Animation Age Ghetto: Possibly due to this trope, the "cartoonish" games in the series get lower sales and less attention outside of the core Zelda fanbase than the "realistic" games. (In quotes as they are referring only to art style.)
Author's Saving Throw: From Skyward Sword onwards there's the "Hero Mode". A higher-difficulty mode where enemies inflict double damage and there are no healing items such as hearts, meaning the player has no choice but to rely on healing potions only. This mode was obviously created for veteran fans and skilled players who considered the franchise had become way too easy since the N64 games, to the point it was detrimental to the experience for them.
Broken Base: You don't get to become one of the biggest, most respected franchises in your medium without dividing people to some extent. Here are some of the most popular highlights.
One of the biggest, yet most subtle divides in the fandom comes from the idea of what makes a Zelda game... a Zelda game! The franchise has become more and more multi-faceted over the years, and thus different people may like it for completely different reasons. Because of this, the fans often find themselves in direct opposition to one another. Sometimes to the extreme that one element may be considered essential to the franchise by one group, but another may consider it even detrimental. The elements that are argued the most are the exploration component, the puzzle solving (especially in the dungeons), and the lore. But there are also plenty of people who will mention the ever changing art style, the story telling, the atmosphere, or even the combat system, especially the boss fights. There's even a fair share of fans who think the answer is "all of the above", and thus there is no point in trying to single out just one aspect and call it THE "Zelda secret".
Another one of the biggests, and this time, most visible ones is that every single entry of the series ever since Ocarina of Time (if not even earlier than that) has received accusations of It's the Same, so It Sucks and They Changed It, Now It Sucksat the same time. One second you find a comment trashing the game for not changing the Zelda formula at all, demeaning its new features as "gimmicks", and the next second you find another one that trashes it because those "gimmicks" are new features that totally change (and ruin) the Zelda formula. Yahtzee even managed to do both in one review, bashing Skyward Sword for being formulaic, then for not holding to its own formulas.
Fans and critics frequently argue about which game in the series is the best, often escalating to arguments where (insert game X here) is dismissed as "absolute crap" while (insert game Y here) is objectively the greatest game of all time. This is despite the fact that almost all major Zelda games are loved by critics and well-received by the general public.
A smaller faction: which is better, the N64 version of Ocarina of Time or Ocarina of Time 3D?
Since The Wind Waker, one of the most prominent debates, not only in the fan base, but also among critics, is whether the franchise should feature voice acting. The two opposing forces are:
Those who think the franchise should not feature voice acting at all. They argue the franchise hasn't used them for so long, they would feel out of place at this point. They also think it's better to leave the characters' voices to the player's imagination. Plus, it would mean either giving Link a voice (which would destroy one of the key characteristics that makes him unique) or make all characters speak except him (which for them would be extremely weird). There's also the concern about localization, and what would it mean to dub the game to the different languages. But there are people who say the solution to this would be for Nintendo to create a fictional "Hyrulean" language, akin to the gibberish that characters like Midna or Fi have already displayed.
Those who think they should totally use them. They argue the lack of voices makes the games feel outdated, and it's detrimental to the immersion. Especially considering the games now use cut-scenes prominently, where the lack of voices becomes especially jarring. As for the issue about Link, most people in this camp usually propose to keep him silent, arguing that it wouldn't be nearly as weird as people in the opposing side makes it out to be. Others claim that giving Link a voice doesn't need to destroy his character, since there has been already a successful attempt of giving him a more fleshed out personality in the mangas by Akira Himekawa, which has been embraced by most of the fan base.
Do the Zelda franchise and Link himself truly deserve to be Nintendo's biggest Sacred Cows among their series and characters respectively? There are those who agree, hence their popularity in the first place, and then there are those who view them with Hype Backlash and Hype Aversion (especially given how frequently Zelda games and characters win in fan rankings and popularity polls); in the series' case, many acclaimed Zelda games suffer from Seinfeld Is Unfunny down the line, while in Link's case, he's occasionally criticized for being a Vanilla Protagonist (particularly among those who don't effectively see him as an Escapist Character).
The "Should Link be allowed to be a girl?" debate. The idea had been around for a while in the early 2010's, but it was only proposed by a small and quite minority. Things changed with the E3 2014 reveal trailer of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which showed a Link that .looked more androgynous than usual, to the point that it created a massiveViewer Gender Confusion. After that, and the confirmation that this Link was indeed a male, the debate jumped to the forefront of the fandom, with all different kinds of opinions on the matter.
To a lesser degree, the Hero Mode. Supporters welcome the addition and consider the difficulty boost the franchise needed and forces the player to be more careful during combat and plan ahead better their healing resources. Detractors think it's just cheap Fake Difficulty, since only damage is increased while enemy AI and layout remain unchanged, and thus consider the mode meaningless.
Complete Monster: Zant and Yuga. Ganondorf escapes this due to having his sympathetic qualities exposed in The Wind Waker.
