Is it right that Link’s not left-handed in Breath of the Wild?
by on July 9, 2016

Breath of the Wild has a right-handed Link. Of all the breaks from Zelda tradition that Nintendo has employed for the upcoming game, this one came out of left field (pun intended) and is one of the more puzzling changes. Voice acting? Many would agree it’s overdue. The open, non-linear world? A welcome return to the series’ roots. Technology instead of magic? Aonuma wanted the technology to balance out the wild and ruined world and has hinted that it will be important to the story. But why make their traditionally left-handed hero a righty after all this time when there are no motion controls or any other good reason to do so? It gives rise to the question: Is Link’s sword hand actually important? The answer is no — it does not affect the game or story in any way. But with a rich history of left-handed Links in the Zelda series, we may be looking at the end of an era.

Shigeru Miyamoto is left-handed and he almost almost certainly intended for Link to share this attribute.

Shigeru Miyamoto is left-handed and he almost almost certainly intended for Link to share this attribute.

Breath of the Wild will not actually be the first time that Link has appeared as a righty in a Zelda game, but it’s the first time that there hasn’t been a need for it. Up until now, there’s always been some sort of technological limitation for the other instances when it’s occurred. There have been multiple incarnations of Link and while there’s nothing that states anywhere that each one must be left-handed, he’s always intended to be a southpaw. Before Breath of the Wild, I would have said that Link’s left-handedness was as much a defining feature of his character as the green tunic and pointed ears. The creator of Zelda Shigeru Miyamoto favors his left hand so it was almost certainly his intention for Link to share this attribute and possibly even become something of a role model for left-handed gamers.

A left-handed hero was the right idea

As far back as Zelda’s early days on the NES, it quickly became clear that Link was intended to be left-handed. Interestingly enough though, the first game’s official artwork depicts him as a righty, while the in-game sprites are left-handed — with the exception of the right-facing sprite, which is a mirror of the left-facing sprite. This was done so that Nintendo didn’t need to make a separate sprite, which would have taken up precious memory as, back then, memory was a highly limited resource of which sprites took up the bulk of. It wasn’t just Link’s sprite that was mirrored; it was most of the enemy sprites as well. It wasn’t something that was unique to Zelda either; it was common game design practice for 2D games and was done in all of the traditional 2D Zeldas.

zelda1linksprite

Why then was the original Legend of Zelda instruction manual full of artwork of a right-handed Link? It was almost certainly an oversight. The Legend of Zelda was a brand new property with no precedents. The artist was probably told something like, “Our hero has a green tunic, brown hair, pointed ears, and carries a sword and shield.” Maybe they were shown a little game footage too, but a lot of people don’t notice that Link is left-handed unless they look carefully. Nintendo seems to have taken extra steps to affirm Link’s handedness in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. In its instruction manual not only is Link drawn as a lefty, it’s even highlighted in the story: “Impa implored Link… ‘Please, Link. Unite the Triforce and save the princess. And bring back peace to Hyrule.’ Link nodded silently in approval, [sic] and left the room after taking a long glance at the altar. Then with a magical sword in his left hand and a magical shield in his right, he set off alone on his long travels” (p.12).

alttp_lefty

The A Link to the Past Player’s Guide not only affirmed that Link’s a lefty, it had a clever excuse for the sprite mirroring.

Link’s left-handedness was reaffirmed in the A Link to the Past Player’s Guide (p.143), Nintendo’s official strategy book for the third Zelda game. Since then, Link remained clearly left-handed (even in the CD-i games) – up until Nintendo encountered another technology-related problem. Twilight Princess was originally developed for the GameCube and not surprisingly featured a left-handed Link, just like usual. But delays in the game’s development meant that its release would come toward the end of the GameCube’s life, and Nintendo had another new console the Wii in the works. Nintendo decided to port Twilight Princess over to the Wii as a launch title for the console while also releasing it on GameCube as originally planned. The Wii, however, introduced a complication that Nintendo had probably never considered when they first decided to give their hero a mean left hook: motion controls.

