The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was revolutionary for the Zelda series in a number of ways. You can talk all day about the stunning open world, the tonal shift, the slew of characters and references, and the change in the overall structure of a Zelda game. But maybe the biggest surprise was that it was the first game in the series to feature proper voice acting (no, the Phillips CD-i games don’t count).
For the first time in the franchise’s 30-year history, Zelda, Impa, and plenty of new and returning characters had a voice we could hear. But there’s one big exception to the rule — Link, the hero of Hyrule himself. We’re all pretty accustomed to Link’s “hyaah!”s and “aaaahhh”s at this point, but given that so many of the major players speak, and Link just remains silent throughout important story moments, it seems a little bit odd, even if it’s a recurring theme in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity and Tears of the Kingdom.
Series producer Eiji Aonuma has touched on this a few times, as far back as Skyward Sword‘s release in fact. In a 2011 interview with Game Informer, composer Koji Kondo said that it’s important that the “player becomes Link”, while Aonuma stated “We’re not confident that we can find the right balance with full voice”, expressing concern over having Link mute while other characters have voices. And a year before Breath of the Wild’s release, Aonuma told GamesMaster that he was torn and wanted to think “long and hard” about giving Link a voice because it’s “a precious part of the individuality of his character”.
Of course, now we’re deep into Zelda voice-acting territory, and Link still remains voiceless. As far as we can tell, Link still doesn’t have any voiced dialogue in Tears of the Kingdom (though the full game could be hiding a surprise there), but how much longer can he remain this quiet? Will Link be given a voice in the next Zelda game? We’ve got our own thoughts on the matter, and we want to hear yours too…
Ollie Reynolds, Staff Writer
I’m really quite happy for Link to remain voiceless, to be honest. After all, most characters in Breath of the Wild (and presumably Tears of the Kingdom) are only voiced in certain scenes, so it’s not like Nintendo has suddenly gone “all in” on voice acting.
That said, if Nintendo did decide to give Link a voice at some point in the future, I wouldn’t be entirely opposed to it, so long as it’s done in a meaningful way and serves the story well. Thinking back on instances where voice acting was done poorly, my mind always lands on Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain immediately. Hideo Kojima hired the talented Kiefer Sutherland in place of David Hayter, but to what end? Sutherland had so few lines in that game (apart from the optional cassette tapes, perhaps), that it just didn’t seem worth the investment to me.
I believe that if Nintendo gave Link a voice, he would need to play a significant role in the story, beyond simply acting as a vessel for the player. Give the character some agency and some motivation, and I’ll be on board. Otherwise, nah, don’t bother.
Jim Norman, Staff Writer
There is a part of me that would absolutely love it if, after 35 years of silence, Link finally opened his mouth to greet us all with the weediest little voice going, immediately turning him from the Hero of Hyrule to the Zero of Hyrule.
But then rational Jim appears out of the blue and, just like that, I’m back to my view that Link should never talk. He’s the edgy, silent type and I like that. But what’s more is that once you start to give Link a voice, then, to me, he would stop being Link.
Yes, he would stop being the everyman figure that we all love so much and the vessel for us, the players, to feel like we are the ones saving Hyrule, but it would also do so much to change my perception of the games that have come before it. If Link is talking now, then why wasn’t he chatting (audibly, anyway) in Ocarina of Time or even Breath of the Wild? I’m sure that there would be some in-universe explanation for how the character could suddenly enunciate with the best of them, but why do we need to add something as basic as speech when the silence has worked so well up until this point?
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Alana Hagues, Staff Writer
You know, I honestly can’t imagine Link with a voice. I’m pretty used to silent protagonists at this point, and I don’t mind them, but I’m not sure I can see Link with a personality beyond a resolute hero. And, honestly, that’s a role that anyone can be, voiceless and all.
That’s sort of the whole point of Link to me. He could be your neighbour, your best friend, or some stranger you met one day. He’s meant to be this character who you can throw yourself into and pretend to be. You’re meant to feel like a hero when you control Link, not necessarily see an archetype or a personality behind the eyes. Link is whoever you want him to be. And as kids, my friends and I all wanted to be Link, and that’s without a voice.
But then again, I never imagined Zelda with actual voiced dialogue before Breath of the Wild. And I think it suits her fine. But there’s not an abundance of cutscenes where voice acting is used. I think the series will always stay like this, even if it uses a bit more VO in the future. As long as there are dialogue options, I’m totally fine with Link keeping quiet, save the grunts and groans.
Gavin Lane, Editor
I think for most veteran Zelda fans like those of us on the NL team, there’s a real fear that Nintendo would get Link’s voice ‘wrong’ somehow — and it might sully our memories of the previous games.
Back when you could still name Link ‘Gertie’ or ‘Arnult420’ or ‘Rearend’ or whatever, it felt more appropriate to keep the player avatar quiet. In a world where he is Link to all and every other main character is yapping on, his silence becomes a comic trait that you could argue is getting old.
However, for me, the main argument to keep him silent is that I really don’t care much about the story in Zelda games. Beyond Ocarina (my first Zelda game) and Majora’s Mask (my favourite Zelda game… probably), I never paid a huge amount of attention to the machinations of the plot. I struggle to remember bit characters’ names. I only remember the Champions’ names because you hear them every time you activate Revali’s Gale or Daruk’s Protections, and so on. The broad strokes are always the same; darkness falls across the land and it’s up to our plucky hero to venture out on a journey of exploration, testing brain and brawn in a quest to banish evil from the realm and save the kingdom. The ins and outs of the narrative and the timelines aren’t why I’ve played every game in the series.
Adding voice acting for Link would suggest more story. Which is fine, but it’s not what excites me about the series.
Well, that’s us voicing off on Link’s own vocal chords. But we want to know what you think. Make sure you vote in our polls below and let us know whether you think Link will have voice acting in the future in the comments.