Our favorite girl is back, and with a bobcut, no less! Princess Zelda in Tears of the Kingdom.

The Answer We’ve All Been Waiting For: Can You Play as Zelda in Tears of the Kingdom’?

I know. Believe me, I know. We were all hoping for it. Despite being the literal name of the game since its inception, Princess Zelda herself has never been a prominently playable character in any major Zelda title. Considering her role in Breath of the Wild’s story, many of us were hoping she might be, at the very least, a playable deuteragonist in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

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Alas, she is not. Although Zelda plays a more active role in Tears than she did in Breath, she’s still been relegated to the backseat, with Link once again being the main character. And though it makes sense, considering this has been the formula for the franchise since Day 1, we all grew so fond of BotW’s Zelda that we couldn’t help but hope we’d get a chance to explore Hyrule directly as her.

This desire was so strong that modders even created a mod that allowed players to play as Zelda in Breath of the Wild. And it’s such a fantastic, in-depth mod, even factoring in things like how outfits might uniquely present on Zelda, what her voice sounds like, and so on:

In a feature with Vanity Fair, Zelda game director Eiji Aonuma had this to say on the subject:

Aonuma has previously ruled out making Link a woman, saying that there is already a major female character: Princess Zelda herself. Asked if she’ll ever get an adventure of her own, he hedges. “We feel like what takes most priority is this idea of gameplay. If it turns out that the particular gameplay we’re trying to bring to fruition would be best served by having Zelda take that role, then it’s possible that that could be a direction we could take. With that said, of course, because we are not sure what the next gameplay experience is going to be, we can’t say what Zelda’s next step is going to be.”

Mike Hogan in conversation with Aonuma, Vanity Fair

It’s a vague enough response that it could be interpreted in a number of ways, and therefore, I won’t comment further on it, other than it’s disappointing on a personal level. I certainly enjoy being a woman, and I like playing games where I can be women, especially when the games in question let me do cool stuff while being a woman. It would have similarly been cool to let Zelda take the wheel this time.

However, this won’t completely take away from my enjoyment of the game, especially since it’s not like Link is one of those dudebro video game protagonists that’s designed to be overly masculine. Part of why Link is so beloved by all kinds of people is because he’s just Link. He can operate on both a gender-fluid and genderless basis, which makes him a uniquely accessible protagonist—which is laudable, especially considering The Legend of Zelda is such a popular franchise!

So, two things can exist here: It’s sad that we won’t be able to play as Zelda, after so many were hoping we could, and there’s still plenty to love about Tears of the Kingdom, including our favorite little guy, Link.

(featured image: Nintendo)

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Madeline Carpou
Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).