Though other threats face Hyrule, Lorule, Termina, and everywhere in between, Ganon is clearly the biggest and most prominent adversary Link faces over the course of the Legend of Zelda series. He’s the ultimate evil that necessitates the perpetual rebirth of the legendary hero. Since Ganon takes several incarnations over the course of the games, we decided to rank his various appearances in the Legend of Zelda franchise.
Before you proceed, be warned: This list contains spoilers for all the games listed, though we did try to be appropriately vague for the Tears of the Kingdom entry for now.
For this list, we excluded Demise from Skyward Sword, as that isn’t Ganon, as much as it is the evil force that will eventually create Ganon. We also left Hyrule Warriors Ganon off, as that version exists outside of the canon. His appearance in Phantom Hourglass is also limited to a short recounting of the events of The Wind Waker, so that version is also left out.
Check out our rankings below and let us know your rankings in the comments section. For more Zelda rankings, check out our ranking of every game in the series.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
In Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Ganon doesn’t appear in gameplay, which solidifies this appearance as his worst. However, in the story to the series’ first sequel, Ganon’s minions are trying to resurrect him after his death in the original Legend of Zelda, but they need Link’s blood to do so. Following that logic, Ganon only appears when Link dies. It’s a small role, but it’s menacing enough to remind players what is at stake… plus, since Zelda II is one of the more difficult entries in the series, players see the screen pretty often.
Link’s Awakening is a different beast from other Zelda games. It leaves Hyrule behind in favor of Koholint Island, and Ganon is not the main threat. At the end of the game, a nightmare takes the form of the evil beast, and Link must fight a formidable shadow of his biggest enemy. Because this isn’t truly Ganon, and he isn’t the main antagonist of the game, this version ranks low.
The Legend of Zelda
Ganon’s premiere showcased him as a great evil, but the battle does not amount to the climax it does in other titles. The large, pig-like Ganon warps around the room, launching fireballs Link’s way and only appearing for a brief moment for Link to strike. Eventually, Link is able to land the final blow and Ganon explodes into a pile of ashes. The battle is over quickly if you know what you’re doing, but it still establishes Ganon as the big bad for the franchise.
Oracle of Ages/Seasons
The Oracle games are quite different from one another, but if you manage to complete both adventures, Link is able to face off against Ganon. His hidden nature requires you to complete both games and makes the battle feel like a special reward. The fight is also no walk in the park. He phases in and out of visibility, and appears even more massive than any 2D game before. The face-off is a solid reward for completing two underrated adventures.
Four Swords Adventures
For much of the game, you don’t know Ganon is the main adversary of Four Swords Adventures. Later on, it’s revealed that he is in fact the main threat. The final battle sees Link constantly sent to the Dark World, which is shown with a pop-up Game Boy Advance screen. Ganon is an imposing creature to face off against due to his massive size and diverse moveset. He also features a cool death sequence thanks to the enhanced visual effects.
A Link to the Past
A Link to the Past is a phenomenal game. In our ranking of the Zelda series, we gave it the top spot. However, Ganon’s appearance in the game doesn’t measure up to what has been accomplished since. Still, the King of Evil is a constant presence in Link’s epic journey, and the final battle is one that challenges you as much as any other encounter in the game. He retains his ability to teleport around the room, making him difficult to keep track of, and the moves he uses and the phases he progresses through ensure players are always on their toes.
A Link Between Worlds
Though the bulk of the focus in A Link Between Worlds is on Yuga, Ganon appears for the final battle as the two fuse together to form Yuga Ganon. While A Link Between Worlds is a direct sequel to A Link to the Past, the Ganon encounter adds some interesting twists that capitalize on Link’s new abilities. Yuga Ganon is huge, taking up much of the throne room the battle takes place in. Several fun strategies you must use to deal damage lead this to being the best 2D encounter with the Demon King.
Breath of the Wild
As Kyle Hilliard pointed out in his review, by the time you decide to storm Hyrule Castle, it feels like a lifetime of preparation has led up to that point. When you finally reach the throne room, the battle against Calamity Ganon does not disappoint. Not only is it Ganon in his most grotesque form, but this Calamity version has myriad attacks at his disposal. The final confrontation in Hyrule Field against the absolutely massive Beast Ganon doesn’t have the same level of challenge that the Calamity Ganon duel had, but it is a fittingly epic conclusion to the masterpiece that is Breath of the Wild.
Tears of the Kingdom
Whereas Breath of the Wild’s Calamity Ganon was very much a mindless force of nature, Tears of the Kingdom’s Ganondorf gave fans the modernized version of the tactical Demon King they were craving. This version includes various showcases of just how powerful he is, as well as how intimidating a presence he can be, thanks in large part to this being the first-ever fully voiced incarnation of the character. Throw in some entertaining backstory cutscenes, tense encounters, and an awesome character design, and the 2023 Legend of Zelda title delivered a Ganondorf worthy of standing shoulder to shoulder with the other top versions of the Demon King.
When most people think of Ganondorf, they probably think of the one that appears in Twilight Princess. Not only does he feature a darker, more mature design in line with the overall aesthetics of Twilight Princess, but this version also makes appearances in the recent Super Smash Bros. entries. This is one of the games that features a face-off against both Beast Ganon and Ganondorf, with both encounters playing completely differently. To top it all off, the wide shot at the end, with Ganondorf standing next to Link and Zelda with the Master Sword sticking out of his chest, is a great way to wrap up a lengthy and enjoyable adventure.
Ocarina of Time
From the very first moment, Ganondorf is on your mind in Ocarina of Time. Not only is this the first time we see Ganondorf, but throughout Link’s time-traveling journey, the powerful Gerudo is there, looming over your quest to stop him. You even fight one of his forms in a surprising boss battle in the Forest Temple against Phantom Ganon, which is the debut appearance of Ganon’s shadowy incarnation. It is also one of the few occasions in the Zelda series that you get a chance to learn about Ganondorf’s history. He is not just an evil force that suddenly appeared. He is a rare Gerudo male. The triumph over Ganondorf in Hyrule Castle is short-lived, as the intimidating Beast Ganon rises to present the final challenge. Escaping the crumbling castle and killing Ganon is a sequence forever etched into the memories of anyone who has played it.
The Wind Waker
The final encounter in The Wind Waker begins with a unique, visually striking fight against the enormous Puppet Ganon. Beyond the visuals, Puppet Ganon takes three different forms, adding multiple unique folds into the mix. The battle is challenging, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg for this culmination of Link’s seaward adventure.
Few battles give off the true David-versus-Goliath feel of Wind Waker’s final confrontation. After completing a long, challenging journey and a lengthy battle against Puppet Ganon, the small child named Link faces off against a massive, dual-sword-wielding Ganondorf in a climactic clash. The seemingly insurmountable odds add to the feeling that Link truly should not stand a chance against this smug form of Hyrule’s ultimate evil. Still, with perseverance and the necessary assistance of Zelda, Link leaps up and delivers the final blow through the skull of Ganondorf in a scene that is in stark contrast to the cute cel-shaded visual style in the best way possible. Though Ganon has remained a persistent threat to Link, Zelda, and Hyrule throughout the many games in The Legend of Zelda franchise, his display in The Wind Waker delivers players one of the most memorable final sequences in gaming.