Franchise: The Legend of Zelda aka: The Legendof Zelda
My son... gives me Helpful Nintendo Hints that are far too complex for the adult mind to comprehend. Here's a verbatim example: "OK, there's Ganon and miniature Ganon and there's these things like jelly beans and the miniature Ganon is more powerfuller, because when you touch him the flying eagles come down and the octopus shoots red rocks and the swamp takes longer." And the hell of it is, I know he's right.
The Legend of Zelda Oracle games: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages (Game Boy Color, 2001 sequel? While Hyrule Historia states that it's an interquel between Link to the Past and Link's Awakening, nothing in the plot or promotional material outright confirms a specific relation to any other game. (The closest it comes is that Link boards a boat at the end of the Oracle games while Awakening starts with him at sea.))
Due to the Continuity Snarl about the series timeline, "prequel" and "sequel" labels are based on how each game was presented when it was first released (either in backstory and promotional material or as a plot point), ignoring later timeline additions. "Direct" means it features the same incarnation Link as the game it's a sequel or prequel to, "distant" means it's a different Link from a later or prior generation.
Ability Required to Proceed: Since the days of Link to the Past, most Zelda dungeons follow a simple pattern: "Explore to find a major item. Use item to explore further and find a big key. Use key to open the unopenable-door and fight the boss using said item. Then use item again to reach next dungeon." The most flagrant example may be the hookshot in Ocarina of Time, without which you cannot even enter the Forest Temple.
In fact, of the five "adult" dungeons (not counting the Very Definitely Final Dungeon), only one can be reached without using the hookshot, and that one requires the completion of at least one of the others.
Aerith and Bob: Link and Zelda are both normal, if rare, names, but Malon? Midna? Kafei? Laruto? Not to mention, on the "regular" names from Hyrule, the series gleefully mixes Western and Japanese names in a way you probably wouldn't expect from a kingdom trapped in Medieval Stasis. For the most glaring example, the second-ranked Knight of the Cobble Kingdom in Phantom Hourglass is Doylan. The first-ranked is named Max.
All There in the Manual: Nintendo released a guide to the series called Hyrule Historia as part of the 25th Anniversary celebration. Among other things, it contains the series' official timeline.
Alternate Timeline: According to Eiji Aonuma, Ocarina of Time split the timeline in two, with one timeline leading into The Wind Waker and the other into Majora's Mask (and Twilight Princess 100 years later). The Hyrule Historia revealed it actually split the timeline into three. The third branch leads into A Link To The Past followed by the Oracle games, Link's Awakening, and the original NES Zelda games. This branch is the result of Link being defeated by Ganon in Ocarina.
Ambidextrous Sprite: Played straight in the 2D games, although Link is canonically left-handed. The LttP manual attempts to either justify this or hang a lampshade on it (depending on who reads it) by stating that Link always points his shield towards Death Mountain due to superstitious beliefs.
Anachronic Order: The first four games come an indeterminate amount of time after (a what-if ending of) Ocarina of Time (the fifth), while the sixteenth title, Skyward Sword is said to come before any other game. And while some games are obvious sequels to each other, it's still hard to tell which games are supposed to happen when unless you're looking at the timeline.
"The Group" has a bazooka. Fortunately, that's the most egregious of anything not-magic...except perhaps Goht, the mechanical bull.
By Twilight Princess, the Goron people seemed to have not only mastered manipulation of electricity but also understand the principles of electromagnetic attraction. Their mining facility is also remarkably modern-industrial for the Zelda world.
The Bombchu Bowling Alley in OoT even features neon lights.
In Skyward Sword, the earliest game in the series' internal chronology, Link encounters the remnants of a civilisation of robots, making robots one of, if not the, oldest races in the world. Based on clues in that game, the world may have undergone a Cataclysm Backstory caused by the demon invasion of the surface, and the advanced tools that Link finds in the various games are Lost Technology.
It's worth mentioning that Majora's Mask also has a rock band. With electric guitars, keyboards and all.
Artifact of Doom: Majora's Mask. To put it in perspective; everything wrong in Termina when you get there? All of it was done either directly or indirectly by the Skull Kid wearing the Mask. And on top of ruining everyone's lives, he's planning to drop the frickin'moon, destroying the entire land of Termina. And he can do it. Oh, and it's not just a power-up artifact of doom: the mask is intelligent, and is possessing the Skull Kid. And when Majora decides he's outlived his usefulness, the mask discards the kid like an old pair of socks.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has the Fused Shadows, which are hyped up to be an Artifact of Doom by the Light Spirits that Link rescues throughout the game. However, they all agree that, despite the potential for evil the Shadows hold, Link needs to collect them in order to have a chance of challenging Zant's power. Their power is proven when Link fights the creatures that possess them, which have grown into horrific beasts of great power: a Deku Baba, one of the least dangerous monsters in the game, became an enormous two-headed creature that could swallow a man whole when it grabbed a Shadow. We never do see them exert a corrupting power over Link or Midna, though... presumably they were too pure-hearted to be affected (and Midna is eventually revealed to be the rightful possessor of their power anyway, so it makes sense it wouldn't affect her).
The Mirror of Twilight from the same game turns demure, unassuming Yeta into the crazy ice-monster Blizzeta.
"NOT TAKE MIRROR!"
Artificial Gill: Various items are required to swim underwater throughout the series.
Ax-Crazy: Majora, Zant, and Ghirahim are possibly the most psychotic characters Link has encountered in his many adventures. The first is an Omnicidal Maniac who wants to obliterate the world with a moon for kicks, the second is a deranged, power hungry man willing to do anything to become king and possibly has an unhealthy obsession with Midna, and the third is a creepy Blood Knight who threatens to torture Link for getting in the way of his plans.
