstory even more by showing off “Champions,” chosen to defeat Ganon, acting sure that they can defeat him. They all build up to one moment where, after Zelda fails once again to awaken her ability to seal Ganon, Hyrule Castle is suddenly attacked and they rush off to fight him, unaware that they’ll be marching to their deaths. Only Link and Zelda are spared, but just barely with Link on the verge of death. Ganon’s nearly won before, but we’ve never seen him do it with such brutality.
13 His Death Led To A Cult Obsessed With Specifically Murdering Link
Ganon’s followers didn’t take too lightly to Link killing him in the original Legend of Zelda, so what did they do? Started a cult whose one and only motive was to kill Link, steal his blood, and pour it over Ganon’s ashes so that they could revive him. All over Hyrule, people loyal to Ganon’s cause are searching and waiting for Link, all so that they can use him to revive their now dead master.
It gets more disturbing when you question what happens when Link dies? He survives the events of Adventure of Link, but what about after? If he dies in combat, what happens if some remaining cultist is still around and spills his blood on Ganon?
The game over screen takes it one step further by showing off a cackling Ganon, presumably revived because Link lost all his lives. Not so disturbing nowadays, but back then? Hoo boy.
12 He Manipulated Link And Zelda In Ocarina Of Time
Ganondorf’s manipulation of Link and Zelda in Ocarina of Time isn’t exactly a secret, but it is an understated moment. Given his interactions with the Deku Tree, Gorons, and Zora in the child portion of the game, Ganondorf clearly knows he needs the spiritual stones to open the Door of Time, but nobody wants to give up the stones, so what does he do? He causes some trouble and waits.
By cursing the Deku Tree, Link has to enter the tree and eradicate the parasites, killing the Deku Tree but also getting the Kokiri spiritual stone. By blocking off Dodongo Cavern, Ganondorf is starving the Gorons until they give out the stone, but Link shows up, solves their crisis, and gets Goron Ruby in return. After feeding Princess Zora to Lord Jabu Jabu, Link rescues her and is offered the Zora Sapphire as a reward.
More importantly than that, however, Zelda’s plan involved Link simply getting the stones; a plan Ganondorf knew, so even if he hadn’t done anything, he’s still just have to wait for Link to open the Door of Time, so he could take over. Which is exactly what he does.
11 He Manipulated Them Again After Link Pulled Out The Master Sword
Ever the schemer, Ganondorf’s manipulations don’t end at taking over Hyrule. After Link pulls out the Master Sword in Ocarina of Time and is sent seven years into the future, Ganondorf keeps a close eye on him, hoping Zelda will eventually reveal herself for him to capture.
Now, The Legend of Zelda isn’t Metal Gear Solid, so it’s not like Ganondorf intentionally set up his dungeons to fail. It can, and should, be assumed that he is legitimately trying to stop Link every step of the way, but Ganondorf does have an undeniable amount of foresight. He sees no real reason to interfere with Link saving Hyrule because, sooner or later, it’ll lead to Zelda revealing herself, which is exactly what she does.
As soon as Sheik reveals herself as Zelda, Ganondorf is quick to kidnap her and secure the second piece of the Triforce for himself. He later basically gives Link an open invitation to his castle ,so he can get the last piece of the Triforce piece, turning each of his defeats into a victory. At least until his actual defeat.
10 He Directly Led To The Flooding Of Hyrule
After Link is sent back to his original timeline in Ocarina of Time, life goes on for the inhabitants for the future Hyrule and they unfortunately suffer from his lack of presence. Some time after Ganondorf’s defeat, he returns and, with no one to stop him, he manages to take over Hyrule.
It’s a story The Wind Waker outlines a couple of times, but it never dwells on it too deeply and, rightfully so, as the full extent of the backstory would clash with The Wind Waker’s whimsical tone. Ganondorf’s victory is so vast that the goddesses have no choice but to flood the entirety of Hyrule to stop him.
