VR Zelda Month: Top 10 Enemies

VR_Zelda_Month

The Zelda series does not have a particularly deep combat system, at least compared to most modern action adventure games, and it never really has. However, to say that fighting enemies is an insignificant part of the Zelda tradition would be a big mistake. Combat is the number one factor separating Zelda games from being pure puzzle-driven adventures and it only enhances the universally relatable feeling of heroism that comes with controlling Link. What’s more, even though there are plenty of slashable foes about, several Zelda enemies require careful thought and timing to defeat.

That said, here are my all-time favourites. I’m basing this list on such factors as visual design, prevalence of unique characteristics, legacy, the intimidation factor and how much fun the enemies are to fight. Also, I’m not going to label the game from which each enemy hails, because most of them have simply appeared in too many incarnations over the years for that to be worth doing in this case.

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VR ZELDA MONTH DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s scary. Respectful disagreement is welcome.
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10. Octorok

The Octorok was actually the first enemy that came to mind when I sat down to write this list, such is its iconic status. Ever since the very first Legend of Zelda the Octorok has been there (well, except for Twilight Princess), sometimes crawling around on land, sometimes jetting through the sea and occasionally even floating in midair, but always spitting rocks at Link. Deflecting these projectiles back at the just right angle to give the Octorok a taste of its own medicine is one of the quintessential Zelda experiences. According to fan theory, the Octorok is a close relative of the Deku race, which play a major role in a number of Zelda games.
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9. Armos

Armos belong to that class of Zelda enemies that not only cannot be defeated with a mindless sword strike, no matter how aggressive you are, but actually differ in exactly how to defeat them depending on the game. Sometimes you need to hit a weak spot with bombs, sometimes you need to patiently await an opening for an arrow bullseye opportunity, sometimes you need to combine a number of different items in quick succession within the same battle and sometimes you need to take control of one and move it into a place where a crushing force demolishes it in mere moments. Armos always sport interesting visual designs and besting one is never straightforward.
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8. Bulblin

If the suggestion that Twilight Princess is the most Lord of the Rings-esque of all the Zelda games has weight, it is due in no small part to the Orc-like Bulblin enemies that pop up nearly everywhere in the game’s main overworld. Monstrous and single-minded, Bulblins come in a number of varieties, mostly carrying either a melee weapon or a bow. They ride boar-like creatures called Bulbos, sometimes in pairs and nearly always while trying to attack you in some way, which adds further to the Orc comparison case. They are often annoyingly positioned in the distance, shooting Link with flaming arrows and what not, and thus make for incredibly satisfying targets for your own motion-controlled bow.
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7. Moblin

As Ganon’s most trusted foot soldiers, the appropriately pig-like Moblins make several truly fearsome appearances throughout the series, perhaps most scarily in Ocarina of Time where they guard the entrance to the Forest Temple and appear near-invincible. However, most Zelda fans would say their incarnation from The Wind Waker is the most memorable of them all, not because of the fear they instil but because of their arrogant and fabulously camp animations. Watching a hulking pig beast stick its nose up in the air and stride across the boardwalk of the Forsken Fortress while I hid behind a nearby pillar is one of my most enduring memories of The Wind Waker.
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6. Peahat

I have a strong attachment to Peahats. It’s called the Clawshot.

Terrible jokes aside, I do have a soft spot for the flying plant things, whatever form they happen to take. I always find them really fun to defeat in their “giant spinning death trap” form, seen in the two N64 Zelda games, particularly as they tend to pop up near hidden Pieces of Heart. In The Wind Waker they serve as very satisfying targets for your shiny new Boomerang when you first get it and their inspired design is almost cute. Then, of course, there’s the Twilight Princess version of the enemy, which is synonymous with the Double Clawshot shenanigans of the City in the Sky dungeon. They just float in midair, uninterested in attacking anything, forever content with serving as transport for any human being who may just happen to find the incredibly secret and far-off place all by his or herself…
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5. Chu-Chu

