In a previous Bombers article written by Keenen Truby (1), the nature of the Dark Realm was examined in light of the presupposition that it remains a single, constant location throughout the Zelda series, and thus remains the same in nature. This article, instead of examining a series of events revolving around one location, will explain why the Dark Realm may vary in location, and therefore nature, throughout the series.

To understand precisely and clearly what the Dark Realm is, it’s important to grasp the meaning of the exact terminology being used. While the English versions of the Zelda games use various terms to describe it, such as Dark World, Evil Realm, and Underworld, the Japanese text for all of these is the same. The word used is “makai”, which literally translates into “demon world”. At first glance, many may assume this term is synonymous with “hell”, but this is not so. While hell may be a “demon world” of sorts, there is another word entirely for hell, and makai is its own specific term with its own specific definition.

What exactly defines a makai? The word’s meaning is found by taking it in the context of two other words it is associated with: “maou” and “mazoku”. Maou literally means “demon king”, but as with makai, be careful not to immediately categorize this; it is not a synonym to “the devil”. Mazoku literally means “demon tribe”, and refers to the followers of a maou. The status of maou relates to someone who has both a mazoku and a makai. Therefore a makai is not hell, but a territory under the control of a demonic king and his followers. This ties in perfectly with Zelda, as Ganon is often referred to as a maou, and his followers as mazoku.


Ganon, the Demon King of the Zelda world

It’s important to keep in mind that even though all of Ganon’s Dark Realms bear the same Japanese name, they don’t have to be the same place. Any territory under Ganon’s complete control becomes his makai, with his ultimate goal being to turn the entire world into one vast makai. With this in mind, we can try to pinpoint what the makai is in each game.

Legend of Zelda

To the untrained eye, it may appear that the Legend of Zelda manual references the Dark World when it refers to “the Underworld”. However, the Japanese word used here is not makai, but “chika”. Chika is literally an underworld: an underground lair. While this underground lair may be Ganon’s territory, the word makai never appears in Legend of Zelda. However, such a place likely exists because Ganon bears the title of “Daimaou”, or “Great Demon King”. By calling Ganon a maou, the game implies that he has a makai. The game itself offers no hint as to what or where that makai is, so other games must be examined to draw a conclusion.

Adventure of Link

The manual for Adventure of Link also references “the Underworld” in the English translation, but this time, the Japanese text uses the word makai, not chika. Since Adventure of Link is a direct sequel to Legend of Zelda, and since Ganon is no longer alive in Adventure of Link, the makai referenced here is likely the same, unseen place that was Ganon’s domain in Legend of Zelda. In this way, Adventure of Link confirms that the Zelda series does indeed put some importance on the concept of a maou-makai relationship, but we are still not told what or where this makai is.

A Link to the Past

Ganon’s wish was to conquer
the world. That wish changed
the Golden Land into
the Dark World.
~Essence of the Triforce in A Link to the Past

A Link to the Past was the first game to explain exactly what Ganon’s makai(2) was. In this case, it was a corruption of the Golden Land, or Sacred Realm. The Sacred Realm existed as a dimension separate from Hyrule, and served as the resting place of the Triforce. Ganon’s wish on the Triforce transformed the Sacred Realm into the Dark World: A twisted mirror of Hyrule, flowing with evil.


The Dark World of A Link to the Past

The Dark World of A Link to the Past exists strictly as a parallel to Hyrule, accessible through several of magic portals, and exitable through use of a magic mirror. Even when the Seal on the corrupted Sacred Realm is broken about halfway through the game [via the abduction of the Seven Maidens] the Dark World remains in a state of parallel confinement.

Another quality of this Dark World is its transformation power caused by the Triforce. Anyone who enters it is transformed into a new form that reflects their true nature, as several of the characters in the game testify to. Immunity to the transforming qualities of the Dark World can be obtained through use of an item called the Moon Pearl.

Once Ganon is defeated, the Essence of the Triforce speaks to Link and informs him that Ganon’s destruction will cause the Dark World to vanish. This is likely because the Dark World was a product of Ganon’s wish on the Triforce, and with Ganon dead, the Triforce is no longer obligated to fulfill his wishes.

