The Zelda series is one that prides itself on whimsical and fantastical ideas, so it should be no surprise that there are plenty of weird characters. Among those characters, however, are ones that are less than comforting. Three months ago I wrote another character list detailing what I believed to be the most annoying characters in the Zelda series. This list is in exactly the same style, except we’re going with the most disturbing. A couple of characters were brought up last time in the comments, characters people thought should have been on the list, and it was suggested that perhaps they’d fit better on a list of the most disturbing characters. Without confirming or denying their presence on this list, I will say that I took note of that.
Some of these characters are going to be very, very different from one another. The only thing tying the entries on this list together is the word “disturbing”. Some of these characters might be frightening and dangerous, some might be unexplained and enigmatic, whereas others might just be way too messed up. Whether you agree or disagree, I hope you enjoy.
16 – Dying Soldier (Ocarina of Time)
This character is this low on the list purely because what happens to him is sort of a given. Nearly every game in the series has a villain, and usually that villain hurts a lot of people, hence why he or she is a villain. A Link to the Past, for example, explains or suggests that quite a lot of people died in both the ancient backstory and the events occurring just before the game. The key difference here is the Dying Soldier is one of the series’ few cases of the player witnessing the character die before their very eyes. Yeah there’s Link’s Uncle or the Loyal Sage in A Link to the Past, but in a 2D game with a birds-eye view it doesn’t have as much impact, and feels a little impersonal.
In Ocarina of Time however, after acquiring the titular instrument but before pulling the Master Sword for the first time, if you wander into the back alleys of Castle Town Market, you’ll find one of the soldiers from the castle slumped on the ground. He’ll tell you about Ganondorf’s uprising, about Zelda trying to give you the Ocarina, and then… um… yeah, he dies.
Right there. In front of you. Fully animated. In 3D.
Ocarina of Time was originally an E-rated game. Food for thought.
15 – Ho Ho Tribe (The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass)
This is one of those “Wait, what the hell Axle?” entries, but honestly these guys are way more messed up than they seem at first. These guys first appear in The Wind Waker as a single character named Old Man Ho Ho, a weird little guy with his trademark “Hooooooohhhhhh” that he utters every time you talk to him, at which point he mentions something of note that he’s checking out with his telescope; a vague hint. He reappears in Phantom Hourglass.
Yeah… Phantom Hourglass…
In Phantom Hourglass you discover that there are in fact a bunch of Ho Hos. The Ho Ho Tribe, to be exact. These strange little men are some kind of “tribe” — what that means being completely unclear considering that word is used constantly in the Zelda series for both simple tribes of people and for different species entirely — that all look exactly the same and do the same thing: Look through telescopes all the time and value treasures.
There’s something deeply disturbing about a bunch of short little men who all look exactly the same, and it becomes creepier when their origin or nature is never elaborated upon except by the unhelpful term, “tribe”. All we know is they come from a land called “Wayaway”, or some crap.
They also look through their telescopes so long that all their telescope eyes are visibly bloodshot red. And they don’t even care. Red-eyed, identical, weird little men. What is wrong with you, Nintendo?
14 – Oocca (Twilight Princess)
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the Ho Ho Tribe, the reason the Oocca are on this list should be pretty obvious.
Are you familiar with the uncanny valley? The uncanny valley is a hypothesis (which originates in the field of robotics) which suggests that if something looks human, but not quite human, it is significantly more disturbing than something that doesn’t look human at all. Case in point, the Oocca.
These are chickens. Chickens with human faces. They make shrieking chicken noises. They inhabit a city floating in the sky with technology that is impossible for them to create. Legends say they created the Hylians. They walk on walls. They make an ungodly horrid abominable noise when you grab them…
Need I say more? No seriously, do I actually need to explain this further?
13 – Koume and Kotake (Ocarina of Time)
Koume and Kotake appear in Ocarina of Time as the dungeon boss, “Twinrova”, for the Spirit Temple near the end of the game. These witches are the surrogate mothers of Ganondorf, so they’re fairly tied to the plot and are supposed to be pretty serious enemies. Fine, that’s cool. But how are they disturbing?
