The Legend of Zelda‘s 35th anniversary didn’t get much of a celebration (or even an acknowledgment) from Nintendo, but that hasn’t stopped fans from thinking back on the incredible history of one of gaming’s greatest franchises.
Take a long enough trip down memory lane, though, and you’ll find that the Zelda franchise is filled with uncharted detours into urban legends, conspiracy theories, and unsolved mysteries that prove even one of the most famous and discussed series in video game history can still leave us with questions.
From dungeons with unfortunate designs to mysterious manors tucked away in snowy mountains, these are some of the great urban legends and mysteries in the history of The Legend of Zelda.
15. The Legend of Zelda’s “Swastika” Dungeon
The earliest controversy in The Legend of Zelda’s 35-year history occurred when some players claimed the game’s third dungeon was designed to resemble a swastika. Years later, more detailed renders of the dungeon’s map inspired a new generation of fans to ask questions about Nintendo’s design choices. Some even suggested that the design was intentionally implemented for nefarious purposes.
There’s actually a reasonable explanation for this one, though. It turns out the map is actually designed to resemble a Manji: a Buddhist symbol that represents good fortune. If I had to speculate, I’d guess that because the two symbols are actually fairly distinct (they even face different directions) Nintendo probably didn’t feel the need to change the dungeon’s design for the game’s Western ports.
Interestingly, though, Nintendo did make some changes to the original Legend of Zelda for the purposes of localization. Most notably, the Book of Magic was originally referred to as the Bible in the Famicom version of the game.
14. How Breath of the Wild Fits Into the Zelda Timeline
For as infamously confusing as The Legend of Zelda timeline is, Nintendo has actually published an official chart that (somewhat) helps explain how each major installment relates to the other. However, you will notice that Breath of the Wild is conspicuously absent from that chronological chart.
To be fair, Nintendo has addressed the game’s absence by stating that it didn’t want to limit people’s imaginations by assigning BOTW a clear place on the timeline. Furthermore, it’s generally accepted that the game takes place many years after any other Zelda title. That’s fine, but there are many clues in Breath of the Wild that strongly suggest it does have a more definitive place in the Zelda timeline that Nintendo just hasn’t revealed quite yet.
What’s even more bizarre is that there are pieces of evidence in BOTW that support the possibility that the game could conceivably take place in one of the series’ multiple timelines or even all of them. Did Nintendo just throw up its hands and decide to ignore the timelines altogether, or is there an explanation that helps all of this make a little more sense?
13. Beating the Running Man in Ocarina of Time
The surest way to convince gamers they can do something is to tell them that they can’t. There are few better examples of this phenomenon than the lingering idea that you can beat the Running Man during Ocarina of Time’s race sequence.
To be fair, the fact that Ocarina of Time players consistently got close to beating Running Man made it easy to buy into years worth of fan theories, photos, and even videos that claimed it was indeed possible to win that race. However, the vast majority of those methods turned out to be doctored or, at the very least, heavily exaggerated.
Technically, it is possible to “beat” Running Man using emulators and ROM hacks, but if you’re wondering if there’s some way to do it on the original N64 cartridge hidden somewhere in the game’s code, the answer is no.
12. The Mystery of Twilight Princess’ Snowpeak Ruins
Along with being one of Twilight Princess’ best dungeons, Snowpeak Ruins has to be considered one of the most mysterious major locations in any Zelda game.
While Snowpeak Ruins is presented to the player as the home of a Yeti couple, it’s pretty clear they are not the mansion’s original owners. However, it’s never explicitly stated what the house’s origins are. The same could be said of a number of Zelda locales, but Snowpeak’s large suits of armor, blend of military and residential aesthetics, hostile location, strange paintings, and defensive structures feel so out of place in the Zelda universe that you’d almost suspect that it was somehow transported here from another world.
That doesn’t actually seem to be the case, but the fact that the game features subtle hints at the mansion’s origins without actually expanding on them has left fans wondering whether there is an official explanation for the Ruins’ lore and what it could be.
11. The Rumor that Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link Didn’t Start as a Zelda Game
Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link has long been considered one of the oddest entries into the Zelda franchise, but one urban legend suggests that the game wasn’t originally intended to be a Zelda title at all.