Bag of Holding: Implied in the games. Subverted in Skyward Sword, where your items get transported to the Item Check if your adventure pouch is full.
This trope only comes into play once Link is in action. Until the point, the villains' plans tend go incredibly well without many issues plaguing them. Then Link undoes all their damage, seals or kills the evil and generally gives the story a happy ending. Simply put, staying evil in the Zelda universe guarantees failure in the end even if your power rivals a goddess' own power.
One exception to the Link part is when Ganon breaks free and his takeover is a success because the Hero of Time was not around to put him down. But even then, Ganondorf's plans were thwarted when the Goddesses flooded Hyrule.
Link is an all-around nice kid. People who end up on his bad side wind up with multiple stab wounds to their everything.
Princess Zelda as well. Indeed, she gets kidnapped repeatedly but the girl has shown she is a decent archer, knows a bit of magic, has some Sheikah training in Ocarina of Time and is willing to fight with a sword in Twilight Princess. Even in Spirit Tracks, as an Animated Armor, when you attack her too much, she'll go berserk on Link, and even safe zones can't protect him from her wrath!
BFS: Some examples include the Biggoron's Sword, the Great Fairy's Sword and the blade used by the Fierce Deity.
Big Bad: Ganon(dorf) in most cases (eight games), followed at a relatively distant second by Vaati (three games), with every other villain except Twinrova having one appearance each so far.
Bigger Bad: Demise, as Skyward Sword reveals. He is responsible for Ganondorf's and every other monster's existence.
Black Magic: Many of the main villains possess some knowledge of black magic. Even some evil characters mentioned only once or twice use it, like the Interlopers from Twilight Princess or the tribe which used Majora's Mask.
Agahnim could send people to the Dark World and control minds. Being a wizard, he also has various magical attacks. Since Agahnim is Ganon's alter ego, these feats apply to Ganon himself.
Ganon can lay death curses, revive ancient terrors from the dead, transform into a beast-like form, create ghostly versions of himself, and more.
Majora (and Skull Kid using Majora's Mask) was able to steal and transfer souls, summon a moon to destroy the land of Termina, and inflict curses on people and places.
Twinrova could brainwash people, use fire and ice attacks and twist the environment to an ice or fire setting in the Oracle games.
Vaati could curse beings, turn people into stone, corrupt an area, and use various magical attacks. He even manages to kill Zelda in a Non-Standard Game Over during a timed segment before the Final Boss battles.
Blocking Stops All Damage: If Link can block an attack with his trusty shield, it always stops all damage, and his upgrades to his shield allow him to block more stuff. Skyward Sword gave him a shield gauge that shows how much the shield can take before destruction, but his greatest shield is invulnerable.
Bold Inflation: Just look at the page quote for one particular example.
Bonsai Forest: Like many isometric games, the 2D entries in the series have very short trees. To a lesser extent, this also occurs in some of the 3D titles, although specific areas may still have tall trees.
Zelda's theme wasn't originally Zelda's theme in its first appearance in A Link to the Past: there, it was just a song that played each time you rescued a maiden. Zelda, however, had a personal, extended version of that song, which became her theme in Ocarina of Time.
Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": On the flipside, there's also a recurring enemy that's a floating skull surrounded by flames of varying colors. What are they called? Bubbles.
Call to Adventure: Has been getting steadily more complex. It used to be a bunch of random (but extremely insistent) strangers ordering poor Link to save the world, but now we have mysterious sidekicks, kidnapped sisters/lovable village scamps/possible love interests, and so on.
Camera Centering: Every 3D game with an adjustable camera has a "return to behind-the-head" shortcut.
Camera Lock-On: Z-Targeting in the original release of Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, L-Targeting in everything since.
Cartography Sidequest: Every game since Link's Awakening except A Link Between Worlds reveals sections of map as you progress.
The Wind Waker added to this by having the player hunt down the Fishmen to fill in the Sea Chart.
Uncharted Isle in Phantom Hourglass has no map, but the player can write on the lower screen to take notes. Most will follow the map borders and trace Link's path to actually draw the map.
Cartoon Bomb: In most games, bombs are portrayed this way. The cel-shading effects in The Wind Waker and its sequels help too.
Cast of Snowflakes: Part of the charm of the 3D Zelda games are seeing what crazy character designs the developers came up with for each and every NPC. They seem to be getting more outlandish with every installment.
Cataclysm Backstory: Two notable examples are Demise's fight against the Goddess Hylia in Skyward Sword and the battle to seal Ganon in the backstory of A Link to the Past.
The Catfish: In The Legend of Zelda fishing minigames, there is often a big fish of this sort that will earn you the maximum prize for catching it.
It's usually the "Hylian loach", and it has a tendency to be utterly impossible to catch, unless you have a special lure that the fishing hole's proprietor may or may not approve of, in which case it's merely nigh-impossible to catch.
Amusingly inverted in Twilight Princess with the Ordon Catfish — they're common, easy to catch, and unpopular with NPCs due to their sliminess. They're also not very big. The Hylian Loach fits the bill for this trope better.
Celtic Mythology: Just a little bit. The default name of Link's horse, in the games where she appears, is Epona - which is the name of the Celtic goddess of horses.
Changing Gameplay Priorities: Perhaps the series' biggest draw is how it models character growth without simply resorting to bigger numbers. As Link starts any of his adventures, he can only take a couple of hits and his pockets are empty. The world is filled with places he can't get to, doors he can't open and things he can't yet do. Each new treasure he finds lets him get to things he couldn't reach before.
