The Zelda series is full of secrets, surprises, and emotion. You never know what you’ll discover. But sometimes, you see things you wish you hadn’t. When enemies like ReDeads appear outside of horror games, they’re usually just another generic enemy like you’d find in an RPG. But in Zelda, these creepy corpses are responsible for thousands of nightmares. Environment, enemy behavior, and visual and audio signals combine to make ReDeads unbelievably effective as horror monsters.
In Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I went out of my way never to enter Castle Town, even with the Sun’s Song. The moans. The screams. Their creepy appearance. It took a bit of growing up before I became brave enough to venture in, and longer still before I stopped bothering with the Sun’s Song to paralyze them. They appear in other places, but that one area always stood out. They’re the first thing the player sees as an adult, an in-your-face symbol of what Hyrule has become during the last seven years.
In Majora’s Mask, ReDeads and Gibdos had quite a bit of personality, an interesting foil to their terrifying reputation. Still scary, but more intriguing than ever. MM as a whole was a whirlwind of emotion and hidden meaning to be found in every nook and cranny. In such a masterfully crafted experience, it only makes sense that these monsters would be further explored. One could almost begin to understand these heretofore not-to-be-touched monstrosities. Almost.
I opened a coffin in Wind Waker. A ReDead came out. My eyebrow raised. The ReDead screamed. I gawked, and the first words out of my mouth were: “That sounded like an elephant baby!” ReDeads in Wind Waker were smarter than in previous games, and had the ability to revive each other if given the chance. Though thanks to their cartoony build, the scare factor was much reduced. These were more of a nuisance than a source of accelerated heart rate. Wind Waker is a light-hearted adventure for the most part, so adapting ReDeads to the game’s personal style was understandable. Given the circumstances, they fit into the game quite nicely.
Finally, ReDeads appear once more in Twilight Princess. Replacing their signature biting attack is a heavy broadsword. As TP was one of the darker Zelda games, this version of the staple undead enemy seemed almost tame in comparison, especially compared to the scythe- and lantern-wielding Poe imps who stole the soul of a greedy man and split it amongst themselves. These ReDeads were clearly meant to be more like guardians than zombies, soldiers who stayed behind after death to protect their forbidden territory. While not as sinister as the life-sucking variety, it was strangely fitting for the desecrated yet ceremonial feel of the Arbiter’s Grounds.