Ocarina of Time

Due to the fact that Ocarina of Time‘s plot was based off of the backstory of A Link to the Past, their makai stories are very similar. Ocarina must still be examined though, as even though the general concept remains the same, some storyline elements pertaining to the Dark World were changed.

The resting place of the sacred
triangle, the Sacred Realm, is a
mirror that reflects what is
in the heart…
the heart of one who enters it…
If an evil heart, the Realm will
become full of evil; if pure,
the Realm will become a paradise.

The Triforce fell
into Ganondorf’s hands. He went
on to invade the Sacred Realm…
Ganondorf had become the Evil
King [Daimaou], and the Sacred Realm
became a world of evil [makai]

Just as in A Link to the Past the makai came about as a result of Ganon’s evil combined with the power of the Triforce. However, unlike in A Link to the Past Ganon did not control the complete Triforce, and is never stated to have been granted a wish.

This reveals a new quality of the Sacred Realm. From A Link to the Past we know that the Sacred Realm can transform people into a reflection of their hearts, but in Ocarina of Time, Ganon’s evil heart transforms the Sacred Realm into a makai. The Dark World of A Link to the Past was not created simply by Ganon entering the Sacred Realm; it was created because he wished to rule the world. No such wish is mentioned in Ocarina of Time and Sheik indicates that just the presence of evil in the Sacred Realm is enough to corrupt it. Thus, while both makais exist as a corruption of the Sacred Realm, the method of corruption appears to vary slightly.

Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages

Although there is neither a visible, nor plot-relevant inclusion of the makai in the Oracle games, both games do make reference to it.

Twinrova called Onox and Veran forth from the darkness.
~Nayru in Oracle of Ages

Ambi’s age is filled with cries of sorrow! Veran has extended the Dark Realm’s(3) reach, giving us what we seek—echoing cries of sorrow! Spread, darkness!
Twinrova in Oracle of Ages

The first quote is a little vague, but the implication is that both Onox and Veran, the antagonists of the Oracle games, are inhabitants of the makai. The second quote is a little more direct, and calls the makai by name, instead of just referring to it as darkness.

The interesting part about the second quote is the fact that the makai of the Oracle games has had its reach extended. Unlike the confined, parallel makai of A Link to the Past, this makai is capable of expanding. The makai seems to exist as a state of spreading darkness created by the destruction and sorrow that Onox and Veran are spreading. The original source of this darkness, from which Onox and Veran were summoned, is not known.

Four Swords Adventures

The makai of Four Swords Adventures is quite similar to the one of A Link to the Past. The two similarities that stick out the most are the fact that they both bear the name of “Dark World” and they both have a parallel state to them. At first glance, most assume that they are in fact the same makai, but a closer look reveals some discrepencies.

The methods of entering and exiting these two Dark Worlds are very different. Unlike the Dark World of A Link to the Past, the one of Four Swords Adventures is entered by use of Moon Gates. The Dark World of Four Swords Adventures can be exited with relative ease, also unlike A Link to the Past‘s Dark World. The Magic Mirror that lets you exit A Link to the Past‘s Dark World is absent from Four Swords Adventures.

An interesting thing to note is that the Magic Mirror was in the plans for the game, but at some point in development it was scrapped. Searching through a text dump will reveal this left-over bit of unused text from the beta stages:

Drat! You can’t move!
You need to use the Magic
Mirror to return!
~Removed Four Swords Adventures Text

Though not removed, the Moon Pearl of A Link to the Past was similarily varied in Four Swords Adventures. Originally there was only one obtainable Moon Pearl, and as stated earlier, its purpose was to protect its holder from the transforming qualities of the Dark World caused by the Triforce. In Four Swords Adventures, there are many Moon Pearls, and their purpose is entirely different. With the Dark World now lacking its transformation powers [with no explanation given as to why] the Moon Pearls open up Moon Gates.

Perhaps the most important difference between the two Dark Worlds is that the Dark World of Four Swords Adventures is not strictly confined to a parallel state of existence. In several places the effects of the Dark World are felt in Hyrule as well. The most prominent of these is the Forest of Light, where the powers of darkness prevail and, as stated by Dampe, it becomes a Forest of Darkness. The White Maiden also informs us of the powers of darkness overcoming the forest.