Charged Attack: The "whirling blade", introduced in Link to the Past: after briefly gathering power, Link swings his sword in a 360-degree arc to strike multiple enemies with a stronger-than-normal cut.
Chaos Architecture: The realm of Hyrule itself. Landmarks such as Lake Hylia, Hyrule Castle, Death Mountain, Kakariko Village, and the Lost Woods tend to move around from game to game. Often excused as corruption introduced in each "telling" of the titular "legend," verging on Literary Agent Hypothesis.
Chest Monster: In OoT and MM, some chests would freeze Link (like a Freezard's breath) instead of containing items. In LA and the Oracles games, Zols could be hiding in chests. Other types of trapped chests exist as well, but aren't related to enemies.
Conservation of Competence: The Hylian Royal Guards may very well be one of the worst military forces in this world or any other. When they're not being slaughtered in droves by whichever villain the game features, they're either standing around, walking back and forth in pointless patrols, or brainwashed and attacking Link (in which case it's Link who slaughters them in droves). They have lost every war they have ever fought and never once made a significant contribution to Hyrule's salvation. Their supposed leader, Princess Zelda, by contrast, seems to have gotten more powerful over the course of the series. This eventually leads up to situations like the ones in Spirit Tracks and Twilight Princess, in which Zelda is a potent sorceress and archer while the guards are incompetent morons whose uselessness is repeatedly lampshaded.
In Twilight Princess, if you run through Hyrule Castle town in wolf form, the guards will circle around you, but every one of them is shaking and cowering like mad, and if you make a move they all scream and go running like crazy.
Continuity Snarl: The timeline, at least until the revelation in the 25th anniversary artbook of the master timeline thus far. As the article puts it, it's like someone pulled random scattered pages out of three mega-Door Stopper Hyrulean history booksnote for separate histories, no less and then shuffled them. While Professor Nintendo finally saw fit to step in and show us which page goes where and give us a number of chapter titles, the snarl will reemerge whenever a new game is released, as its place in the timeline is viciously fought over.
Continuity Creep: Zigzagged. Early in the series' history every game's place in the timeline was explicitly defined in relation to the others: Zelda II was a sequel to the first game, A Link to the Past was a prequel, and Link's Awakening was a sequel to A Link to the Past (while leaving room for the possibility of adventures taking place between those two games). It wasn't until Ocarina of Time that things started to get confusing, particularly with the unclear placement of the Oracle games and the introduction of the parallel timelines, as well as having fewer official statements of each game's placement. Later games would start to make things clearer.
Critical Annoyance: The incessant beeping sound that appears when you're down to one heart. It's not as high-pitched in later games, though.
Crosshair Aware: Aiming your bow at a rock-throwing Bokoblin in Skyward Sword while it's unarmed will cause it to retreat. Most enemies will also readily avoid your Beetle.
Culture Chop Suey: Probably more than one example, but Link's use of a boomerang in a relatively (at least in the earlier games) medieval setting stands out the most.
Darker and Edgier: Pretty much the whole reason Twilight Princess was made, according to Word of God; Nintendo heard all the complaints from America (which is the bigger market for Zelda, mind) about the "toon" look of The Wind Waker, and the art and design team was tasked with creating what would in many ways be the darkest chapter in series history.
Other candidates for Darker and Edgier are Majora's Mask, where impending doom is just for starters, and The Adventure of Link, where the impending doom won't stop arriving.
Dark Reprise: Series-wide example. A heroic Hyrule Castle theme heard in Link to the Past gets a darker reprise in Minish Cap.
Dark-Skinned Redhead: The Gerudo people, including Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time prior to his becoming Ganon, although even at the beginning Ganondorf's skin has a sickly/undead-looking greenish cast, which becomes outright Hulk green or even blue in many of his appearances (not all of which are humanoid, of course) later on in the series's chronology.
And Midna takes both dark skinned and redhead to to a new level, being a literally ebony-skinned imp with glowing orange hair.
And Skyward Sword gives us Demise, with ebony skin and (literally) flaming hair.
Link's determination is outweighed only by his courage. Curses, giant monsters, long falls, dangerous terrains, being flung across the ocean... the Links go through a lot. Ghirahim comments on this in Skyward Sword: "But instead of scurrying away like any creature with a basic instinct to survive, you just kept coming back. Again...and again...and again."
Ganon is a tough son of a gun as well and keeps charging forward despite horrible injuries. In every instance that has the Triforce, it's no coincidence that these two almost always end up possessing the Triforces of Courage and Power respectively. Considering these typically embody the power of their respective goddesses, who helped create the entire world, it's no surprise that nothing can keep Ganon sealed.
Desert Bandits: The Gerudo race lives in the desert and are known throughout Hyrule as a band of thieves.
Disc One Final Boss / Dungeon: Agahaim and Hyrule Castle in A Link to the Past, Zant and the Palace of Twilight in Twilight Princess, Byrne and the 24th floor of the Tower of Spirits in Spirit Tracks, and Ghirahim and Hylia's Realm in Skyward Sword.
Doomed by Canon: Skyward Sword is the first game in the chronology, according to the official release of the timeline. There's a lot of Foreshadowing within the game that suggests a very bad ending. (The ending turns out to be Bittersweet instead.)
Time travel-dual worlding is revisited in Skyward Sword, but only within the radius of "Timeshift stones." This culminates in the Sandship dungeon, where there is a timeshift stone powerful enough to resurrect an entire ship and the kraken-esque monster beneath it.
