Whether you’re a huge Legend of Zelda fan now or have been a big nerd about it for many years, Ganondorf isn’t as niche of a character as he used to be. With video game culture more widespread now than it’s been in the last ten years, the powerful Ganon is a name that’s known even among non-gamers. He comes in many forms, spanning across not only games but other media as well.
Best Ganondorf Iterations in Legend of Zelda
With the upcoming release of Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, we get a whole new Ganondorf, who wields a different weapon and has a few design changes. That being fresh on our minds makes for an excellent opportunity to look back on some of the other Ganon designs to see how they match up to the latest and greatest villain of the Legend of Zelda franchise.
1. Yuga Ganon of A Link Between Worlds
Yuga Ganon is one of the best and most unique iterations of the Ganondorf out there. The design philosophy is pretty mixed, clearly taking inspiration from the Ganon from A Link To The Past. While this new design brings a unique spin to things, there is still a callback that no Ganondorf design (or, at least, the good ones) can shake. That would be the red mane. Without blazing red hair, Ganon hardly looks like himself. So even with this massive change in look, we can still recognize Ganon as boarish, menacing, and an evil warrior with power.
2. Ganondorf of Hyrule Warriors
Hyrule Warriors presented us with something we never had as Zelda fans (outside of spinoffs): a playable Ganondorf. This one came with some mild but still true-to-form design changes. The red hair is present, and boy, is it a mane. The hair flows backward, inseparable from the crown design on his head. The armor Hyrule Warriors Ganon wears is less of a dark color like it usually is and more of a navy blue. His gauntlets add to a more royal disposition and are huge, just like his massive arms. Compared to other designs of Ganon, though, this one is pretty standard. It’s not bad, but aside from his imposing face with the hair as a backdrop, not else of much note can be said about the design.
3. The Imprisoned Ganon of Skyward Sword
Technically, almost every Ganon is imprisoned in one way or another, but this one is special. The Ganon from Skyward Sword is where we begin the trope of always-returning darkness. Ganon, in this edition, is a being that will always return after being sealed away. At first, the design is a menacing worm creature, one that is covered in eerie scales. Inside the being’s mouth is what looks to be hundreds of teeth. Rising up from its head are black ashy tendrils that resemble hair. While this design isn’t exactly a Ganon per-se, it eventually leads to creating the character of Demise, our Ganondorf, for this game.
Once he spawns, it’s a definite improvement from the previous design, boasting hair that’s so red it almost looks to be fire. His face is an altogether different design choice from other Ganon iterations. Normally, Ganon possesses sharp yet thickly built features, as if he were meant to hold a broadsword. This edition of Ganon, however, has the face of a boulder. Large features, round, imposing, grey and rocky, make up one of the most menacing Ganons to exist.
4. Ganon of The Faces of Evil
Lots of people absolutely detest the Ganon that appears in the CD-i games. To be fair, it was a fairly bold move for a game, yet who can blame them? The game takes all kinds of liberties, especially with designs and other ways. The world, characters, and just about everything is different from the mainstay in this game. Ganon takes on a more monster-like form, resembling a beast more than a pig. While he isn’t his swine self, he is still very much an animalistic and stereotypically devilish villain. For fulfilling the role of a final evil foe, this Ganon does it well. It isn’t the favorite Ganon, but it’s definitely one that deserves to be mentioned in a lineup of the most notable in the series’ history. Because no matter what you think of these games, they’ve made their mark enough to be recognizable to the community.
5. Calamity Ganon of Breath of the Wild
Recent history is a good thing to review in anticipation of Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Calamity Ganon is an example of a Ganon that’s one. To be certain, in terms of who’s the best and strongest of all the different iterations of Ganondorf that we’ve seen, this one is pretty up there. He creates atmospheric tension throughout the game. Even simply approaching his castle invokes unease. However, plenty of people agreed his presentation was slightly lackluster. Design-wise, he is essentially two different beasts. One that looks more like a unique creature than anything identifiable, and the other more akin to his boar form. While fans of Calamity Ganon aren’t as robust, I still think it’s very much worth mentioning and bringing into the light before the newest game comes out.
6. Ganondorf of Ocarina of Time
As the iteration from one of the most beloved Zelda games, this version of Ganon is the one that set a precedent in concrete. The design philosophy for Ganon was mostly established here, creating a standard that would be replicated and reformed for many games onwards. This Ganon is very powerful, having won in another timeline, establishing his menace even within the game’s world standards. Everything about him trickles with malice and threat, from his yellow eyes to his broad and armored form. Put that on top of the fact that your character in this one is a younger, smaller guy, and you have a great antagonist for the game that really makes an impact.
7. Ganondorf of The Wind Waker
This take on Ganondorf presented a unique problem for the developers. In a game where everything needs to be kid-friendly, how do you still make the evildoer evil? What can you do to make him a menacing character without scaring the kids off? The answer they chose is relatively simple: make him big. While this Ganon isn’t the best in the franchise, he is still very much Ganon. He keeps more traits than we give him credit for, still harboring a face resembling a ragged cliff, with red hair contrasting his dark features. This Ganon doesn’t differ too much from the Ocarina of Time version, making it an acceptable rendition.
8. Ganondorf of Twilight Princess
As one of the best iterations of Ganondorf in the series, I had to save this one for last. If you follow Splatoon 3, it’s worth noting that the Triforce Splatfest uses the silhouettes from Twilight Princess. This means if you’re going with Team Power, you get the best rendition of Ganondorf representing your team. Back to the design, this Ganon just imposes the feelings every writer wants on their villain. Largely due to presentation but no doubt present in the base design, this Ganon is sharp, menacing, and imposing in all ways. He isn’t even that big, just a standard Gerudo man. However, just because he is simply a man doesn’t mean he’s not a threat. In fact, it makes him more of one because of his confidence. Whenever he’s on screen, there is an imposing silence. That silence along with his grin offers the kind of villain atmosphere that makes him one of the most iconic antagonists out there and one of the best Ganon designs to date.
What do you think of our list? Which of the Ganondorf iterations do you like best? Do any of them beat the new design, in your opinion?