Well, I think the idea of bug-eyed witches with practically beak-shaped noses, high-pitched cackles, and proficiency in the manipulation of extreme temperatures is something, to start. Not to mention the fact that they fuse into a single attractive, flirtatious entity (not typically something you want to see two old hags turn into, especially not when you realize their German joint name is “Sexy Thermo Hexy”). And they just generally have some pretty eerie presentation and lines:
“With my frost, I will freeze him to his soul!”
But what really gets me about these witches is what they do: They brainwash.
How many creepy cult programming stories are there? How about government mind-control plots? This is the kind of stuff that a number of stories have milked for pretty mind-bending plots, and the core concept is always rather disturbing: To have your free will stripped away and basically dunked head-first into total insanity so you can be susceptible to the suggestion of your masters.
You see Twinrova suck Nabooru into a black rift right before your eyes, and at the climax of the Spirit Temple, you have to face off against Nabooru in the armor of an Iron Knuckle, before purging her of her programming. Twinrova are turning good people against you with their mind control. This is one of the most twisted, evil things any villain in a Zelda game has ever done.
This also raises a lot of questions. We know that they actually brainwashed a lot of people, far more than just Nabooru. There’s also the fact that, with their armor stripped off, the Iron Knuckle models actually have Gerudo faces underneath. So are all the Iron Knuckles brainwashed Gerudos?
Even more evil however is the fact that they clearly transform the voices of these sexy, sexy Gerudo women into deep, manly ones.
12 – Jovani (Twilight Princess)
The first entry on the list with a demonic affiliation, Jovani is a strange man encountered for the first time about halfway through Twilight Princess. He’s made of gold and frozen in a form with jewels for eyes (which looks really messed up, by the way, and horrifyingly, it doesn’t really go away when you first unfreeze him). Now, the term “demon” is never actually used, but the implication of him becoming consumed by greed and then having a “dark creature” buy his soul is… well, come on, it’s pretty obvious this is demonic stuff. Haven’t you ever sold your soul to the Devil?
The twisted-looking Imp Poes hold pieces of Jovani’s soul, and you have to rip these Poe Souls out of their chests violently in wolf form to kill them.
Just the notion of soul bartering in general is a deeply disturbing one; giving away shares of your being in exchange for something material. But adding in the most disturbing designs for the Poes in the entire series, alongside the violent way you kill them, and you have an extremely unsettling scenario.
No seriously, look at these things though. These are some of the creepiest things in the entire series:
11 – Happy Mask Salesman (Majora’s Mask)
The Happy Mask Salesman is one of those characters who never actually bothered me much but that I keep hearing people say is creepy. And I guess that, even if he doesn’t get me in particular, I can admit that he’s pretty unsettling. He’s the classic, unsettlingly friendly kind of creepy. He’s got a grin on his face, but it looks like it’s probably the kind of grin you put on after murdering someone, stuffing them under a rug, and repeatedly planting yourself between your surprise guest and the rug so they don’t trip over the body.
Corroborating this paranoid claim is the fact that he confirms to have been following you — regardless of whether or not you think it’s wrong of him to do so (he says this) — and has quite a temper, screaming at Link and shaking him during times of stress. How exactly he comes into possession of Majora’s Mask is unclear, and he mysterious disappears (literally) at the end of the game.
Again, he never actually does anything concrete to make you think he’s a sinister character, and particularly with his dialogue at the end of the game, he seems decidedly benevolent. Humans still have a natural instinct to distrust anything that smiles more than half the time (this is scientifically proven), so I’m sorry Happy Mask Salesman, but you literally have “happy” in your name and you creep us the hell out.
And as a side note, in the manga he’s actually the villain (as seen here and here). Clearly, with the stark differences between the game and manga stories, he’s not meant to be a villain like this in the game, but it’s evidence that even the manga authors thought he was really creepy, and it should be said that he fits into the role of villain really, really well.