Earth Drift: The first games had crosses sprinkled about, and A Link to the Past has artwork showing Link kneeling before a crucifix. All of this would be phased out in favor of a more original mythos.
Everything's Better with Princesses: Somehow, Zelda is usually: The exceptions are Twilight Princess, which one Player's Guide states that her coronation has been put off by Zant's rise, the manual for Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where her bio refers to her as the queen of Hyrule, and Skyward Sword which takes place before the founding of the Kingdom of Hyrule, so she's not royalty. never referred to as Queen Zelda, even in the games without token cameos by parents.
Eye Scream: There's a recurring element throughout the series of shooting arrows into eyes. Find an eye-shaped thing in a dungeon? Shoot an arrow into it to solve the puzzle. Fighting a boss with one large eye? Shoot an arrow into it to beat it. It's easy to forget how disturbing this is.
Fairy Battle: Used in Zelda II whenever you found a fairy in the overworld.
Fan Sequel: There is a game editor/creator that is for making your own 2D Zelda game that has gained popularity called Zelda Classic.
Fanservice Pack: Straight-up admitted by Yoshiaki Koizumi (who was in charge of Link's character design) - Link's adult character design from Ocarina of Time onward was a result of his wife's request for a bishonen Nintendo hero.
Flipping Helpless: The Spiked Beetle, Terrorpin, and Snapper are various enemies in the series that are based on turtles and thus have this weakness. Typically they can be flipped with the hammer or the shield, or in the latter case, by getting underneath them using a Deku flower.
Generation Xerox: Link and Zelda always, and sometimes notable supporting characters (like Marin/Malon, Tingle, Beedle, and Linebeck).
Ghost Butler: There are two cases of this: one where iron bars or some similar obstruction blocks regular doors until a Mini-Boss is defeated or a puzzle is solved, and one where the big door to the boss just slams shut and becomes locked for no apparent reason.
Ghost Ship: Present in both The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass:
The ship that appears in The Wind Waker guards a chart that leads to one of the fragments of the Triforce of Courage. It can only be entered after the Ghost Ship Chart is found.
The ship in Phantom Hourglass lurks the waters of the Ocean King's domains to steal life force and give it to Bellum.
Giant Eye Of Doom: Gohma, the first boss in Ocarina of Time. Wart in Majora's Mask as well.
Giant Spider: Many enemies and bosses, most notably the various versions of Gohma and the Skulltulas. Twilight Princess features the largest and most realistic spider in the series so far, Armogohma.
God Is Inept: Hylia's plan was to become human so she could use the Triforce to truly defeat Demise because gods are unable to use the Triforce. So she becomes Zelda and also becomes incredibly weak, nearly helpless, even with a strong guardian in Impa. So she has Link carry on her Triforce plan since she is no longer able to and wishes to strengthen the seal on Demise by entering a deep sleep.
Good Morning, Crono: In every game since A Link to the Past, Link begins the game asleep. Or at least, he is first able to be controlled after he wakes up. Apart from the CD-i games, but nobody counts those, and we all try to forget those.
Good Colors, Evil Colors: Usually, Link's basic colors are green and blue. Zelda's are pink and white. Ganondorf's, black and red. Neat, huh?
Link's Awakening: Up to 30 Secret Seashells could be collected for a sword upgrade, but only 25 were necessary and the rest disappear once the sword is obtained.
Ocarina of Time: 100 Gold Skulltula tokens. Every ten up to 50 gives a special item, and getting all 100 give effectively unlimited money.
Majora's Mask: The 24 collectable masks. The last one can only be gotten by getting the rest. Also, 15 Great Fairy fragments in each temple, a large number of upgrades and hidden areas, and the Bomber's Notebook tasks.
The Wind Waker: The Nintendo Gallery. Thankfully, the HD remake gives you more room in your camera to make this faster.
The Minish Cap: Kinstones, which unlock other goodies, some plot relevant.
Twilight Princess: Golden Bugs and Poe Souls, besides the Tears of Light, Fused Shadows, and Mirror Fragments.
Skyward Sword: Bugs again, as well as Tears during Silent Realm missions.
A Link Between Worlds: Baby Maiamais, which are necessary to upgrade your items.
Götterdämmerung: It isn't as apparent from a single game, and requires a look at the timeline to become really noticeable. In the earliest games in the timeline, there is always an explanation for why there are monsters everywhere, and Link has direct divine intervention and Supernatural Aid to help him. Later, the fact that the world is crawling with monsters is taken for granted by the populace, and Link is reduced to scrounging for remnants of ancient power that can be used in his struggle against evil.
The Hero Dies: Hyrule Historia states that one of the timelines in the series is created when Link fails to stop Ganon in Ocarina Of Time and creates the Imprisoning War, (aka leads up to A Link Into The Past.)
Holy Burns Evil: The Master Sword is explicitly imbued with the "Power to Repel Evil", thanks to the combined blessings of four different goddesses. This gives it the rare ability to defeat even purely evil beings such as Ganon and Demise. The Light (sometimes Silver) Arrows and the Four Sword have similar power.
Skyward Sword plays with this a little by limiting some of Link's inventory to "pouches" he has to find throughout the game. He starts off with four and has a maximum of eight, limiting the number of items he can carry. Of course, he's still managing to fit everything from his shield to quivers and bomb bags inside a small belt pouch... Also, major pieces of equipment like the bow, clawshots, and gust bellows are part of a separate inventory that don't use the pouches.
Iconic Item: Link's green tunic and hood and, to a lesser extent, the Master Sword. The Triforce also serves as the Iconic Item for the entire series.
