10 Emotional Sidequests In Zelda Games
The Zelda franchise is full of fun and exciting adventures for you and Link to embark on. From a cartoonish crusade over the high seas to a journey between realms to save the land, Link’s escapades are always full of memorable characters and unforgettable moments. However, after the reveal of a Breath of the Wild sequel, we couldn’t help but notice how it seemed to embrace a bleak, more somber tone. Zelda series director Eiji Aonuma has gone on record saying the game will be darker, and upon further inspection, this isn’t wholly out of the ordinary for a Zelda game. Hidden between the lines in even some of the franchise’s most upbeat and exciting adventures lie tragic, emotional stories. Here are 10 sidequests in which the Zelda franchise got surprisingly grim.
The sidequest in Majora’s Mask is often remembered as the alien-abduction side quest where you protect cows from being kidnapped by mysterious aliens. On a surface level, that’s correct. However, there is something much sadder and more sinister underneath. The Romani Ranch, famous for its milk, is run by Cremia and her younger sister Romani. On the first day, Romani can be found at the ranch practicing with her bow and arrow. If you talk to her, she tells you that she must practice defending the barn because “they” are coming like “they” do every year before the festival, and the responsibility falls to her because her sister doesn’t believe her story.
You can offer to help the poor girl defend the barn. If you do, at 2:30 a.m., strange alien/ghosts suddenly appear and swarm the barn in waves. Link and Romani can defend the barn until dawn, when the creatures all disappear – presumably until the next year – and Romani proclaims you her hero. If Link fails or chooses not to interfere, however, Romani and the cows are left to a more mysterious fate. The cows and the child are sucked up into the air and disappear, only for Romani to be returned on the second day with no memory of any of those events. The story of the poor child left alone to defend her property from evil is tragic and is only outweighed by the fear of the inexplicable beings and their mysterious motivations.
The Kakariko Village Caper
Breath of the Wild surprised many players with this small, easy-to-miss sidequest. In Kakariko Village lives Dorian, a gatekeeper for Impa and father of Koko and Cottla. After a precious heirloom is stolen from Impa’s granddaughter Paya, Dorian leaves his post and sneaks off into the woods. If you sneak after him, you discover that he was going to betray the village and deliver the heirloom to a Yiga clan blademaster. After you jump out of hiding and defeat the blademaster, Dorian regales Link with his tragic tale.
Dorian, it turns out, used to be a member of the Yiga clan until he fell in love with a woman from Kakariko Village and left the clan to settle down. The two built a life together and had two children, but the Yiga clan never forgave Dorian for leaving. In an act of retaliation, the Yiga clan murdered Dorian’s wife and threatened to do the same to his two daughters if he didn’t continue to work for the clan in secret. He hasn’t told his daughters of their mother’s fate, instead trying to protect them by keeping it secret. However, Koko, the eldest daughter, has realized the truth for herself, and can be found mourning by her mother’s grave on the outskirts of the village. Cottla, too young to understand, still tries to play hide and seek with her missing mother. The tragic story of blackmail and a broken family proves that more of Hyrule lies in ruin than just its towns.
The Hero's Shade
This infamous character’s origins began as mere theory until the story was confirmed by the Zelda encyclopedia Hyrule Historia. In Twilight Princess, Link in wolf form comes across a spectral golden wolf, who takes Link to the Ghostly Ether to teach him the skills of the sword. This begins a series of training sessions where Link seeks out the Hero’s Shade to learn the seven hidden skills. There is nothing inherently dark about this questline, but the story behind the Shade is far deeper than the surface suggests.
The Hero’s Shade, depicted as a large skeleton clad in armor and missing an eye, is actually the Hero of Time – Link from Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. In the Twilight Princess timeline, the Hero of Time stayed in child form, and as such never received credit for his heroic actions. His one regret in life – and continuing into his death – is that he never passed on his knowledge and skill to the next hero. The Hero of Time, who Zelda fans went on two journeys with, has died an unceremonious death. This character doesn’t necessarily make Twilight Princess any darker that it already is, but really puts a damper on the adventures of Ocarina and Majora knowing that Link won’t end up getting his happy ending in this timeline.
