Scariest Bosses: Ganon in Ocarina of Time
Ganondorf is the epitome of evil in The Legend of Zelda.Though almost every installment follows the same basic narrative path, Ganondorf as an antagonist remains an intriguing figure throughout. Toward the end of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Ganondorf shifts from purely evil and mad with power to straight-up terrifying and demonic. Though his appearances throughout the game are minimal, he's all over the endgame. And it's right when you think that you finally have him beat that he transforms into one of the scariest bosses to ever appear in a video game: Ganon.
This surprise secondary form sees the human Ganondorf turn into a massive beast before your very eyes, while a post-apocalyptic Hyrule seemingly crumbles around you and acts as the perfect backdrop for this final encounter. I was 13 years old when I first witnessed this version of Ganon. At the time, it was unlike anything I'd ever seen, and honestly, it was kind of unsettling.
The King of Evil Becomes a Demon
It might seem like a weird comparison to make, but the entire final act of Ocarina of Time plays out a lot like a horror movie. You climb a long set of stairs in what appears to be a dark church (complete with stained glass windows), ultimately making your way to the top where Ganondorf awaits. Once you defeat him, he uses what you think is his dying breath to bring down his sky-piercing castle. After you escape alongside Princess Zelda, you breathe a sigh of relief. It's over.
Except it's not over.
Out of the rubble comes Ganondorf in true horror movie fashion. As he levitates before Link, Zelda, and Navi all you can see is his silhouette and evil glowing eyes. In a last-ditch effort to destroy you, he transforms into Ganon, a massive beast that 13-year-old me would probably describe as a cross between a boar, a dragon, and Satan. That the King of Evil is willing to let go of his human form and become this ungodly creature in a fit of rage is most certainly terrifying, but it's his monstrous appearance itself that actually induces chills.
Evil Lives in the Shadows
Before I go any further, it's important to note that I'm specifically talking about the Nintendo 64 version of Ocarina of Time here (as well as the Virtual Console and GameCube ports). The 3DS version of Ocarina of Time added a brighter background to the battle with Ganon, making the scene more colorful than dark, and giving the player a clearer look at Ganon. It's still a rad battle either way, but the original version is much more spine-tingling thanks to the darker atmosphere.
What makes that final battle with Ganon work so well in terms of sheer horror is just how dark the world appears around you. You never actually get a good look at Ganon — he's completely shrouded in darkness, with the shadows created by the overcast Hyrule masking his entire body and face so that all you see is a large, devil-like abomination with glowing eyes, large horns, a pig snout, and an oddly-colored tail. The only time you catch a glimpse of him is when lightning creates a split-second burst of brightness.
The gargantuan size of Ganon and bleakness of the dead world around you both create a situation that seems hopeless for Link, Zelda, Navi, and Hyrule. You know Ganon is remorseless and that he'll stop at nothing to destroy you, even if it means his own demise. He's the ultimate representation of horror and evil in that sense.
Oh, and if Ganon's physical appearance wasn't already hellish enough, you're actually battling him within the confines of a ring of fire. You have nowhere to run—you're entirely trapped inside a fiery prison with a boar-demon. This claustrophobic scenario ups the sense of urgency and makes you feel even more terrified, because you know you're essentially trapped inside a proverbial Hell with a giant Hell-monster who feels right at home.
A Fitting Representation of Evil Itself
Ganondorf is already pretty intimidating as it is, but when he turns into Ganon—which can really be seen as his true form—he appears practically immortal. If Ganondorf is the King of Evil, then Ganon is evil itself. This evil shows itself in its purest form when you finally meet Ganon at the end of Ocarina of Time, but it's also quite prevalent in the many hours of gameplay leading up to that last moment.
That evil pervades Hyrule from the moment Link wakes up after a seven-year sleep, when he bears witness to the once-thriving kingdom, which is now a desolate wasteland. It's actually quite a jarring contrast, because while Link is a child Hyrule appears calm and peaceful. As an adult, however, he's forced to survive in a land of death. And all of that death culminates with the battle against Ganon. For as creepy as Hyrule appears when you get a look at your first ReDead, that's nothing compared to the terror of seeing Ganon towering over you during the game's climax.
The Legend of Zelda has often dealt with ominous themes. A Link to the Past features the Dark World. Ganondorf's appearance in The Wind Waker marks a rather sinister turn in that otherwise cheery-looking game. Majora's Mask, which can sort of be considered an actual horror game given its themes of death and the apocalypse, is pretty much brooding from start to finish. Even Twilight Princess featured a similar beast version of Ganondorf. But Ocarina of Time, specifically the part when Ganondorf becomes Ganon, makes for one of the scariest boss moments in the series.
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