May 13, 2018
It was just over a year ago that I started writing for TGPZ, and it’s become a part of my life I’m excited about every week. Today I hit a milestone, as this is my fiftieth article for the site, so I thought I’d do something special. Instead of a short and simple top five as I often do, this week I’m going to rank my fifty favorite monsters and enemies from the series. Enemies are an important part of the series, bringing the puzzle-based combat to the series which is one of its defining characteristics. I hope this piece brings back a lot of memories from your experiences with the series, as that’s what happened to me as I put it together.
#50: Phallic Monsters
Here’s an obscure fact for you; the German localization of Link’s Awakening included monsters shaped like genitals. I have not included an image for your convenience. Germans might be weird, but I love beer and bratwurst so I’ll forgive them. These guys came very close to being cut off the list, but when I was deciding the final order I found out I had accidentally added Volvagia twice. Oops.
#49: Pols Voice
These strange creatures come with an interesting story. When I first encountered them, an old man in the dungeon told me they hate loud noises so I tried playing the flute. That didn’t work and so through trial and error I discovered a single arrow will do them in. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered that the Japanese version of the game was compatible with a microphone peripheral for the Famicom. The translation team apparently wasn’t notified.
It’s just so fun to say.
#47: Deku Scrub
These guys had a unique and interesting culture within their swamp in Majora’s Mask and in every game they appeared they were a quirky and fun race to interact with.
These guys were a fun reference to the Super Mario games, and totally an unexpected sight in Link’s Awakening. Who saw this coming?
See above but this time they explode!
Since their introduction these guys have basically been a staple of the series. They’re not hard to kill, but they come in droves and move unexpectedly making them a fun challenge nonetheless.
Appearing in every Zelda game except Twilight Princess, Octoroks are arguably the most recognizable series enemy, and their simplicity goes miles. They shoot rocks, you block rocks. Their formula has remained identical since game one, and it still hasn’t gotten stale.
I just always liked these guys. They’re odd to think about biologically, as they can survive perfectly well even if their exoskeleton is ripped off their face. That’s confusing and awesome at the same time.
Another frequently returning monster, my favorite version was from Ocarina of Time. They didn’t have a big role in that game, but man they looked cool.
More specifically, I think the Composer Brothers are the most underrated characters in the series. I love them so much I made a fanfic/D&D adventure based on them.
One of the most annoying foes from Zelda one. Hard to handle ‘cause they usually spawned too far away to hit with your sword. These guys made the early game a nightmare.
Oh look, I’ll just have to push that statue onto the switch to open the do…. WHY IS HE TRYING TO EAT ME?!
#37: Buzz Blob
I hate these guys so much that I love them.
I loved their original form in the first game. It was like playing Centipede in 3D, which is odd because the game was not 3D. In later versions they became so frantic and difficult to deal with. Quite a hectic battle when you’re stuck in a room with a bunch of these.
Like Bob-ombs but they were slightly more Zelda-y. I think these are some of the creepiest looking things, and just imagining that they live their life with an explosive tail that they use only to martyr themselves in hopes of ridding the world of any other species is a pretty screwed up thought.
Had to lump these guys together since they’re basically the same. Still, mummies have always been a subject of my interest, and it seems a little more unique than everybody else’s zombies.
World’s most annoying video game enemy since 1985.
32: Dark Link
I’m as surprised as you. Something I like about Adventure of Link? No matter how much I hate the game of his origin, I still think he went on to be among the most memorable returning foes. His fights were always fun, and that’s what counts.
These guys are just plain awesome. They’re creepy looking, a great intro enemy in Ocarina, and stars of one of the most infamous side-quests in the series. Skulltula tokens have nothing on Korok Seeds, but it was still a major obstacle to try and find them all yourself.
Ocarina of Time has my favorite intro dungeon of all time, and a big part of why I love it is the game’s version of Gohma. This boss has an incredible aesthetic and presents a perfect early game challenge. You can use a few of your new weapons against it, but whatever you choose, it still perfectly explains the mechanic of “Stun boss, stab repeatedly” which is used throughout the game without becoming too confusing. Perfect springboard into the game.
29: Iron Knuckle
Another enemy that Zelda II introduced which was later perfected by a later game, these hulking bruisers were the stuff of nightmares when I was playing the game the first time. When I was like eight. Okay, so they’re not all that tough now that I’m a smarter gamer, but between their massive form and all-out-attack style of fighting, there is really nothing like them.
After about a million tries, defeating this unicorn-dragon at the beginning of the game felt so good. He’s not that hard once you figure out you can use arrows on him, but the first time you’re fighting him that might not come up. This makes the fight feel very hectic, trying to get a slash in here and there between dodging fireballs.
