I love Legend of Zelda. My first exposure to the series was Twilight Princess on the Wii, which is a good entry point because even people who are terrible at video games like me could handle it with a guide. It’s also a great entry point because it shows off the best feature of the series. Every game has its own unique artstyle, and with it, new designs for the monsters, sometimes wildly divergent. This ranges from the dark and edgy Twilight Princess to the hyper-bright Wind Waker, my personal favorite (which sadly lacks our subject creature). On top of that, the monsters are truly wild in some cases. There’s a combination of cartoonish takes on classic fantasy creatures and strange original creations that don’t easily fit into any recognizable category, which is great for any series!
So I’ve known for a while I wanted to talk about this series, but what to tackle first? I could cover an entire game’s bestiary, and I thought for a while I might do that, tackling everything in Twilight Princess, but what interests me most about the series’ monsters is how designs change and morph over time. And so, I decided to pick a single monster and look at how it changes in each entry of the series it shows up in. The trick was deciding which one. I had a lot of options. Octorocks? Adorable, always. Keese? Very wide variety in how much they vary between being cartoon bats and actual weird monsters. And then it hit me. Lizalfos! A very standard fantasy archetype given that Legend of Zelda flavor. Hell yeah. Lizardfolk have been a staple in fantasy ever since D&D popularized them and probably before. However, while its contemporaries like Final Fantasy drew heavily from D&D’s monster roster, Legend of Zelda had a mostly-original cast of beasts. Lizalfos, in fact, do not appear until Ocarina of Time, the series’ first 3D game, and have never been in one of the top-down or sidescrolling entries. However…
Lizardfolk enemies do appear in Legend of Zelda II! In other words, the sidescrolling one and one I explicitly said there are no Lizalfos in. What gives? Am I crazy? No, I am simply a proper taxonomist. Despite appearances, this is not a Lizalfos. The Geru are entirely different humanoid lizards with a penchant for militarism and melee weapons! Their sprite doesn’t give me much to say. It’s awfully small, after all, and doesn’t have a lot of detail. It also doesn’t resemble their artwork at all.
While in the game they come in orange, red and blue, only their orange and blue variants have official art. I have to say I like this guy a lot. He looks so tired and lazy with those half-closed eyes, like a Roman legionary who’s been on the march for a week and just wants to stab some damn Gauls so he can go home.
His blue friend on the other hand is obviously a devious little weasel. He’s going to smack the quartermaster on the head with that mace and steal some crickets for a snack. I like how much more lizardy his legs and feet are, like he wouldn’t move quite like a human. I also like the odd sacks each one has on their face. I wonder if those are supposed to be like the oversized jaw muscles some lizards have in real life?
Also present in the same game and also not a Lizalfos is the Daira. This one I don’t think anybody would mistake for a Lizalfos. After all, it’s not a lizard, it’s clearly an aligator! I like this art of it. Yellow isn’t a very common color for an aligator monster, but it’s very nice with that flesh or scale mohawk it’s got going. A neat look! According to the old official Legend of Zelda website, Zelda Universe, they’re specifically hybrids of Hylians and alligators. Presumably either not literal or done through magic, or else Hylians probably deserve to get conquered by Ganon, the freaks. They’re also called Daria there, which is pretty hilarious.
Daira haven’t shown up since in a mainline Zelda game, but they are in a weird spinoff called Cadence of Hyrule, basically a Zelda-themed version of the game Curse of the Necrodancer, which is itself a weird roguelike (I really don’t have space here to explain what that means) where you can only move and attack on the rhythm of the music. Neat! Anyway, he’s groovin’ to the beat, I love it.
Okay Actually The Lizalfos Now
The original artwork for the Lizalfos of Ocarina of Time very much fits how the Lizardfolk of D&D would tend to be portrayed. Huge, imposing, and carnivorous-looking, with a head that resembles a 70s or 80s depiction of a theropod’s more than any lizard. There’s something classic about it, like Conan the Barbarian might throw down with this thing. Generic, and the coloration of the armored parts looks like it was done on a computer 20 years after the rest of the creature was colored by hand, but I can’t say it’s not at least cool.
Hah! Okay, so obviously the Nintendo 64’s capabilities were not up to capturing that image. As such, it’s somewhat difficult to even judge the results. It’s not an especially distinct or interesting lizardfolk, but I’ll give it points for being the first in 3d and for having those great sprawled legs. It’s cool when people give those to upright lizards. Gotta wonder what the tiny loincloth is for though. Reptiles have internal genitals, they don’t need modesty!
The next time we see Lizalfos is in Twilight Princess, which gives us both a graphical update and a change in style, with an emphasis on a darker style, and the result is pretty cool. I really love the addition of a few red scales thrown into the mix. I also like the body shape, emphasizing how inhuman it is. Instead of having a nearly human body, it’s hunched and burly, with short legs and long arms. I also really love the axe blade it’s tied to its tail. That’s adorable. Despite looking a lot more fearsome than their original counterpart, they’re actually a lot easier to kill, like most enemies in Twilight Princess were. The same does not apply to their larger relatives, but we’ll get to that when we get to it.