In other words, there are some fans who suspect that Zelda 2 is the Super Mario Bros. 2 of The Legend of Zelda franchise. They believe that the game was actually based on a completely different project that Nintendo simply converted into a Zelda game at some point in development. Given just how different the game is from what came before and after, it’s certainly easy enough to buy into the idea that the project didn’t start off as a Zelda title.
However, series creator Shigeru Miyamoto himself shot down that theory in a 2003 interview in which he stated that the sequel’s differences were “his idea” and that the project was simply developed by “another team and different people to those that made the first game.” That said, it’s worth noting that he referred to the idea as “sort of a failure” and that he sees “A link to the Past as the real sequel to Legend of Zelda.”
10. Ganondorf’s Mysterious Armor in Twilight Princess HD
While the HD version of Twilight Princess is fairly faithful to the original, it does feature a few subtle changes that have long confused fans. The mysteriously altered symbols in Snowpeak Ruins and some murals found near the end of the game are certainly worthy of further discussion, but no design difference has provoked more debate than Ganondorf’s new armor.
If you take a closer look at Ganondorf’s armor in Twilight Princess HD, you’ll find that it features a few “mural-like” images emblazoned in gold. One of those images seems to showcase a hero that resembles Link facing off against a giant bird. It actually closely resembles a scene from The Wind Waker, but that doesn’t necessarily make sense since these two games exist on separate parts of the Zelda timeline.
In lieu of an official explanation, the most likely answer here is that someone at Nintendo imported some leftover assets from a time when Twilight Princess was reportedly intended to be a direct Wind Waker sequel. That or someone at Nintendo thought it looked cool and didn’t let the “lore” stop them from putting it in the game.
9. Nintendo’s “Abandoned” Wind Waker Remake
In 2005, Electronic Gaming Monthly shocked the world by revealing that Nintendo was designing a remake of The Wind Waker in the visual style of The Twilight Princess. This reveal was a dream come true for fans who desperately wanted Wind Waker to feature the more “realistic” visuals Nintendo had previously teased.
It turns out the screenshot was just one of EGM’s famous April Fools’ pranks. However, it caught so many people by surprise that EGM ended up running a series of letters from angry, confused, and hopeful fans who were more than ready to believe that the remake was real.
Even after EGM confirmed the whole thing was a joke, some fans continued to speculate that Nintendo was working to “fix” Wind Waker. Fortunately, the rumors died down once more people came to recognize Wind Waker as one of the best Zelda games ever.
9. The Recurring Hand in the Toilet
Drop by Majora’s Mask Stock Pot Inn after midnight, and you’ll find a hand sticking out of a toilet that asks you for a piece of paper. Give it one of a few available paper items and the hand will reward you with a heart piece.
It’s a bizarre moment made that much stranger by the fact that the hand appears again in Oracle of Ages and Skyward Sword. While the owner of the hand is named in Skyward Sword (Phoeni), the hand is only referred to as “???” in the other games.
While Miyamoto has stated that the hand was inspired by old ghost stories involving a hand coming out of the toilet to grab the occupant (it’s your classic Ghoulies scenario), it’s still not entirely clear whether these are three different hands or if they share some kind of strange lore connection.
7. The Fate of Navi and the Missing Link
At the end of Ocarina of Time, we watch Navi fly through a window in the Temple of Time. Considering how despised the character generally was, few questioned the moment and were honestly just happy to see her go.
However, it’s never been entirely clear why Navi left at that moment, where she went, and what ultimately happened to her. Navi is referenced at the beginning of Majora’s Mask, but that game doesn’t shed any light on her fate. Navi does appear in the North American version of Hyrule Warriors, but considering that her name was removed in other versions of the game, it’s been suggested that her inclusion was a mistake or something that Nintendo eventually decided to change/ignore.
Interestingly, there’s a popular Zelda fan game called The Missing Link which tells the story of what happened to Navi between Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. Obviously, that’s about as unofficial as Zelda lore gets, though.
At the beginning of A Link to the Past, we watch as Link’s uncle says “Zelda is your…” shortly before dying. In the Japanese version of the game, Link’s uncle says, “Y-you are the princess’…” before passing away. Both of those lines have led fans to believe that Link’s uncle was about to tell him that Zelda is either Link’s sister or mom.
While the GBA version of the game clarifies the matter by having Link’s uncle say, “You must rescue Princess Zelda. Our people are fated to,” some fans still insist that the two are somehow related across at least some of the series’ timelines. There have even been a couple of references to Zelda’s brother over the years (though we never get to see him in any of the games).
