Thanks for reading! If you enjoy this article consider subscribing to our newsletter for a chance to win a $10 eshop gift card every week!
This is a question that I imagine many Nintendo fans will have the same immediate answer to – no. Link, the main protagonist of the iconic The Legend of Zelda series has not spoken a single word for the last 35 years (not counting the cartoon at least), and this is intentional with his character.
He is supposed to be nothing more than a blank slate for the player, with little to no personality so that the player can easily impress themselves upon him and apply their own ideas to him. In short, a “link” between the player and the game, and he has mostly remained that way for 35 years and on. But notice I said “mostly”.
While it is true that most interpretations of Link have little actual notable personality traits, particularly in the first few Zelda games before and after Ocarina of Time, this has not remained so much the case nowadays. While Link still has never talked, it can hardly be said that modern versions of the character have no personality or established character in the narrative of their respective Zelda game.
In games like Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, The Wind Waker, and Breath of the Wild, the “character” of Link is emphasized a lot more compared to other games, and his relationships with other characters are more deeply explored beyond “you’re the Hero of Legend, take this sword and go save the Princess.” In quite a few cases, Link’s journey is a very personal one, and sometimes does not even involve saving Zelda until either later on in the game or not at all.
Although the “character” is far from the most complex and does not take too much away from the idea of Link being a blank slate, they succeed in at least giving him notable personality traits that make him a little less of a blank slate.
For example, in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, several pieces of dialogue establish a few noteworthy personality traits for Link: he’s rather laidback and relaxed (maybe even a little lazy) and a bit of an airhead, and is kind and warm to the people he is close to, such as Zelda.
While these traits have been present in past interpretations of Link, such as in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, Skyward Sword Link is perhaps the best example of these not only being emphasized but having an active influence on the narrative. Zelda constantly refers to him as “sleepyhead”, Groose and other characters directly comment on how laidback he is, and he’s arguably the most outwardly expressive Link next to the one from The Wind Waker. The fact that I can generally describe Link’s personality as laidback and kind somewhat goes against the idea of him being a completely blank slate, but I think Nintendo manages to establish an interesting sort of balance here.
Yes, Link has a personality in certain games, but this personality does not supersede the concept of him being a blank slate for the player to impress themselves upon – because he doesn’t talk. While past The Legend of Zelda games have made Link pretty much completely emotionless and unexpressive, games like Skyward Sword and arguably Breath of the Wild have been a lot bolder giving him something beyond that, even if it is not much.
When I say “bolder”, I essentially mean making Link feel a lot more like an actual character instead of just an avatar, something Nintendo would not have done years ago but is now. A good comparison would be the Pokémon protagonists. The main characters on every Pokémon game for the last 25 years have displayed zero noteworthy traits whatsoever, and there is no reason for them to ever actually speak in-game.
It would add nothing to the story, because Pokémon is an immersive experience. You are traveling to the world of Pokémon, and this character is nothing more than an avatar in that world. This concept has only been further emphasized by giving the player the ability to customize their outfit. You make them as much like you as you want them to.
Link is very much the same way, though it is hard to say whether he could be considered an “avatar” of the player. In most games, the player has limited if any options for customizing his appearance, and as we have just established, he actually has noteworthy characteristics that distinguish him as Link, such as generally being laidback and relaxed.
These are things that distinguish him from most other silent protagonists – especially silent protagonists from Nintendo games – and makes him feel less like a direct self-insert and more like an actual person in that world. I mean, there are even some people who have made fan art or discussed the idea of Link having more options for customization, or even being depicted with a different race or appearance altogether since pretty much every Link has looked exactly the same with minor differences – a young boy in a green tunic with a sword.
Breath of the Wild of course changed this by not only giving Link a completely different tunic that’s blue instead of green but also allowing the player to virtually make him look however they want him to. Other Zelda games have provided ways to alter Link’s appearance before, but never to this degree, and even though it makes him similar to the Pokémon protagonists, in Pokémon NPCs in the world don’t really react to your appearance the same way they do in Breath of the Wild.
In short, Link is changing from his roots as a purely blank slate in more modern Zelda games, even if it is only subtle. He is becoming a lot more like an actual character with his own personality and characteristics. Even if these characteristics are not the most complex, they are still there, and with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 on the horizon, who knows what else Nintendo will do to change the character of Link even more.
Now, there is the question of what would actually prompt Link to even speak at all, as well as what would happen after? If you have a character that has gone for 35 years without saying a word suddenly start speaking out of nowhere, it could easily come off as not only jarring but expected from that point on. There is also the matter of whether Zelda fans would even want Link to talk, as anything he could solidify a personality and potentially go against any interpretations of their own. Would Link speaking make him a bad character?
Well, it might depend. I agree that Link doesn’t need to start speaking full sentences, and despite anything I may have implied so far, I honestly like the concept of Link being a blank slate for the player to impress their own ideas upon. But that does not change anything I have pointed out about how much more of an actual character he has become. For better or worse, Link now is so much more than just the Knight That Seals The Darkness or the Boy in Green (quite literally since he’s blue now).
If he were to actually speak, it should only be two things: something small and relevant. He shouldn’t say much, but whatever he does say should be important. It would be kind of lame if he suddenly said “Hello” in a random cutscene for no real reason. It might be funny, but it would still be lame. The moment Link actually speaks should be a legendary one that manages to make his character shine in the greater narrative of the game he is in, and that also does not break the concept of his character being a “link” to the player.
I will admit, I have no idea what that would look like, and I honestly don’t know if it will even happen. Regardless, it is an idea I feel is worth discussing because of how much the Legend of Zelda series has changed, and change, good or bad, is inevitable. However, Nintendo decides to handle the character of Link going into Breath of the Wild 2 and beyond, I only hope to see what lies ahead for the Boy in Blue… that still doesn’t sound right, I’ll stick with green.
Thank you for stopping by Nintendo Link! What do you think of the idea of Link speaking? Are you for it or against it? Let us know in the comments!