Top Five Zelda: Ganon Battles

 
The Legend of Zelda has featured many unique and intriguing villains over the years. I love Vaati, Skull Kid, Chancellor Cole, and other villains from the series, but to me most games don’t feel quite as epic without the series’ iconic antagonist, Ganon. Since the first time I faced him in Ocarina of Time, his vicious visage has been ingrained into my mind. Every time I have tried a new title I have looked forward to seeing Ganon at the end, and while many of my favorite overall games leave him out, I can’t help but love him. He is my favorite video game boss of all time, and so he has earned a spot on my Top Five series. Let’s go through his most awesome appearances over the last thirty years!

#5: The Original Beast (Legend of Zelda)

From day one, Ganon had made his impact on the gaming community. I have always had a love/hate relationship with this version. He’s unique, but he’s pretty unfair. This was one of the hardest bosses I’ve ever beaten in a video game; his invisibility seems like a huge point in his favor, his damage numbers are insane by today’s standards, and he’s throwing fireballs at you the whole time. What a jerk!

In the end, though, it was overwhelming for the first million tries, but eventually he was beatable if you figured out his movement patterns. Or maybe if you were just a lucky random stabber like me. The game gave you enough upgrades that it was definitely possible, even if it was hard. I love that design aspect, and it added to the ultimate challenge circa 1986.

#4: The Master of the Tower (A Link to the Past)

If just getting to him wasn’t tough enough through the biggest dungeon in Zelda history, fighting him was even tougher. Maybe he wasn’t the hardest version of Ganon if you got there with full hearts and a bunch of fairies, but I had trouble just getting to his door through the enormous, nonlinear labyrinth he called home.

Not only was he a perfect capstone to one of my favorite dungeons of all time, he was one of the first times I played a game and felt that the final boss was a really colossal achievement. Throughout the entirety of the game, you were being strung along on this story to defeat the evil wizard, totally immersed in freeing the Princess, and then BAM! Evil wizard turns into one of the most intimidating bosses in video gaming (up to that point).

This was the earliest game I played with a story so entrancing that it got me to play it again (and again and again). I had played through Ocarina of Time a few times before this, but I thought that all games before the big 3D ones were just for fun and didn’t have real storytelling or interesting characters. Between this title and Final Fantasy IV, I learned not to judge a game story by its age, but to play it through and judge it for myself.

#3: The Secret Boss (Oracle of Ages/Oracle of Seasons)

As hyped as I was for the final boss in A Link to the Past, this was even better. You had to go through BOTH games to find out what was really going on; why Link was transported to Labrynna and Holodrum in the first place. Turns out that all the crap going wrong in the other worlds was the work of Twinrova in an attempt to unbind Ganon and let him loose upon the world.

This was presented perfectly as it was sprinkled throughout both games. Whichever title you played first seemed to have no reason to happen. Link just gets sucked into another world at the start and there’s no clear reason why. It gives you an inkling right away that something weird is happening, but leaves more questions than answers at the end. Shortly into the next game, you’ll meet Princess Zelda, who’s trying to stop Twinrova, and everything seems to make a bit more sense. By the finale, everything is revealed and you’ve had two games worth of hype train leading up to the confrontation with this colossal calamity. Awesome doesn’t even begin to describe it.

#2: The 3D Demon King (Ocarina of Time)

Seeing the King of Evil grow into Dark Beast Ganon for the first time left an impact on me. This was one of the first games I ever beat for myself without help of one of my older siblings, and that made it something special. In addition, fighting Ganondorf and then scrambling to escape a collapsing, flaming castle was such a great feeling that I couldn’t help but feel like a badass the first time I did it. Here I was, having just completed the greatest game I’d ever played, and done it for myself….

And then I got my ass handed to me by the most terrifying monster I had ever seen. Seriously, back when I first played this game it was a major challenge to overcome, and to this day it’s still fun enough to replay again and again. I will never get tired of watching Ganondorf rise from the crumbled castle to curse my name and transform into my favorite aesthetic design for my favorite boss of all time.

#1: Ganon Gauntlet (Breath of the Wild)

You know what the only thing is that’s cooler than Ganon? Five Ganons. In order to fight the final boss of Breath of the Wild in the most challenging and (in my opinion) most interesting way, you actually have to not play the game right… which is kind of the point of the game.

This is pretty common knowledge at this point, but if you don’t kill the four Blight Ganons in the Divine Beasts, you have to fight them one-by-one in Hyrule Castle before you can take on the man himself. Of course who am I to deny a challenge, I set out in my underwear to take them on with three hearts and every arrow in Hyrule Castle… and I died. A lot. But eventually I got them.

This was easily the most challenging gauntlet I’ve ever completed (though I would probably change my mind if I did either of the Twilight Princess gauntlets with only three hearts) and it really felt like a great way to up the challenge in the late-game when you’re a more experienced player. Even coming back to it with full health, it’s a good challenge. The Blight Ganons are very well designed in my opinion, and placing them in an arena that doesn’t inexplicably give Link all the advantage goes a long way to creating an engaging combat scenario.

So there we go! Those are my favorite fights with my favorite video game boss. What are yours? Are you sad that Ganondorf’s epic sword battle from Wind Waker didn’t make the list? Is it a cop out to top off the list with an optional challenge? Let me know in the comments and on Twitter and I’ll keep the conversation floating!