Impossible Item Drop: Most enemies (and random objects like pots or bushes) drop rupees, arrows, bombs, magic potion vials, and hearts at random. Even better, whenever you get a new item (bow, bomb bag, slingshot, etc...) that consumes something, whatever it is suddenly starts appearing everywhere in spite of its not showing up before.
Inescapable Ambush: Some rooms lock down tight and won't let you leave until everything inside is dead.
Inexplicable Treasure Chests: Why do so many items appear just sitting around in Temples? Or holes in the ground, or in the middle of nowhere...?
Insect Queen: The Gohmas are generally portrayed this way (mostly as an Arachnid Queen, but fits nonetheless). They appear as bosses of the dungeon in which their offspring appear as enemies, and they often release their offspring as a Flunky Boss.
Insurmountable Waist High Fence: Though Link has no problems at all with ladders, steep mountain trails, and vine-covered walls, he is unable to pass man-made fences without the aid of his horse.
However, this gets averted in Skyward Sword, where Link is actually able to move around it automatically.
Interface Spoiler: If there are empty spots in your item and quest menu, rest assured that they will be filled up later on. Notably averted in the Oracle games in which you get several more item spaces than you actually need, and Twilight Princess, where the item menu is a circle where the items are evenly spaced, and the quest menu puts all the Plot Coupons in one space where they float around. Link's Awakening actually has more items than inventory spaces— one has to be traded away for another (and traded back if you need it again, as buying a new one will make the game Unwinnable).
In Link's Awakening, there's a subquest where you have to deliver a picture from a shy man and his female penpal. Said penpal turns out to be a talking goat in Animal Town (who sends him back a photo of Princess Peach to boot).
In Majora's Mask, Treasure Chest Shop Owner (a female Terminan) will flirt with you while you're wearing the Zora Mask.
In Oracle of Seasons, Link needs to go on a date with a Subrosian (mysterious, subterranean people who wear cloaks, eat metal, and bathe in molten lava) in order to proceed and can ask her for further dates as well.
Vaati, a Picori who used black magic to assume humanoid form and first introduced in The Minish Cap, is explicitly stated as kidnapping Hylian girls because he's attracted to them.
In The Wind Waker, there a subquest about a Hylian girl falling in love with a moblin.
In Twilight Princess, there's the hinted romantic attraction between Link (Hylian) and Midna (imp/Twili). Not to mention Link spending one-third of the game as a wolf (though Midna treats him more like a pet dog at this stage).
In Oracle of Ages, Link gets propositioned by a tree. A tree wearing ganguro-gal makeup.
Invincible Villain: Ganon has shades of this. After being pelted with holy arrows, exposed to powerful magics and stabbed lord knows how many times with the ultimate sword of good, Ganon tends to stay alive through it all. To scary limits at the end of Ocarina when he is shown after being sealed away. He showed no signs of being harmed at all despite receiving a stab wound to the face moments earlier.
Item Get: Link reacts to new items and treasures in the most enthusiastic way possible (and the music agrees) in every game. Increasingly lampshaded as the series goes on.
Jerkass: Skull Kid before he found Majora's Mask (more so afterward). Mido remains a jerkass until he puts his jealousy of Link aside. Groose is the best example in Skyward Sword. He kidnaps Link's loftwing at the beginning of the game and becomes both a friend and hero at the end.
Just Eat Him: Like-Likes don't seem to be able to keep Link down, and usually opt instead to strip him of his shield or clothes (or rupees for some varieties). No idea why those would be more nutritional than Link. Originally, they only "ate magic", and devoured Link's Magic Shield because it was the only easily-accessible edible item.
Karl Marx Hates Your Guts: Generally speaking, prices for certain items are the same in every store in each game. There are exceptions, though.
Lady of War: Applies to Zelda in later games (Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, etc.)
Also, literally any game in any connection with The Wind Waker (Super Smash Bros., once again, counting) literally goes out of its way to make sure that everybody knows about Tetra's heritage.
Lava Adds Awesome: Any fire-base dungeon, especially volcano dungeons. Usually, you also have to fight burning bats and huge monsters that set themselves on fire.
Legacy Character: Due to the sprawling (and branching) timeline of the series, Word of God has it that there are multiple Links and Zeldas. In the case of Zelda, this is simply because all princesses of Hyrule are named Zelda; Link is more of a wild card, and seems to appear by lucky happenstance (or, more likely, divine intervention).
There's also a viable option presented by Skyward Sword: Demise's curse means that Ganondorf will always be there to haunt Link and Zelda. So while there's always a Zelda, the fates don't allow Ganondorf to reappear until a new Link appears, which itself appears to be by chance.
Legendary Weapon: The Master Sword, aka, "The Sword of Evil's Bane", is as legendary as the Triforce itself. It is inscribed in Hyrule's lore that evil ones cannot touch it, nor can anyone, save for the Chosen Hero, draw it from the Pedestal of Time.
Leitmotif: Music is reused throughout the series. The most common examples:
The iconic series Main Theme, which eventually became Link's leitmotif too. It's the only leitmotif that can be tracked down to the very first NES game.
Zelda's Theme (a.k.a Zelda's Lullaby), for the titular princess. Its first appearance was in A Link to the Past, but it became popular in Ocarina of Time (which is the reason why most fans refer to it by its alternative title).
The series' Big Bad has his own: Ganon's Theme. It was also created in A Link to the Past.
Great Fairy's Fountain is almost always used as the Save File Select Screen theme and the fairy's leitmotif. And yeap, appeared in A Link to the Past first too.