10 – ??? (Majora’s Mask, Oracle of Ages, Skyward Sword)
Pop quiz. What’s the worst thing that you can possibly imagine happening to you while you’re trying to go to the bathroom? The answer, is this. Seriously though. Regardless of perspective. You can either be the hand, or encounter the hand. Either is the last conceivable thing you would ever want to happen while going to the toilet.
It’s a hand in a toilet, the hand of someone literally trapped inside said toilet. Yet all it really wants is paper, presumably to wipe with (you know, instead of food or other survival supplies, or, you know, FREEDOM). So does this entity just not care to escape? Is that why it only appears at certain times and never to ask for anything rational? Or is it just something the creators didn’t put any thought into? I’m better on the latter, because honestly the name being just three question marks is, to me, undeniable evidence that Nintendo had no intention of having any idea what this thing is either. It’s a hand in a toilet. Just… yeah.
Jeez. Excuse me while I shudder.
Somehow ???’s appearance in Skyward Sword got worse. How? Because they didn’t make it abstract. While never actually explained in detail, we do know what it is.
A ghost. The ghost of a young girl.
Manifesting as a hand.
A hand in a toilet.
GOD WHAT THE HELL. WHY?
This ghost named Phoeni, upon being given the paper she craves (a love letter is what’s used in this case), assumes the love letter is for herself and torments her “admirer” in his sleep. Possibly for eternity. I’ve heard people suggest that the other possible ending for this sidequest — where the letter is delivered properly and Cawlin is rejected — is somehow worse, at which point I just think “WHAT? OH GOD HOW, WHY, WHAT?”, because he becomes the subject of a freaky, disturbed ghost’s affections and is clearly tormented over it. How is this not worse? Than anything? Literally anything?
I miss when ??? had no explanation at all. I miss it deeply. And don’t tell me Nintendo didn’t intend this character to be creepy. They totally did.
9 – Ganondorf and Malladus (Twilight Princess, Spirit Tracks)
That’s specifically the Ganondorf of Twilight Princess, mind you. Why that specific Ganondorf? And why lump him in with Malladus? Well, just as an opening note, these two are some of the most openly violent, visceral villains of the series. Ganondorf in Twilight Princess radiates power and malice, doing some particularly terrible things, and Malladus accepts his ultimate fate of being rejected by his vessel and decides to just destroy everything while he can. Because, you know, WHY NOT?
But the real reason both of these characters are on this list is because of something a little more specific that they both have in common: Both of them wind up possessing the bodies of a young girl (Zelda) despite both being extremely masculine.
You know, body swapping is a recurring theme in a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and it can be very interesting when used well. That said, pretty much no time it’s ever happened have writers pretended it wasn’t messed up, usually making jokes off all the awkwardness and strangeness of it.
And rarely are these body swaps intentional; usually they’re bizarre accidents. Nor are they usually intentionally triggered by large men with young girls as the victims. Which, by the way, is made remarkably more disturbing by the fact that both Ganondorf and Malladus retain their deep voices in their girl bodies.
8 – Demise (Skyward Sword)
Demise from Skyward Sword seems like a pretty straightforward villain at first glance. He’s definitely an intimidating, scary foe, but not really disturbing. Right? Well think about it this way: Demise is the earliest recorded villain on the Zelda timeline, he’s responsible for the creation of the series’ main villain, holds the title of Demon King, and is said to be the source of all monsters. As the lord of all demons (blatantly said to have emerged from fissures in the earth) and the creator of all monsters, that makes him… the Devil. The Devil in the Zelda series. The source of all evil.
His role as a cosmic monstrosity extends a lot further than him being the Devil. Check out what Fi has to say about him:
Notice the refusal to refer to Demise by male pronouns despite how beefy and manly he is? Beyond that, according to this, Demise would not only have looked completely different to Link had he fought him in another time, but probably looked completely different to Groose when he was nearby and also saw Demise.
This means that Demise is effectively a completely formless, cosmic horror, an embodiment and propagator of pure evil. He’s SCARIER than the Devil. He’s Cthulhu PLUS the Devil… and Akuma.
7 – Batreaux (Skyward Sword)
“What? Axle, no! just stop!”
