With The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD releasing this summer, I started thinking about which Zelda game offers the best iteration of a meaningful connection between the Princess and Link. Certainly not all installments in the series treat their relationship as romantic; most do establish a kind of deep bond between them though, with some highlighting the amorous spark more than others. Over time, fans of the franchise have debated the nature of their connection, with some arguing the love interest is only an imagined plot feature in the minds of swooning romantics. Others point to the almost certain passion between the two featured in Skyward Sword, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. Those who push the romance as canon have coined the term “Zelink” to connote the legendary couple. Recently, however, I’ve been playing through a lesser celebrated entry in the series and have concluded it deserves a place at the Zelink table. For today’s Daily Debate, let’s consider: does Spirit Tracks have the best version of Zelink?

First, some concessions. The graphics are terrible in Spirit Tracks (okay, not Phantom Hourglass bad–but pretty awful). So if graphics are the thing that lights your Zelink fire, Spirit Tracks won’t hold a candle to those highly stylized, razor sharp, heart-string moments in Age of Calamity. When Zelda runs back to our green-clad Hero, her hand grasping through the darkness while she calls his name–okay I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it. Alternatively, if slow burning romance, adorable interactions, and heart-wrenching separations, all woven into a deep and thoughtful narrative are the foundations of your Zelink dreams (okay that all sounds pretty compelling too), Skyward Sword is the game for you. But hear me out!

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks deserves a place in the debate over the best Zelink ever because it has something none of those other games can offer: a fully fleshed out Princess Zelda who accompanies Link over his entire journey, who joins in the combat and puzzle solving with him, who is fully his partner and equal. (Please note how the author of this piece nervously avoids the canonicity debate of Age of Calamity). The Zelda in Spirit Tracks is fundamental to Link’s success, helping him navigate otherwise impassable obstacles in the Tower of Spirits and helping him defeat enemies and bosses he could not otherwise vanquish alone. Additionally, she guides him on his journey as his constant companion (much better than Navi!). The bond between the two is never more obvious or joy-inducing than when the two defeat Byrne at the top of the Tower of Spirits and are so elated that they give each other an adorable fist-bump. Seriously, if you haven’t seen this moment, do yourself a favor and watch it here; just have a box of tissues ready for those tears.

Tell us what you think! Does The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks have the best version of Zelink? Which game do you think features the strongest connection between these two characters? Share your reactions in the comments below.

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