Zelda Producer Explains Why, Despite Speculation, The New Link Is A Guy

Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma credits fan speculation for the creation of a female Link in the recent Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Warriors 3DS game, but he clarified to Kotaku here at E3 that the Link in the new Wii U Zelda who first showed up in a 2014 trailer was always planned to be a guy. Aonuma said he had been vague about the specifics of the new game's Link when he was giving interviews about that trailer in 2014. He thinks that helped lead some Zelda fans to think that the somewhat androgynous Link shown in the trailer might be a girl. Aonuma said his lack of specifics on the character two years ago hadn't been intended to stoke fan theories. "My intention was to say this isn't done and there may be changes coming to that. I in no way had intention of leading people into believing Link was female."

But why not have a female Link in this big new game? "You know there's the idea of the Triforce in the Zelda games we make," he told Kotaku. "The Triforce is made up of Princess Zelda, Ganon and Link. Princess Zelda is obviously female. If we made Link a female we thought that would mess with the balance of the Triforce. That's why we decided not to do it."

Asked about this topic by a reporter from GameSpot, Aonuma said that Nintendo had considered the idea of Princess Zelda taking the lead role in a Zelda game to satisfy fan desire for a female lead character but "...if we have princess Zelda as the main character who fights, then what is Link going to do? Taking into account that, and also the idea of the balance of the Triforce, we thought it best to come back to this [original] makeup."

The gender roles Aonuma is talking about sound fixed and will no doubt lead to a new round of discussion about what Nintendo could or couldn't do with its cast of characters and also what works in its game designs. If the male-female dynamic is so important, why not have a Prince Zelda, perhaps. This is also a company that just published a game with a female Link in it, after all. That character, called Linkle, debuted in the 3DS version of Hyrule Warriors, which came out in Australia this year. The game's 2014 Wii U version let you swap between many characters from Zelda lore but didn't have a female Link.

Aonuma said that the theorising about a female Link for the Wii U Zelda helped inspired Hyrule Warriors producer Yousuke Hayashi to explore that idea for the 3DS version of the game. "There was talk about the female Link and at the time we thought oh yeah that might be fun. In Mr Hayashi's mind that idea cemented."


    Seriously the worst excuses. Just say "we don't understand why this something people want" because that's the real answer. Apathy is driving that decision, not logic.

      The real answer is "We don't want to change it, sorry." Perfectly reasonable for a creative work.

        Yeah right . That never works these days.

          Whether it works or not, it seems to be the reason based on their responses. They have established characters already that work well in their current configuration, they don't want to change it.

            I agree. I am sick of all situations where character and plot goes out of the window to do something that someone thinks is "cool" or whatever. Dr Who has done it constantly in the last two years, having characters and plot elements change to allow "big emotional shocks and twists". A female Master was the worst, as it felt like a stunt only, and didn't have a story reason.
            A story reason in Zelda could be that Link has a twin sister in one universe, and the Triforce is fractured, People get to choose which one to play as or something, but it would have to do it without changing something pre-existing for the sake of change,
            In fact, I think it's actually more sexist to think the only way to get a popular female character is to take a popular male character and make them female.

              How about parallel universes like in a Link between worlds, but the genders are reversed?

      The real answer is the amount of work involved probably isn't worth the effort. Just like that dev said about AC a few years back and people got up in arms.

      It doesn't influence 99.9% of people's purchasing decision, so they wont bother.

      Not all games are stories meant for the player to insert themselves into the narrative and such conceit is an entitlement availed only by videogames. You don't see people demanding a rewrite of the Lord of the Rings with Frodia, Samantha and Gandalfina. Those characters were written to be male. Should Tolkien have inserted more, stronger female characters? Sure, though you can hardly blame him given the time in which he lived. That doesn't mean that characters created and written to be male can just be gender-bent and call a day to fulfil some kind of token social justice quota.

        I agree. I hated when it happened to assassins Creed. The characters in those games are not just replaceable entities. It's not like call of duty multiplayer etc.

        This is in no way to undermine your main point (which I agree with), but LOTR does have some strong female characters. The human societies in middle earth are male dominated (like our own), but Eowyn is still a strong female character who rebels against society's idea of what she is supposed to do. And the elven kingdoms are presented as being more advanced, and they have female warriors and motherf**king Galadriel. It's a long time since I read the books, but it seems to me that Tolkien's view was that gender equality is something we should strive for.

          Aside from Eowyn and Galadriel who both have very small parts, LOTR is a huge sausage fest.

