A brief history of Ganon, The Legend of Zelda's greatest villain

With Tears of the Kingdom reintroducing Ganondorf, here's a quick primer on who he is, where he came from, and why his threat will always loom over Hyrule.


The Legend of Zelda has largely been defined by its central conflict. Boiled down to its basest essence, it is a clash of good versus evil. Good is represented by the Hylian hero Link and Princess Zelda, both of whom have carried this conflict across multiple generations. What started with Link and Zelda in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has continued with their descendants continuing to battle on the side of the light. Their adversary is Ganon, who has taken on many different forms over centuries. However, unlike Link and Zelda, who are all descendants of their Ocarina of Time ancestors, Ganon has remained omnipresent across the ages.

As Nintendo takes players through the latest chapter of The Legend of Zelda, Shacknews is here to provide a brief overview of the series' greatest villain. This is a short history of Ganon.

The King of Thieves

Ganondorf in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Source: Nintendo

Before he was the piglike beast who would represent evil incarnate, Ganondorf was born in Gerudo Valley prior to the events of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. He is a rarity in Gerudo culture. Only one male is born every century among the typically all-female Gerudo race. Because of this, Ganondorf was named king among his people, but from the very beginning, he was a malevolent being, one who razed villages and laid them to waste. He soon became known as the King of Thieves.

Ganondorf's greatest scheme involved gaining the trust of the King of Hyrule, working to become his most trusted advisor. After working his way into the King's inner circle, he betrayed the King and upended the royal family, sending an adolescent Princess Zelda into hiding. During this time, Link had recovered the three medallions that would allow him entry into the Temple of Time, but Ganondorf allowed Link to lead him there and into the Golden Land, where the Triforce resided.

The Triforce grants the pure of heart their greatest desire, but because Ganondorf was such a wicked being, the Triforce rejected him and split into three pieces. Ganondorf would retain the Triforce of Power while the Triforce of WIsdom found its way to Princess Zelda and the Triforce of Courage wound up with Link, thus tying the three's destinies together for centuries to come. The Triforce of Power allowed Ganondorf to briefly take over Hyrule, but in exchange, his appearance was warped into that of an ugly, piglike beast. This incarnation would come to be known as Ganon, the King of Evil.

Ganon was eventually defeated by Link, the Hero of Time, and Princess Zelda working in tandem. The Seven Sages were able to seal him away in the Sacred Realm, but not before Ganondorf cursed Link and Zelda's bloodline and vowed to haunt their descendants forever.

The Demise of Hyrule

Demise in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Source: Nintendo Life

Ganon would return many times over the course of The Legend of Zelda. The original 1986 adventure, 1991's A Link to the Past, 2002's The Wind Waker, and 2006's Twilight Princess would see different generations of Links pick up their sword and either rescue or join forces with Princess Zelda to fight the great evil known as Ganon. However, this was no descendant of the original. Regardless of the game, this was the same Ganon, making good on his promise to fight the descendants of Hyrule's greatest heroes and continue his pursuit of ultimate power.

It was 2011's The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword that shed greater light on the nature of Ganon's existence. In this game, it is revealed that Ganon's power comes not only from the Triforce of Power, but also from the demonic god known as Demise. Upon defeating this version of Ganon, the villain says the following:

"Extraordinary. You stand as a paragon of your kind, human. You fight like no human or demon I have ever known. Though this is not the end. My hate... never perishes. It is born anew in a cycle with no end! I will rise again! Those like you... Those who share the blood of the goddess and the spirit of the hero... They are eternally bound to this curse. An incarnation of my hatred shall ever follow your kind, dooming them to wander a blood-soaked sea of darkness for all time!"

While Link and Zelda have taken on different forms over the years, so too has Ganon, which leads to one of his most recent vessels.

Breath of Calamity

The idea that Ganon can continually take on new forms is taken to a new level in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Here, Ganon is more than a physically intimidating warlock. He's a malevolent force of nature, one who wiped out all of Hyrule and its surrounding lands in a cataclysm known as the Great Calamity. Without a descendant of Link to subdue him, the massive Divine Beasts were constructed by the Sheikah and used to contain this incarnation of Ganon deep under Hyrule Castle.

As has been the case throughout centuries, Ganon could not be fully contained. Princess Zelda could not unlock the power of her predecessors that would allow her to keep Ganon sealed, which led to the villain escaping his confinement. Ganon's power had grown to such a degree that he was able to use the power of his Malice force to corrupt and control the Sheikah's constructed army, including the Divine Beasts. His power was so great that he was able to kill the land's Four Champions. Link could not defeat this version of Ganon, but Zelda was suddenly able to awaken her power. She was eventually able to seal herself away with the demonic Gerudo King within Hyrule Castle to keep him from escaping beyond its walls. This set up the events of Breath of the Wild, in which a reawakened Link would have to prepare to defeat Calamity Ganon for good.

Breath of the Wild's climax sees Link, now armed with the legendary Master Sword, clash with Calamity Ganon. Ganon was not ready for the fight, still unable to fully reincarnate. After an initial battle, the villain would become a warped form of itself, completely able to reshape himself through a burst of pure Malice. As noted during before the last phase of the final boss battle, where Dark Beast Ganon appears described as "Hatred and Malice Incarnate," Zelda says:

Ganon was born out of a dark past. He is a pure embodiment of the ancient evil that is reborn time and time again. He has given up on reincarnation and assumed his pure, enraged form. If set free upon our world, the destruction will be unlike anything ever seen before.

Link and Zelda eventually prevail, unlocking their own potential and using their connections to the light to ward off the great evil. However, this is not the end of the story.

Shedding Tears

Those who unlocked the true ending for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild know that the fight is not over. Even Zelda, who expended her immeasurable power of light, fully acknowledged that the threat of Ganon was merely contained for now.

In fact, in mid-April, Nintendo confirmed that Ganondorf has returned and has somehow found a way to reincarnate in his more humanlike form. That puts him one step above what he was able to do in Breath of the Wild, where he ultimately gave up on his restoration.

Ganon's role in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is unknown. In fact, this Ganondorf may not even be the real deal, for all anyone knows. It could be an avatar, a representation, a mirror image, or something entirely different. The one thing players should know is that he's extremely dangerous. Fights against him are among the most epic boss battles in video games and anyone picking up Tears of the Kingdom should expect no less.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom will continue Ganon's story this Friday, May 12.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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