Yeah, that’s right, I actually think Batreaux is more disturbing than Demise. Look, Demise might be an incomprehensible horror, but at least you know where you stand with him. He’s evil. Pure evil. He’s the villain. Batreaux? Well he’s nice, but considering what he is, it’s hard to be comfortable with his demeanor or the fact that he plays with children without their parents knowing.
Batreaux is just a harmless, nice monster character who never did anything bad, right?
He’s explicitly stated numerous times to be a demon. This means that, like every single other character in Skyward Sword referred to as a demon, at one point he served Demise. There is no chance whatsoever that he does not have blood on his hands; he probably has a lot of it.
But he’s reformed, right? He’s trying to be nice and clearly has been able to for a while, even though people are still scared of him. And yeah, that is true, but even so, at the end of the Gratitude Crystal sidequest when you finally make Batreaux into a human, all the nighttime monsters disappear from Skyloft and Remlits stop turning evil; Batreaux is literally the source of all the evil plaguing Skyloft, meaning that no matter how nice the lovable bat monstrosity is, he is still an inherently evil being bringing suffering to the people of Skyloft, right up until he becomes a human.
The fact that he exerts such a malignant influence is especially telling, too. He is not only able to attract monsters to Skyloft, but also able to drive Remlits into becoming monsters themselves. No other demon in the game, short of Demise, seems to be able to do this except for Ghirahim, a “Demon Lord”. While Batreaux wasn’t necessarily a Demon Lord himself, he was clearly a demon of high standing and power.
Reformed he may be, but that doesn’t make him any less disturbing for what he’s no doubt done in the past. People in real life express concern at associating with ex-convicts, even if they’ve done their time. How about mass-murderers? Would you let your children be babysat by a mass-murderer? How about if he displayed a supernatural talent for turning your cat into a murderer?
6 – Cubus Sisters (Phantom Hourglass)
Alright, with some of the heavy entries that require a lot of explaining out of the way, we’re mostly down to Zelda’s more explicitly disturbing characters, ones that don’t need as much explanation. First up, the Cubus Sisters!
These creepy little girls pretend to be normal humans trapped in the hold of the Ghost Ship in Phantom Hourglass, telling you about Tetra and asking you to save their other sisters. Serving as a major challenge of the dungeon, their shrieks become familiar as they’re scared by Skulltulas and other monsters, attracting the attention of the Reaplings and just otherwise becoming a huge pain.
Accidentally letting their true nature slip through, they make numerous sinister statements, including baiting you into opening a chest containing a trap, and these little gems:
“We will be eating this candy while we wait, smirks on our faces!”
Honestly it becomes obvious really, really, really quickly that these girls are up to no good, and before you know it they turn into demonic freaking puppets and serve as the dungeon boss. Beyond that, though, I always thought it was particularly disturbing how their name is “Cubus”. Like, what, from “incubus” or “succubus”? Life-stealing demons that are often highly sexualized in modern entertainment? Whaaaaaat?
You even witness one of the Cubus Sisters reducing sailors’ flesh to rot and turning them into zombies in the manga, seeming to be shown in a role similar to the siren… which is similar to the succubus. Yeah.
5 – Tingle (The Wind Waker)
You might remember how not long ago I wrote about how much I love Tingle, and that still stands. But even though I like him, he definitely is pretty disturbing… but that’s honestly half the fun of his character.
He’s never worse than he is in The Wind Waker. In any other game, all you can say about Tingle is that he’s a ridiculous man who shouldn’t be that obsessed with anything as whimsical as fairies at his age. And yeah, his obsession, dress, and behavior is really messed up on its own. But there’s more to make him disturbing in The Wind Waker.
In that game, Tingle is found on Windfall Island in… fricken’ jail. He claims that he was mistaken for some sort of troublemaker, but honestly the reason he was locked up is entirely unclear. I shouldn’t need to tell you that this is a severely unsettling place for him to be found. Like, seriously why in god’s name would Link set him free without asking any questions?
Worse is the fact that later you discover that Tingle has enslaved David Jr., one of the Tingle lookalikes working at his tower. This situation is never explained beyond that David Jr. wound up on Tingle Island while suffering from sea sickness.
