As a majority of Zelda fans should know there are many different Links throughout the Legend of Zelda timeline, a new one is conveniently brought into being with enough time to grow into either a boy or teen capable of saving Hyrule from a recurring evil. Today though, I want to go through all the different hero's Hyrule has had and decide which ones were the best.
Before I begin we need to establish what "best" means, even though this is a list off of my own personal preferences, this list will not contain my "favorite" Links, or the ones who necessarily had my favorite adventures. Instead I will be ranking these Link's by how challenging their adventures were, what obstacles they had to overcome, and finally what characteristics did they posses that separated them from other Links.
4. Hero of Time Link
This Link appears in both Ocarina of Time, and Majoras Mask. With OOT being arguably the most popular Legend of Zelda game ever made (up till Breath of the Wild) and Majoras Mask being my personal favorite, next to Twilight Princess of course, you may have expected to see this Link take a higher ranking. But there are some small reasons as to why I have placed the Hero of Time back at number four, stick with me please, I believe my points can convince you, and my arguments for the other Links may help as well.
There is no doubt that OOT was an incredible adventure, but I wouldn't say that I ever felt that Link was under any sort of hurry. What I mean by this is, theres no impending timeline, Ganondorf has already taken control of Hyrule for the last seven years, nothing is necessary getting any worse, therefore I never felt that Link was in a rush to do anything. I know that people will say that Breath of the Wild was the same way, but in BOTW Link always seemed like he was putting out fires elsewhere, or simply fighting for his life, whereas the Hero of Time seemed chilled out. Then in Majoras Mask, Link is only fighting for himself, he is stuck in a crazy dimension called Termina, and unless he stops the possessed Skull Kid in three days the whole place is destroyed taking him with it. Like I said Link is simply fighting for his own life. That is my personal thoughts though, maybe you experienced it differently.
Now he did travel through time and create the three different timelines that make up the Zelda Universe, and in all three of these he acts heroically, in one timeline he fights Ganon to death, and even though he fails he still gave his life fighting for the world. In the second timeline, Link wins and is sent back in time as a child where he warns Princess Zelda of the future and prevents Ganon all together, and finally there is the timeline where Link prevented Ganon and Zelda sent him back, leaving her time without a hero.
Something people forget though is the sacrifice Link makes whether knowingly or not. When he returns as a child and warns Zelda, he is no longer a hero, there is technically no calamity in Hyrule that arrises for him to defeat. Even though Majoras Mask is an epic game in its own right, the adventure happens in Termina, so this Link sacrifices his fame for the greater good and dies a simple Knight of Hyrule. (As shown in TP when the "Ancient Hero" trains Link for fear that his techniques will be forever lost) For these reasons I deem this Link one of the greatest of all time.
3. 'Twilight Princess' Link
Okay so I know that this may be an unpopular top five, especially being placed ahead of the Hero of Time, but it took every part of my being to force this Link all the way back at number four, so just hear me out. Lets start with the tutorial we go through at the beginning of the game, a lot of people consider this a negative, but I love it. It shows us how lowly Link is starting out, a common villager who runs around impressing the other kids with his slingshot skills. Every Link seemingly starts their adventures out as lowly citizens, but none of them give me the impression of growth as TP Link does.
If you go through the other Zelda games, every enemy is referred to by name, even the villagers will talk to you about them as if they are common knowledge. In TP though, the Shadow Beasts are something new and terrifying in general, I mean one of the opening scenes is them tossing Hyrule Soldiers around like rag dolls. This is not like going against your common moblin, or octorock, Link had to overcome an entirely new foe. Also we can't leave out the fact that Link turns into a wolf, the poor guy is not only thrown into this crazy new adventure, but he is also having to complete some of his journey in an entirely new form!
Finally, Link goes into the Twilight Realm to take Zant head on. While it is still technically unclear as to what the twilight realm is, the two theories remain that either it is the Zelda version of hell, or that it is some kind of dark world. Either way it is terrifying and different. This once common village boy travels to an entirely new world or dimension, to fight the powerful (While I admit overhyped) Usurper King Zant. Not to mention that the whole adventure Link is fighting tooth and nail for his friends (captured village children), and for the first time we can see Link fighting for something other than a sense of duty. When you break it down TP Link displays true courage from start to finish.
2. 'Breath of the Wild' Link
Now last I checked BOTW Link had not yet been placed within the timeline, or we at least knew that as of now this was his only adventure. Now while Breath of the Wild is no doubt an incredible game, I have my own issues with it that are unpopular. (Maybe I will do another post about this) But my own views aside, there is no doubt that this is one of the most epic adventures in Zelda history, and this Link is possibly the most courageous than any of his previous ancestors.
