Ganondorf (ガノンドロフ, Ganondorf) is the main antagonist of The Legend of Zelda series. His first appearance was as the beast known as Ganon (ガノン) in the original The Legend of Zelda game, although it was misspelled as Gannon in-game. The name "Ganondorf" was first mentioned in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past with the villain making his first appearance as Ganondorf in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Since then, the name "Ganondorf" has been used to refer to his human form while "Ganon" is used for his monster form, the only exception being in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (though, at times, the names have been used interchangeably). In either case, he has been Link's archenemy since the first game.
Ganondorf was originally introduced in the original The Legend of Zelda game as Ganon. Here, he was established as a power-hungry monster who had kidnapped Princess Zelda for her piece of the Triforce, but was destroyed by Link at the end of the game. Since then, collecting the Triforce and conquering Hyrule has usually been Ganondorf's main goal in the series. He is physically present or otherwise referenced in nearly every Zelda game, with four exceptions: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, and The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.
Ganondorf's appearance has changed over the course of the series. In his first appearance as Ganon, he appears as a bestial, porcine demon with turquoise skin (though it will change to red at one point, which is the cue to hit him with the Silver Arrow), while in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, he has blue skin and turns silver when weak to the aforementioned Silver Arrows. Ocarina of Time marks Ganon's first human appearance and under his birth name of Ganondorf. As a Gerudo, he sports his race's typical features: dark skin (with his having an olive green tint), a sharp bird-like nose, amber eyes, and red eyebrows and hair (with the former connecting to the latter). The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, in a departure from previous games, features a quadrupedal Ganon for the first time.
In his first appearance as Ganondorf in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it is revealed that he is the only male of the Gerudo Tribe, a tribe of thieves, exclusively females, who bear a male only once every century, whom is destined to be their ruler. He is seen wearing armor in both Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, while he forgoes armor in favor of a robe-like cloak in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
Ganondorf is the primary villain in most of the Zelda games, with his schemes usually involving kidnapping Princess Zelda, conquering the land of Hyrule, and/or obtaining the Triforce. Unlike Link and Zelda, who have descendants and successors, Ganondorf is the same individual in all but one of the games that he appears in, whether in his Gerudo form or his demonic Ganon form, and even across the series' multiple timelines. It is elaborated in Skyward Sword that Ganondorf is the personified malice of the Demon King Demise, who was defeated by the descendants of the goddess Hylia and her chosen hero; as a result, he is endlessly resurrected as long as there are individuals who share the blood of the goddess and the spirit of the hero. The only exception to this is The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures; Ganondorf, in this game, is a reincarnation born centuries after the previous Ganondorf's death in Twilight Princess.
Unlike most of Nintendo's other famous villains, such as some depictions of Bowser, Ganondorf is cunning, ruthless, and boasts the strength of a god. This was most evident in Ocarina of Time, where he successfully conquered Hyrule, thus forcing Link to build up his strength so he could take Hyrule back from Ganondorf and end his seven year-long reign.
Whether he appears as Ganondorf or as Ganon, Hyrule knows that it will be facing an incredible evil that only Link and Zelda can stop.