So Tingle was imprisoned on Windfall Island, and later in the game is seen owning a freaking slave. It’s distinctly difficult to get any creepier than that, especially without any elaboration. Then again, considering how much creepier ??? got when expanded, let’s just leave Tingle how he is, okay?
Oh, wait, too late. David Jr. used to live on Windfall Island with his father. Let’s see, Tingle’s slave comes from Windfall Island, and Windfall Island is where Tingle is thrown in jail…
4 – Rabbitland Rescue Man (Spirit Tracks)
Okay, this one isn’t really something a lot of people notice. Well, people notice, but they don’t notice the worst part. The Rabbitland Rescue Man is obviously creepy in a similar way to how Tingle is at first, being way too obsessed with a specific interest (in this case, rabbits). There is, however, a bigger reason why he’s disturbing.
Most of his dialogue contains creepy undertones of bestiality, rape, and even adultery, what with his wife getting involved. Just look:
“I guess you just aren’t ready to get down with the rabbits!”
“I mean, what kind of person frolics with a bunny someone else caught?”
“Sheesh, this is taking forever. I could be out catching rabbits right now. …Oh! Sorry, just talking to myself.”
“The rabbit will try to run from you, but only ’cause it likes being chased!”
“While you do that, I’ll be here, doing a little frolicking myself… Um…yeah.”
“Get back out there and snag me some bunnies!”
“They’re so cute, it’s almost a crime!”
“I have to tell you, I never imagined you’d catch so many for me. You’ve made me a very, very happy fellow!”
“Looks like my old lady’s gonna be here for a while. I mean, I’m glad and all, but things just won’t be the same with her around…”
Notice his awkwardness every time he refers to his own interactions with the bunnies, and how he doesn’t want his wife around? Seriously, what the hell? Maybe I just have a dirty mind. I don’t know. You can be the judge of that.
3 – Majora (Majora’s Mask)
This one should be pretty self-explanatory.
You have an ancient, eldritch, seemingly demonic entity. It’s sealed within a mask that an ancient tribe used for “hexing rituals” (that sounds like a really nice, pleasant thing right there), but they considered it too dangerous and got rid of it. Then another character on this list managed to find it, always a good sign.
It eventually falls into the hands of the Skull Kid, possesses him, and then compels him to cause massive problems like the boulder blocking Milk Road, the poison water in the swamp, unnatural winter in the mountain, and the storm in the bay (not to mention he pit the Gerudo Pirates against the Zora). He sealed the Giants, shattered the Great Fairies, and just caused a mess of problems.
Oh, he also commanded the moon to fall and destroy all of Termina. There’s that.
When you get to the end of the game, Majora reveals itself as a fully conscious entity within the mask who was merely using the Skull Kid and willing to dispose of him as soon as he was no longer useful. His speech suggests a great intellect, and he turns into a monstrous entity when you fight him.
The mask sprouts friggin’ tentacles. Then it turns into a prancing, lighting-blasting jester, and then finally it grows muscles and more tentacles, fighting you as a powerful, shrieking, cackling brute. This is one of the most wildly psychotic villains, destructive and twisted for no discernible reason. I promise you, you will never — freaking never — be able to determine a concrete reason for why Majora wants to destroy everything. It just does.
It would seem that Majora is an abstract entity of evil bent on destruction in the same way Demise is, but while Demise’s nature is only described, Majora openly displays these traits and does nothing else. This is Zelda’s scariest, most disturbing villain.
2 – Trade Sequence Characters (Ocarina of Time)
Specifically Grog, Fado, the Lake Scientist, and Granny.
I covered the Lake Scientist in the Most Annoying Characters article, and among my reasons is just how creepy he looks. A bigger deal, however, are characters like Grog. A huge number of the characters involved in the Trade Sequence in Ocarina of Time are actually related; Grog and the Cucco Lady are siblings, Mutoh, the Carpenters’ boss, is their father, and Granny is also related. The problem lies in how twisted of a family they seem to be.
