Link (リンク, Link) is the protagonist of The Legend of Zelda series. Unlike the majority of Nintendo protagonists, there are several distinct incarnations of Link seen throughout The Legend of Zelda series, each of whom are destined to become heroes against powerful forces of evil, most notably Ganondorf/Ganon. Due to the consistent critical and commercial success of The Legend of Zelda series, Link is marketed as one of Nintendo's flagship characters alongside Mario, the company's de facto mascot, to the point that both he and Mario are marketed together as mascots for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
As a member of the "perfect-attendance crew", Link has been featured as a playable character throughout the Super Smash Bros. series. Compared to the rest of the crew, however, he holds the distinction of doing so in name only because of three of his incarnations (the Hero of Time, the Hero of Twilight, and the Hero of the Wild) appearing as playable characters. By extension, prepubescent incarnations have also been playable, with the first instance of this occurring in Super Smash Bros. Melee.
Link's first appearance was in The Legend of Zelda, which depicted his quest to rescue Princess Zelda and the land of Hyrule from the evil Ganon. Link is designed with a green tunic and a green hat, which, like Mario's design, was due to the NES' hardware limitations. This appearance has since been traditional for Link, with the exception of his appearance in Breath of the Wild, which nevertheless features versions of his traditional green clothes as unlockable attires.
It is worth noting that while there have been multiple games within The Legend of Zelda series, it has not always been the same Link who the player controls. This is evident with the fact that are there multiple timelines within the series, wherein many games typically feature a new Link with a new origin. Notable examples include "Hylia's Chosen Hero" (referring to the Link from Skyward Sword), the "Hero of Time" (referring to the Link from Ocarina of Time/Majora's Mask), the "Hero of Winds" (referring to the Link from The Wind Waker/Phantom Hourglass), and the "Hero of Twilight" (referring to the Link from Twilight Princess).
On a related note, Link's age has also varied. In some games, such as The Wind Waker and the present timeline of Ocarina of Time, Link is a child, with these two particular incarnations being represented as playable characters in the Super Smash Bros. series. In Skyward Sword, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Breath of the Wild, Twilight Princess and the future timeline of Ocarina of Time, Link is depicted as a teenager, with the incarnations from the latter three games also being playable characters in the Super Smash Bros. series.
In addition, Link, regardless of his age, almost always starts out as unremarkable until learning of his heroic destiny and, as his journey presses onward, gradually progresses into a full-fledged hero. For example, Ocarina of Time features him as a young boy whose mother entrusted him in the care of the Great Deku Tree before dying. The Wind Waker also features him as a young boy, albeit living a happy and carefree life on Outset Island alongside his grandmother and younger sister Aryll. In Twilight Princess, he is an ordinary young man working at Ordon Ranch. Breath of the Wild is one of the few exceptions to this rule, introducing him as a knight and a descendant of many other knights.
Regardless of his origin, each incarnation of Link is tasked with defeating the main antagonist of the story, most frequently Ganondorf/Ganon, in order to stop them from either taking over the world or, in other cases, destroying it. Other hallmarks shared by the Links are their ability to wield the Master Sword and their possession of the Triforce of Courage, although these are not depicted universally. Due to the The Legend of Zelda series giving Link simple and concise answers that the player can pick instead of traditional dialogue, there is very little insight into the personalities of the majority of his incarnations. While the only incarnations to expressively show distinct personalities are the ones from The Wind Waker/Phantom Hourglass, Twilight Princess, Spirit Tracks, Skyward Sword, and Breath of the Wild, universal traits among Link's incarnations are bravery, humility, and politeness.
As a playable character
Main article: Link (SSB)
Link's first appearance in a fighting game, and by extension his first official appearance in a Nintendo game outside of his home series, is in Super Smash Bros. as one of the eight starter characters. The incarnation that appears is the Hero of Time from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Link is a slow heavyweight whose Master Sword grants him many disjointed attacks that allow for ranged combat. His neutral special move is Boomerang, which is a fast attack that will return to him. His up special move is Spin Attack, which boasts impressive power, but is cited as his main weakness due to its lackluster recovery potential. Lastly, his down special move is Bomb, which can be thrown either directly at opponents for combos, or to rest on the ground.
Due to his flaws, Link is currently ranked 11th out of 12 on the tier list, placing him in the C tier.
Link's in-game character description says:
As a playable character
Main article: Link (SSBM)
The Hero of Time incarnation of Link returns in Super Smash Bros. Melee as a starter character. He retains his Ocarina of Time design, although redesigned in a way so that he has a far more detailed look, even more so than the game his design is based on - largely due to the improved graphics of the GameCube. While his playstyle has been largely retained, his moves have been slightly tweaked. Spin Attack is now a much more reliable recovery move, while Boomerang is now assigned as Link's side special. Like the rest of his fellow veterans, he received a fourth special move, with his being Bow. It is a neutral special move that allows Link to fire an arrow, with the arrow's range being dependent on how long the player holds down the B button.
