Image: Nintendo Life

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild brought with it myriad changes to Hyrule. Staggering levels of freedom. Plentiful shrines instead of themed dungeons. Link wearing blue instead of green. The Sheikah Slate. Breakable weapons of varying degrees of annoyance, and more. A change not often discussed was Link’s lack of a companion.

Since The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Link has generally travelled with a buddy that gives him advice — like how to target enemies — along with narrative exposition. In Breath of the Wild, Link adventured alone with only the odd suggestion from his Sheikah Slate, creating a breathtakingly lonely adventure. If what we’ve seen of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is anything to go by, we likely aren’t getting another buddy to travel with.

With a few months to go until the anticipated sequel, we thought it prudent to look back at the companions that came before – and rank them from worst to best, naturally. Obviously, you're unlikely to agree 100% with our picks, so at the bottom you'll find a poll where you can vote for your favourite, too.

Before we begin, do note there are some late-game spoilers below. Also, as much as we love Epona and our faithful Crimson Loftwing, they don’t fit this list’s criteria of being a communicative partner with a character arc that spends the majority of the game at Link’s side.

#9 - Princess Zelda (Spirit Form)

Spirit Zelda
Image: Nintendo

Way back at the tail end of 2009, Princess Zelda joined Link for an adventure in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the first time. When the forgettable Chancellor Cole captured Zelda in order to resurrect the Demon King Malladus (standard Zelda fare) she escaped her body to assist Link in restoring the Spirit Tracks of New Hyrule (not standard Zelda fare).

By no means an annoying companion, Zelda’s spirit form was in no way memorable. In fact, we’d go as far to say Spirit Tracks wasted the potential of having Zelda along for the ride for the first time. Sure, she could possess Phantoms, but as far as this list goes, the iconic princess wasn’t so iconic as a companion.

#8 - Ciela

Image: Nintendo Life

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass featured two companions that assisted Link on his second sea-faring adventure. Ciela, Link’s fairy companion, did a grand job getting us used to the finicky stylus controls. She also had quite a bit of personality as she bantered with the other companion, Linebeck.

Ciela plays a crucial role in the story, helping Link defeat the Big Bad Bellum, but honestly we wouldn’t blame you if you forgot the fairy in Phantom Hourglass was more than just a marker for where you placed your stylus on the screen.

#7 - Linebeck

Image: Nintendo Life

In Phantom Hourglass, Linebeck transports Link around The World of the Ocean King on his boat, not out of the goodness of his heart but rather for avarice. He places low on this list for two simple reasons. One, he’s not quite as memorable as those below, and two, for most of the game Linebeck was outright annoying.

A coward by nature, Linebeck spent most of his time hiding and running away. Sure, near the climax of the game he finds his courage to save Link, and there’s even a heartwarming moment at the end where he forgoes treasure in order to have his sunken ship back, but he isn’t a companion we have particularly fond memories of.

#6 - Navi

Image: Nintendo

“Hey!” “Listen!” “Watch out!"

These words have been forever burned into our psyche. No other companion is more iconic — or irritating — than Navi from Ocarina of Time. Much like Ciela, Navi doesn’t have a lot of personality outside of being a little feisty.

While we were still sad to see the little ball of light leave Link’s side during the final cinematic, there’s little to no character arc here. She functioned, mostly, as a clever way for Link to target enemies and to give players clues and directions as to where to go and what to do – and she did her job well. There was nothing else quite like Ocarina of Time back in 1998, and she was our guide as we took our first steps into a three-dimensional Hyrule.

#5 - Ezlo

Image: Nintendo

This little sentient green cap helped Link shrink to a miniscule size in The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap while also serving as his guide and – as companions are wont to do – giver of hints. Ezlo, for his part, was both unobtrusive and humorous, making for a near-perfect blend for a travelling partner.

Cursed by The Minish Cap’s evildoer Vaati – his former apprentice – to take the form of the cap, he doesn’t have much in the way of character development while he and Link try to right the wrongs of the dastardly sorcerer, yet we still felt a bittersweet pang when he returned to his original form in the Minish world at the end of the game. We hope one day the Minish Door opens again and we can meet his descendant.

#4 - King of Red Lions

King of Red Lions
Image: Nintendo

Much of our time playing The Wind Waker was spent on this little red talking boat; helpful, patient, and oftentimes indignant, the King of Red Lions made for by far the least annoying companion that Link ever travelled with. It probably helped that he chilled at the dock of whichever island Link had business on, but overall, he made for a great buddy to explore the Great Sea with.

The fact that he turns out to be inhabited by the spirit of the long-lost King of Hyrule makes for a great little twist, and while he didn’t grow as a character throughout, seeing him stay behind in that frozen Hyrule beneath the waves made for a mournful touch at the end of a wonderful adventure.

#3 - Fi

Image: Nintendo Life

Yes, Skyward Sword held our hands too much, explaining the most basic Zelda mechanics in excruciating detail. And yes, Fi was a large part of that, interrupting Link’s adventure both above and below the clouds too often.

Yet, as far as Link’s companions go, Fi ranks as one of the most realised; for much of the game, she shows little emotion as the robotic embodiment of the Master Sword, but after the awesome final battle against Demise, she reveals how she felt, expressing feeling happiness from their adventure and hoping they meet again in another life. She truly pulled on our Hylian heartstrings.

And she calmed down a bit in Skyward Sword HD, too.

#2 - Tatl

Image: Nintendo Life

Tatl is a fairy companion done right. During the opening moments of Majora’s Mask, she and her brother ambushed Link along with the Skull Kid. However, she got left behind, reluctantly agreeing to help Link in order to reunite with her brother, and she gradually came to understand that the Skull Kid needed to be freed from Majora’s Mask in order to save both him and Termina.

She filled a mechanical role similar to that of Navi and Ciela, but at the same time had her own arc and personality. Initially hostile, she eventually apologised to Link for the events at the beginning of the game. She had ample backstory, took an active part in cutscenes, and played a major role in the climactic final moments. In the end, with the Skull Kid freed from the mask’s influence, she stayed behind with her brother as Link departed Termina.

Truly, Tatl is the best companion fairy.

#1 - Midna

Image: Nintendo

You knew Midna had to top this list before you read it, right? A bit anticlimactic, sure, but Twilight Princess’s companion stands second to none as a character full of personality with a grand arc to uncover throughout Link’s adventure between realms. In fact, one could argue she’s the true protagonist of Link’s gloomiest adventure.

Zant, using Ganondorf’s power, had usurped Midna from her throne in the Twilight Realm, cursing her into an impish form. Initially hostile toward Link and treating him as a servant, she slowly revealed how much she truly cared for others, being willing to sacrifice herself for a world not her own after a near-fatal confrontation with Zant. It is this part of the game, when Wolf Link rushed to Hyrule Castle to have Midna healed, we remember fondly as the most poignant moment with a companion of any game.

The reveal of Midna’s true form at the finale was a wildberry on top of a delicious, shadowy cake — although we have to say we preferred her impish guise to her regular, boring human form.

Don’t worry – if you disagree with our rankings, which we’re sure many of you do, be sure to vote below which companion you thought was the most memorable and well realised in a Zelda game. Let us know why you think so, as well, and whether you’d like to see another companion in Tears of the Kingdom!

Who is your favourite companion in a Zelda game?