          Also I would totally watch a gender-swapped version of LOTR, @pylgrim that'd be awesome.

            I could see the interest in a gender-bent LotR (or whatever) but note that the stories would be totally different if we are talking of a good writer with an honest vision, instead of some tumblr kid with a find-replace editor. The same scenario and overarching plot with smartly written female characters? Sure, why not. (I still would believe that such effort would be better put towards a totally new IP, but whatever.) Exactly the same story with bent genders? That's just lazy, agenda-driven and kind of creatively bankrupt.

          Oh yeah, I'm fully aware of that. I just know that some people would like a higher quantity, especially within the fellowship. That said, I personally don't see the need. It is only in PC movies and and entertainment that you see big groups of people comprised of all different ethnicities, genders and etc. Groups of people in real life tend to be much more homogeneous with only one or two people differing. i.e. men tend to hang around with men and women with other women. I much rather would see a movie with a mainly female cast than one with an artificially perfect split of genders (barring a reasonably good in-universe explanation for the split). Feels more honest to me.

        I've always found it infantile the way some players want to be the avatar they are controlling in games. And i've always found it telling when they say they can't relate to an avatar who doesn't look exactly like them. There's a lot of ways to describe that sort of mindset and they all end in "...ist"

      "Something people want" is just vague enough to highlight the real problem here. Who are these people? How many of them are there, really? It might be shocking to learn, based on the seemingly huge amount of discourse online regarding her, but only 18% of players played as Female Shepard. And that's not some "They must have just picked the default Shepard thing", 87% of players made customisations to their Shepard.

      So when you take into account the sheer success of the Mass Effect franchise, you can really get a sense of how tiny the loud minority that wants Link to be female might be. Why does link need to be female? What does it add to, or change, about the story? What does it say about you that you see something inherently wrong with a main character being and staying male? Especially in a franchise that has frequently placed its female co-star front and centre too, and often in varied and interesting roles.

      Are we changing Samus so she's male too? If it's about the stagnation of the character, then surely she's due for a change up as well. How's that gonna go down with the internet community?

      I would love for there to be more female characters, but don't just gender swap an established character because a small, venomous group online suddenly decided being male was wrong. Make new IPs with female characters, like Horizon Zero Dawn. Link doesn't need to become a woman, Dr. Who needs to be cancelled because it's an awful show and its fanbase disturbs everyone, not because he is and has always been a man. Don't play equality like a zero sum game.

      Last edited 15/06/16 3:04 pm

    I'm sure there will be a lot of interesting posts coming here.

    What I'm still curious about is if people want a "female Link" versus Linkle. Would the people asking for this be satisfied by being able to chose between Link and Linkle at the start of the game? I'd be keen for that especially if it made the game worth replaying for both choices.

    Last edited 15/06/16 9:47 am

      I'd be cool with either. Linkle or a properly-formed character like her would be fine - ideally if they actually give some similar development to Link himself as well since the guy's got the charm and sophistication of unflavored instant noodles. Just swapping the gender of the player model would be fine too, though. It's not like we're talking about a deep RPG.

      Actually just having the stones to say 'we think Link should always be a boy' is fine too, rather than making excuses. I'd be disappointed in them and the implications that that has, but at least it'd be the truth!

      Nintendo's too conservative and their execs are too old to think outside the box or shake things up in their franchises any more, and it's a shame.

        Pretty much what they did say. You realise they are Japanese right? English isn't their first language.

          That's definitely not what they said, and Aonuma speaks pretty good English and also would have had a PR handler with him anyway.

            Not everyone expects sjw's on the internet to pull apart their words and analyse them to this extent.

              Nowadays, I think they should and generally they do. That's why you always see developers in public with PR handlers and so on, to avoid having them say things that are stupid or could be misinterpreted.

              It's especially the case for something as big as Zelda. People are going to examine every word Aonuma speaks about it for clues about the content of the game.

    “The Triforce is made up of Princess Zelda, Ganon and Link. Princess Zelda is obviously female. If we made Link a female we thought that would mess with the balance of the Triforce. That’s why we decided not to do it.”wow, just wow. So 1 girl and 2 guys is balanced, but 2 girls and 1 guy isn't. *slowclap*

      I interpreted the 'balance' part as being one male hero and one female hero. Obviously a triangle can't be balanced.

      Hey now, that means that either Link or Ganon is trans. Don't be hating.

    If you are the creator and or person in charge of said character and world and people asked you to change I think you'd be well within your rights to refuse for whatever the reason?

