Breath of the Wild is one of the best Zelda games in many regards. One particular way it beats most other Zelda games is with its characters. The art style has been compared to the likes of Studio Ghibli films, and it is the first Zelda game to contain fully voiced cut-scenes. These elements along with Nintendo’s ever-improving writing allows BOTW to portray its characters better than any Zelda game has done before. Let’s take a moment to appreciate what I believe to be the best of these characters (excluding Link himself).
For someone who has no actual story relevance, Beedle has made quite a few appearances in Zelda games over the years. Ever since Wind Waker, Beedle has been in almost every Zelda game, providing Link with a reliable shop to keep him stocked with whatever items he needs. Over the years, nothing has stopped Beedle’s business adventures. When Hyrule was flooded, he put his shop on a boat. When humans were forced to live above the clouds, he put his shop on an airship powered by his own physical exertion. In Breath of the Wild, Hyrule is larger than it has ever been before, so Beedle straps his wares on his back and walks across the land. Truly, the face of determination.
While Beedle was always helpful, something about his newest incarnation has made him more endearing than he’s ever been. In a Hyrule as large as it is in Breath of the Wild, civilization is hard to come by, so seeing a new horse stable in the distance is always a great feeling. And, usually, when you wander into a stable, Beedle will be somewhere close by, greeting you with a smile and a polite hello. I legitimately found myself calling out in joy whenever I saw that Giant beetle backpack in the distance. In a world filled with monsters and unforgiving landscapes, a friendly face and some well-priced items is an invaluable resource.
Also, he gives you a free ancient arrow and that alone shoots him up the list. If you’ve used ancient arrows you’ll understand why.
It’s probably common knowledge by now, but in Breath of the Wild, a lot of characters seem to have a thing for Link. Several NPCs comment on his attractive features, he gets ample compliments when he cross-dresses, and some characters are straight up in love with him (I’m looking at you Paya). Probably the biggest Link lover though is the Zora champion Mipha. The champions are an interesting bunch. In an almost Avengers-like story, they were the best warriors Hyrule had to offer, joined together in order to protect the kingdom, and pilot the four Divine Beasts. They’re easily the characters with the most screen time excluding Zelda and Link, so it’s not surprising that they’re as likable as they are.
Mipha is a lot like Ruto from Ocarina of time. She’s a Zora princess in a group of defenders, who has a massive crush on Link. The main difference is that while Ruto was snarky and confident, Mipha is shy and sweet. The over-pouring love for her coming from the Zora really makes you see how important of a person she was for them. She had the power to heal, and comes off as a benevolent spirit, despite being fully capable of holding her own with her trusty Lightscale Spear. It’s sad that we couldn’t see more of her. She doesn’t talk much when amongst the other champions, and we don’t get to see her interact much with anyone except Link, so she gets little character development. If the upcoming BOTW DLC allows us to explore Hyrule before Calamity Ganon killed the champions, Mipha might become an even more endearing character. Until then, she’s stuck near the bottom of the list.
Kass is in a similar boat with Beedle. In his first ever appearance, this avian Bard roams the land with his trusty accordion, filling the air with sweet music. Unlike Beedle though, Kass doesn’t provide any items. Instead, he provides quests. As you explore Hyrule in BOTW, I’d highly recommend keeping your ears wide open. Occasionally, you might notice an unusual song coming from somewhere around you. Look around enough, and You’ll run into Kass, who will play you a song that will lead you to a hidden shrine. Considering how enjoyable and rewarding Shrines can be, Kass’s services are invaluable. Even if you aren’t out shrine hunting, it’s quite nice to just sit around him and listen to his rendition of the game’s main theme.
Kass really helps drive home how good BOTW’s music is. Not only does he perform the game’s main theme out in the wild, when you find him at stables, he will play a beautiful rendition of the classic Epona’s song. His music is to him what Beedle’s items are, and along with his great design, makes him a character you’ll always be happy to see. He even has a quest line of his own, which I’ll let you discover for yourself. What I will say though, is that music definitely runs in his family.
Impressive as his musicals skills are, Kass is sadly not the best bird this game has to offer. Taking that title is the Rito champion himself; Revali. Unlike Mipha, Revali is quite the talker, and if he’s present during a cutscene, you can bet he’s going to have quite a few lines. While Mipha heals and fights with her trident, Revali flies and uses a bow. Hailed as the best archer the Rito have, Revali doesn’t slouch on making sure you know how good he is, and how much worse you are. In their one on one scene, Revali goes all out berating Link for not being the amazing warrior everyone thinks he is and mocks his lack of wings. Also, I’ll just come out and say it. He’s Falco. He looks like Falco, talks like Falco, and mocks his allies like Falco. I don’t know whether there was some mixing between the Zelda and Starfox teams, but someone must have noticed the glaring similarities, right? Fortunately, he comes off just as likable as Falco and has one of the better voice performances in the game.