Funny enough, there have been manga adaptations of The Legend of Zelda which actually “revealed” that Zelda is Link’s mom. However, those adaptations have been officially dismissed as non-canonical and unofficially dismissed as incredibly weird.
5. The Mystery of Link’s Parents
Before we get off the subject of Link’s family, we’ve got to take a moment to talk about the enduring mystery of Link’s parents.
It’s easy enough to ignore the manga plot point that Zelda is Link’s mom (in any timeline), but unless you just accept that Link is almost always an orphan (thus fulfilling one of the great RPG character archetypes), you’ve probably wondered who Link’s parents are. Well, Link’s father is referenced in Breath of the Wild and in some supplementary material, but the only game that refers to Link’s mom is Ocarina of Time. Again, she appears in the manga adaptations a few times across the various timelines, but Nintendo almost never directly talks about her.
While it’s likely this is just one of those things that Nintendo doesn’t have an answer to, the fact that Link’s parents are referred to at all in the games has only opened the doors for speculation regarding who they are in the timelines and the potential significance of their nearly constant absence.
4. Thawing Zora’s Domain in Ocarina of Time
As “Adult Link” in Ocarina of Time, you’re expected to set some things right that have gone wrong over the years. For instance, beating Forest Temple drives away enemies from Kokiri Forest. When you beat Fire Temple, Gorons return to their city. Given all of that, you would suspect that beating Water Temple would eventually unfreeze Zora’s Domain.
However, that’s not what happens. In fact, nothing you do seems to remove the ice in this area as Adult Link. This has given rise to a number of fan theories and straight-up lies regarding how to begin the thawing process, but to this day, nobody has found a way to do it without hacking the game.
Many have said that you’re just supposed to “assume” everything eventually works out, but it’s certainly bizarre that the area isn’t affected by your actions in the same way other key environments clearly are.
3. The Time Paradox of the Song of Storms
There’s a great scene in Ocarina of Time when Adult Link learns the Song of Storms from a man who can’t get it out of his head after he learned it from a child. To make a long story short, we eventually learn that child was Link who played the song in the past after learning it as an adult.
It’s a fun idea that doesn’t make a lot of sense. While Majora’s Mask eventually sees Link speak with the song’s composer, that plot point still doesn’t entirely explain what happens in Ocarina of Time and what Nintendo’s proposed explanation for this apparent paradox is.
The two most popular theories for this mystery involve a Primer-like explanation involving paradoxes and alternate timelines or the far more likely explanation that the logic of this moment was simply overlooked or disregarded when Ocarina’s story was written.
2. The Royal Origins of Tetra’s Pirates
It’s hardly a spoiler that Wind Waker’s Tetra is actually Princess Zelda, but that revelation opened some potential plot holes that fans have been trying to close for years. None of those plot holes are bigger or more fascinating than the origin of Tetra’s band of pirates.
We’re initially told that the pirates used to serve Tetra’s mother and later followed Tetra. It’s a simple enough explanation that becomes much more complicated when Link finds a photo in the sunken Hyrule Castle that shows an older Princess Zelda with a group of nobles that bear a striking resemblance to Tetra’s pirates.
Again, the simplest explanation at this point seems to be that the pirates are also descended from royalty, but the game never really makes that clear. Furthermore, the pirates eventually mock Tetra for actually being a princess, which either means they never found out they’re also descended from nobles, didn’t care about their heritage, or perhaps are just the descendants of pirates who have always aided the Zelda family.
1. Finding the Triforce in Ocarina of Time
No Zelda urban legend is more famous or more fascinating than the long-running belief that it’s possible to find and acquire the Triforce in Ocarina of Time.
In 1999, a user on the old Hyrule: The Legend of Zelda forums named Almandoz claimed they had found a way to acquire the Triforce in Ocarina of Time. While Almandoz initially shared some images and walkthroughs meant “verify” their findings, the user later admitted that they made the whole thing up to show how easy it was to exploit fan bases with these kinds of claims.
But the actual motivations and identity of the poster remain a mystery to this day. What’s interesting is that the legend of the Triforce never really died down, even after it was debunked by its creator. Many elements of the original story remain entrenched in Zelda urban legend culture, and the idea that you can somehow acquire the Triforce in Ocarina of Time remains surprisingly strong to this day.