    Japan cares not for you social justice B.S. No one wants a female Link outside the usual Internet whiners.

    “The Triforce is made up of Princess Zelda, Ganon and Link. Princess Zelda is obviously female. If we made Link a female we thought that would mess with the balance of the Triforce. That’s why we decided not to do it.”

    ...they know it's not real, right?

    It's never a good idea to try and rationalize yourself it's way to easy for people to pick apart and judge, just be frank and say you didn't want to you don't owe anyone any extra explanation for your own creative work.

    I am having trouble understanding why people want to change his sex. Can someone explain this to me. I don't see any reason why you would. The whole push to do this seems rather silly.

    *Prepares for lots of down votes.*

      The idea is that 'Link' is the link between the game and the player. The player's avatar in the world. He's a complete blank slate.

      People want the option because half of the world's population aren't men.

      There's also the fact that people find the undercurrent problematic. Link is special, the Hero of prophecy that's going to save everyone etc. Some people feel like the implication of Nintendo's conservative stance is effectively telling girls that they can't be the hero, because heroes are always boys. That's not what Nintendo actually says, but it's easy to see how people might come to that conclusion and in today's climate you can see how that'd be a problematic thing to imply. Especially given that the target audience for these games is still primarily teenagers. If I had daughters the last thing I'd be wanting someone telling them is that they can't be special or do heroic things because of the bits they were assigned.

      Honestly I think people would have a better chance of moving a mountain by pushing hard on one side than making ultra-conservative Nintendo change their stance, though, as long as they're still primarily run by people in their 50s and 60s.

        Miyamoto seems to offer a different answer:

        Link’s name comes from the fact that originally, the fragments of the Triforce were supposed to be electronic chips. The game was to be set in both the past and the future and as the main character would travel between both and be the link between them, they called him Link.

          The guy's in his 60s I don't trust his memory :P

          Seriously though, designs evolve and change over time, and even if that was where he started with the name, it's not where he ended up.

          (Future setting Zelda would be pretty rad as an aside. Like maybe a fantasy setting with broken down technology around and stuff)

            Have you seen gameplay of the new game? :P Or played Skyward sword for that matter. The desert area comes to mind...

              Unfortunately yes, I have had some time with the miserable experience that was Skyward Sword. Didn't play that far though as it was awful. :(

        Yes, but no one should sacrifice their creative vision to cater to a few people that feel the need to be represented in strict accuracy. And I say "a few" because even though half of the world population is female, very few of them feel violated about having a male avatar in a game, in the same way that most males don't whine for having to be in the shoes of Lara Croft.

          The problem is not that game x does or does not have a female lead. The problem is only when you consider the industry as a whole. Given the population is roughly 50/50 male/female, you'd expect similar representation in games. But there really aren't many games at all that feature female leads, and of those that do, many are actually targeted at males. Tomb Raider (in her original incarnation), Bayonetta, every female fighting game character ever, Quiet (from MGSV) ... all clearly designed for a male audience.

          I'm not sure why this is the case so I don't know what action (if any) should be taken. If publishers are just turning down a lot of projects with female leads, then maybe we should find out why that is. I'm certainly not going to advocate for publishers taking a hit to their profits.

            While the population is 50/50, the gaming population is nowhere near that. All the studies that include casual mobile or web gaming might have you believe otherwise, but when it comes to Triple A titles, it's still overwhelmingly male, like 80/20 split.


            Ignore the title of that article and look at the numbers it shows. What is here is not an "inequality", but simply a divergence, through lifelong social conditioning or free will (something some "feminists" online seem to believe doesn't exist for women in a "patriarchal society") of interests. There isn't a Keeping Up With The Kardashians viewership "inequality", it's just that it's a show tailored for the interests of a large amount of women rather than men (but I do watch and love it). There isn't an inequality in the cosmetics industry and their customers, it's a product that, for many complicated and interconnected reasons, appeals far more to women than men. Games right now are a largely male hobby, that can change, but as it stands now, the majority of the decisions you will see hinge upon that fact.

            Ultimately the only solution to this problem is more female creators. The industry is famously prickly for women, but that isn't really a good enough excuse for women not to join it. The only way that will change is through women persevering through this unique career challenge (and all career paths, for all genders / races, etc have challenges) and being the change they want to see in the industry. You can't expect men to "fairly" represent women when they will never truly know what it is to be a woman, especially in this climate where one wrong move can and does turn into a viral twitter harassment campaign. They are now too afraid of getting it wrong, and as stated above, not financially motivated enough to take the risk.