According to critics, the series has stayed very strong throughout its entire lifespan. You wouldn't know this from all the fan complaints about new titles in the series, especially Skyward Sword.
Hyrule Warriors has gotten middling reviews akin to a Licensed Game, and nowhere near the stellar reviews of the rest of the series. Zelda fans, however, adore it.
Die for Our Ship: Anything that threatens the possibility of a Link/Zelda pairing is violently purged. Zelda herself can suffer this when other choices are available. (Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess)
Dork Age: The CD-i games. Their sting wasn't numbed at all by the fact that Nintendo took its sweet time developing Ocarina of Time, so there were five years between 1993 and 1998 when no Zelda games except for those were being released.
Epileptic Trees: The timeline alone is a big piece of fanon madness. Before Hyrule Historia came out to explain it, it was impossible to find a web site or forums of the series (either fan or otherwise) that did NOT have at least one big article and/or open thread discussing this issue at large, with big, crazy theories to boot. And after it came out, it didn't die. It just evolved into discussing the points that were left ambiguous, debating about the contradictions between the artbook, the interviews to Miyamoto and Aonuma and the games themselves, tiding up the remaining loose ends, or trying to give alternate interpretations to the explanations that were deemed unsatisfactory. Especially crazy because Nintendo put an explicit MST3K Mantra disclaimer in the very same official timeline, explaining that the development team, for the most part, thinks about gameplay first and story later. But fans still treat this topic as Serious Business.
Escapist Character: Part of Link's popularity as a character stems from this and how players can, in addition to wishing they were him, largely project their own personality (or an otherwise desired, idealized personality) onto him as he's a Heroic Mime.
Evil Is Cool: Ganon(dorf) is one of Nintendo's coolest and most well-loved villains in all his forms, and is fondly remembered by fans for his overwhelming power, Machiavellian evil schemes, and excellent boss fights.
As explained in Hyrule Historia (a guidebook about the franchise by Nintendo), there is a third timeline that also split from Ocarina of Time. What causes it? The hero dying, something that fans didn't expect at all due to obviously not thinking Game Overs to be 'canon' in any way.
Related to Shadow of the Colossus, there's also a fierce rivalry between the games' respective horses, Epona and Agro. To their fans, they compete for the position of "most iconic video game horse ever".
During the The Fifth Generation of Console Video Games, there was also another one with the Final Fantasy series, especially Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy VII (and also by extension, Link Vs. Cloud). Both franchises were probably the most iconic ones of their respectiveconsoles, and people used to compare them out of their fantasy settings (despite the fact that they were for the most part very different). So it was a natural extension of that generation Console Wars. Just like with the previous console war's Mario vs. Sonic rivalry, an official Link vs. Cloud fight was finally made possible when Cloud was added to the fourth Super Smash Bros. game.
Later on, The Elder Scrolls (particularly Skyrim, since it and Skyward Sword were Dueling Games) and Dark Souls, albeit to a lesser degree. Mostly because both franchises focus on elements that are considered part of the core of the earlier Zelda titles. Some Zelda fans moved on to these two franchises since they consider they expanded on those elements better than Zelda itself.
Fanon: The series is one of the most prolific sources of inspiration for fan related works: fan fiction, fan arts, fan remixes and covers, web sites, etc.
Fan Wank: The endless, endless confusion over "the timeline," something officially confirmed, but NEVER officially explained. Even after Hyrule Historia explained it all, it's still going, even if discussing different points (See Epileptic Trees above).
Friendly Fandoms: With Metroid, due to both franchises being Nintendo's most famous "serious" series with games considered among Nintendo's best; there are a ton of fan theories about Samus being descended from Link himself. That said, sometimes the fandoms get into arguments over whether Link or Samus is a better protagonist, as well as the relative quality of both series.
While wildly popular elsewhere, the Zelda franchise isn't quite as popular in its native Japan (but still popular).
In many Western gaming communities, Link is Nintendo's most popular character, even surpassing company mascot Mario. This even has some effect outside of said gaming communities; Link's amiibo has consistently been the best-selling amiibo figure in Western regions.
Goddamned Bats: An early example, though Keese and Fire Keese are hardly the only ones.
Due to the series' and its characters' widespread Sacred Cow treatment, some people are quick to label popular Zelda games and characters as "overrated". On many sites, most infamously GameFAQs and Dorkly, Zelda games and characters frequently dominate gaming- or Nintendo-related popularity polls and consequently bring up this trope. Even one-shot characters such as Midna or Skull Kid, or games that aren't near-universally praised such as The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, can end up outperforming more famous/iconic characters and more lauded games, respectively. Zelda Informer even has an article on the alleged "overratedness" of the franchise, acknowledging that the excessive hype is unhealthy for the franchise and that it is "simply praised for its name's sake".