Motion controls were the defining feature of the Wii, and what better way to show them off than to let players feel like they were actually swinging a sword? When Nintendo realized that the majority of gamers would hold the Wiimote in their right hands to control the sword, they thought that it would be confusing for them to see Link swing with his left on screen. They didn’t have time to redesign the entire game and instead found an easy solution: flip the game horizontally so that it became a mirror image of its GameCube counterpart. This was the first time that a Link was properly right-handed. He remained a lefty in the GameCube version and all official artwork. And when Twilight Princess HD was released on the Wii U, it dropped the motion controls and the default game mode is the same as the GameCube version. Therefore one could argue that the Link in Twilight Princess is still canonically left-handed.

Mirroring Twilight Princess to accommodate the Wii’s motion controls was somewhat of a quick fix, but five years later the second Zelda game for the Wii came along. Skyward Sword promised an even greater motion control experience through the use of the Wii MotionPlus. The question of Link’s dexterity quickly became a hot topic, but it didn’t come as a huge surprise when Eiji Aonuma revealed that Link would be right-handed for the same reason he was in Twilight Princess on Wii. What did surprise fans was that there wasn’t an option to accommodate left-handed gamers, minority they may be. At the time, Aonuma said: “It’s really hard [to make a lefty option]. You have to change all the models – you have to make two of everything. So really you’re making two complete games, one left-handed version and one right-handed version. We just can’t do that.” Thus Skyward Sword featured the first officially right-handed Link, but if you look closely you’ll see that he uses the bow and slingshot left-handed.

SS_3

Skyward Sword had the first officially right-handed Link.

If the attack button is on the right…

It’s been another five years since the release of Skyward Sword, which means that Nintendo’s now had ten years to think about dexterity and different control options. Breath of the Wild will not have motion controls, yet Link is right-handed once again. With the attention to detail that Nintendo is clearly putting into the game, this decision almost certainly would not have been taken lightly. When Aonuma was asked why Link is right-handed in Breath of the Wild, he said it’s because players use their right hand to initiate attacks on the Wii U GamePad. In other words, the button to swing the sword (or pitchfork or whatever item Link happens to be holding) is on the right side of the controller.

Wait a second.

Was Aonuma in his right mind when he came up with that? Almost every single Zelda game has the attack button on the right side of the controller and it’s been this way from the very start. All, that is, except the motion-controlled Wii games and the two DS ones, which utilized stylus controls instead of buttons (and for that matter gave players the option to play left- or right-handed when they started the game). But we’re looking at the majority of Zelda games here, including the highly-acclaimed Ocarina of Time and the GameCube version of Twilight Princess, and I don’t think anyone ever had a problem with the fact that they used their right thumb to push a button that makes Link use his left hand on screen. If Nintendo seriously thinks that this is suddenly an issue, they are severely underestimating the entire gaming community. According to this logic, not only should left-handed playable characters no longer exist, but we should have a special foot controller for games like Super Mario Bros. so we can use our feet to initiate Mario’s jumps.

If Nintendo seriously thinks that this is suddenly an issue, they are severely underestimating the entire gaming community.

Regardless of whether you personally care about which hand Link uses or not, it’s a dumb reason. It actually makes me wonder if that was the real reason. Maybe Nintendo simply wanted Link to be right-handed this time around and there was no reason more than that. But in that case, why not just say so? It doesn’t affect the gameplay nor will it affect the story. As long as Link can use his sword to slay Ganon or any other calamity that threatens Hyrule, it doesn’t really matter which hand he wields it in. Yes, some fans will be upset about the change no matter what, but why are they really upset?

What does it really mean for Link to be left-handed?