            This is simply a result of more developers being men and writing and creating what is close to them. As more women enter the industry, we'll see more good and healthy female leads in games and that will be great. But until then, it's dishonest to ask a creator to artificially change the gender of a character that was creatively conceived as male just to even the numbers of the rest of the industry. If you have ever helmed a creative endeavour you'd understand how offensive such a request is.

            And as for some of the female characters that are created with a male audience in mind, it is a valid general criticism. However, you cannot get Zelda involved in it. Link is one of the most androgynous characters in games and even though firmly male, he has the kind of delicate features that women, more than men are likely to appreciate.

            That doesn't explain why people are so fixated on Link needing to be female though. There are an infinite number of games that can be created with female leads but for some reason people seem to be intent on trying to change what already exists.

          This is a false equivalency. Men don't whine about being Lara Croft, but they are overwhelmingly represented in other games. If the gender ratio of protagonists matched the real world gender ratio then this would be a valid complaint.

          LogicMan AWAY....

            Someone else already threw that argument in and I answered, but so you won't have to go looking for it, here's it again. Your argument has no value because it is not the job of individual game creators to sacrifice their creative vision to even out the bad representation of the rest of the industry. Or are you suggesting that all videogames for the next decade or so have to have solely female leads in order to reach historical equality?

            Last edited 15/06/16 10:19 pm

              I'm not suggesting anything nor am I arguing any position, I'm only pointing out that the *structure* of your argument is flawed. You are suggesting an equivalency between two positions which doesn't exist. You may or may not be correct, but your logic definitely isn't.

                But then you are assuming that men don't whine about being Lara Croft because they have lots of representation. But in reality most men don't whine about being Lara Croft (and most women actually don't whine about being Link) because that's a pretty silly thing to feel bad about. Stories ever since they were told, before being written, illustrated, animated, filmed and eventually made games always have had established protagonist. Feeling offended because those protagonists are not exact avatars for each particular listener/reader/spectator/player is ridiculous.

                  That's a fair objection, but I think the assumption is valid. The people who are complaining generally are complaining about a lack of representation. Regardless I think we've reached a point where we're not going to get any further. You think representation is irrelevant and therefore there is no false equivalency. I don't agree, but that's logically consistent.

                  I *do* agree the most people don't complain in general because (and I agree with this bit too) it's a pretty silly thing to complain about. That is, complaining about Link specifically is a bit silly, complaining about representation in general is fair enough (but I don't propose any solution that you haven't espoused yourself - it will come naturally from having more creators of diverse backgrounds).

                  Of course, I think complaining about people complaining about Link not being a girl is also pretty silly. Which raises the argument people make on articles like this all the time "Why does this article even exist?". I think in this case it's because some people saw that first trailer, thought Link might be a girl, liked that idea and particularly liked that "she" wasn't sexualised in the manner that many female video game characters were. When you get people excited about an idea they tend to spread it online and you get a company making a typical response.

                  Personally as long as any voice acting isn't super deep and gendered pronouns are mostly absent I think you could still play the game assuming Link was a girl and have a pretty identical experience.

                  And now I've spent entirely too long writing comments to an article I didn't really care about in the first place. Thanks for arguing civilly though. This was a fun thread.

                Thanks as well. I definitely see where you are come from and I do agree that there is a general issue of representation. Arguing about minutia is something I enjoy, for better or worse.

      Because it's 2016!

        You'll need to elaborate. Saying the current year isn't an argument.

          This is what I hear a lot of. "It's 2016" etc etc. There are female roles in games, surely not many but people getting upset about this seems unnecessary.

    I see nothing wrong with this. It's their creative work and their vision. They don't have to cave in and make Link a girl just to satisfy some people.

    Im not going to jump up and down about it... Link is a character and his identity has been cemented in the story and lore. Adding an optional female option just doesnt seem right!

    Ideally they just need to make a story featuring Zelda as the heroine or having them as joint playable heroes of the story. Zelda has her own lore, but on her own, also fits the universe and saga more than any female Link would. Id never as for a male Zelda so I think its a good decision. Or alternatively, make a side game featuring Linkle and explore how she could fit into the universe.

    Link is male
    Spiderman is male
    Jaina Proudmoore is female
    Luca is female
    Mario is male
    Amy Rose is female
    Samus is female
    Dante is male
    Gwen Stacy is female
    Kirby is... pink?

