The villages and towns in Zelda games are some of my favorite areas to visit. They let you glimpse into the world’s culture and interact with charming characters, which gives the game its own unique personality. Plus, the towns are usually a good place to stock up on potions or arrows and find some minigames to play.

But more than all that, I love how they give Link a moment of respite and time to socialize outside of what is often a lonely hero’s journey. This was prevalent in Twilight Princess, where all the areas in between settlements are pretty much completely unoccupied. So, when I first got to Hyrule Castle and discovered a bustling, lively town filled with people, it genuinely excited me.

Tingle’s Maps is a series in which we explore the endless lands of Hyrule in search of our favorite places in The Legend of Zelda. We’ll explore everywhere: the beautiful landscapes that make us put down the controller in awe; the deadly terrain that threatens Link with the harshest of elements; the bustling towns that bring the game to life; and the abandoned grounds that evoke peace and sadness. As well as the grand locales, we’ll also discover all the secret caves and hidden crevices that lie between. Let’s adventure!

I’ll always remember first reaching the town as Wolf Link and seeing everyone’s spirits floating around. I was so thrilled by how populated the area was, yet gutted that I couldn’t fully interact with anything or anyone! There were all these people, all these activities, all these places to enter that were right in front of me but completely out of my reach! It made me eager to transform back into Link as soon as possible, so I could explore everything there was to do and talk to all the town’s citizens.

Castle Town Central Square Twilight Princess

However, it also reminded me of the upside to being trapped in the Twilight Realm: It’s great to overhear people having conversations and thinking aloud. For once, it made sense why people were not giving Link crazy looks when he eavesdropped on their conversations (though those two gossiping women in Wind Waker will not take any of your eavesdropping shenanigans). I liked hearing people’s daily chatter about their work shift, the latest gossip in town, and insights into what’s going on in the world, which even act as hints for you sometimes (such as hearing news about Lake Hylia and the Zora prince).

And let’s not forget my favorite part of the town: the STAR game. I’ll always remember walking past that circus tent and reading the sign that reads, “Play the STAR game that’s all the rage in Hyrule! Don’t you want to be a STAR, too?” Damn, of course I do! I was eager to play it, as minigames are always a ton of fun in Zelda games. As I’d later discover, this one definitely didn’t disappoint. It also introduced us to the slimy Purlo, who closely resembles Tingle (and was in fact confirmed by Aonuma to be a representation of what Tingle would look like in a realistic setting). I love how the first thing you overhear from him as Wolf Link is, “Heh heh heh… Soon I shall make a killing off this town…” Unbelievable! Well, I would soon thwart Purlo’s greedy plans. He quickly discovered how good I was with the Single and Double Clawshot — I constantly dominated his game, much to his infuriation. Suffice to say, I thoroughly enjoyed lightening his purse!

STAR game Purlo

When I was finally in Link’s human form and fully able to explore the town, I was actually a little disappointed that you can’t interact with that many people, buildings, and stalls. It was such a missed opportunity to have interesting interactions and sidequests from the townsfolk! The town also lacks a good shop until you complete the Malo Mart quest, though it is a comical one — I love how it transforms from a snooty, overly expensive shop to the most amusing place in Hyrule. The fixed camera is also a little frustrating, as I often wanted to look closely at some of the stalls and character models. I assume they were going for the same vibe as Ocarina of Time’s Hyrule Castle Town though.

Despite all that, I still think Twilight Princess’s Castle Town is one of my favorite main hubs from the Zelda series (except Clock Town of course). I really enjoy its aesthetic: dozens of people dash around the town all day, the marketplace is crowded by eager customers, and the stalls sell a bunch of delicious-looking food that apparently costs way too many Rupees. I also adore the STAR minigame as I’ve said, the upbeat town music that I’ll always hum along to, Agitha’s bug-collecting quest (though I’ll still never get over how bizarre her appearance is in Hyrule Warriors), and last but not least: I love the cats.

Cats in Twilight Princess

Oh my god, when I saw the cats outside Jovani’s house, I was so happy. And that was just seeing them! Can you imagine how much I lost it when I realized you could pick them up? I must have carried those cats just about everywhere, I loved doing it so much. I also discovered that I could talk to them as Wolf Link! I just love everything about their inclusion in the game (don’t even get me started on the Hidden Village of cats). It’s also hilarious how Jovani’s cat basically admits that Jovani is a horrible, greedy owner, and lets you keep taking as much of his money as you want. I hope these adorable kitties return to a Zelda game soon.

All in all, I loved how full of life Hyrule Castle Town is in Twilight Princess, despite the untapped potential. It’s a wonderful reminder of just how many interesting towns there are throughout the series.