In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the final Arena-style sword battle with Ganondorf can be made ridiculously easy by using your fishing rod as one of these. The fishing rod has no practical use in battle, since you normally use it only for fishing, but if you pull it out, Ganondorf will stand and stare at the line while you wave it around, completely oblivious to the fact that he SHOULD be fighting you. You then quickly whip out your sword and slash at him while he's caught unawares...rinse and repeat, because he never catches on.
In Seasons, some Subrosians steal your Roc's Feather and leave you with an item called the Fool's Ore. All you can do with it is swing it like your sword, which does nothing. However, if you find an enemy to use it on, you can kill it in 1 hit. The only enemy, however, is the Fire Pokey (which you sometimes dig up), and you can't leave the area until you get the Roc's Feather back, which replaces the Fool's Ore.
Following this trend, in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the net you use for catching bugs will also distract Demise during the first half of the battle, and not only does it deflect the projectiles he fires in the second half, it's the only way to do so — your shield can only block them and trying to use your sword just gets yourself electrified.
Level-Map Display: The world map can be viewed at any time via the menu screen. From Ocarina of Time onwards, a mini map display — complete with arrows marking your point of entry (represented in blue) and your current heading (the yellow one) — usually occupies the lower left corner of the screen for faster, easier navigation.
Light is Good: The Light Spirits, the Light Arrow, Rauru (the Sage of Light), and the Sols.
Limited Sound Effects: There are only three sounds your sword makes when it hits something, but more than three materials.
MacGuffin: The Triforce Zig Zags in this category throughout the series. In the first three games it definitely qualifies, while in games like Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, or Skyward Sword, it affects the plot more deeply.
Magic Map: In dungeons Link finds maps of them that reveal rooms he's been in and when paired with the compass reveal all the dungeon's treasures as well.
Magic Wand: Many, including the Rods of Ice and Fire and the Staves of Byrna and Somaria in A Link To the Past, the Rod of Seasons in Oracle of Seasons, the Wind Waker, and the Dominion Rod in Twilight Princess.
Malevolent Architecture: The Hylian people don't seem very religious, most likely because all of their "temples" are labyrinthine deathtrap and monster repositories.
Mana Potion: In games that use magic, enemies often drop bottles that restore the Mana Meter. Some games also let you carry potions in bottles.
The Cave of Ordeals from Twilight Princess. Getting to the bottom means trudging through 50 levels of enemies with limited health and item refills. Fortunately, every tenth floor is a Great Fairy Fountain. And there's an Easter Egg for beating it twice. Completing it multiple times is the only way to hold more than one bottle of Great Fairy's Tears, too.
Money for Nothing: All too common in early installments, the player could amass far too much money very early on in the game and have nothing to spend it on later. First attempted a fix in Link's Awakening, with the 999 Rupee Bow, but properly dealt with in A Link Between Worlds, where money is necessary to rent items that, in previous games, would have been in dungeon chests instead.
Money Spider: One could be forgiven for thinking the trope was named for the tektites of the original game. However, here the trope refers to another enemy altogether.
Mortals Are Special: While the gods created the Triforce, its unlimited power can never be used by any deity. This was specifically devised to give mortals hope, and so that they may shape their lives in Hyrule and destinies however they please. They can make their world into a idyllic paradise, or a chaotic nightmare, if they so choose.
Multiple Choice Past: The Master Sword. The manual for A Link to the Past says it was forged by the people of Hyrule. Princess Zelda in Twilight Princess says the Master Sword was forged by the ancient sages. Skyward Swordhas Link forge the Skyward Sword into the Master Sword.
The Triforce was said to have disappeared into the Golden Realm shortly after Hyrule was created (ALTTP). Or that it was hidden away there (OoT). Or, even, that there were only two pieces (Zelda 1''). It was hidden in Skyloft, a place shrouded in legend on the surface world. Among the myths is that the streets are paved in gold.
No Hugging, No Kissing: In (almost) every game, Link and Zelda never express romance, though there's an undercurrent in several games. Averted near the end of Skyward Sword, though.
Non-Linear Sequel: Half, maybe two-thirds of the time. Part of why the timeline is such a mess.
Non-Standard Game Over: Occurs in Majora's Mask, Spirit Tracks, Skyward Sword, and The Minish Cap with special game over scenes.
Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Skull Kid has shades of this. He was mostly just mischievous before putting on Majora's Mask. Only when the very evil nature of the mask was a factor did his antics go from pulling pranks to tormenting the world and its inhabitants.
Notice This: Important items nearby may make Link look in their direction as he passes by. Or an arrow showing that the object can be targeted will appear above it.
Ominous Fog: Phantom Hourglass has it around the Ghost Ship.
One-Gender Race: Well, almost. The Gerudo (most prominent in Ocarina of Time) are almost all female. One man is born to the race every hundred years, and the only known male Gerudo in the whole series is Ganondorf. It's implied by a Gossip Stone that the Gerudo mate with Hylians.
It also appears as though all Gorons are male. Every Goron is referred to as a "brother" by each other and so far, no definitely female Gorons have come forth.
In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker it was The Great Sea, an interesting take on the concept being that you had to traverse by boat. There are small islands that have nuances you can explore, but it's mostly just open seas.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess features the largest, most detailed overworld of any Zelda game to date; featuring varied terrain, scores of enemies, and secret grottos. In fact, it was so massive that the game gives you Epona early on; otherwise, getting around could take awhile....