We need to remember that BOTW Link has technically had two adventures, there is the adventure we play him through, but there is also the adventures that he went on that we see through his memories from 100 years piror. Other than knowing that his father was Captain of the Royal Guard, and that Link himself was Zelda's appointed knight, we don't know much about what he did to rise so quickly to such a high rank, or how he ended up with the master sword. From what we do know from this time though is how selfless Link is, constantly taking verbal abuse from both Zelda, and some of the other Champions, and simply taking it with a grain of salt. I think its also important to remember Link's "death" memory, this is the first time we have seen a Link bloody and beaten down, but he never gives up. Even though his master sword is rusted, and his body is spent. Link still fights on to defend Zelda from the Guardian onslaught.
Now unlike most Zelda games, this one is not very puzzle oriented, shrines are not very difficult or even all that necessary to do. This game is heavy on the combat though, the monsters are more powerful than any we have seen before, and when Link wakes up he is just thrown back into this. Lets not forget that he has been asleep for 100 years after Calamity Ganon, and there is a much higher monster population than friendly settlements. This Link fights harder than all of the others combined, and not to mention the emotional impact the game provides. Finding out all of your friends (other Champions) have been murdered, including your love interest, Mipha made this one of, if not the toughest Zelda adventure yet. Making BOTW Link one of the most courageous.
1. LTTP, Oracles, LA Link
It is uncommon for us to see the same Link tackle multiple adventures, but to see the same Link tackle four of them is incredible. This Link overcomes adversity in every form, emotional, physical, and even psychological. He defeats Ganon twice, slays countless monsters, saves multiple kingdoms, controls the seasons, manipulates time, and even conquers a Celestial Deities test. I think that while you may not have expected to see this Link when you started this article, you can start to understand why he has surpassed all other Link's when it comes to his courage and power.
The reason this Link may have been overlooked is because all of his games were strictly 2D handhelds, (Except for A Link to the Past, which was first launched on the SNES) but that doesn't make his adventures any less interesting or intense than his 3D ancestors. A Link to the Past is the first adventure, where Link watches his uncle get killed trying to save Princess Zelda by the evil wizard, Agahnim, Link then fearlessly takes up his Uncle's sword and saves Zelda from certain death. Never before or since have we seen Link lose a family member, much less watch them die. Yet he does this and fearlessly pushes on. Unfortunately Agahnim ends up taking Princess Zelda back and using her to open the Dark World. Link then enters the Dark World and ends up fighting and defeating Ganon and Agahnim. Proving his strength and courage.
This Link has grown bored of the tranquility in Hyrule that he worked so hard to achieve, so he leaves in search of new adventure by boat. Which leads us into the Oracle Games where Link is transported by the Triforce to two worlds, Holodrum and Labrynna. Both times he is charged with rescuing the powerful Oracles (Din the Oracle of Season's and Nayru the Oracle of Ages) from the powerful villan's that have captured them. After traversing through both worlds and mastering both the Rod of Seasons (Allowing Link to change the Holodrum's seasons at will) and the Harp of Ages (Allowing Link to travel through time in Labrynna), he then fights a powerful General Onox to save Din, and the cunning Sorceress of Shadows Veran, to save Nayru. Unfortunately even though Link saves them both villans gave the essence of both Oracles to the Twinrova Sisters who resurrect Ganon. Link then fights and defeats Ganon TWICE! After this long enduring battle Link leaves Labrynna by boat to return to Hyrule.
Unfortunately this leads us to Links Awakening, where a storm catches Link and strands him on an Island, Link learns that the only way to leave is by awakening the Celestial Wind Fish, after another long journey Link then awakens the Wind Fish from his slumber but realizes he had simply been sucked into it's dream in order to defeat the nightmares that plagued its sleep, nothing that happened was truly real. The Wind Fish and Link then both awaken, the Wind Fish takes off happily, but unfortunately our beloved hero is left stranded in the middle of the ocean on the wooden wreckage of his boat.
It is hard to describe the personality of a 2D character, but I feel like the intense and vast adventures that this Link faces speaks volumes of how great he was. He overcame emotional adversity through seeing his Uncle murdered, mastered seasons and time, defeated the worlds most evil being twice (not to mention all the monsters and bosses along the way), and honestly received a tragic end, which in the ending cut-scene of Links Awakening we see him close his eyes and smile, accepting his fate regretting nothing. So without a single doubt, I name LTTP Link the greatest in all of Zelda History.