My forest has lost its light. Darkness covers it like a shroud.
~White Maiden

Devoid of light, even sections of Hyrule can become covered in darkness. This darkness is directly related to the Dark World, as the entire section of the map in which the Forest of Darkness is located is called the Dark World. In the Japanese text, both of these places bear the title of makai, showing that the Forest of Darkness is actually an extension of the makai of Ganon. With no apparent boundaries, the Dark World of Four Swords Adventures is able to spill out and extend itself into Hyrule, but how is this made possible?

Upon completion of a level, if you have not managed to collect enough Force Gems, you will receive this message:

To break the barrier to the Dark World, you will need more Force Gems.
~In-game text of Four Swords Adventures


One of Vaati’s barriers

Vaati’s barriers, which drain the Force from the land, are directly connected to Dark World. As Zelda reveals, Ganon was actually using Vaati to turn Hyrule into a land of darkness. Vaati’s barriers to the Dark World are the means by which this is accomplished. Ganon himself indicates that this process of draining the land also affected the people.

This was all there was to that wind majin Gufuu [Vaati], eh?
Before the Four Sword, he was at his wit’s ends…So useless!
Even the power stolen from Hyrule’s people still wasn’t enough.(4)
~Ganon in Four Swords Adventures

Thus, through use of Dark World barriers, the Force of the land is drained and the people are robbed of their energy as well. The land loses its light, and the Dark World’s reach is extended into Hyrule. This is highly reminiscent of the spreading makai in the Oracle games.

Given the differences in the two Dark Worlds, as well as the similarities between Four Swords Adventures Dark World and the one spoken of in the Oracles, doubt is cast on whether this is the same makai as in A Link to the Past. Many write these contradictions off and conclude that the two are the same, and they may be correct, but one should always be careful in disregarding evidence. It’s worthy to note that though the Dark World of A Link to the Past is stated multiple times to be the corrupted Sacred Realm, but no such claim is ever presented in Four Swords Adventures.

Twilght Princess

Though it never is actually referred to as a makai, there exists one more “Dark Realm” in the Zelda series: The Twilight Realm. Despite “fitting the bill”, it does not bear the name makai. Becuase Ganon bears the title of Daimaou in the game’s final battle, some believe that Twilight Princess does have a makai, and the Twilight Realm would be the leading candidate.

As described by Midna, the Twilight Realm is another world entirely and the antithesis of Hyrule. Like the Sacred Realm, it is a realm separate from Hyrule, but connected at one point. While the Temple of Time serves as the connection point between Hyrule and the Sacred Realm, the Mirror of Twilight serves as the connection point between Hyrule and the Twilight Realm. The magic wielders, or interlopers, were banished to this realm, and the Sages were put in charge of guarding the Mirror of Twilight.

However, with the help of Ganondorf, who was banished there later, Zant and his minions were able to escape the Twilight Realm. From there, they “extended the reach” of it by defeating Hyrule’s light spirits.

The black beast you slayed was a
shadow being. It had come to seize
the power of light I wield.

My brethren in Hyrule have already
had their light stolen by these
fell beasts.

The entire kingdom has been
reduced to a netherworld ruled
by the cursed powers of darkness.

~Light Spirit Ordona

This world ruled by the cursed powers of darkness refers to the Twilight Curtain. The stealing of the light spirits’ powers causes the land to lose its light and fall to the powers of darkness. In this way, the Twilght Realm extends itself into Hyrule in the form of the Twilight Curtain.


TheTwilight Curtain as seen from Hyrule field
Common Theme

The concept of an original realm of darkness spilling out into Hyrule and corrupting it is now an undeniably re-occuring theme. It is spoken of in three games, with each game giving more clarity to how this is accomplished.

The Oracle games reference an unexplained Dark Realm from which enemies are being called up. Veran and Onox’s destructive acts cause this Dark Realm to extend itself and spread darkness accross the land.

Four Swords Adventures features a Dark World running parallel to Hyrule. When Vaati drains the Force from the land, the land loses its light, and the Dark World is able to extend itself into Hyrule.

Twilight Princess features the Twilight Realm as a realm separate to Hyrule, but connected at one point. When the light spirits are defeated, the land loses its light, and the Twilight Realm is able to extend itself into Hyrule in the form of the Twilight Curtain.