Parental Abandonment: Has anyone ever seen Link's parents or Zelda's mother? In A Link to the Past, The Wind Waker, and The Minish Cap, Link is raised by other relatives. In Ocarina of Time we find out that both of Link's parents died during a great war. Link's father presumably died in battle (the game never says what happened to him), and his mother was killed while trying to hide Link in the Kokiri Woods. In Twilight Princess Link lives in a small village with several families, but he has his own house and no one claims him as a relative. In Skyward Sword, Link is in the same situation, inhabiting a dorm room in the Skyloft Knights academy, but he's not alone; all of the other students are also missing their parents, except for Pipit's mother and Zelda's father. A Link Between Worlds again gives him his own house and an apprenticeship with the local blacksmith, but any family is nowhere to be found.
Oracle of Seasons/Ages: Eight Essences of Nature/Time.
The Wind Waker: Three Goddess Pearls, then the Two Sages, finally the Eight Pieces of the Triforce.
Four Swords Adventures: Six Shrine Maidens, then Zelda; at the same time, four sacred Jewels.
The Minish Cap: Four Elements, the same jewels as above.
Twilight Princess: Three Fused Shadows, then the Four Mirror Fragments.
Phantom Hourglass: Three Spirits, next the Three Pure Metals.
Spirit Tracks: Four Force Gems (or, more precisely, the energy from them, which reattaches the broken segments of the Tower of Spirits) and the four glyphs to find them, followed by the Bow of Light, and then the Compass of Light.
Skyward Sword: Two surface maps (one is given for free), then the three flames (and accompanying harp songs), next the four parts of the Song of the Hero, and finally the three pieces of the Triforce.
Plot Tumor: The Master Sword didn't even appear until Link to the Past when you needed it to battle Agahnim, but it was emphasized that even then it only repelled his magic, it couldn't actually harm his body. To defeat Ganon you had to strike him with the Master Sword to stun him, then shoot him with a Silver Arrow. And you could even have blacksmiths temper the sword to power it up. Ever since Ocarina of Time, though, the Master Sword is a Cosmic Keystone that is just as important as the Triforce to the cosmology and fate of Hyrule, its usage determining the fate of entire dimensions, races, and the space-time continuum. It's the only weapon that can harm Ganon(dorf), and if you're looking at powering it up, it's going to take divine intervention.
Pointy Ears: Many species in the game, such as Hylians, Gerudo and Sheikah, have them. They also serve to mark the difference between Hylians and other kinds of humans.
Power Floats: Many instances throughout the series, from mooks to bosses. The Triforce itself hovers over its pedestal, turning slowly.
Most plot-important items or events are highlighted, occasionally color-coding them based on important aspects (for example, "Link" shown in green, "Zelda" shown in blue, and "Ganon" shown in red).
Recurring Element: The "Link" and "Zelda" characters are, excepting for the direct sequels, different people in each game (they just happen to look exactly alike and wear the same clothes and have the same name).
Adventure of Link actually explains the multiple Zeldas as tribute to an ancient Zelda whose brother trapped her with a sleeping spell.
Recurring Riff: The main motif of overworld theme of the first Zelda game can be heard in numerous songs throughout the series.
Redshirt Army: The entire Hyrulean army. It's a wonder that they still bother.
Also, sometimes you get money from people for keeping their secret places that you just discovered for yourself. Subverted in the first game and the Oracle games, where you sometimes have to pay for the door you just destroyed.
Reviving Enemy: The Stalfos are usually this (falling apart into a pile of bones and reassembling themselves if their remains aren't dealt with).
Link always (with the exception of Skyward Sword) starts out with three Energy Hearts.
Bosses usually die after three rounds of a battle.
There are three Golden Goddesses of the Triforce: Din, the Goddess of Power; Nayru, the Goddess of Wisdom; and Farore, the Goddess of Courage.
Link occasionally must collect three items for the plot. A Link to the Past has the pendants of virtue, Ocarina of Time has the three Spiritual Stones, The Wind Waker has the three Goddess Pearls, Phantom Hourglass has the three pure metals. Twilight Princess has two instances of this with three pieces of the Fused Shadow and three pieces of the Mirror of Twilight. Skyward Sword does it with the three Ancient Tablets, the three Sacred Flames, the three parts of the Song of the Hero, and the three parts of the Triforce.
Save the Princess: It's been getting better as the series has progressed in terms of plot complexity. The games started with the simple "save Zelda from Ganon", but in some games, the Princess doesn't even get kidnapped until later in the plot. This is even completely subverted in Spirit Tracks, where the princess is actually your Exposition Fairy. Nevertheless, in every game in which the Princess appears she is a captive at some point and Link has to save her.
It's like a mish-mash of Medieval, Pirate and Arabian themes, with a few borderline Easter Egg modern inventions (Game Boy Advance, telephones, colour film (or maybe even digital) cameras and locomotives) thrown in for good measure.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has a miniboss (Phantom Zant) which is actually a 3D hologram straight out of Star Wars. It's even colored blue, has scanlines, and flickers just like a Star Wars hologram. The internal game name of the miniboss, Zant Hologram, acknowledges its high-tech qualities.
Taken Up to Eleven in Skyward Sword, where an entire area of the game is based on technology. And keep in mind that the game only has four main areas (the Sky and the three regions of the Surface) that you frequently revisit, so that means one fourth of the game is technology-based. Ironic, as not only is it chronologically the first Zelda game, but you actually have to travel to the past in order to see the technology. In addition, Skyloft has electric lighting, indoor plumbing, and maybe even a computer (in Beedle's Air Shop).
While Ganondorf apparently has met his final end a few times, the end of Ocarina of Time and the backstory to A Link to the Past, The Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess has him sealed in a Dark World due to his immense power. Of course, his long isolation there gives him plenty of time to gather his strength, allowing him to break the seal and unleash havoc upon Hyrule once more.
