It has been over 16 years since The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time came out for the Nintendo 64. Though not always viewed as the thematically darkest addition to the Zelda franchise, Ocarina of Time has its moments of terror. Traversing the Shadow Temple and Bottom of the Well both haunt players with their airs of death, darkness, and plain eeriness, giving a taste of what Nintendo had to offer in terms of the horror gaming genre. Other Zelda games have their moments of fright, such as Twilight Princess’s Yeta scare or pretty much half of Majora’s Mask, but let’s talk about what many players find most frightening in Ocarina of Time.
Let’s talk about Dead Hand.
There’s a saying amongst the Nintendo community that often times, we should not question Nintendo’s logic behind some of the more obscure factors in their games. In the Zelda series alone, specifically Ocarina of Time, you have to accept a few attributes of the world at large in order to have an enjoyable experience. You traverse the belly of a giant fish with relative ease in terms of space and lighting. There’s a woman who makes a living farming cuccos when she is deathly allergic to cuccos. Stalchildren rise from the soils of Hyrule Field at night because that is just something they do.
And then there’s Dead Hand.
As many seasoned Ocarina of Time players know, you encounter the mini boss Dead Hand twice in the game; once in the Bottom of the Well, and again in the Shadow Temple. This is a creature of nightmares; an undead blob of who knows what, covered in red blotches we can assume to be the blood stains of its past victims; Dead Hand has infinitely respawning hands which restrain players so the head/torso of the body can take a few fatal chomps. Nintendo first throws this curve ball of a scare at a time during the game when you are forced to explore the already frightening environment of the Bottom of the Well… as a child. Nintendo created a situation where a ten year old kid with a dagger, slingshot, boomerang, and a few other tricks and trinkets encounters and is expected to slay Dead Hand. Take a look at this video of the Dead Hand fight:
If the general ambiance of the lead up to the fight wasn’t spooky enough, trying to defeat Dead Hand is difficult for your first go around because most of your weapons don’t affect it at all. You have to wait until just before it strikes to strike it back. When the nightmare is finally over, at least you get the Lens of Truth, which gives you a slight upper hand for the second time around, allowing you to see and bomb Dead Hand’s shadow while burrowed to unearth the creature instead of voluntarily letting one of his hands hold you down.
In terms of specifics regarding its origin, alliance, and general anatomy, Nintendo doesn’t give us much of anything beyond its infinite hands. Dead Hand is a burrower. When players are caught by one of its hands, he emerges out of the floor to hunt its prey. Take a closer look at the floor in this photo of dead hand. Take a closer look at the walls. Both times you encounter Dead Hand in the original Ocarina of Time, he lives in a room entirely made of skulls. You fight Dead Hand while walking on a layer of skulls, surrounded by a layer of skulls, and what’s worse is that Dead Hand permanently lives in and burrows down into this layer of skulls. You fight Dead Hand inside of two separate mass graves which are only growing in occupants.
Let this creature’s existence in the Zelda universe sink in for a moment, as well as the idea that there are more than one of them. You walk into a room of skulls with hands sticking out of the floor. You get closer to one of the hands, curious as to what they are and why they are there. The hand grabs you with a grip you cannot easily break, and then, shifting its way out from beneath the skulls, comes the large toothed, dark eyed, blood stained, insatiable Dead Hand. Nintendo, creators of all that is happygolucky, created this undead lurker of a mini boss in a game that needed a touch of horror amongst the fairies, fishing, horse races, and shooting galleries.