For the last 30 years, Link’s left-handedness has been tradition, and breaks from tradition aren’t always easy to swallow. Being left-handed is a trait that made Link a little more unique than most video game characters. Roughly 10 percent of the population is left-handed but the proportion of left-handed game characters is far less than that. Every left-handed person grows up in this right-handed world knowing that they are a little different. For them it’s rather special to see a character who’s also a little different go on to save the world. And that, in my opinion, is the real reason why it is a shame that Breath of the Wild’s Link is just another generic righty.

Being left-handed made Link a little more unique than most video game characters.

Link’s handedness may not affect the actual gameplay, but, if you were to delve a little deeper and think about what it would be like for Link himself, being left-handed would almost certainly serve as an advantage for him in combat. If 10 percent of Hyrule’s population is left-handed like ours, both righties and lefties will spend 90% of their time fighting right-handed opponents. But when a right-hander faces off against a left-hander, they will be less used to attacks coming from the opposite site and find themselves at a disadvantage. Whereas when a left-hander does encounter another lefty, they’ll be on a similar level; they may no longer have an advantage but they certainly won’t be disadvantaged. This is why a higher proportion of lefties often dominate certain sports like tennis, boxing, and fencing. It may not prove advantageous against all types of monsters, but, when fighting enemies that wield swords and other weapons, Link needs all the help he can get!

LinkposeootThere’s also a scientific theory that left-handers are on average smarter and more creative than right-handers, and Link definitely needs smarts for all of the puzzles he has to solve. There’s no actual scientific evidence to support this — scientists also still don’t know why some people are born left-handed — but an above-average number of history’s greatest minds, artists, and musicians have been left-handed individuals. To name just a few: Isaac Newton, Alan Turing, Bill Gates, Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Mahatma Gandhi, Helen Keller, Oprah Winfrey, and H. G. Wells. In fact, five of the last seven US presidents have been left-handed, including Barack Obama.

Overall, I’d say that being left-handed gives Link a small edge, even if he doesn’t need to be. It’s also nice for left-handed gamers to see that they have something in common with their favorite hero. We don’t know if Breath of the Wild’s Link will be an exception or if we’re entering a new era where Link has become Nintendo’s newest right-hand man. When you get right down to it, it won’t affect how the game turns out. Being left-handed was a small thing that made Link just a little bit more special. But because there was no good reason to change it in Breath of the Wild, it seems a shame to break the tradition after all this time.

Shona Johnson
Shona is one of Zelda Universe's leaders. She ran her own Zelda site from 2001 until 2011, when she merged it with ZU. She works as an engineer and is also an avid writer, cosplayer and adventurer.
  • True Davad

    I think you made some good points as to why Link being left handed is an advantage or good idea I would not have thought of. I also find the left handed statistics interesting.

    I also agree that their is no good reason to change it. I didn’t notice till it was pointed out to me but I think him being left handed is cool. And I am right handed, well somewhat ambidextrous originally, but that is besides the point. I also had no disadvantage because he was left handed and I was right handed using a button to attack on the right side. It may not seem a big deal, but it is honestly pointless to change which hand he uses and it creates an unnecessary controversy.

  • Vladislak

    I disagree with people who say “Link is left handed” because there are many Link’s, you can say “THAT Link is left handed” or “THIS Link is left handed”, but in many ways they’re their own individuals with physical differences and varied traits.

    Honestly Link has varied in hair color, height, build, facial structure, even things like whether or not he has pointed ears. It makes sense that his handedness would vary from time to time as well.

    Technological limitations or no, the inconsistencies in handedness in some of the 2D titles always led me to believe those Link’s are at least somewhat ambidextrous.

    All in all having a bit of variety in small areas like this is a GOOD thing, as it helps distinguish each Link as an individual. So I’m actually glad they have a few right handed Link’s, just as long as they continue to feature left handed ones as well.

    • Oscar Yasser Garcia Juallek

      “Honestly Link has varied in hair color, height, build, facial structure, even things like whether or not he has pointed ears. It makes sense that his handedness would vary from time to time as well.”
      They’re always been more similarities than differences between those variations, though(also, WHEN Link’s ears haven’t been pointy!? Dead serious, either you saw wrong or there’s a hidden game we haven’t seen yet. and if you mean Wind Waker…you saw wrong)

      I frankly don’t give a penny about the issue, but it’s indeed an arbitrary change.

