The victorious moment in The Wind Waker took me by complete surprise. The Saturday morning cartoon style of the game made that last stab stand out so starkly that I know my chin dropped. Everything leading up to the killing stroke was kid-friendly. And I suppose, as sanitized as The Wind Waker‘s cel shading is, so was Ganon’s death. And yet, a sword to the forehead can’t be ignored, even if it’s bloodless and candy-colored.

For a series as welcoming and mainstream as Zelda, it can be a powerful introduction to darker themes in games and literature. Zelda Dungeon’s editor-in-chief, Andy Spiteri easily recalls how Ocarina of Time‘s Ganon wretches up blood near the end. And senior editor Mike Midwood remembers wincing at King Bulblin’s brutal entrance in Twilight Princess. Meanwhile, fellow editors Kat Vadam and Jill Rosado agreed that certain backdrops like the Shadow Temple and Beneath The Well exude a kind of shocking dread.

It’s important that an audience not be completely numbed to violence in entertainment, and an optimistic series like Zelda is well-positioned to use violence effectively, even when its core gameplay relies on deadly combat being fun. And I think the series strikes that balance well. Which means that occasionally Zelda games can shock me. And I hope that’s true for you, too.

Has any act of violence or threat in the Zelda series shocked you? If so what were they, and what about them took you off guard? Recount your battle scars in the comments below!

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