Posted on January 21 2018 by Michaela El-Ters
The Zelda series is known for its subversion of expectations, and one of the ways it did this was by playing with the idea of the main villain. Many of the games, including A Link to the Past, the Oracle games, Twilight Princess, and A Link Between Worlds, all played with the expectations of who the main villain was meant to be.
Leading the players to think that villains like Agahnim, Veran, and Onox were the primary antagonists only to have the rug pulled out from underneath them and reveal that Ganon is the true threat was a fun idea for the early installments. But by the time Twilight Princess rolled around, the trope became tiring. Not only had it overstayed its welcome, but it had become contrived and boring. For me, Twilight Princess is the biggest transgressor of relying on the bait-and-switch tactic that ultimately had little pay-off. I enjoyed Zant serving as the antagonist, and I wished that he had remained as the one true threat for Link and Midna to overcome. Throwing Ganondorf into the mix took away the qualities of Zant that made him interesting and turned him into a lowly pawn when he was clearly a much more threatening, powerful being in the early portions of the game. Skyward Sword almost counts for including a bait-and-switch villain, but fortunately, the story and Ghirahim made it very clear that his “master” was someone that he was desperately trying to resurrect, and by working it into the story organically, the build up felt a lot more natural and compelling as a result.
So while some of the games can handle it effectively, I think I’d prefer the series to move past relying on bait-and-switch villains; either prioritize making side villains the main adversity for Link to face, and take the time to develop as distinct and iconic characters like Skull Kid and Vaati, or focus on making Ganon the primary threat. For the most part, when it comes to its villains, the Zelda series can’t have its cake and eat it, too. But that’s just my opinion, what does everyone else think? Do you want more bait-and-switch villains to come back in future games, are they needed? Let us know what you think in the comments!
Feature art by Tsouthlander