Because of this, it can be argued that all three of these “Dark Realms” are in fact the same thing. The darkness from which Veran and Onox were summoned and the Dark World of Four Swords Adventures would both be prototypes for the Twilight Realm. The extension of the Dark Realm in the Oracles and the parts of Hyrule that became engulfed by the Dark World in Four Swords Adventures would serve as the prototypes for the Twilight Curtain.

Seldom is a theory completely without flaws, and this one is no exception. Although the Twilight Realm is very similar in concept to the Dark World of Four Swords Adventures, there are compatibility issues similar to those of A Link to the Past.

Again, we have different ways of entering and exiting the two different realms, and the Moon Pearls are not featured at all in Twilight Princess. The Dark World’s extension into Hyrule has very little in conflict with the Twilight Curtain, but the actual sources of darkness vary signifcantly. As with comparing Four Swords Adventures and A Link to the Past, one should be careful when disregarding conflicting evidence.

One explanation for the similar, but not identical, nature of the two different Dark Worlds and the Twilight Realm is the overhaul process that Four Swords Adventures went through. As stated by Producer Eiji Aonuma, partway through development of Four Swords Adventures, Shigeru Miyamoto upended the tea table and made the team change the game’s plot quite a lot.

The inclusion of the Magic Mirror in the beta stages, and the changes made to the function of the Moon Pearls would suggest that the Dark World was one of the things changed at Miyamoto’s request. It’s likely that in the game’s earlier stages of development, the Dark World had the same functions as the one in A Link to the Past. However, with the removal of the Magic Mirror and the changing of some plot elements, the Dark World became a bit of a mess.

With the release of Twilight Princess, the concept of a dark realm that was not the corrupted Sacred Realm, and had the ability to extend itself into Hyrule, was finalized. Though not a perfect match to the Dark World of Four Swords Adventures, one can see how the Twilight Realm built upon its basic principles.


Based on the information we know from all the various games, the makais of Ganon can be categorized as such:
A Link to the Past: A corruption of the Sacred Realm due to Ganon’s wish.
Ocarina of Time: A corruption of the Sacred Realm due to Ganon touching the Triforce. Granting of a wish is not specified.
The Oracles: The Twilight Realm, from which Veran and Onox were summoned, and the Twilight Curtain as its “extention” into the land.
Four Swords Adventures: The Twilight Realm prototype as the Dark World, and the Twilight Curtain prototype as the Dark World areas in Hyrule.

Because no information is given as to the location or nature of the makais spoken of in Legend of Zelda and Adventure of Link, they can’t really be categorizied. Their nature may only be able to be determined by their place on the timeline in relation to other games with known makais.

Of course, even these conclusions could be false. Because Ganon’s makai has been mentioned in many different ways over a span of 20 years, in games developed by different companies, and under the supervision of different Directors, there’s bound to be unanswered questions. Everything cannot be expected to line up perfectly. Perhaps, variations aside, all of Ganon’s makais are intended to be the same place. Unless the Directors shed light on the subject, the best we can do is to make conclusions ourselves.

(1)The Nature of the Dark Realm

(2)For accuracy’s sake it should be noted that the word makai is not technically used to describe the Dark World of A Link to the Past. It is only referred to as a “yami no sekai”, which is literally “world of darkness”. However, it clearly is a makai, as it is ruled by a Maou (Ganon is stated to be the Maou of Darkness in the game) and inhabited by a mazoku (or Tribe of Evil as they are called in the English version). In both Ocarina of Time and Four Swords Adventures the terms makai and yami no sekai are used interchangeably when referring to the Dark World.

(3)A recent retranslation courtesy of Jacensolo06 has revealed that it was not the Dark World that was spread, but the darkness of the world. While this may not literally be the Dark World, the concept is still the same. An evil being summoned from the Dark World is spreading darkness in the real world.

(4)A direct translation from the original Japanese was used here. The official Nintendo of America translation implies that Ganon was the one who did not steal enough power from the Hyruleans, whereas the Japanese text seems more like a continuation of his mocking of Vaati’s defeat. In this context, Vaati is the one who could not steal enough power.

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