As a playable character
Main article: Ganondorf (SSBM)
Ganondorf makes his first appearance in the Smash Bros. series as a secret playable fighter in Super Smash Bros. Melee. He can be unlocked after completing Triforce Gathering or by playing 600 VS. matches. According to the official Melee website, Ganondorf wasn't planned to be included as a playable character. However, the convenience of him having a body build very similar to Captain Falcon's allowed him to be easily cloned from Captain Falcon, leading to his inclusion as one of the last-minute clones to pad out the roster. His design is based off of his appearance from the SpaceWorld 2000 GameCube Tech Demo, which is in turn based off of his appearance from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
In terms of raw power, Ganondorf, along with Bowser is often considered the most powerful character in the game, with slow moves but decent speed for his size. He has superb reach and a melee style of fighting. Though comparatively slow to most characters, particularly those of power in lower tiers, he is not so slow as to render his great strength unusable. Almost every attack in his arsenal (with the exception of his throws) has high power and KO potential, ensuring that if a hit does connect, it will likely knock an opponent near or past one of the blast line when said opponent is at high damage. His neutral special move is the Warlock Punch, which is similar to the Falcon Punch, except that it takes more time to execute; however, it is considerably more powerful and undergoes a further increase in power when connected on the back. His side special move is the Gerudo Dragon, which launches enemies up into the air. His up special move is the Dark Dive while his down special move is Wizard's Foot. His up tilt is extremely powerful, but it takes a while to "charge". His forward smash is unique, sending foes vertically more than horizontally. His up smash is the second most damaging smash in the game (only behind Peach's down smash), dealing 53% when fully charged. What Ganondorf is most known for are his very powerful and surprisingly fast aerials (start-up lag wise). He is the only character in Melee to have all five aerials being capable of reliably KOing under 150%. His most known aerial is his down aerial, which is both the most powerful meteor smash and aerial attack in Melee. Despite being a meteor smash, it can star KO the majority of the characters under 100% when grounded. It also works well at setting up combos at low percentages despite its power, especially against the fast fallers. Ganondorf is arguably the character who benefits from L-cancelling the most, as all his aerials have high landing lag, but L-cancelling allows him to fully utilize his aerials without being so punishable. These positive attributes have offered him the position of 14th place on Melee's mid-tier.
As noted earlier, Ganondorf is a clone of Captain Falcon in Melee, with a lot of identical animations and very similar moves, though he does have a few notable differences. Ganondorf is slower but more powerful than Captain Falcon. Ganondorf's neutral attack consists of a single hit instead of being an neutral infinite combo like Captain Falcon's. The most notable difference is that they have different forward aerials, as while Captain Falcon has the Knee Smash, Ganondorf has a downward arcing punch, which has been referred to by fans as the "Skull Crusher". The primary statistical difference between the two is that Ganondorf's forward aerial is not as powerful as the Knee Smash, but it lacks a sourspot and has greater reach. Ganondorf is also heavier, making him more difficult to KO horizontally than Captain Falcon, along with a slower falling speed allowing him to recover farther when coupled with his Wizard's Foot, which gives him an extra midair jump (though Captain Falcon's faster falling speed gives him greater vertical endurance). Ganondorf's neutral aerial, down smash, and up smash are all two hit moves with effects that are the inverse of Falcon's. For example, both hits of his neutral aerial and up smash can KO, while only the second hit of Captain Falcon's same moves has real knockback. Conversely, Ganondorf's down smash's first hit has set knockback that sends opponents behind him to connect the second hit, which can KO, while either hit of Captain Falcon's down smash can reliably KO.
Main article: List of SSBM trophies (The Legend of Zelda series)
Ganondorf, as with the other playable characters, is featured on three trophies. His normal trophy is acquired by beating the Classic Mode with Ganondorf on any difficulty, and his Smash Red and Smash Blue trophies are acquired through winning the Adventure and All-Star modes, respectively.
As a playable character
Main article: Ganondorf (SSBB)
Ganondorf reappears in Super Smash Bros. Brawl as a playable unlockable character, using his The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess character model, although without the glowing chest wound like in the game and sporting a hemmed cape instead of a tattered cape. Some of his attacks have changed from his Melee set and have undergone large aesthetic changes to resemble various hand-to-hand moves he has used in the Zelda franchise, while his other attacks are similar to their Melee counterparts.
