Zelda Races: The Evolution of the Goron

Looking back at some changing plot threads in Zelda games, one of the things I find most intriguing is how much Gorons have changed.

When they debuted in Ocarina of Time, they weren’t a particularly impressive race. While Daurina himself became a decent character and a proud sage, most of what you see of the Gorons is a joke. They’re giant, living rocks, but they cower at the slightest provocation and at the start of the game seem completely helpless. It doesn’t help that there’s more slapstick humor accompanying their early interactions with Link than you see from any other race, even considering how lighthearted the tone is of most of the first one third of the game.

Majora’s Mask didn’t do them many favors. This time, there’s once again a single impressive Goron character, but he’s dead. Goron Link is hard to take seriously–he’s something of a giant, grinning brick, with neither the pathos of the cute Deku Scrub nor the “cool” factor of Mikau, the Zora rock star. Sure, he has his moments, and rolling around as a Goron is always fun, but he wasn’t a personal favorite.

It all started to change with The Wind Waker. While you didn’t see much of the Gorons in that game and they aren’t named, they’re presented as more independent characters, comedy is not an element of their visual design, and they aren’t nearly as much of a joke. They’re simply traders–businessmen trying to make their way in a hostile environment. While they still need Link’s help, they don’t seem any less capable than members of any other race. Interestingly, they’re not defined by their racial traits which separates them even from the Ritos and Koroks. In this sense, they broke the mold for Zelda races.

Twilight Princess saw the Gorons advance even further. The Goron Mines are a testament to their intelligence and capability. Once again, they’re defined by racial traits, but the slapstick humor is significantly diminished. Like the Zoras or Rito, they’re arguably a “cool” race, occupying one of the first prominently steampunk locations in a Zelda game.

Skyward Sword saw them evolve even further, this time into explorers. Prior to this game, each “evolution” took place in a successor to Ocarina of Time–this time, the Gorons, virtually unchanged from previous character designs, also occupy the ancient world and are some of the most intelligent creatures to inhabit the surface. Like the merchants, they’re vagabonds, free of a centralized power structure, but it doesn’t prevent them from being civilized and literate.

I haven’t taken into account the handheld games simply because I don’t think the Gorons have evolved much in those. In the console games, however, the Gorons deserve more credit, and it’s worth seeing where they’re taken next.

What do you think of the Gorons’ evolution?