Link has been buffed in the transition to Melee. In addition to retaining his Master Sword's disjointed range and his numerous projectiles, Spin Attack covers more distance in the air and his faster air speed. However, he has a very slow dashing speed, and is easy to combo due to his heavy weight and quick falling speed.
Thanks to his buffs, Link is currently ranked 18th out of 26 on the tier list. This places him at the bottom of the E tier, and renders him as the lowest ranking mid-tier character.
Main article: List of SSBM trophies (The Legend of Zelda series)
As a playable character, Link has three trophies - a normal trophy won beating the Classic Mode with Link on any difficulty, and "Smash Red" and "Smash Blue" trophies are acquired by beating the Adventure and All-Star modes, respectively. His Classic Mode trophy reads as follows:
As a playable character
Main article: Link (SSBB)
Unlike the previous two installments, Super Smash Bros. Brawl does not feature the Hero of Time. Instead, he has been succeeded by his descendant, the "Hero of Twilight" from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. While this Link's playstyle is essentially the same as his ancestor's, some of his moves are slightly different in order to match his aesthetics and functionalities in Twilight Princess. This is most apparent with the Gale Boomerang and the Clawshot: the former can pull opponents and items toward Link with a small tornado, whereas the latter can grab an edge, but not walls. Other changes include the arrows of his Hero's Bow, which now disappear after a distance, and his Spin Attack now being chargeable when used on the ground.
Like the rest of the cast, Link has a Final Smash that he obtains when he breaks a Smash Ball. In his case, his Final Smash is the Triforce Slash, in which light from the Triforce of Courage on Link's hand shoots out and traps an opponent in between two large Triforce-shaped force fields. Link then dashes at the opponent, unleashes a barrage of slashes, and then finishes with a powerful blow with enough knockback to one-hit KO the opponent if nothing gets in the way.
While this Link's attacks are stronger, his mobility and recovery are very poor, to the point that the latter is comparable to his ancestor's in SSB. Due to his weaknesses largely outweighing his strengths, Link is currently ranked 35th out 38 on the tier list. This places him in the F tier, and renders him as a bottom-tier character.
Main article: List of SSBB trophies (The Legend of Zelda series)
As a playable character
Main article: Link (SSB4)
The Twilight Princess incarnation of Link reappears as a starter character in Super Smash Bros. 4. However, his overall color scheme is noticeably more vibrant because of SSB4's aesthetics, making him look more like his Skyward Sword incarnation, whom was otherwise unused in Smash.
Link has been buffed in the transition to SSB4. Many of his attacks are faster and stronger, while SSB4's new edge mechanics make his Clawshot's tether recovery more dependable. His projectiles have also seen some improvements: Hero's Bow charges faster, Gale Boomerang's new launching angle improves its follow-up potential, and Bomb deals more damage if it explodes near the opponent's feet. However, Link is still highly susceptible to rushdowns because of his rather sluggish mobility, while some of his attacks' damage outputs were slightly lowered.
Thanks to his buffs largely outweighing his nerfs, Link has been able to attain some notable players in tournament play and achieve respectable results, even at the national level. As a result, he is currently ranked 31st out of 55; in addition to placing him near the top of D tier, this renders him a mid-tier character like his ancestor is in Melee.
As a costume
In addition to his playable appearance, Link's appearance serves as the basis of a downloadable content costume for Mii Swordfighters. Nintendo also released a QR code for those who wish to have the exact Mii used in the costume's advertising. While the costume is based on Link's SSB4 appearance, its simplified design, brighter color scheme, and mirrored hairstyle closely resemble the Skyward Sword incarnation of Link.
As a playable character
Main article: Link (SSBU)
Link returns in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as a playable character. Initially teased alongside Mario and the Inklings during the then-unnamed Super Smash Bros. trailer at the end of the March 8th, 2018 Nintendo Direct, he was formally announced announced alongside the rest of the cast via Ultimate's E3 2018 trailer on June 12th, 2018.
Like Brawl, Ultimate features a new incarnation of Link succeeding a previously playable one; in this case, it is the "Hero of the Wild" from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. In addition to wearing the Champion's Tunic as part of his default costume, Link has the Wild Set of clothes as an alternate costume.
Compared to his predecessors, Link features a few noticeably distinct properties to his moveset. These most notably include the Remote Bomb Rune instead of traditional Bombs, the ability to fire two arrows simultaneously, his lack of a Hookshot or Clawshot due to neither of them appearing in Breath of the Wild, and his Final Smash utilizing an Ancient Bow to fire an Ancient Arrow. On a minor note, Link is also right-handed as in Breath of the Wild, in contrast to his playable predecessor.
As a costume
Link's downloadable costume for the Mii Swordfighter from the previous installment is now unlockable, but it is also accompanied by a new outfit based on the Champion's Tunic from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.