There's also Vaati, except he's sealed in the Four Sword rather than any alternate dimension.
Malladus, Bellum, and Ocarina's Bongo Bongo are sealed deep beneath the worlds of their respective games.
Mostly to Mario. Link's Awakening has several enemies straight up lifted out of the Mario series (some can even be killed by jumping on them via the Roc's Feather,) the Chain of Deals sidequest starting out with a Yoshi plushie, and one character sending a fake picture of herself to her penpal where she looks like Princess Peach (she's actually a goat.)
It's confirmed by the longtime developers of the Zelda series that the trading sequences present in several games are inspired by Straw Millionaire, a Japanese Buddhist folk tale.
Sigil Spam: The Triforce is only the most prominent example. This series loves its recurring symbols. An incomplete but extensive list can be found here.
Silver Bullet: The Silver Arrow plays a crucial part in slaying Ganon in both the original Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past. Stab him as many times as you want with any sword in those games. Without the Silver Arrow finishing him off, Ganon will keep coming for more.
Skeleton Key: The first two Zelda games both had a key item that basically served as infinite keys for the remainder of the game.
Well, these games do provide alternate meanings for their titles earlier on: the title Link's Awakening could not only refer to the Good Morning, Crono opening sequence, but also to the location of the critical Ocarina item in an area you have to get into a bed and go to sleep to reach. And in Twilight Princess, Midna actually refers to Zelda by that title somewhat sarcastically.
Steam Punk: Elements of this began to appear after about 2000. Spirit Tracks had a train, Phantom Hourglass had a steamboat, and Termina in Majora's Mask was borderline Industrial Revolution, especially with the Great Bay temple.
Sticks to the Back: Jarring in Ocarina of Time, where Link is often depicted with his sword strapped to his back, but has no such strap in-game. Majora's Mask fixes this, as does the 3DS remake of Ocarina of Time.
And yet not one game in the series explains how his shield stays put. In real life, they're usually strapped across the chest. Link apparently Velcros it to his scabbard.
Enter dungeon. Get item. Beat boss with item. Use item to enter next dungeon. Repeat.
And there's the other formula of "visit three dungeons, villain gains upper hand/escapes, visit three to seven more dungeons, final boss" that has been present since A Link To the Past.Skyward Sword mixed things a little by making the outside of the dungeons just as complex as the inside. However, critics and fans don't agree whether that changes the pattern in a meaningful way or not.
Super Drowning Skills: In the 2D games Link cannot touch water without certain items or he'll drown. Taken to the logical extreme in Oracle of Ages where you needed two separate items in game for two different depths of water.
Super Spit: The land-dwelling octopus-like creatures known as Octorocks spit rocks that can do damage.
Skyward Sword: Zelda herself is the goddess Hylia in human form, Ghirahim is essentially the Evil Counterpart to Fi, Demise creates Ganon as the manifestation of his own hatred, and the Old Woman at the Sealed Temple is actually Impa.
A Link Between Worlds: Lorule used to have a Triforce before its people destroyed it to prevent further bloodshed, Hilda sent Yuga and manipulated Link in order to obtain Hyrule's Triforce to save Lorule, and Ravio is Lorule's equivalent of Link.
Time Travel: Everywhere in the series and has been the central mechanic of two games (Ocarina of Time and Oracle of Ages).
Translation Convention: Whenever a character talks, we're supposed to think they're speaking Hylian. Jarringly apparent when a voiced character talks (except for Midna and Fi, who speak Simlish instead).
Thriving Ghost Town: To the extent that Hyrule itself could be called a Thriving Ghost Kingdom.
Unstoppable Mailman: Aside from Majora's Mask, where he doesn't deliver letters to you, the mailman in the games will always be able to find you to deliver letters.
The mailman in Majora's Mask is actually a deconstruction. He wants to stop and flee Termina before it's destroyed, but there's still mail that has to be delivered tomorrow. It takes an order from Madame Aroma, the Mayor's wife, to finally get him to abandon his duties and evacuate.
Variable Mix: The series has been increasingly embracing this to an awesome degree.
Also possible in Spirit Tracks if you hit Zelda with a boomerang, whip, etc.
Lampshaded in Spirit Tracks when Rael asks you to bring Cuccos to the Sand Sanctuary. Apparently, they're needed for research. "They are flightless. But, when cornered, they can call their friends to unleash an amazing power."
Xenafication: Zelda has progressively become more active in the games as the series went on. Originally just a classic Distressed Damsel, in Ocarina of Time she gained the badass (though in drag alter-ego Sheik, who admittedly didn't do much against the actual Big Bad. But in the later games, starting with Wind Waker, it became her schtick to fire Light Arrows at Ganon during the final battle, and in Spirit Tracks she even helps Link push his sword into Malladus' head.
Also happened to Impa, who went from a frail old woman in the first two games to an Amazonian ninja in Ocarina of Time and Skyward Sword. Though the latter actually had her in both roles.
You Have to Burn the Web: Ocarina of Time was one of the first video games to do this, showing up in the first dungeon. Later games have used the mechanic as well.
Subverted in Minish Cap — webs are sucked up with the Gust Jar.
You Shouldn't Know This Already: There's the Ocarina Songs from Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, the Wind Waker's songs, and the sword fighting moves from Minish Cap, Twilight Princess, and Zelda II.
Younger than They Look: Link, in his adult forms, is supposed to be around the age of 16 or 17, but artwork depicts him as looking around the age of 20 or 21.
Zip Mode: The games feature a variety of ways to speed your trek across the land of Hyrule.