Speculation was rife in the run-up to E3 about whether or not the new Zelda title would give players the choice to play as a male or female Link for the first time in the series. Ultimately, that wasn’t the case, but the androgynous look of Link in the initial trailer and subsequent artwork that kickstarted all the speculation (which ultimately led to Linkle in Hyrule Warriors) was far from accidental. In fact, Eiji Aonuma has been pursuing a gender neutral design for the hero in green (or blue, or brown, or birthday suit depending on your preference in Breath of the Wild) since the days of Ocarina of Time.
Aonuma, in an interview with Time magazine, said: “Back during the Ocarina of Time days, I wanted Link to be gender neutral. I wanted the player to think ‘Maybe Link is a boy or a girl.’ If you saw Link as a guy, he’d have more of a feminine touch. Or vice versa, if you related to Link as a girl, it was with more of a masculine aspect. I really wanted the designer to encompass more of a gender-neutral figure. So I’ve always thought that for either female or male players, I wanted them to be able to relate to Link.” This stands to reason, Link has often been described by his creators as the link between the game and the player, or indeed as an avatar for the player within Hyrule.
“I wanted to create a character where anybody would be able to relate to the character.”
Not that this approach has been the same in every Zelda. A more masculine looking Link was chosen for Twilight Princess. “During the development of Twilight Princess, I went a different route and created a version of Link that was more masculine” said Aonuma. “But after Twilight Princess I went back to the drawing board and decided Link should be a more gender-neutral character. Hence I created the version of Link that you see in Breath of the Wild. As far as gender goes, Link is definitely a male, but I wanted to create a character where anybody would be able to relate to the character. So that’s why I think the rumour went around that Link could be a female. Because maybe the users were able to relate in that way.”
So it’s not quite the same as choosing whether or not Link has lady-parts, but it’s good to see that Aonuma is at least attempting to make Link as relatable to players as he can.