Shadow Link is quite the enigmatic character. Unlike similar incarnations of Link, we fight this opponent several times and across multiple games in The Legend of Zelda franchise.
Having played each of the games Shadow Link appears in, I’ve had my fair share of encounters with him, and in this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about this enemy — from his multiple appearances, his history, and exactly how you should go about beating him!
Bottom Line Up Front
This guide is a comprehensive breakdown of Shadow Link. As such, not all information may be relevant to you, so here’s a quick primer!
- If you’ve already fought Shadow Link but are confused about how he fits into the wider Zelda lore, see the section below entitled Who is Shadow Link? It covers the origins of this mysterious character and how he’s different from other similar foes.
- If you’re stuck trying to beat Shadow Link, head below to the How to beat Shadow Link section for a quick rundown. This isn’t a complete walkthrough, but it will cover the basics of this enemy’s fighting style and what to look out for.
- If you just want some simple tips, check out My top tips section for three things I wish I had known before encountering Shadow Link. There’s also a handy Frequently asked questions section you might want to glance over at the bottom of the article.
Who Is Shadow Link?
According to the Hyrule Historia, Shadow Link is a manifestation of the Dark Mirror. This magical item reveals the deep evil within the person using it and personifies that evil as its own entity.
Shadow Link is one such entity created when Ganon used the mirror, and he represents the titular villain’s hatred for Link, having been killed by another incarnation of him in the timeline underpinning Twilight Princess (see our guide on the Zelda timeline if you need to brush up on that topic).
He mirrors Link’s silhouette but with a distinct ghost-like form with a purple eminence and red eyes. With the Dark Mirror being responsible for Dark Link’s creation, he isn’t just one person. The mirror can spawn many separate Dark Link’s to cause havoc across Hyrule and apprehend Link.
A Quick Distinction
Before we begin, it’s worth clearing up who Shadow Link is not. If you’ve played other games in the series, you’ll have come across similar characters, such as Dark Link from Ocarina of Time and Links Shadow from The Adventure of Link. While these characters are similar, they should not be confused with Shadow Link — they are different entities with different origins, and they behave in distinct ways compared to each other.
Each of these entities may be related, but this hasn’t been expanded upon in the Hyrule Historia.
What Games Does Shadow Link Appear in?
Four Swords Adventure
This game features Shadow Link’s most prolific appearance in the series. Here, we learn of the Dark Mirror and how multiple Shadow Links are used to full effect in attacking Hyrule and accosting the player in numbers. You’ll fight Shadow Link on numerous occasions here: as a multiplied variant where Link must tackle several entities at once, whether as a sub-boss or as the main boss.
A Link Between Worlds
Shadow Link also appears briefly in A Link Between Worlds. His origin is shrouded in mystery for this game, but he’s essentially treated as an extra challenge that the player can engage with through the 3DS feature Street Pass.
In this way, the battle with Shadow Link cleverly represents another player’s Link. The fight will be treated as a like-for-like encounter with Link and his abilities. Shadow Link will be equipped with whatever items the other player had in their Link’s inventory.
In this game, Shadow Link appears as a boss battle in The Den of Trials — the 9th area of the Drab Lands. Similarly to his appearance in A Link Between Worlds, no extra lore or context is given regarding his appearance.
How to Beat Shadow Link
Beating Shadow link will depend on which game you’re pitted against him in, but considering he’s only seen briefly in Tri Force Heros and A Link Between Worlds, we’ll skim over those games briefly and then focus on his main appearance in Four Swords Adventure.
In A Link Between Worlds, beating Shadow Link simply relies on your proficiency and knowledge of Link’s arsenal within that game. This is because Shadow Link in this game is a one-for-one representation of the player.
There’s no direct strategy I can call to other than to make sure you’re familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of every item: as previously stated, Shadow Link will take on the items of whatever strangers Link you activated through Street Pass, so this is the main aspect you need to be aware of.
Regarding the variation in Tri Force Heroes, this encounter presents as quite an interesting boss battle. With the game playing as a three-way multiplayer title, the players will fight off against three Shadow Links that each wields powerful variations of equipable items, and these items are randomly generated, meaning each time you return to the battle, the situation will necessitate a different strategy.
Each Shadow Link also wields a sword that places a draining HP curse on each Link. Your best bet here is to play them at their own game: use ranged weapons and avoid getting too close!
Battling Shadow Link in Four Swords Adventure
Fighting Shadow Link in this game is more complex, as he appears in many different forms. The first few times you encounter the character are in groups. Having been sent out in numbers by Ganon to cause mischief, you’ll come across them several times in the early game as they attempt to sabotage your progress.
You’ll fight shadow link nine times during the game: once for each of the eight main areas and one final time for the game’s finale. The main differences between each encounter are the number of shadow links to fight and environmental changes.
With each subsequent encounter, the number of Shadow Link entities you’re required to defeat increases by one to a maximum of four (not including the final battle). Environmental challenges, such as lava, ice, lasers, and more, also make the challenge incrementally more difficult.
