Link has a large number of good qualities in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. He’s the destined savior of Hyrule. He’s loyal, contractually obligated to be courageous, and skilled with every weapon that exists. He has a long list of hobbies such as cooking, swimming, and horseback riding. But there’s something that overshadows all of that: Link is a jerk, and he treats the people he meets on his journey like dirt.
Breath of the Wild begins with taunting an old man
To begin with, shortly after leaving the Shrine of Resurrection, Link runs down a hill and happens upon an old man sitting next to a fire. There’s a cooked apple nearby. It would make sense that this apple belongs to the elderly gentleman, but Link picks up the apple anyway. The old man reacts in anger, the understandable response when someone takes your property. He does end up letting Link keep the apple, because who wants to get into a shouting match over an apple in the wilderness?
The next few hours in Breath of the Wild find Link continuing to berate this person who is only trying to help him. This abuse is centered around the old man trading Link his paraglider. Every interaction, Link weighs talking to him like a normal human being versus talking to him like a child demanding a toy. Link makes dogged attempts at whining the paraglider into his possession. He didn’t even know about the thing an hour ago, but since he was told the item could progress him toward his goal, that’s enough to get him to brat his way into its ownership.
Eventually, Link does obtain the paraglider. This allows him to descend from the starting plateau, unleashing his jerk personality on Hyrule at large. From Hateno to the Gerudo Wasteland, there is no distance that the hero of the wild won’t traverse to make someone’s day or life worse.
Link tortures Zora’s Domain
Let’s start in Zora’s Domain on the way to the Divine Beast Vah Ruta. To stop Vah Ruta from causing an eternal rain that would flood Hyrule, Link must collect 20 shock arrows. This mostly involves sneaking around a Lynel to collect them, but there is one shock arrow that can be found inside Zora’s Domain. It belongs to an elderly Zora named Seggin. Most of the older Zora hate Link and blame him for the death of Mipha, the Zora champion. Link does what he can to justify this hate by stealing from Seggin.
Seggin can be found repeatedly zapping himself with the arrow near Mipha’s statue, using that arrow as a sort of training to become more resistant to electricity. If shock arrows are no longer dangerous to him, then maybe he can stop Vah Ruta and save Zora’s Domain. Link, having no concept of property that isn’t his or personal goals besides his own, walks up and takes it. Seggin’s hopes and aspirations are robbed in equal measure.
Jerk of the Gerudo Wasteland
The Gerudo Village doesn’t allow men. But Link needs an item in the village, so he needs to disguise himself as female. This section is problematic for numerous reasons, but let’s focus on Link’s interactions with a character you meet outside of the city, Bozai.
There are two ways to interact with Bozai: disguised as a Gerudo female or as regular Link. When he isn’t disguised as a Gerudo, Bozai will gloat about his shoes that let him run normally in the sand. Link, again wanting something that someone else owns, asks for Bozai to hand them over. He doesn’t, but Bozai does say he would consider it if Link were a lady. So if you come back in the Gerudo garb, he’ll make advances toward Link. Link deflects these with his normal grace of demanding free stuff.
The boots aren’t free though. Bozai says that he’ll trade them if Link comes back with a picture of a lost statue in the Gerudo Highlands. He even lends Link a different pair of rare boots that make traversing through snow easier. Returning with the picture has Bozai attempt to ask Link on a date again, but he is interrupted with another “boots, please” from our hero.
Typically, this would be the end of Link’s interactions with anyone since he’s acquired what he needed from them. Unfortunately, Bozai shows Link that he has more useful stuff to be catfished out of. Talking to him again will have Link demand the snow boots, so Bozai tells Link to find the statue’s lost sword if he wants them.
Coming back with the picture of the sword has Bozai and Link go through their usual song and dance of rejected advances. Bozai keeps his end of the bargain and hands over the snow boots. Now shoeless, he asks Link again out for a date and is swiftly rejected.
There are a lot of things wrong with Bozai. Running around a village trying to show off for its female population isn’t a good look. However, if one of the Gerudo actually wanted to talk to Bozai for a set of fancy shoes, then that would be their earnest business. Link intentionally deceiving someone into thinking he’s female only to gain his property is jerk behavior.
Link is a jerk to women
In general, the way Link talks to women is inappropriate and forward in Breath of the Wild. He asks very personal questions to a clearly uncomfortable Paya. He asks a Zora how old she is; she does not react kindly to the question. He questions a woman for standing where she’s comfortable in her own shop.
The most striking example of Link’s lack of respect for women comes through in the quest line “A Gift for My Beloved.” Despite the name, the quest doesn’t revolve around some cute romance. In Hateno you’ll find a guy standing around named Manny. He says that he has to check out everyone that comes into town. Whether that is an official function is never mentioned. There is dialog that makes it seem like he’s just gawking at the women of Hateno. Continue talking to Manny and he will ask if you know Prima. Under his breath, he mutters about his desire to give Prima a gift so that maybe she’ll notice him.
This is your cue to go to the inn where she works to find out what she might enjoy as a gift. Walking up to the counter will only give Link the normal dialog for resting at the inn. To trigger the dialog option to ask her what she likes, you have to go around the counter, which opens a new dialog option. To reiterate, Link strolls into Prima’s place of business, invades her personal space, then asks questions that he has no business asking in order to help the creepy guy hit on her later.
Just in case you were thinking that maybe Prima is fine with Link’s behavior, she’s not. When Link walks around the counter, she seems uncomfortable. When she’s asked about what she likes, she lies. She makes up something on the spot just to get Link to go away. She tells him her dream is to have a large collection of crickets.
Telling Manny this information encourages him to start collecting the 100 crickets that Prima lied about wanting. He’ll ask you to collect 10 for him to help him finish faster. Time is important for Manny since he “has a date with Prima riding on this.” Completing the quest sets up a path where this woman trying to do her job is going to be handed 100 crickets — which she doesn’t want — by the town creep, who she doesn’t even like. She’ll mumble something about liking a fellow in town named Medda if asked. Link never stops to think about what Prima wants. He only considers that Manny will give him 100 rupees for helping him.
These aren’t even the only examples of jerk behavior. Frequently throughout my adventures in Breath of the Wild, Link would show off his lack of manners. From the way he interacts with other citizens to how he eats — imagine sitting across the table from him while he jams food into his mouth — he continually proves that he’s a rude person. Nintendo, please, let us play as Zelda in the Breath of the Wild sequel. She’s among the best the character has ever been, while this jerk version of Link is possibly the worst.