Also, his special ability is the most useful one in the game. The other champions’ powers might make you even more unbeatable in combat, but Revali steals the show when it comes to utility. After you obtain Revali’s gale, you can create a spontaneous updraft, taking link soaring into the air. This ability is a godsend for exploration and provides what might be the only way to beat the infuriating effect rain has on your climbing prospects. He might be a narcissistic Falco clone, but you can’t help but like Revali for his personality and his invaluable ability.
The final of the champions to grace this list (sorry Daruk), Urbosa is by far my favorite. While Revali and Mipha have their charms, they both suffer from a lack of character depth. Their base personalities are easy to see, and there’s something if you dig a bit deeper, but they generally stick to their normal roles. Urbosa, on the other hand, has a fair amount of depth to her. At first glance, Urbosa appears more intimidating than a Goron. She’s easily six or seven feet tall, keeps a huge red ponytail, and bares her abs that are so defined, they’d make the Rock shed a tear. She embodies the looks of a Gerudo perfectly and is just as capable as you’d expect, being able to summon lightning at will if her Scimitar and Shield can’t get the job done. But there is a softer side to Urbosa.
Of all the champions, she has the most interaction with Zelda. They seemingly have a pretty close relationship, as Zelda can be seen sleeping on Urbosa’s arm in one of Link’s memories. She also shows a deep understanding of Zelda’s feelings and anxieties and attempts to provide her with comfort and encouragement whenever she can. It’s very unusual for a character besides Link and Impa to be this close to Zelda, but It’s a welcome change. Hopefully, we can see more of Urbosa in some capacity in the future.
This one was almost a given. If you’ve spent as much time looking at Breath of the Wild fan content as I have, you’ve seen this daring Zora prince many times. Despite only appearing in the Zora section of the story, Sidon challenges Link and Zelda in terms of popularity, and it’s not hard to see why. Not only does Sidon have one of the better character themes and voice actors in the game, but he has a level of positivity so high that it rivals your average anime protagonist. From the moment you meet him, Sidon does nothing but shower you with love and encouragement. He guides you all the way to Zora’s Domain, cheering for you the entire way, and serves as the middle-man between you and the Zora. Not to mention, his smile and pose are the thing of dreams.
I wrote briefly on the action sequence you have with him, but I must mention again just how fun and memorable it is. Few Zelda fans would’ve ever expected to find themselves riding on the back of a Zora, fighting off giant ice blocks being shot out by a mechanical Elephant. It’s easily the best pre-Divine beast sequence in the game, and it would be great to see more sequences like it in future Zelda games. Mipha might be a princess and a champion, but her little brother out stages her and the other champions in every way, simply by being your ever-encouraging friend in the dark world of Hyrule.
Some of you might be a bit confused. Zelda? At the top of a best characters list? Isn’t she just another princess who gets kidnapped every game? First, no. Secondly, the Zelda in Breath of the Wild is easily the best Zelda that we’ve ever seen. Twilight Princess and Wind Waker did a good job of giving Zelda more personality and agency than she’d previously had, and Skyward Sword made her relationship with Link closer knit than ever before. Breath of the Wild’s Zelda takes queues from these other Zeldas and combines them to make a full character. In this game, Zelda has been in battle with Calamity Ganon for a century, while Link slept off his injuries. Zelda and Ganon have been equally matched and unable to take each other out, so Link must uncorrupt the four Divine Beasts, and reach Hyrule Castle to give Zelda some much needed assistance. This is the first way BOTW sets its Zelda apart from the crowd. This Zelda is at no point a prisoner. Instead, she’s the only thing keeping Ganon from completing his decimation of Hyrule and has willingly sacrificed herself to do her duty as princess of Hyrule.
This is a good start, but Zelda only gets better from there. Through Link’s memories, we see a Zelda that’s even more intelligent and responsible than she was in Twilight Princess, but also more friendly and childish than she was in Skyward Sword. This Zelda doesn’t view Link in a purely positive light. Her own insecurities concerning her powers lead her to resent Link and his seemingly flawless mastery of his destiny as the chosen hero. She allows herself to be vulnerable around the champions (especially Urbosa) and gets verbally and physically upset when things aren’t working out for her. Her fascination with wildlife and ancient technology show that she’s still a young and curious girl at heart, despite all the pressure she’s under. All this makes Zelda feel like a real character. She has doubts, dreams, interests, emotions; life. The memories show a genuine character arc for her, as she adapts to Link’s presence in her life while continuing to struggle with her destiny and her responsibilities. She’s able to exhibit a range of emotions unlike any Zelda before, and while her voice acting leaves a lot to be desired, it does a good enough job in bringing the legendary princess to life; better than she’s ever been before.