This seems to be a driving factor behind the fan-defined "Zelda Cycle", where a game that was once universally acclaimed and considered the best game in the series suddenly falls out of favor and is deemed "overrated", while a game that was once criticized and deemed as "underrated" takes its place and is Vindicated by History.
LGBT Fanbase: In addition to causing Stupid Sexy Flanders moments in straight fans, a gay magazine voted Link as the hottest video game character of all time. As an older Hunk, Ganondorf also has a following in the Bara Genre community.
Memetic Loser: Tingle is a 35 year-old man who dresses in a green onesie and wishes to become a fairy. He's meant to be a Man Child and is loved by the Japanese fanbase... But the Western fanbase love to loathe him. When you have a trope called "Americans Hate Tingle" named after you, you know you're a memetic loser.
Older Than They Think: The completed Triforce is actually the emblem of the Japanese Hojo clan, which has been around in various forms since at least the 12th century.
One True Pairing: Link and Zelda. This pairing has been since the very beginning and is still on top. The only other pairing that comes even close would be Link/Midna, but has the disadvantage of appearing in only one game that feels more like an exception, rather than a norm. Plus, in recent years Nintendo seems to be playing up the romance angle in their relationship, going as far as heavily inferring a Reincarnation Romance (downright confirming it in Hyrule Warriors. Even if this game is not canon, there are heavy hints in the main series as well, so it fits the meta-narrative).
Protagonist Title Fallacy: Poor Link is one of, if not THE best known example of this trope in the entire video game medium, to the point of Memetic Mutation ("What if Zelda was a girl?"). Ever since the first game in the franchise, newcomers tend to think "Zelda" is the name of the green-clothed hero.
The series, as well as its protagonist Link, are unanimously praised and loved by the gaming community in the west - even more than Super Mario Bros., Nintendo's own flagship series and one that's sold many more games than Zelda and other franchises by a huge margin.
While the core fanbase is split as to the overall quality of each game, three in particular - A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask - are treated as this and adamantly defended from any sort of criticism, although this raises accusations of Seinfeld Is Unfunny and Hype Backlash. The Wind Waker gets this treatment to a somewhat lesser extent.
Scapegoat Creator: A lot of fans blame Eiji Aonuma, the current main producer of the series, of every single thing that is supposedly wrong with the series nowadays. Of course, when they see something that goes right for them, then they praise Miyamoto for it.
Shipping: A rabbit hole that runs too deep to get into detail here. Long story short, many fans really like to argue about Link's perfect mate, both in the series as a whole and on a game-to-game basisnote as in, for example, people who like LinkXZelda in the franchise, and people who like LinkXMidna in Twilight Princess specifically. Ironically enough, even people who don't like the idea of shipping in the series tend to be just as passionate about Link not being paired up with anyone as people who do want to see him paired up.
Sidetracked by the Gold Saucer: Each game is bound to have at least one sidequest or minigame that completely distracts from the main story. In fact, some games make the story seem like a minor annoyance than a matter of importance in the game.
Super Couple: Again, Link and Zelda. They're Nintendo's best-known romance, apart from Mario/Peach, to the point even non-fans know about Link/Zelda. The series never stops handling out Ship Teases like candy, and Skyward Sword had their evolved relationship as one of its main draws.
Tastes Like Diabetes: Some fans feel this way about the series, particularly the Toon Link and Classic Link games, believing that it needs to be mature and gritty to be any good, though the actualcontent is a different matter entirely. Twilight Princess was a conscious effort to avert this trope after said Toon Link games.
Vindicated by History: Actually a recurring element, to the point where the process has been nicknamed the "Zelda Cycle". Since Majora's Mask, every time a new console game is released, it's immediately panned by what seems to be most fans, while the previous title (which also was mercilessly panned when it came out) is suddenly praised as a master piece.note Should be noted that the "Zelda Cycle" theory is heavily disputed within the fanbase. Many fans argue that there isn't such thing. Just people with different opinions expressing it at different times, coupled with some bandwagon effect.
The cycle seems to have stopped with Skyward Sword, though. Although it still has its fair share of fans, the general consensus after 5 years is still that it's one of the weakest entries in the franchise, while its follow up, A Link Between Worlds, was praised both by most critics and fans from day one. Furthermore, while reception to Twilight Princess has grown warmer over time, it failed to become the fanbase's "golden game" like Majora's Mask and Wind Waker became in turn - rather, most of its unanimous love and praise was at the time of release.
The addition of the "Link is Defeated" timeline is seen this way by many, since it turns that part of the timeline into a "What If?" scenario instead of having a stronger explanation involving legitimate and certain events that lead up to the defeat. And it opens up the question of why there aren't other timelines created by "Game Overs" in games of the series other than Ocarina of Time.
Some people consider the creation of Linkle in Hyrule Warriors to be this. For said people, Nintendo basically took the easy way out in the whole ''Should Link be allowed to be a girl?" debate, and deem it not even close to good enough.