      • Vladislak

        I could’ve sworn I’d seen some early game artwork that depicted him with rounded ears, although I can’t seem to find it now so I may have been mistaken. My apologies if that’s the case.

        Anyways, I don’t know if I’d say there are always more similarities than differences. Unless you count choice of clothing and equipment, but I was more talking physical differences that can be attributed to genetics like right or left handed. Some Link’s had more rounded boyish faces, and some had more bulbous noses. Some had blue eyes (ALttP, OoT, etc) while others had brown eyes (LoZ/AoL).

        Seriously, compare the Link from AoL to the Link from OoT. OoT Link had sharper features (nose, jawline, etc) and their hair color and style were completely different.

        My point is they’ve reinvented Link’s appearance many times, but they’ve each been a new Link with their own traits.

        I don’t think I even need to explain how much of a departure from the norm WW Link was. And while that was mostly due to a change in art style and direction, the fact remains that it WAS making significant changes to his appearance. And fans were furious back then but it ended up being a great addition to the franchise. Compared to a change like that a simple handedness swap on occasion is so trivial.

        Part of the original post here was about how Link being a lefty made him more unique and original, well after 30 years Link being left handed has become the norm more often than not, and actually switching for a few of them makes those particular Link’s stand out even more in contrast to the others.

        I like Link left handed, I like Link right handed, I like Link ambidextrous. The more variety they add to little details like that the better that individual Link stands out as unique among his comrades.

  • Dan0709

    ughhh this freaking subject again…seriously tired of it

    • Giordan

      It’s worse than Wind Waker vs. Ocarina arguments… ok, maybe not THAT bad.

      • Dan0709

        naah it’s worse than that, trust me, because this actually has no point WHATSOEVER anymore… People just keep making a big deal of it and i’m sure when the timeline placement is confirmed, it will be double confirmed that it was pointless to debate the importance of link being right handed in BoTW, mark my words…

        • True Davad

          Just curious, how does this have anything to do with timeline placement?

          • Dan0709

            because there’ve been some Links where they are right handed or left handed on different timelines, which again it doesn’t really have any meaning, but “fans” seem to make everything have an importance, even when it really doesn’t

          • True Davad

            Only Skyward Sword link was released right handed and that was for motion controls. I don’t think it is a big deal honestly. I think all Links are left handed in the story but it doesn’t matter much in the end.

        • Giordan

          Just like people made a big deal out of Wind Waker’s art style?

          • Dan0709

            yeah style never meant much, considering you have, for example, four swords game style after TP style in the timeline. Doesn’t mean crap lol

  • GreenLinkMaster

    there may possibly even be more than 10% left handies. throughout history it has been like you said, left handed people living in a right handed world. and there have been many cases of left handed people being discriminated against for being different, strange, unnatural seeming to most right handed people. the devil is often shown in images, even ancient ones, as being left handed. so a lot of people use to associate left handedness with him and would think of it as being evil. it’s no secret that catholic nuns would smack your hand with a ruler if they caught you writing left handed.
    this is one reason why a lot of left handed people become ambidextrous, plus it comes more easily to left handed people than it does to right handed people. I myself was basically told by my kindergarden teacher that I “Was not allowed to be left handed” and that made no sense to me, but I was still forced to write right handed. though it was difficult, and it hurt my wrists. I naturally wrote really well left handed and could do so for some time without any discomfort. but I guess my teacher decided to decide for me weather or not I’m left handed. so I’m no ambidextrous.
    I want to ask Nintendo, to please not become a big Catholic nun. please don’t start smacking Links hand with a ruler any time he tries to pick up his sword with his left hand.