27: Big Octo
I love overworld bosses in whatever form they come, and this one was a great addition to Wind Waker’s world. Wandering about the seas was always a fun time because of the little things to find. Pirate ships and outposts, new islands, and tons of hidden treasure were everywhere, but nothing quite beats the feeling of suddenly being attacked by a kraken-like beast while you were enjoying a pleasant stroll across the sea.
Wandering through Dodongo’s Cavern the first time, I honestly never expected to fight rapier-wielding velociraptors. From that moment to the later fights with their fire-breathing brethren, these guys have been among my favorites.
This was one of the best fights to take advantage of the Wii Motion Plus controls, and something about a giant scorpion tickles my fancy. The best part is that this guy was a dungeon boss and an overworld boss. Didn’t see that coming.
Robot Pirate. Need I say more?
Their simplicity in the first game worked well, but these guys really added a lot to (and gained a lot from) Ocarina of Time. They were intimidating, reasonably tough before you knew what you were doing, and their King made one of my favorite boss battles ever.
Though they became a cake walk after a hundred hours, before that they were a superb challenge, even against a single one. They were new and strange and different, but their otherworldly aesthetic and laser-based fighting style made them a foe we will revere forevermore. If the reveal trailer for Breath of the Wild didn’t make you tremble with fear and excitement at the same time, you have no soul.
Hinox were pretty solid enemies in their own right when they first appeared in A Link to the Past, and Breath of the Wild furthered that by making them bigger, stronger, and more varied in their range of abilities. Now take all that and turn it undead and add a quirky puzzle element to the fight. Awesome meets awesomer.
20: Bongo Bongo
Of all the “Giant head with two disembodied hands” bosses, Bongo Bongo was my favorite. The bouncing stage was tricky to deal with, his invisibility added to the flavor of being a beast made of shadow, and his aesthetic was truly unique. Shoot one of his hands with an ice arrow sometime, it’s hilarious.
19: Blade Trap
These things are so simple they can never possibly feel out of place.
Did I say Wizzrobes were the most annoying? I’m on the fence about that because of these guys. They always seem to strike at the least helpful time. In fact, going back to the start of the dungeon is pretty much never helpful. These guys feel even more annoying because they literally exist for the sole purpose of annoyance. Wizzrobes are supposed to be challenging, Wallmasters are supposed to be a giant middle finger. In fact, they even have middle fingers.
Easily the hardest enemies in the original game, Darknuts left a legacy behind. No remade version has quite captured the same feeling of helplessness as you were pitted against eight massive beasts with impenetrable armor, though Wind Waker came close. When I think of hard and well-designed gameplay, these guys are almost at the top of the list.
16: Ball and Chain Trooper
Basically the first boss in A Link to the Past, this guy is a challenge as well as a terrifying aesthetic. I literally had a nightmare about this guy when I was a kid. I guess it left a mark.
Turtle… Dragon… monster? Whatever this thing is, it’s the most fun fight in Minish Cap. Not too difficult to fight, but it’s such a good time from start to finish.
How many phases does this guy have? I love multi-stage bosses, and Nightmare has to be the best. Except maybe the final boss of Castle Crashers, who surprisingly had even more phases. Every time you think you’re almost done he comes back but with different powers and he’s way harder. Completing this battle alone is worth the bragging rights of saying you beat Link’s Awakening. Also that game is great, go check it out.
As I said before, overworld bosses are the best kind of bosses, and the Talus is the best kind of overworld boss in the series. Combining some traditional combat with a million ways to hit his weak point was genius. Wanna blow up his legs with a bomb? Go for it. Shoot his weak point with arrows? That’ll work. Climb up his back and stand on his noggin and wail on him with your Boko Bat until it shatters? The theme of “There’s no wrong way to do anything” in Breath of the Wild was more present in this foe than any other.
I fell in love with these guys as I first encountered them in the Forest Temple in Ocarina of TIme. That has to be my favorite iteration of them as well. Aesthetically they are a little darker and more surreal than the art from the original game, (for example,) where they are basically just normal looking skeletons. In addition, the Ocarina version was a huge challenge as a kid, and still fun to fight twenty years later.
I love the fight against Molgera, but the reason he ranks so high on this list is not because of that, but because of his battle theme. I could seriously listen to it on repeat for hours. No better boss music has ever been composed. The fight itself is good too, just seriously, why isn’t the whole soundtrack just this song on a loop?
Now that we have broken into the top ten, we have to start looking at the worst of the worst. The most destructive. The most intimidating. The most…. Wait, is that a freakin’ chicken?
