Oh, this one has no competition whatsoever.
Who’s my favorite villain?
…ok, maybe, technically, there might be just a little competition. Majora’s Mask was freaky scary and destructive, Zant was powerful and crazy, and Demise, the origin of Ganon’s tenacious evil, was certainly an imposing figure, quite believable as the King of Demons. However, Demise and the Mask only came into their own at the end of their respective games, while Zant was cast aside by the end of his as nothing more than Ganon’s pawn.
And we don’t see any of them again.
By contrast, Ganon, or Ganondorf, is easily the classic arch-enemy of Zelda and Link. He appears as the final boss in Legend of Zelda, Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Oracle of Seasons, Oracle of Ages, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and we can safely assume he will do so again in Breath of the Wild. Several of the other games have some sort of connection with Ganon as well, referring to him in one way or another.
Ganon is, quite simply, the overarching antagonist of the Zelda franchise.
Of course, what really sets him apart from the rest, as I see it, is how he is treated in Ocarina and Wind Waker. Skyward Sword may provide a fascinating glimpse of his true origin story, but these are the only two games I’ve seen where he is an active presence throughout the entire game, rather than waiting behind the scenes to challenge Link at the end.
In Ocarina, we meet Ganondorf right at the beginning, in Link’s prophetic dream. He’s then referred to over and over again, both when Link is a child and especially when he’s become a young adult. It’s clear from the beginning that he is a most dangerous enemy, and he wears the threat he represents quite well. He kneels before the king, but Ganondorf is the unstoppable one, as demonstrated by how he so easily travels the land and smites its guardians with fatal maladies.
And he’s not just powerful, he’s clever. Twice within the game, Ganondorf uses Link’s own successes to achieve his ends. As a child, after several victories, Link opened the way into the Sacred Realm, which is exactly what Ganondorf wanted. Then, as an adult, Link ran around undermining his domination in every corner of the kingdom, and Ganondorf allowed it, because he knew Link’s victories would draw Zelda out of hiding. So even when Link has been winning, he’s also been losing, without realizing it. Twice.
So, Ganondorf is everywhere in Ocarina. He’s always there, always hurting the land and people Link has cared for. He doesn’t just destroy Link, he uses him. And finally, he deals with Link directly more than once before their final confrontation, taunting him, making his evil deeds even more personal to Link, and thus to the player.
I’ve not seen that done so well in any of the other Zelda games.
Then there’s Wind Waker. Here, again, they meet multiple times before their final confrontation, and it is Ganondorf’s own acts which spur Link on. But we also get a look at the man beneath the evil, at what he truly wanted, all those years ago, which drove his mad quest for power. He refers to it as desiring the winds that other lands enjoyed. In the harsh desert, everything was a struggle to survive. He wanted something better. He wanted to have a place in the more bountiful lands.
Which does not remotely justify his actions, of course, but it’s an intriguing insight into the character.
Once again, name another villain that Zelda does that for. 😉
So… yeah, hands down. Ganon is my favorite Zelda villain.