    • Vladislak

      If it was a single character I’d agree with you, but each Link is his own individual often with unique physical traits. I don’t see the harm in having some variety every now and then. As long as they don’t get rid of left handed Link’s altogether I don’t mind.

    • Shona

      The first draft of this article had a section about the bias against left-handedness and the fact that it was associated with the devil and criminality, but it ended up being a little off-topic and I couldn’t really tie it back to Zelda. I’m glad we don’t live in those days anymore, but the English language still reflects it. The word “sinister” comes from the Latin word for left, “sinistra”. Whereas the word “right” also means “correct”. And there are other negative connotations in expressions like “having two left feet” which means to be clumsy.

      I’m sorry to hear that even in this day you were told you weren’t allowed to be left-handed. I’m also left-handed but am happy that no one ever tried to make me be otherwise. That said, it didn’t stop people making a big deal about it. “Oh you need the special scissors.” “Haha you smeared your ink.” One person did actually tell me once that “left-handers are the spawn of Satan” when she saw me writing, but I just laughed at her.

  • Michael Cortorreal

    Well I have no problems with Link being right handed, I am a lefty but the vast majority of heroes are right handed, never really pay attention over that.
    What is really annoying to me was the explanation Aonuma gave…”because the attack button is on the right side of the controller”

    [YOU DON’T SAY] < ——-Insert meme here.
    Then what about all the other controllers layout?
    Just like this article said, why it suddenly became an issue?
    I would have liked more to hear that "we just wanted to break the conventions, even with his left hand use" and call it a day, would been totally fine with that.

    But instead I got such a weird response from Aonuma, cannot help but wonder what was his mind going through when he answered the question.

    • JaidynReiman

      I think its simple, really. He was embarrassed to admit that they started off from Skyward Sword, and when they found there was no reason to keep Link right-handed, they didn’t feel the need to go out of the way to change something they didn’t consider that important.

      If they already made significant progress in the game before even looking at Link’s handedness, they likely came to the conclusion it was too much effort at this point to change it. But Aonuma didn’t want to just say that, he wanted to go out of his way to justify it rather than admit that it hadn’t even crossed their minds.

      That’s what I think happened. I’d love to be proven wrong (such as their being a story reason for it), but I don’t think there is.

      • Michael Cortorreal

        Well either way, I still do not understand people feeling so much about it…left handed people (like me) have been playing right handed heroes all our life’s.

        It is super cool Link is a lefty in the majority of the Zelda games, it’s awesome to have one heroe to be like that but, I don’t think we should make such a great deal out of it.

        My only gripe was Aonuma statement, would have loved a better explanation like you, but if that’s the best he can come up with I’m not gonna get angry at the guy.l, he has been in a turbulent dev cycle with this Zelda, fans should cut him some slack and enjoy the game as fans we are.

  • OSB999

    You put Oprah Winfrey among those examples. LOL

    Anyways, even as a right handed I would prefer if Link remain left handed. But man, you’re seriously overthinking this subject.

    • Shona

      You can’t deny that she has a great mind for business in the entertainment industry!

      • OSB999

        Maybe, but she’s not much of a role model like the others. she has been involved in many controversial things, and her show was seriously cringy and often felt scripted contrary to how she wanted it to be portrayed.

  • While I realise from a very technical matter that it really doesn’t matter, I do feel that–if Aonuma wants to go so far as ensure that Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf are always around in every cycle of Hyrule, no exceptions whatsoever–he might as well go with convention. Aonuma said Link couldn’t be a female because then they’d want it to be Zelda, but then “what would Link do?” If Link *has* to be there… then I don’t see why Link can’t follow convention.

    The reason given is really dumb and I hope is some extemporaneous response off the top of his head. But really, by now Aonuma should know these questions are going to be asked and that answers should be prepped for this in advance. 😉

    • Shona

      To be honest that answer about a female Link was weird too. Why couldn’t a female Link save Princess Zelda?

      • Elías Aaron Fadda Ramírez

        It’s not that a female Linl can’t save the princess, they said that if they had a female protagonist, they would want her to be Zelda.

