I remember how awesome it was to play The Legend of Zelda for the first time. I was very young, but I recall watching my aunt and uncle play the game for hours. It was different from Super Mario Brothers, which I thought made the game even more awesome (platform versus overworld). There also was the music, still a very important part of any game in the franchise. We got to have real dungeons with real bosses. We collected all eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom and we finally slayed Ganon with the almighty silver arrow. We saved the princess, and Hyrule.
And that is fun to do, over and over again and throughout time, seasons, and parallel worlds. The Zeldas, Links, and enemies may change, but it all contributes to the larger theme, a story, that tells the legend of an enduring legacy with which many of us identify. There may be many reasons for this, some of which I mentioned above like the music and the story itself. For fans of the franchise, it can be difficult to separate the story from the music. There seems to be this intricately linked dynamic between, arguably, two of the most important dynamics of any game.
But there is something else that keeps us playing. We become heroes. And it is not just one type of hero; it is many heroes of many things. It is not just about saving some princess in distress, because descendants of Zelda have helped us defeat the main antagonist many times, but it is about the journey and the people we meet along the way who aid us in our quest. Sometimes we even have to prove to some of these people that we are the hero foretold in legend, and we do so very well.
Merriam-Webster has many definitions of the word "hero," but the most relevant may be "one who shows great courage." Indeed, the concept of courage heavily influences the story and abilities of Link. Without courage, it would be difficult to go against many of the monsters and beasts prowling around Hyrule and other villages, towns, and kingdoms. It also takes courage to combat a powerful foe, which the hero does time and again throughout his quests. Without this courage, complemented by Zelda's wisdom, a force exists to take down evil incarnate. The hero, with whom all of this is possible, may be triumphant over this evil.
The purpose of this essay is not to remind everyone what a hero means, but to provide a better context for understanding the role of the Hero in The Legend of Zelda franchise, the necessity of courage, and how we ourselves fit into game. Of course, every time we win one of the games, we become that hero. Some researchers are beginning to explore how winning a game and becoming a hero affect our general wellbeing and some of the results are encouraging. The good feelings we receive from defeating a game may carry over into other aspects of our lives, helping to produce other positive behaviors. We can be heroes in more ways than one.