Grog (well, he’s called Grog in Majora’s Mask; in Ocarina of Time he’s just “young punk guy”) talks about nothing but how disgusting people are (especially his father), lending him an air of “completely depressed teenager”, and he seems to do nothing but spend his time sitting around and being depressed, not to mention just being sort of creepy-looking in general.
Both his father and grandmother speak ill of him, Granny even calling him a fool. At some time in the future, he disappears, leaving behind his blue Cucco, Cojiro, who no longer crows. When discovered in the Lost Woods, he seems ecstatic that Link was able to tame Cojiro, saying it must mean he’s a nice guy, and exclaiming it like it’s a miracle.
So, what? He had a bad family life and both him and his parents despised each other? It seems his parents and grandparents became almost completely disgusted with him and he just left everything and everyone, going off on his own. This is a surprisingly dark and detailed family drama for a freaking E-rated adventure game. But it gets weirder.
When you return to the Lost Woods with Granny’s potion, he’s nowhere to be found, replaced by Fado, the blonde Kokiri girl who simply says:
“Heh heh heh. Are you going to be… too? Heh heh!”
On top of the disturbing revelation that people become Stalfos in the Lost Woods, Fado seems amused by the idea. A little girl laughing about people transforming into monsters. That’s not disturbing at all! And of course, that’s on top of the darkest possible ending to the sordid little family drama we just witnessed: Grog left his family and lived in seclusion, disgusted with humanity until Link renews his faith and convinces him to reconnect with his family, only for him to transform into a monster forever. Yeah. Such a charming and happy ending!
Finally, Granny is just so freaking creepy looking. Look at her! How can someone look that sinister!? This is one of the most mind-bendingly messed up character models in the entire series. It’s seriously staggering.
1 – The entire Twili Race (Twilight Princess)
Just. Look. At. Them.
Every single character or creature associated with the Twili has a monumentally bizarre and disturbing design. From the basic Twili and Zant, who look like weird bug-eyed alien men, to the abstract and disturbing Shadow Beasts, the entire species just looks incredibly twisted.
Zant especially displays enough freakishly disturbing traits that put all other candidates for most disturbing character to shame. From his vast power and effortless conquering of both the Twilight Realm and Hyrule, to his sewn mouth, to his infamous freakout and battle at the end of the game… love him or hate him, Zant is wildly strange and disturbing. His final moments have him doing the weirdest things any character in the series has ever done. Seriously, watch this video and also all three of these, and see for yourself.
The Twili history isn’t any better. Among all the crazy races of the series, the Twili are the only one who started out evil, initially attempting to conquer Hyrule with the powerful and evil Fused Shadow (which FYI transforms its user into a ridiculous, nightmarish spider-like monstrosity), before the Goddesses intervened, forced to strike down these Dark Interlopers themselves. Banished to the Twilight Realm, the Dark Interlopers evolved into beings suited to that realm of shadow, the Twili.
So, remember the ex-convict example I gave with Batreaux earlier? Yeah, well that’s the Twili. Except they haven’t done their time. The Twilight Realm IS their prison. They’re still serving their sentence. YOU HAVE TO GO TO AN OTHER-DIMENSIONAL NIGHTMARE PRISON TO TAKE OUT AN ALIEN MAN TO SAVE A RACE OF ALIEN PRISONERS. IN A ZELDA GAME.
The Twilight Realm, of course, is a completely nightmarish void with floating land masses and alien light, and looks like just about the creepiest possible place to live. How the Twili actually exist here, and moreover in what manner they’ve actually adapted to the place, is a disturbing thing to think about. Note that they probably all retain some skill in sorcery, and have adapted to the shadow enough that the Light Spirits’ light hurts them. So… WHAT ARE THEY?
The only Twili who isn’t blatantly disturbing is Midna. And the only reason she isn’t is because she doesn’t actually match up with the rest of the Twili at all:
I don’t understand!
I’m not going to say the Twili don’t fit or work in Twilight Princess, but jeez! Alien men? A force of abstract monsters who turn their victims into more monsters? A black, glowing void? The Twili are easily the most disturbing characters of the Zelda series.