While the original Lizalfos is a bit of a generic lizard, and Twilight Princess clearly goes a little more for a dinosaur, what we have here is closer to a gecko, and it’s lovely. I love the shape to its fingers and toes, and I like how big the head is, counterbalancing the ball on its tail. Their patterning is also nice. Such a good green with those spots and orangy crests, beautiful. The main feature distinguishing these Lizalfos, of course, is their massive gauntlet, used for mashing Link like a potato and even blocking his attacks. These Lizalfos can also breathe fire, and will do so to make Link a baked potato before they mash him.
They also come in a “dark” variant whose fire breath carries a curse preventing Link from using his sword. The new crest is nice, but I like the regular form more.
Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild again changes the specific type of lizard the Lizalfos is based on, from generalized to dinosaur (not a lizard, but you know what I mean) to gecko and finally to chameleon. and it is glorious. I love that single oversized horn and that absolutely baffling body shape. That curled tail is great. I especially love the thought put into the armor, putting in segments for the strange shape of its spine. These are probably the most adorable Lizalfos, and possibly my favorites. It’s a toss-up with Skyward Sword’s entry.
Strangely, despite this, they don’t get invisibility powers, and what powers they do have are determined by color. It’s true that chameleons don’t exactly turn invisible in real life, but it’s still strange to see no color changing at all! Some of them can breathe fire, and some can even shoot lightning from their horns, which you can interrupt if you strike their horn while they’re doing so.
The Lizalfos of Hyrule Warriors reference both the originals and Skyward Sword, at the time the most recent entry in the series. I quite like them. They look scrawnier, nastier, stooped and saurian. I like the decorations on their shields; it gives them a more legionary feel, making them feel more organized than the other monsters in Ganon’s army.
The Dinolfos is introduced in the same game as the Lizalfos, and as the name implies is somewhat more like a dinosaur in structure, with a massive carnosaur head and weirdly piggish nostrils.Not a whole lot to say about the original, but I do like what I THINK are tusks there?
A much more readable version of the Dinolfos appeared in Majora’s Mask, and I quite like this one. I like its clear difference to the Lizalfos, burly and well-built in contrast to their slender heads and twiggish arms. I really do like those tusks. Pretty much no reptile has anything like those, but that just makes them neat! This version can also breathe fire, an ability given to Lizalfos in Skyward Sword, which has no Dinolfos.
In Twilight Princess, Dinolfos don’t breathe fire, but they are still imposing, significantly taller than a regular lizalfos. Interestingly, while usually Dinolfos have been distinguished from Lizalfos by more bulky bodies, or at least oversized heads, the Dinolfos of Twilight Princess is notably lanky, not physically much more brawny than their smaller cousins. I like the hat with the horn. Some versions have even bigger hats, because a lot of major enemies in the game have aesthetic variation between members, which is pretty cool!
The Hyrule Warriors version of the Dinolfos is a little goofy in a way that I find both charming and creepy. The head is just plain cool, a mostly straightforward adaptation of the Majora’s Mask design, minus the tusks. It’s standard, but I like it, and the nasty sneer he has carries so much personality! The creepy part is just how lopsided he looks. That almost-human arm on one side is especially eerie when you imagine what must be under the other gauntlet to operate it. The other Dinolfos are scary cause they’re bigger than you and want to hit you with pointy things. This one’s scary cause it’s gonna keep trying to get you to touch its arm and you won’t wanna and then you will and it’ll be super weird. Gross. Keep her away from me.
Twilight Princess also introduced another species (race? subspecies? should I do an article trying to make up lore for these guys?) of Lizalfos, known as the Aerolfos. It’s quite possibly my favorite thing on this page. First, that face is amazing. I love those big buggy eyes and crazy puppet-mouth. First, where the Skyward Sword Lizalfos captured a cartoonish gecko’s toes and fingers, the Aerolfos captures their overly buggy eyes and goofy mouths for a truly amazing and expressive face.
I also like the sleek, scrawny black body, again a bit more of a fictionalized dinosaur look than a proper lizard, like a raptor taken wing on a pterosaur’s wings. Nyctosaurus in particular, they had very reduced wing fingers. Really interesting stuff. I’ll stop talking about pterosaurs now. Aerolphos also has interesting adornments. That sword isn’t practical in the slightest, but damn if it ain’t stylish. I also love their little scarf and their helmet. Notably, they don’t have horns under that; it’s purely decorative.
Aerolfos also appeared in the top-down Tri Force Heroes, where their helmets appear to be made of bone, which is admittedly pretty interesting. What are they scalping for those helmets? Otherwise though, I don’t like the green as much as their slick black in Twilight Princess, or their more standard sword and shield. Still, it’s nice to see a Lizalfos relative in one of the more classic-styled games. I’d love to see more, as they’re always a delight to see! Hell, I’d love to see Lizalfos and the totally unrelated reptiles like Daira and Geru in the same game so we can see how different they really are! I love having tons of species with similar bases and totally different interpretations of them interacting!
Get on it Nintendo! I’m clearly the man who knows best about how to run a franchise.