The kingdom sinks to the bottom of the ocean, countless lives are lost, and all knowledge of the once prosperous Hyrule is lost to time. The implication of the event is really what makes it disturbing, especially paired with a game that is otherwise rather lighthearted.
9 He Almost Committed Goron Genocide
Ganondorf does a lot of not so great things throughout the series, but Ocarina of Time sees him pumping out those vile deeds in rapid succession. One instance in particular during his seven year reign after Link pulls out the Master Sword is his treatment of the Gorons: He tried to starve them in the first half and now he’s feeding them to an ancient dragon god in the second.
Ganondorf rounds up the entire Goron race save for two and traps them in cells in the Fire Temple so that they can wait their turn to be eaten. His actions here aren’t particularly well motivated either, he just wants to make an example of what would happen if anyone revolted against him: racial genocide.
Link does manage to save the Gorons, but who knows how many have been eaten at this point. Link’s been asleep for seven years and Ganondorf’s been getting busy making an example of Hyrule’s citizens. Speaking of...
8 He Pushed The Zora To Near Extinction
What’s the best way to get rid of an aquatic species? Freeze all the water they live in and around them, of course. Not just that, dry out any nearby bodies of water as well, just so they know they aren’t in safe hands. It’s really kind of crazy just how much Ganondorf gets done in Ocarina of Time and how brutal his actions are.
Trying to wipe out a race by feeding them to a dragon is bad, but it’s also a slow process and Link can overturn it immediately. When Link shows up to Zora’s Domain in the future, it’s already too late. King Zora and a shopkeeper are the only Zoras left, and both of them were frozen. Even when Link clears the Water Temple, Zora’s Domain doesn’t unthaw. It’s shown unfrozen in the ending credits, but, for seven years, the Zoras basically had no water to sustain their livelihood.
7 He Enslaved An Entire Race of Zora
Some people may argue on the forethought put into the Zelda timeline, but it’s undeniable just how much creativity it can leads to. The Downfall timeline, which features The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past, and pretty much every other 2D game in the franchise, is probably the consistently darkest of the timelines to the point where an entire group of Zora have gone feral, mindlessly doing Ganon’s bidding.
For anyone who started the series before Ocarina of Time, the Zora were always violent, but the N64 classic introduced a more civilized interpretation. With the onset of the Hyrule Hystoria, the official timeline shed light on the Zora situation. In the Downfall timeline, and only the Downfall timeline, River Zora lose their humanity and go completely berserk. They have no civilization, they are notoriously violent, and they serve Ganon. Some Zora manage to keep some semblance of sanity but, for the most part, Ganon’s reign in the Downfall timeline has lead to the destruction of Zora culture.
6 He Nearly Won In Hyrule Warriors
Hyrule Warriors may exist in its own continuity but it doesn’t stop its version of Ganondorf from being an absolute beast who knows better than anyone what he’s up against. He’s amassed an army, he’s manipulated the main antagonists to benefit him whether they win or lose, and he singlehandedly defeats Hyrule’s forces. While it may not be too different from his actions in any individual game, there is a kicker: He’s the playable character during all of this.
The sheer intensity of his success is disturbing enough as is, but actually being in control of The Prince of Thieves makes it all the more distressing. You’re in charge of making sure Hyrule falls to his hands. You’re the one taking direct control and letting Ganondorf mow down hundreds, if not thousands, of Hyrule soldiers. Adding to the futility of Ganondorf’s conquest is the fact you’re also systematically undoing everything you accomplished as the heroes. Ganondorf ultimately loses in the end, but only just barely.
5 He Rejected His Humanity
One of the eeriest concepts in the Downfall Timeline is Ganon’s pig form. After his stint as a man in Ocarina of Time, Ganon feels content carrying on as a full beast, but this beast Ganon is different from his other incarnations: he’s still cunning and intelligent.