Despite the above, Shadow Link’s actual attacks remain the same throughout the game. He’ll make liberal use of static bombs throughout each battle, which is a challenge to avoid due to the need to manage the whereabouts of your four separate characters. As soon as you see him hold a bomb above his head, make sure to hang back until it is placed.
Shadow Link will also attack with his sword as the protagonist does, and he utilizes the same move sets, which makes him similar to how the player fights other enemies who use swords and shields.
It’s difficult to fight him head-on without taking damage, but using items such as the Bow and Arrow or Fire Staff can temporarily stun him. This is indicated by immobility and stars floating above his head, and he’s then open to a quick attack.
He also has a special jump ability which enables him to move very quickly from one area of the map to another and, most importantly, to land a deadly flying blow with his sword. Look out for the telltale sign that he’s about to jump: he’ll put his shield away and ready his legs.
Shadow Link’s main defensive method is a large shield that blocks all head-on attacks. The key is to quickly get behind him and strike with your sword where he is defenseless, or strike just before he does when he momentarily lifts his shield.
Shadow Link will also make effective use of teleporters to evade you. In this case, Link must follow him into whatever teleporter he used, and then continue fighting him as normal from the Gameboy Advance screen rather than the TV.
Shadow Link’s main ability encompasses shapeshifting to take on the appearance of one of the four playable links. At an interval during the battle, he will cycle through the four tunic colors rapidly before randomly settling on one. Whichever color he mimics will represent the only iteration of Link that can defeat him.
This ability effectively makes Shadow Link invulnerable to all but one of the four protagonists. However, the strategy in fighting to fend off his offensive and defensive abilities remains the same.
The Final Encounter
The last battle against Shadow Link sees his numbers multiply to nine separate entities. There are no extra strategies to consider here, but this fight will test your endurance more than any other. Beating Shadow Link enables Princess Zelda to retrieve the Dark Mirror and prevent any more Shadow Link entities from spawning, and from here, the squad moves onto the final battle with Ganon.
My Top Tips
More so Than Ever, Watch for Patterns
Zelda enemy encounters are usually about following patterns anyway, but for fighting Shadow Link, it’s doubly important.
With the character often attacking as multiple entities, it can be difficult to execute the usual bait-and-swipe strategy; you’ll need to multitask and keep your eye on several targets — but you must still make sure to watch for the patterns in how they attack in groups. While it’s easy to feel like their attacks are random in the chaos of fighting several tough enemies, there is always a coordinated pattern between them. Recognizing it will be the key to success.
Play Four Swords Adventure in Multiplayer
Four Swords Adventure can be played either single-player or multi-player, but if you can, play it with friends! Not only will you find the strategies for puzzles and combat more rewarding, but fighting Shadow Link will be much less of a chore.
Fighting multiple Shadow Link entities at once relies on the abilities of four separate players: each player can choose one enemy to target. Having several players also opens the fight up to better strategies. One enemy can stun Shadow Link with an item, which could then be followed up by an immediate disabling blow from another nearby player.
Flanking is Key
Due to Dark Link’s ethereal, slippery nature, your ability to match his agility is imperative. This isn’t an enemy you’ll want to attack head-on most of the time. Practice combat from multiple angles on smaller, dumber enemies to hone your skills for Shadow Link fights. You don’t want to stand in one place for more than a second, either: keep on the move to avoid his quick-succession combos and keep one step ahead!
Question: You mentioned the Hyrule Historia a couple of times. Is it worth buying?
Answer: If you’re a big Zelda fan who’s interested in the lore and history behind the game’s world, the Hyrule Historia is a great buy.
All the information contained within can technically be found online, but I enjoyed reading the book from cover to cover. It’s also worth noting that Nintendo produced two other companion books to the series: Arts and Artifacts, and the Encyclopedia, both of which will aid in your understanding of the game world.
Question: Which Shadow Link appearance do you think is the best?
Answer: While I think the utilization of Shadow Link in A Link Between Worlds is a cool idea, I have to give it to Four Swords Heros. It’s here we get an actual explanation of the character’s origins, and I think the concept of a Ganon-fueled counterpart to the protagonist is a really cool idea. This is also the only game where Shadow Link is a major character within a Zelda game.
Question: Do you think we’ll see Dark Link in the upcoming Tears of the Kingdom?
Answer: While no one knows the answer to this other than the developers, I think we may see a variation of Dark Link in the upcoming new game. Given the lack of any dark incarnation of Link in Breath of the Wild, it would be super interesting to see the character reimagined for a mainline game.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen this sort of character within the flagship titles, and if it happens, it might not be Shadow Link specifically but some variation of SDark Link. Regardless, there’s an opportunity to flesh out an unclear part of the lore there, so hopefully, it happens this coming March!
I hope this guide has given you enough insight to tackle Shadow Link — whichever game you may find him in. I’m sure we’ll see another incarnation of this character in future games, and we’ll be sure to delve into his mischief again with an update when that time arrives. Good luck!