    To my knowledge link seems to be the only point of contention. Nobody cares that there is no female mario, the male audience isn't in an uproar because they can't play as a male version of samus, gwen stacy spider girl doesn't exist as "a female spiderman", she exists as gwen stacy who is a creative work both of and separate from spiderman. Luca isn't a female Crono but instead is part of a diverse cast of characters with their own personalities and motivations. It is perfectly fine for a character to be male, like it is perfectly fine for a character to be female. As a character that exists as someone's creative vision it is up to them to decide who or what they are and what purpose they serve.

    By all means voice your desire for change but if the answer you get is no, learn to live with it. If you are old enough to whinge on the internet then you are old enough to deal with it when you are told no, even if in most cases that invites only additional whinging. (general statement about the internet, not meant as an offensive call out to individuals)

      Kirby sucks soo hard

        I want to respond to this in a particular way but, even for me, it fall under the too soon category. Imagine instead this response is a witty, mildly offensive jab at minorities.

    If the fans really wanted a female link, I don't see why they can't make it a choice, it's not like link talks. Just have an option at the start to choose your sex, then have a female voice actor go, "WAH! HUH! HYAH!" done.

    It's not too late either, make it a free update (Not a paid dlc, people will rage)

    All that being said, are there people out there who refuse to play the new LOZ because link isn't a girl? Like, angry, boycotting, anal-retentive, people? If not, then don't bother. But if so, then do it for the money.

    I have said it repeatedly that Link being male is pretty much set in stone in the mythos of the franchise and in the culture of Nintendo and Aonuma pretty much comes out saying as such. Naturally people are going to twist his words, especially the whole Triforce in balance comment, but what he is more or less saying is that Link is a boy, Zelda is a girl, Ganon is a boy, that is the tale we wish to tell. People need to learn to respect that.

    Last edited 15/06/16 11:46 am

    Remember the book 'Misery', written by Stephen King? A lot of people here are acting like Annie Wilkes, standing over creators with an axe, demanding that they change the way they write/create because it doesn't fit in with how they want it to be.

    Just because it is the year 2016, it doesn't mean that someone HAS TO write a female character. I love a strong female character in a book/movie/game, but do I care if that main character happens to be male instead? No. It's not mine to decide, nor do I really care. I am there for the story and the world I'm taken to at the expense of someone else's imagination.

    If all these creators of different works decided to give up because the SJW are always stepping in to criticize their CREATIVE work, then where would we be? Without movies, without games, without books? These are the imaginings of other people that we have no control over. It is their right to make the creation however they want to. If you don't like it, then simply don't participate. But don't demand that they change things. That is NOT your place, nor will it ever be.

    You want something done a certain way? Sure, go out there and MAKE IT YOURSELF! But you can't dictate to other people how to write a story, or how to design a game, or how to produce a movie. The result from those bodies of work will speak for themselves and reach the people it was always meant to reach.

    Last edited 15/06/16 3:07 pm

      If everyone wrote according to these demands the only males in media would be trannies.

    Regarding why Link is the main player character instead of Zelda. It comes down to his portion of the Triforce. Link has the Triforce of Courage, which is why he is able to brave the trials he faces over the course of the adventure. Zelda has Wisdom and Ganon has Power. (Matee has Heart, but everyone knew that one sucked so they left him out ! ).

    There is nothing to say in any one generation that Link has to be male though. Outside of Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, every other Link is from a different generation of the character. Unless there is lore that says the hero is a male child somewhere (IE the original version of the sword - The Skyward Sword - is bound to a male hero)

    That said, if there was a choice option there in game, I would still pick male because it's Link and that's what I grew up with.

    Ahh the internet. One second they are going "this person suggested a gay man that he should try to become straight!!! The nerve! Let's destroy him! Kill his reputation! Ruin his livelihood!!!" and the next second, without missing a beat, "we demand that this male character is made female!!!"

      This Internet you speak of is full of an incredible amount of people and the ones not wanting to force a bad change on a person to make others happy aren't always the ones who want to force a bad chane on a fictional character to make others happy.

        You would think though that people would reflect on the first incident and perhaps muse to themselves: "Yes, trying to force someone to be something they aren't for no other reason than personal comfort and satisfaction is something that's wrong so perhaps I should think twice before trying to force someone else to conform to my opinion that they should change their characters to be something I want."

        For sure, for sure. Yet, you and I know very well that there's a non-insignificant amount of people who will spout both without a blink or realising the irony. My comment was talking about them in particular.

    Nintendo are conservative and traditionalists generally speaking.

    People can come up with all the reasoning they want but it doesn't matter until the above paradigm changes.

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