When you think of sad or grim Zelda side quests, your first thought is probably not of economic strife. Though Wind Waker is one of the most upbeat and cartoonish Zelda games to date, that doesn’t stop it from addressing the financial struggles of its characters. Mila, one of the young girls abducted by Ganon in his search for Zelda, comes from a wealthy family. Upon her rescue from the Forsaken Fortress, she returns to Windfall Island to discover that her father has spent all his riches trying to bring Mila home safely. The two are subsequently evicted from their lavish property and out onto the streets.
Mila, having quickly gone from riches to rags, is forced to find work due to her father’s “back problems.” She gets a job working for Zunari at his trading post, but it isn’t enough. If you follow her at night, you can catch her raiding the safe of her employer, trying to steal his rupees (which he mostly got from Link in the first place). If you listen to her plight with sympathy, she gives up thieving and you receive an empty bottle for your troubles. Speaking to her the next day, you can learn she is getting a job on a far-away island at nights to make enough money to support her and her father. The story of a young girl suddenly struck by hard times is one that comes as a surprise from a Zelda game, and if you don’t think that’s sad enough on its own, after she gives you the bottle that she calls “beautiful,” she will softly say to herself “I wish my soul could be that beautiful.” This poor kid!
One of the most famous – and heart-wrenching – sidequests in a Zelda game is that of the romance between Anju and Kafei. Their long and complicated sidequest takes place over the full three-day cycle and is one of the last quests available to you. Anju and Kafei are arranged to be married on the first day of the cycle, but Kafei is missing. After some investigative work, Link discovers that Anju was turned into a child by Skull Kid and his sun mask (which is part of the marriage ritual) was stolen by a thief.
After helping the two lovebirds get in touch with each other, Link can help Kafei steal the mask in a sequence that, in a surprising change for the Zelda series, puts the player in control of someone other than Link. The player controls both Link and Kafei as they take back the mask, and Kafei rushes home to be with his fiancée before the moon crashes into Termina. In a touching moment, Link can bear witness as the two are reunited and fuse their masks together, creating the couples mask. Finally together as husband and wife, they have one last request for Link after their world comes to an end: “Please take refuge. We are fine here. We shall greet the morning... together."
The Story of Grog
Grog can be found in Kakariko Village at night, sitting under a tree. He claims people are disgusting, citing his parents and Link. If you talk to him with a mask on, hiding your face, he opens up and tells you that he really considers himself a good man. The poor guy is just trying to be nice but has a hard time connecting with other people. If you return after becoming an adult, Grog has disappeared, leaving behind his pet Cucco Cojiro, who has not crowed since Grog left.
If Link proves to be a master Cucco tamer, Grog’s sister Anju gives him Cojiro. If you walk through the Lost Woods with Cojiro, the Cucco will begin to crow, leading you to a tree stump where Grog sits alone. If you present him with his beloved Cucco, he grants you an odd mushroom with the task of bringing it to Granny. In turn, Granny gives you the odd potion to bring to Grog… but when you return to his clearing, he is gone. Fado, a Kokiri, stands where Grog once sat. She reminds you that only Kokiri can walk the Lost Woods, and that any others are doomed to be lost and become a Stalfos, skeletal enemies scattered throughout Hyrule. Thus is the fate of Grog, a man lost amongst his own kind, doomed to new life as a mindless enemy. All I can ask is that you think twice before you swing your sword. One of the enemies who falls by your hand could have once been Grog.