The Legend of Zelda shows us a feral, nearly mindless Ganon but A Link to the Past, his current earliest Downfall appearance, features a Ganon who still has his wits about himself. He has the mentality of Ganondorf, with all the power of Ganon, making for a terrifying foe in context.
After his defeat in A Link to the Past, we’re featured to the “catch” behind this beast Ganon: he comes back worse each time. It simultaneously explains why Ganon is so uncharacterized in the original game ,while adding a new element of terror to him. He keeps losing a part of himself until he’s a single minded monster obsessed with ruling Hyrule. It’s a disturbing fate for one of Nintendo’s smartest antagonists.
4 He Destroyed Hyrule
You’re probably asking “which time?” Any time honestly works. The amount of times Ganon succeeds in the series is kind of unsettling when you stop to think about it. Bowser never takes over the Mushroom Kingdom, Dr. Eggman never succeeds in defeating Sonic, and Dr. Wily can’t seem to get rid of Mega Man, but Ganon? He can destroy Hyrule with the right circumstances.
In The Legend of Zelda, the section of Hyrule he’s taken over is all but completely abandoned and overrun with monsters. Ocarina of Time shows what happens when Ganondorf is king, torturing and eliminating people for sport. Breath of the Wild shows him at his worst, having succeeded enough to label Hyrule a post-apocalyptic land.
In a few instances, too, it takes a long time before anyone does anything about him. Breath of the Wild has Ganon’s influence running wild for at least an entire century before Link is even ready to think about stopping him.
3 He Recognized His Actions
What’s scarier than a monster? A monster who knows he’s one. In The Wind Waker, Ganondorf has time to reflect after his defeat in Ocarina of Time. Loneliness has gotten to him and he’s started to think about his actions, realizing exactly what he’s done. Many times in the game he outright acknowledges his past deeds and he does show a softer, more mature side, but there’s something deeply unsettling about his continued exploits.
He knows what he did was wrong and he doesn’t care. Ganondorf still wants Hyrule, he still wants the Triforce, and he’ll still stop at nothing to get it. By recognizing his actions, Ganondorf has been humbled but he’s also gained an advantage no other Ganon has had: he knows exactly what he did wrong. The Wind Waker’s Ganondorf is preemptive, cautious, and ready for Link and Zelda. The only reason he loses is because of last minute interference. Otherwise, the Triforce would have granted him everything his vile heart desired.
2 He Killed Zelda
Twilight Princess is probably the darkest Zelda game next to Majora’s Mask and Breath of the Wild. It’s debatable whether or not such an overtly dark tone works for the series, but it undeniably brought out some of the most disturbing moments in the series. The Twili are completely alien from anything else seen before and the atmosphere can be incredibly overwhelming at times. It also marked the only time Zelda died, let alone on screen.
While Ganondorf doesn’t commit the act himself, the circumstances of her death are a direct result of his actions. Having dictated everything Zant had done in the game up to that point, Zant mortally wounds Midna and the only way for her to be saved is by Zelda sacrificing her life for her.
The princess does come back to life by the end of the game, of course, but it still makes for a stand out moment that separated Twilight Princess, and Ganondorf, from its predecessors.
1 He Killed Link
I’ve mentioned the Downfall Timeline a lot, so what exactly is it? It’s the timeline where Ganondorf murdered Link during Ocarina of Time. Before Hyrule Historia came out, fans assumed the Zelda timeline was split in two: the timeline Link returned to at the end of Ocarina of Time and the timeline he left. Hyrule Historia, instead, added a new timeline where Link died facing off against Ganondorf and the sages had to intervene.
We never get to see Link lose this fight in any of the games, but just the fact that it’s so casually mentioned changes the context of Ocarina of Time forever. There now exists a reality where Link loses perhaps his most important battle, dying at the most critical moment. His death serves as a disturbing dose of reality for the series, taking away Link’s invincibility factor and showing fans that, sometimes, the villains really do win.