There has not been a Zelda game to date where I didn’t summon the hellspawn armada only to see how long I could last against limitless invincible foes, and there never will be.
9: Helmaroc King
I love hammers and I love giant birds. You’d think those interests wouldn’t go well together, but somehow it managed to. From your first phase running up the steps of Ganon’s Tower as the Helmaroc King destroys them behind you to the final confrontation, this boss has everything you could want.
First of all, the Spinner is a criminally underused item in Twilight Princess, and the rest of the series for that matter. Second, this fight has some of the same things going for it as the Helmaroc King, but it’s even more dicey to maneuver through spinning Blade Traps (which remember were number nineteen on this list) and riding on a piece of strange ancient technology that probably hasn’t had an oil change in way too long. Also just look at that guy! Five story tall dragon skeleton? I’d love to see what he looked like when he was alive.
This crazy jungle warrior is full of character, and a great early game challenge. I really didn’t like the changes to him in the remake, mostly because I kept trying to fight him the normal way and dying. A sword fight with a giant is never dull, is it?
In the first game I remember very clearly dying at least a dozen times to the first Lynel I found. He was guarding a cave, though, so I had to come back to see what my prize would be for defeating such a powerful enemy. Finally I did it and reached the cave. Inside, an old man told me he had the White Sword but he wouldn’t let me have it because I was not powerful enough.
WHAT?! I did all that work for nothing? Needless to say, I got over myself and cleared a few dungeons and came back, but this left an impression on me that still remains.
Lynels didn’t really get an update until recently with their return in Breath of the Wild, wherein they are the most powerful overworld enemy. Their brute strength and massive array of attacks brings me right back to the original game, and these guys are certain to be in my top ten favorite enemies for all time due to this unexpected overhaul.
5: Onox/Dark Dragon
Of all bosses in the series, Onox took me the longest to figure out how to beat. It’s so simple it’s something I had trouble thinking of. I literally attempted every item in the game on him just to deal damage, but lo and behold all you have to do is spin attack. I don’t know why spin attacks do damage and regular slashes don’t, but whatever, man, it was a clever choice to make you think about using the attack you least think about thinking about. Is that too much to think about?
Dragons are awesome, and Whac-a-Mole dragons are even better. Okay, the fight was gimmicky, but I clobbered that dragon with the legendary hammer just like a Goron hero! The story behind Volvagia and the hammer was awesome and I wish they would do more stories like that. Usually if there is a story behind a boss it’s just an indigenous life form or whatever weird thing Ganon left for you to deal with. Volvagia’s arsenal of powerful moves also sets up the fight for a lot of unique turns and I love it.
3: Dead Hand
I have a thing for supernatural horror in my adult life, and it probably has something to do with how this thing subliminally scarred me as a child. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but looking back, this monster is made up of at least like five people that were probably sacrificed in some sort of not-so-fun way. Its dark backstory (which I presume based on it being found among craploads of other undead monsters) combined with its freakish and unnatural form makes for the most intimidating undead abomination in the series.
It’s a five headed dragon and whenever you cut off one of its heads, that head sprouts wings and flies around trying to eat you and shoot fire at you. The more you kill it the harder it is to kill. I really wish this guy would be remade in 3D so I could have the same experience enhanced in the way the Lynels did. Even though my opinions of this are only from its appearance in Zelda one, I can safely say that more monsters should be this unique.
And here it is. Are you ready? For the Best. Zelda Enemy. Ever.
No matter what game it is, or how many times I’ve beaten him before, there will never be an enemy to compete with the likes of Ganon. There is no better feeling in video games (except maybe exploration) than proceeding through the climax of a Zelda story only to finally come face to face with the Prince of Darkness. I’m not even sure what it is about him, but even his pathetic second form in Breath of the Wild was a joy to overcome. I seriously don’t know whether or not it attacked me and that was pretty lame, but the boss fight before it made up for that so I guess it worked out.
Still, since the original game through Ocarina, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and to an extent Skyward Sword, nothing says Zelda like a good ol’ fashioned Ganon fight. Keep ‘em coming, Nintendo.
If you’re like me, you probably skimmed this list and just read some of the major points or ones you totally agreed/disagreed with. Maybe occasionally you read a strange one and didn’t recognize it. I did have to use quite a few obscure-ish ones to fill a whole fifty enemies, but either way, I thank you for taking the time to check out my list. If I could bother another second, I’d love to hear some input about your favorite monsters. Did I neglect the incredible Manhandla? Is Digdogger more fun to say than Peahat? Is there a monster you think should have made it that didn’t? I love the feedback and would be more than happy if you started a conversation here in the comments or on Twitter. Let’s keep the conversation kickflipping.