The Faux Hero
Tri Force Heroes is one of the more light-hearted Zelda games, and the Faux Hero is one of the more light-hearted entries on this list – though it’s tragic all the same. The Faux Hero is a boy who answered the call of the King to save Princess Styla, but was refused entry into the witch-hunting brigade because he didn’t match the appearance requirements. Essentially, because his ears were round instead of pointy like Link’s, he wasn’t allowed to join the team. The game’s director even discussed how he was specifically designed to look like a Zelda hero!
The Faux Hero, like Linkle from Hyrule Warriors, believes himself to be the hero of Hyrule and the protagonist of the game. He has the right clothes, his own sword, and the right attitude for the job, but is denied based on appearance alone. He even begs you to help let him in, but you can’t do anything. He is understandably upset by his refusal, but still administers Friendly Tokens to the hero along the way. This wanton discrimination seems sillier than anything, but a deeper look into this issue brings a larger problem with the Hyrulian government to light.
The Ghost Hand
The ghost hand is exactly what it sounds like, but lives where you’d least expect it: the toilet. In three separate Zelda games, the ghost hand can be found in toilets asking for paper. The hand simply provides an item in Majora’s Mask and Oracle of Ages, but it assumes a much larger role in Skyward Sword.
Skyloft is home to all sorts of teenagers getting up to teenage hijinks, the least of which being Carwin. Carwin asks Link to deliver a love letter to Karane, who is most certainly not going to respond well. You can choose to give the letter to Karane, who rejects Carwin and sends him off crying, or you can give the letter to the hand in the toilet. The hand in Skyward Sword – unlike its zombie-esque counterparts from the other two games – looks more ethereal, like a white glove. The glove is the ghost of a young woman named Phoeni, who reads the note and thinks it’s meant for her. For the rest of the game, if you go to Carwin’s room at night, you can find Phoeni stroking Carwin as he lies in bed, unknowingly giving him nightmares and keeping him from sleeping. Did you doom a friend to a lifetime of haunting and sleeplessness? Maybe you simply helped a ghost find love.
The Lorulian Graveyard
Lorule is not a happy place. The triforce is gone, the people are being infected by darkness, and the world is falling to ruin. Two men, however, still stand their posts in defiance of the inevitable. Lorulian Dampé, the dark counterpart to the franchise’s principal gravedigger, and the Philosopher, the Lorulian inverse of the Priest, inhabit the Sanctuary area of the world. The Sanctuary is a required stop if Link wants to fully upgrade the Master Sword, but what makes this area so unnerving isn’t just connected to the upgrade sidequest.
Stopping to talk to Dampé lends a little insight into the unfortunate atmosphere of Lorule. When you reach out to him, he is shocked, and says, “C-can it be? You can see Dampé? Not a soul has spoken to Dampé for so long.” This is sad on its own, but when paired with his next line, it becomes a little more unsettling. "Dampé used to be the gravekeeper here, but now there aren't any graves to keep. Was there something the graves were protecting…? Dampé can't even remember." The graves are no more, disappeared to the ruin Lorule has become. What happened to them? Where did they go? The Philosopher offers his perspective on the kingdom’s ruin: "Nobody bothers coming to this place anymore. But even I must wonder, have we abandoned the gods...or have they abandoned us?"
The Flute Boy
Hyrule in A Link to the Past isn’t a safe place for most people to wander. Monsters roam the land, and the influence of the dark world seeps into the light world. One of the victims of the darkness is the Flute Boy. Known for playing his flute in a meadow near his home, he went off in search of the triforce and hasn’t returned. The boy’s father asks Link to find his son, a journey that takes Link into the dark world.
The boy had been pulled into the dark world in search of the triforce, with the darkness turning him into an animal with no way home. He tells Link where to find his flute, which he buried before coming to the dark world. He knows his time is coming, and he wants to hear his flute one last time. When Link returns and plays the instrument, the boy slowly turns into a tree, another victim in Ganon’s war. You don’t even have to break the bad news to the boy’s father; he sees the tragedy in your eyes. Of course, the end of the game proves the boy is all right, but that doesn’t mean the quest wasn’t a bummer!