Top 7... Most disturbing things about the Zelda universe

Well excuse us, Princess!

The Dark World

Hyrule, eh? Its the most magical, fantastical, and often-times most whimsical of Nintendos resolutely family-friendly game universes. It would be a great place to live, should you not be too bothered about having a TV or a place to charge your laptop.

Except that it wouldnt. You see Hyrule is really a seething eldritch horror-pit filled with the worst kind of terrors, day in, day out. Whether the product of monster, politics, or plain old, honest-to-goodness inhumanity, Hyrule is is a non-stop atrocity parade spitting out neverending vileness and fear like the production line on Satans own toy factory.

7. The dead rise from the grave EVERY NIGHT

Ocarina of Times night should be a glorious time to be out and about. There are miles of dusky countryside to explore. Theres an inky, hazy sky above and a huge, bulbous full moon to light the way. But can you enjoy it? Not in the slightest. Because the undead are crawling out from under your feet during every step you take, trying to forcibly remove ankles off your legs every single time you place foot upon grass.

And this isnt a special, one-off incident. Its the norm for Hyrule. Skeletal assault isnt an unfortunate horrific mishap, but rather a countrywide way of life. No wonder the main settlement is a fortified castle city. Even the smallest town is fortified or hidden in the woods. Nightfall is a disgusting, unnatural, terror-filled time in Hyrule, spawning flat-out weapons-grade horror every 24 hours without fail. And it gets even worse when you realise that this situation logically means that

6. The whole countryside is one big graveyard

If youre out in Hyrule Field youre going to get attacked by skeletons. This vile matter is already established. But it never stops from dusk til dawn. Which means there must be an endless supply of skeletons under the turf of Hyrules verdant countryside. They must have gotten there somehow, so what happened? Well we know that there was a Hyrulian civil war a few years before the events of Ocarina of Time. Its largely glossed over, but given the sheer number of dead now lingering under the ground everywhere in Hyrule, it must have been a bloody slaughter on a scale to make the battle of Helms Deep look like a stumbly scuffle in a pub car park.

Ever wondered why a supposedly proud kingdom such as Hyrule has such sparse pockets of population? Thatll be your answer. The regions various races and factions murdered the merry Hell out of each other until only a handful of small settlements was left. The Hylian royal family might have unified the kingdom after the war, but given that there were only about 30 people left following the altercation, was that really much of a victory?

5. The chickens attack in organised hit-squads

No way in Hell KFC could ever work in Hyrule. Those chickens are for eggs only. Hyrules Cuccos are less the amicable, bumbling poultry we know, more an efficient, structured, bloodthirsty winged mafia. He puts one of yours in a toasted bun, you put one of his in the Hyrule Field morgue. Thats the Cuccos way. In fact, linking the proliferation of violent farm foul in Hyrule to the amount of corpses buried in shallow graves across the countryside, theres every chance that the Cuccos are actually the real ruling class in Hyrule, having won the war and allowed the Hylian royal family to set up a puppet monarchy in order to tend to their needs. Just like cats do here.

And its not just the chickens. Every bit of wildlife in Hyrule, whether flora or fauna, is sentient, angry, and will attack on sight. Only the bravest and most vigilant warriors would even consider owning a pet or having a few potted plants around the house. Almost every element of Hyrules ecosystem is a pathological murderer. You cant even trust the bushes. The place is a living nightmare.

4. Disembodied human hearts are everywhere

The best defence against Hyrules murderous natural world? The one saving grace giving hope to wandering adventurers and lost innocents amid the long, dark night of abominations that shrouds the path ahead? The possibility of stumbling across a severed human organ. Fortunately (!?) those things are everywhere. The whole of Hyrule is basically one big abattoir floor, strewn end to end with the remains of the no-doubt unpleasantly deceased.

Again, we can only pin this one on the war. Theres little else in the way of a plausible explanation. Just as theres little in the way of a plausible explanation for how this life-giving offal works, other than that Link must be consuming them and living off the life-force contained within. That makes even more macabre sense when you consider that he often receives a greater amount of regenerative essence from larger, recently killed enemies, and gets an overall increase in his vital capacity from felled bosses. Bigger life, more recent death, more lifeforce for Link. Thats how it works. The only way to survive in Hyrule is through evisceration-driven vampirism. Tasty.

3. The climate is screwed

Think about the geology of Hyrule. Its broken. Flat-out screwed. Within a few miles at most you can cross grassy countryside, scorching desert, ice-blasted tundras, and furious, active volcanoes. Thats not right. Thats just not right.

Theres something fundamentally wrong with the physical structure and localised climate systems of Hyrule. And when multiple versions of the series iconic Kakariko Village are located at the foot of something known in the vicinity as Death Mountain, you get the impressions that the locals know that. Consider that the Great Sea in Wind Waker is widely accepted to cover the old Hyrule of Ocarina of Time, and its pretty clear that the kingdoms multitudinous environmental maladies eventually conspired to the sink the place through geological disaster. However hard Link works to save Hyrule in Ocarina, the whole place is going down eventually anyway. The whole quest will be ultimately fruitless. Beat Ganondorf if you like, but everyones going to drown anyway.

2. Racial segregation has made the divided kingdom weak

There are a handful of core races in Hyrule. Hylians, Kokiri, Gorons, Gerudo, and Zora would be the main ones. But they rarely ever mingle. Despite unification, each people has its own distinct area of the kingdom (central towns, forest, mountains, desert, and rivers, respectively) and they by and large stay there. The almost entirely female Gerudo have a distaste for Hylians and only mingle for breeding purposes. The Kokiri enforce their isolation via a (false) collective cultural belief that theyll die if they leave the forest. The Zora have the excuse that they get ill if they leave the water for too long, but its notable that they generally remain at the head of the river, far from central Hyrule.

And thus, every single time Ganondorf appears, the various factions lack of cooperation means that a small boy dressed in green has to save the world. He does so by visiting each region in turn and helping out each civilisation with its various problems before using the rewards to do similar elsewhere. If Hyrule truly worked together as one nation, combining their various gadgets, tools, magic, and knowledge instead of waiting for Link to collect it all, Ganondorf would be a mere irritation. But they dont. Segregation is bad, kids.

1. The most important religious artifact is a ticking time-bomb

The mystical Triforce is often thought of as the golden panacea to all of Hyrules ills. Its not. Its a magical nuke on a short fuse with no safeguards against misuse. Made up of three segments pertaining to power, wisdom, and courage, the Triforce will grant any person who touches it their wish. But it doesnt distinguish between good and evil. In a weak caveat to responsibility, if the Triforce-finder does not have a personality balanced between its three core elements, it will break into three parts, each sent to a person personifying its trait. Only when the Triforce is reunited will the holder be delivered his or her wish. But theres a major flaw in that system.

The initial finder will immediately gain the section of Triforce pertaining to his or her dominant trait. So if, say, a megalomaniac like Ganondorf should get hold of it, the Triforce segment of power is his, no questions asked. Thus, it will be up to the other two, inherently weaker, Triforce recipients to stop him from gaining ultimate power. And given how often that happens, its pretty damn clear that the Golden Land in which the Triforce is hidden is about as secure as a Gotham City mental facility.

Cry-force

So theres our rundown of the most reprehensible elements of Zeldas supposedly noble kingdom. But did we miss anything? Frankly we could have written an entire feature just on Redeads, so feel free to spill your suggestions into the comments. And let us know if there are any other supposedly wholesome gameworlds you find flat-out terrifying.

And while youre here, check out some of our related content by giving video game locations only an idiot would live in a go, and then maybe try the top 7 most disturbing things about the Pokemon universe.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.
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