Zelda is home to some of the strongest, most memorable sidequests in all of gaming. Their indisputable charm derives from the lovable cast of characters, variety of locations and the way these sidequests are executed. Hardly will two sidequests feel the same or even share a similar structure. Each feels hand-crafted and developed with care, which is why it’s so difficult to choose my ten favorite sidequests from the series.
What constitutes a sidequest eligible of being on the list? Not much, really. It can span the length of the whole game or be five minutes long. It must, however, lead to the acquisition of an optional item or the achievement of an optional. This makes the list of possibilities a mile long, as each and every installment in the franchise offers Pieces of Heart, other collectibles, special equipment and privileges to be obtained outside of the main quest. Make the jump to see which sidequests are a cut above the rest!
10. Dwarven Swordsmiths (A Link to the Past)
We all know that the Dark World transforms innocent denizens of the Light World into random animals. This is exactly what happened to one of the Dwarven Swordsmiths. After Link ventures to Kakariko Village and talks to the Dawrven Swordsmith in the Light World, he will grieve over his lost colleague. The poor guy resides just south of the Village of Outcasts and is trapped by several heavy skulls which cannot be lifted by individuals with mortal strength. Fortunately for Link, he has the Titan’s Mitts and can lift the skulls and free the swordsmith, then can use the Magic Mirror to transport him back into the Light World. Once the two are reunited, Link can have his Master Sword upgraded to the Tempered Sword.
9. Cave of Ordeals (Twilight Princess)
The concept originated from The Wind Waker and reared its head in Twilight Princess. Link must battle his way through fifty floors of unforgiving challenges, starting with weak enemies. By the last level, the player had to cope with three or four Darknuts at the same time. The number of Darknuts and difficulty seems to vary with how many times the player has completed or attempted to complete the Cave of Ordeals.
I think this is a very intelligent solution for scaling to the player’s level. The reward was actually quite unique – although the Great Fairy Tears are rare, the releasing of Fairies into the different springs was a very foreign concept that had never been tried before. The real reward was the satisfaction of finishing the Cave of Ordeals, a feat that few sidequests can claim to accomplish.
8. Skulltula Houses (Majora’s Mask)
The Oceanside Spider House and Swamp Spider House were almost like mini-dungeons. The goal for both is to find and collect all thirty Skulltulas in a confined area. They are hidden in strategic places, but it’s never too difficult to find them. Majora’s Mask found a way to strike a virtually perfect balance of difficulty. At times, Link will need to use many items in his arsenal, although the Skulltula Houses will make the most use of the Hookshot. Needless to say, players get absorbed in the sidequest, and they’ll probably even forget what sort of reward they were chasing in the first place.
7. Biggoron’s Sword Trading Sequence (Ocarina of Time)
Oh, how we love trading sequences. This time it’s for the omnipotent Biggoron’s Sword, and boy is it lengthy. In fact, it’s so lengthy that I think I’ll just provide you all with an overview and a link to Zelda Dungeon’s Biggoron’s Sword Trading Quest page. To put it simply, Link must trade the Claim Check for the Biggoron’s Sword, and it’s one heck of a long ride before that. But is it enjoyable? I’m pleased to report that it is and the reward is definitely worth going through all this trouble.
6. Fierce Deity’s Mask (Majora’s Mask)
The Fierce Deity’s Mask is the ultimate reward in Majora’s Mask. The game offers twenty-four collectible masks, only a few of which are actually necessary to complete the main quest. If the player goes to great lengths to collect every single mask in the game, he/she will be able to give them to the Children on the Moon. Perhaps it seems silly to give total strangers your hard-earned treasures, but the payoff will be worth it in the end. If all masks are traded in, then the Fierce Deity’s Mask will be handed to Link right before the final boss battle with Majora. I can’t think of a better way to face off against one of Zelda’s most intriguing villains.
5. Magic Armor (Twilight Princess)
The fantastic thing about completing the Magic Armor quest is that it triggers many different events. In the process of acquiring the amazingly protective Magic Armor, Link will help Malo Mart branch out to Castle Town and replace the over-priced Chudley’s Fine Goods and Fancy Trinkets Emporium. If Link helps out Gor Liggs’ son by carrying Hot Spring Water from Kakariko Village to Castle Town and dumps it on the demotivated Goron, Gor Liggs will be so elated that Link need only donate 200 additional Rupees to the Malo Mart effort instead of the original 2,000. In the end, the Magic Armor makes Link practically invincible, but at the hefty price of four Rupees per second.
4. Island Trading Sequence (The Wind Waker)
Completing the trading sequence in The Wind Waker will open up many doors for the future. It is a chain of events that has many purposes, but of course the main motivation for completing the quest is obtaining the Piece of Heart and Magic Armor. Link must trade different flowers and statues to different Traveling Merchants all over the Great Sea, eventually ending up with items and great worth. Due to the Merchant’s Oath, all traded items will be sent to Zunari, greatly expanding his business on Windfall Island.
Zunari will become filled to the brim with happiness and will present our hero with the Magic Armor, which has the same abilities as the version in Twilight Princess, but merely drains Magic instead of Rupees. At the end of the trading sequence, Link will also receive a Piece of Heart. You can click here for the full explanation of the Island Trading Sequence.
3. Savage Labyrinth (The Wind Waker)
The Cave of Ordeals may have been the most recent enemy gauntlet, but I think the Savage Labyrinth did it better. After all, as Link went deeper and deeper underground, the design and atmosphere of the levels changed. These sorts of levels are meant to be as difficult as possible, and overall The Wind Waker‘s enemies pose a greater threat than those of Twilight Princess. Link is striving for the Piece of Heart at the end, but in between levels there will be pots filled with hundreds of Rupees for the taking and even one Triforce Chart. Darknuts lie in ambush at the end, making for just as thrilling a finish as the Cave of Ordeals.
2. Thunder Dragon’s Lightning Round (Skyward Sword)
The Thunder Dragon’s boss battle challenge may have the most replay value and is certainly the most entertaining sidequest/mini-game ever. Why? It lets you revisit old bosses and particularly difficult sections of gameplay in the game. There are several rewards along the way, including different amounts of Rupees, Treasures, and even a Hylian Shield. It seems that there is no end to the fun in the Lightning Round!
1. Anju and Kafei (Majora’s Mask)
No doubt that the dramatic struggle of lovers Anju and Kafei was enjoyable and incredibly difficult, as Link needs to race against time and complete several events at just the right time. It does not have the replay value of the Lightning Round, Savage Labyrinth of Cave of Ordeals, but this sidequest is endearing in its own way. It’s all worth it to unravel the somber story of the two lost lovers, and the two are finally able to reunite as the Moon is crashing into Termina. The Anju and Kafei quest defines Majora’s Mask and is a prime example of how beautiful video games can be.
These sidequests are just my personal picks. What are your top ten favorite sidequests from The Legend of Zelda? Do you agree with the list or think there are any omissions? Feel free to leave comments in the comments section below!