I know this is going to raise a few eyebrows. Chu-Chus are traditionally pretty stock-standard jelly things that are fairly easy to defeat, usually requiring a simple sword strike or two to dispatch. Though occasionally the presence of a self-generated electric field or the ability to subdivide into smaller versions of itself may make a Chu-Chu a tiny bit more of a threat, that isn’t what puts the species on my favourites list. Rather it is the neatly colour-coded presentation of the slimy foes and their unique relationship to items that gives them this spot. In Majora’s Mask, the colour of a Chu-Chu matches the colour of the item you get from defeating it, while in The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, you are able to harvest different colours of jelly from their bodies to synthesise into different potions and even lantern oil. Plus a Chu-Chu serves as the first boss in The Minish Cap. Take that.
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4. Beamos

The Beamos is on this list for much the same reason as the Armos – its variations all look amazing and its method of defeat fluctuates from game to game – but the Beamos has the added element of presenting a constant threat of high damage output (via laser beam no less) and, sometimes, genuine invincibility. This makes it a truly scary foe to face despite its immobility, particularly in A Link to the Past. where it was solely responsible for way too many of my deaths. The Beamos gets bonus points for its excellently designed segmented form in Skyward Sword, where it is one of those enemies that really sells the benefit of having working Wii Motion Plus controls for swordplay.
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3. Darknut/Iron Knuckle

Few Zelda enemies are larger, more resilient or more intimidating than the Darknut. Each one is an exercise in patient, tactical combat, particularly in The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, where the Darknut is one of the most resourceful enemies ever seen in a Zelda game. After stripping a Darknut of most of its armour and disarming it, the exposed foe turns to surprisingly quick hand-to-hand combat and can even pick up the weapons of one of its allies to utilise in brutal fashion. I’ve put the terrifying Iron Knuckle in the same entry as the Darknut because the two enemies share a lot of similarities, armour and all, with the major difference being the INSANE amount of damage that the Knuckle is capable of dishing out.
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2. Lizalfos/Dinolfos

Of all the many bipedal foes in the Legend of Zelda series, the armed reptilian foes known as Lizalfos (as well as their beefier cousins the Dinolfos) are consistently the most fun to fight, at least in my opinion. They regularly have plenty of health, devastating methods of attack and an impressively agile regard for their own safety that transcends the usual “Oh look, there’s a guy in green, let’s charge in head first and present our faces to him” tactic. The ones from Skyward Sword (pictured) have to be my favourites – I mean just look at that badass oversized rock gauntlet – but Twilight Princess had some pretty cool airborne varieties that required improvisation to defeat.
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1. Cucco

Throughout the entire Legend of Zelda series, there is no destructive force more brutally effective and more terrifyingly widespread than the Cucco. Clearly inspired by real world chickens, Cuccos are a proud Zelda tradition that serve as a constant reminder that there are always limits to Link’s power. Leave them alone, letting them mindlessly go about pecking things, and you’ll be fine. Disturb one momentarily by picking it up and using it as a makeshift hang glider and there’ll be no harm done. But violently attack one enough times and you will be visited upon by a hellish swarm of vengeful birds that cannot be damaged no matter what and WILL kill you if you don’t escape the area as soon as you can. Those bloodthirsty harbingers of avian justice are always watching…

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Honorable Mentions
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Bokoblin
Not to be confused with the Moblin, the Bulbin, the Miniblin or the Big Blin, the Bokoblin was always just an inferior and even more expendable version of the Moblin in the Zelda series… until Skyward Sword, when it became the stock enemy of the game and the most prominent showcase of the changes to combat that accompanied full Wii Motion Plus control. Suddenly the classic enemy was interesting, enjoyable to fight and even funny.

Stalfos
There’s just something classic about a reanimated skeleton enemy that goes so well with the themes of a series like Zelda. The Stalfos is probably best known in its warrior-like sword and shield form from Ocarina of Time, but hardened Zelda fans will be more familiar with the recurring jumping version, which has a knack for avoiding sword attacks at the very last minute and may as well be crying out for a bomb to the face.

Skulltulla
Do you like spiders? Well neither do I, but Skulltullas have been using the natural human fear of arachnids against players ever since Ocarina of Time‘s very first dungeon and they’ve been doing it rather well. The N64 versions of the enemy require patience to defeat, the ones in Spirit Tracks test player reflexes and the Skyward Sword incarnations make very cool use of multiple motion-controlled gestures to eradicate. Ew.

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