      • JaidynReiman

        Because Link is a male and has always been a male. Suddenly changing that after 30 years is not an easy task, especially considering how Link is a marketing tool as well.

        And actually, I don’t think the argument they made is far fetched at all. There are two main protagonists throughout the Zelda series. Zelda is strictly defined as female, and Link simply “always has been” a male. However, there’s no balance if suddenly both main protagonists are female.

        And frankly, I love the fact that they didn’t even look at the idea of making Link a female. Instead, they thought “if we want a female protagonist, its going to be Zelda.”

        The idea of making Link a female didn’t even cross their minds.

        • It a really freaking stupid fan drivel level garbage idea so of course it didn’t cross their minds.

      • It’s not though, the triforce is consistently considered what keeps the world balanced, and the main three are shown to be all but physical representations of their pieces.

        Also why does it have to be a female link rescuing a female Zelda? Why can’t it be a male Zelda? Or a male link rescuing a male Zelda? If Link’s consistency and both miyamoto and aonuma preferences of keeping him male are to be ignored, why should Zelda’s womanhood remain?

  • Elías Aaron Fadda Ramírez

    What if in middle game some antagonist cuts off Link’s right hand and he’s forced to use the sword with the left one?:oooo

    • Shona

      That sounds familiar!

  • Angie

    Does it freakin matter? Left handed or right handed, the will still be the same.

  • Some Guy who wanted to comment

    I don’t think there’s much to it. Either it’s related to TP/SS in some way, or it’s tailored for newcomers, or the devs really didn’t consider it important to make a thing of it.

    • Shona

      It would be really interesting if BotW Link turned out to be SS Link.

      • Sylar

        That would honestly solve everything. The “original” Link from SS is already right-handed so no harm, no foul.

  • Link Farore Hylian

    Link is right handed because Miyamoto and Aonuma said so. End of discussion.

    • Shona

      Haha yeah that’s pretty much how it is with anything at the end of the day. But if that’s the case, it’s silly that Aonuma didn’t just say so.

  • Angie

    Didn’t they post this same article weeks ago?

  • Link is ambidextrous.

    That said a differentdominant hand doesn’t effect links visual design, and that’s all that should matter as that defines Link, the male hero.

  • Jedi Reach

    This idea that left handers are smarter and more creative is flawed and biased. There is no direct proof beyond pseudo science.

  • William

    yeah if there was no reason to change it they shouldn’t have and depending on which link was resurrected that gonna muddy the storyline a bit then again im a lefty so im biased

  • CiCi

    I think it’s funny that people are angry about this being a topic. Or tired of it. Isn’t it just interesting in general that they’ve made an incarnation of a left-handed character… right-handed? As a right-handed person, I never really considered how it might feel for left-handed individuals get a left-handed hero. As a kid, I thought it was wonderful that Link stood out alway and was actually disappointed (not to mention confused) when I played the flipped Wii port all those years ago. SS also disappointed me. Not in a way that I get passionate about, I guess. I just… sort of missed it. Missed the Link I grew up with. After getting something similar in the GameCube version of Twilight Princess, I couldn’t help but feel sort of disconnected from the new incarnations… The integrity of the character I grew up with felt important. If they weren’t going to change much else about Link… why change this sort of beloved trait that a lot of us grew up to love? It’s not a matter of Link being canonically right-handed or left-handed… it was just sort of a fun detail, and trudging it down to a detail that insults his gaming audience (“The controls are on the right, so Link should be right-handed” —I’m sorry, WHAT? Did that stop us kids in 1998 when that detail was still the case…?) just sort of didn’t make sense to me, either. Call me a purist, but I thought it was awesome that Link was left-handed? Of course, because I have always loved Zelda… I’m just as willing to accept a right-handed Link, not to mention a female Link, anything. But if they’re not going to change the formula anyways… why can’t I be sad that they changed which hand he might use to wield the Master Sword?