In Brawl, his attacks are noticeably more sluggish (especially his forward aerial) and have less reach. His jumping ability, his walking speed, and dashing speed have been hindered, which hinders his mobility rather severely. His rolling dodges, once on par with Captain Falcon's (from whom they were inherited), are now slower and gain less distance. His horizontal recovery is worse due to the Wizard's Foot no longer restoring his midair jump. Many of Ganondorf's attacks were weakened as well, most notably the Dark Dive (can no longer KO at high percentage), grounded Wizard's Foot (could KO under 125% in Melee but can't KO under 150% in Brawl), the up tilt (though it is still the strongest tilt in the game but it can no longer KO at low percentage unless used near the ledge), the down smash, and the back aerial. Some of his attacks were buffed in terms of power. His forward smash is stronger with horizontal knockback now (it has less reach however), his dash attack was strengthened significantly (it is now a reliable KO move instead of being his second weakest attack that wasn't a throw), his back and forward throws are stronger (they can now KO on the edge at high percentages), and the Warlock Punch was buffed (higher damage, knockback, and can be reversed) and can now get guaranteed KOs at damages as low as from 13%-20%. He has a new side special, Flame Choke, that involves choking the opponent, then throwing them downward. With it, Ganondorf has an alternate recovery move and can now Ganoncide. Flame Choke is faster and less punishable than Gerudo Dragon was and is good for setting up as well, but it deals approximately half the damage and is completely incapable of KOing unlike the Gerudo Dragon. Besides Ganondorf being slower and having less overall power, he was especially hurt by the loss of L-Cancelling, which allowed Ganondorf to utilize his very powerful aerials to their fullest in Melee. These aforementioned negative attributes of Ganondorf has resulted in him holding the reputation for being the lowest ranked character on the tier list, placing 38th (which is an immense drop from being 14th out of 26th in Melee).
Beast Ganon also appears as Ganondorf's Final Smash. Once the Smash Ball is retrieved and activated by the player, Ganondorf immediately transforms into the Twilight Princess rendition of Beast Ganon. In beast form, he stomps his front legs on the ground, immobilizing any foes in his wake, pounding them down into the earth, and making them unable to perform any actions. The beast then charges straightforward into the direction he was last facing when the Final Smash was activated.
Main article: List of SSBB trophies (The Legend of Zelda series)
A man who wants to use the power of the Triforce to conquer the world. In Twilight Princess, he gives strength to the Twilight King, Zant, and tries to change the land into a world of darkness. He possesses Zelda, transforms into a magical beast, and attacks Link. In the end, however, Link deals him a finishing blow and defeats him.
The king of evil. Ganondorf aims to collect the Triforce pieces and rule the world. Already in possession of the Triforce of Power, he secures Zelda and her Triforce of Wisdom, thus luring Link to his castle. However, he is ultimately defeated by Zelda's Light Arrows and Link's Master Sword.
As a playable character
Main article: Ganondorf (SSB4)
Ganondorf returns as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. He reuses his Twilight Princess appearance, but with his glowing chest wound from that game clearly visible and a more tattered cape. His moveset is similar to its Brawl incarnation, though he now has a set of custom special moves that are completely different from Captain Falcon's.
Ganondorf saw a slight rise in tier list placement for SSB4, now ranking 53rd out of 55 characters (being tied with Zelda). He still retains his trademark extreme power, granting him a powerful punish game. He also benefits from the removal of chain grabbing, meaning he can no longer be a victim of such, and the removal of hitstun cancelling gives Ganondorf some combo capability. The new shield mechanics introduced in updates 1.1.0 and 1.1.1 also enhances his already superb shield-breaking power, as well as make his more heavy-hitlag moves safer on shield. Nonetheless, Ganondorf's slow speed, susceptibility to combos, vulnerability to projectile camping, and terrible recovery options remain prominent. While some custom moves grant him better recovery and approach options, custom moves are currently banned in tournaments, leaving Ganondorf with only his default options. Although he received some buffs in the transition from Brawl to SSB4, as well as gained many more buffs in game updates, his glaring flaws remain. When this is coupled with the aforementioned custom moves ban, he is mainly seen as a non-viable pick for high-level play, though he still has a few dedicated players, some of whom even use him as a singular main.
As a playable character
Main article: Ganondorf (SSBU)
Ganondorf returns as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, as with all previous playable characters. His appearance is now based on his design in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the first time since Melee. Ganondorf has received new smash attacks which use his sword from the Space World 2000 tech demo, and his Final Smash transforms him into Ganon as seen in Ocarina of Time as well. Like each of his previous appearances in the series (except for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U), he is an unlockable character. Additionally, Ganon appears as a boss in Classic Mode.