Look, we can say we love Link all we want, but with the exception of a cartoon and CD-i series of games we don't discuss, Link is intentionally a blank slate for us to define as a hero. As such, characterization and narrative in Zelda comes from the rest of the cast. Often that can be Zelda herself, but each game has its own characters and quirks, and more often than not, they are only seen in a single entry, like most of these wonderful people/horses/Gorons/other.
In A Link Between Worlds, Ravio fills a pivotal role in both story and function. If the key to any successful business is a good location, then Ravio setting up shop right inside of Link's house was definitely good for business (don't worry, he packed up all your furniture against the wall and that new purple carpet really ties the room together). Thanks to Ravio's equipment rental service, players were finally able to choose their own adventure and explore at their own pace. However, play long enough and you'll see that Ravio is a little different from your typical Zelda merchant.
What was cooler than exploring the expansive, 3D fields of Hyrule in Ocarina of Time? Doing it on horseback, of course! Epona was the first real mount of the Legend of Zelda series, making her debut alongside Link's leap into the third dimension. Epona wasn't simply a mindless vehicle Link obtained unceremoniously, either. She had her own small part of OoT's overall story, bonding with child Link before being set free from Lon Lon Ranch by adult Link in a daring escape. Sure, the riding was a bit clunky on the old Nintendo 64, but it was (and still is) a joy trotting across Hyrule Field feeding Epona a seemingly endless supply of imaginary carrots. We'll always have fond memories of playing "Epona's Song" and hearing her distant whinny. Of course, OoT was only the first of her many appearances in the the Legend of Zelda. She was also featured in later installments of the series, including Twilight Princess and Breath of the Wild.
Midna is a standout sidekick among all of the rest who have tagged along with Link. This snarky imp accompanies you from the moment you enter the Twilight Realm, urging you on as you acclimate to exploring the realm in your new wolf form. After starting out in a kind of master-servant relationship where she is ordering you around, Midna slowly sheds her snarky demeanor and behaves like more of a close friend. She also has the most elaborate backstory of any Zelda sidekick, as befitting of the titular character of Twilight Princess. Because of all this, Midna is one of those characters that leaves a long-lasting impression.
No, I don't mean the hip-hop artist and star of "Like Mike" formerly known as Lil' Bow Wow; I mean the surprising Chain Chomp cameo featured in The Legend of Zelda's Game Boy entry. As Link takes him for a walk, Bow-Wow can devour any regular enemy in the game with reckless abandon, including the invulnerable flower enemies blocking the second dungeon, Bottle Grotto. Good boy!
In one of the more memorable sequences in the myth-heavy Ocarina of Time, the player discovers a lone Goron rolling around like a maniac in the ghost town that was once Goron City (this is of course after Link transgresses the limits of time and becomes an adult in an apocalyptic wasteland version of Hyrule). By properly timing a bomb blast, the player can stop the Goron from rolling and learn the tragic fate of its people along with its namesake, which is you. In a realm newly void of NPCs, Link the Goron is a glimmer of life and hope in a world completely stripped of light. He exists as a symbol of the courage inspired by the Hero of Time (and the player) and also of the isolation and fear brought upon Hyrule by the magician-tyrant Ganondorf.
Mysterious, mischievous, maybe malevolent, and perhaps a little omnipotent, the Happy Mask Salesman is no definitely no ordinary merchant. Often appearing in a series of quick-cuts than fluid movement, prone to outrageous outbursts, and yet eating up surprisingly little screentime, he is still wildly unpredictable and incredibly captivating. Whether an "Ancient One," or part of Hyrule's burgeoning black market for rare goods, or perhaps even Shigeru Miyamoto in disguise, HMS is hard to forget.
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