The Legend of Zelda features dozens of iconic bosses lurking at the end of its many dungeons, but one of the most interesting recurring bosses is the dreaded giant hand. This boss design essentially breaks an enemy down to the bare minimum: attacking appendages and a weak spot for players to strike when the moment is right. Despite this boss design’s apparent simplicity, however, Nintendo has found plenty of ways to make each giant hand boss unique to its own game, creating a variety of interesting boss battles across the series.
Nintendo’s love of the giant hand boss isn’t exclusive to Zelda, however. A variety of other titles have a version of this foe, including Super Mario 64, Super Mario Odyssey, Kirby Super Star, and even Super Smash Bros.‘ Master Hand. While it may seem like an odd trend, a giant hand boss’ design typically allows the player to focus almost entirely on the fight’s direct threat while simultaneously incorporating weak spots that must be revealed through mechanics unique to each game.
The Zelda series has the most giant hand bosses of any Nintendo franchise with a total of four appearing throughout the mainline games. It’s unclear if any of these bosses are meant to be narratively connected within the Zelda timeline, but players will find plenty of similarities between their designs, behaviors, and attack patterns as Link faces off with each foe. From undead drummers to guardian automatons, these are Zelda’s giant hand bosses ranked worst to best.
#4 – Ocarina Of Time’s Bongo Bongo
Phantom Shadow Beast Bongo Bongo is the first giant hand boss to appear in the Zelda series, and this classic Ocarina of Time boss is among the most memorable giant hands in gaming history. Bongo Bongo is the boss of Ocarina of Time’s Shadow Temple, making it the seventh boss in the game. This ghostly drummer is partially invisible, requiring Link to reveal its weak spot with the Lens of Truth acquired by defeating the Dead Hand in the Bottom of the Well.
The first and second phase of Bongo Bongo’s Ocarina of Time boss fight are relatively straightforward: Bongo Bongo will try to smack and grab Link with its massive hands until both are successfully stunned with arrows. If it manages to grab Link, it’ll throw him off the drum and into the surrounding poisonous swamp. Once Bongo Bongo has been stunned, it’ll drop to the stage and charge at Link, who must shoot it with an arrow in order to slash the boss’ weak eye with the Master Sword.
While this Ocarina of Time boss started the concept of giant hand foes, its fight can be somewhat boring compared to subsequent giant hands in the series. It’s easy to figure out the trick to beating it even without Navi spoiling it with her hint, and Bongo Bongo’s three-part fight is extremely similar to most of Ocarina of Time’s other bosses. There isn’t much variety between phases, either, but Bongo Bongo’s intimidating design still makes it one of the most memorable bosses from the game.
#3 – The Minish Cap’s Mazaal
Mazaal is the boss of the Fortress of Winds from The Minish Cap, making this giant hand the only 2D boss of its type to appear in the series. This massive automaton was built by the Wind Tribe to repel intruders, making it impervious to attack from the outside. Fortunately for Link, his Minish size allows him to slip inside and destroy it from within in this classic 2D Zelda game.
To defeat Mazaal, Link must first shoot both hands to stun them, at which point he’ll be able to shrink with the Minish Portals and crawl inside Mazaal’s head and strike the three pillars inside. In addition to Mazaal’s typical giant hand attacks that threaten to smash and grab, this boss also summons mobs of bugs that will swarm Link and slow him down. Mazaal also has a beam attack that shrinks Link to Minish Size, requiring him to safely reach a Minish Portal behind Mazaal’s goalie-like hands to continue the fight.
Mazaal’s boss fight introduces several new attacks never seen in other giant hand fights, and it incorporates The Minish Cap’s shrinking mechanic (which was cut from BOTW) in an interesting way. Overall, the battle is a successful iteration of a great 3D boss in a 2D environment, though the 2D gameplay makes interacting with the hands somewhat simplistic since they can only be shot from one angle. There isn’t a lot of mystery about how this boss can be beaten, either, so the puzzle-solving satisfaction that the other giant hands provide is somewhat lacking in Mazaal’s fight.
#2 – A Link Between Worlds’ Knucklemaster
Knucklemaster is the boss of the Skull Woods dungeon in A Link Between Worlds. Unlike the other giant hands in the series, this Wallmaster-like foe is simply a single palm-eyed hand. Knucklemaster’s boss fight uniquely utilizes the environment thanks to the game’s wall-merge mechanic, which requires Link to balance his magic throughout the fight rather than engaging the player in a typical three-stage boss battle.
Like Bongo Bongo and the other giant hand bosses lurking in Zelda’s dungeons, Knucklemaster will try to smash Link from above and smash him into the wall with a charged punch. Rather than shooting Knucklemaster with arrows, Link must merge into the walls to avoid its attacks. Once the boss has stunned itself, he can emerge to take the opportunity for a sword attack. As the Knucklemaster fight goes on, however, more and more of the arena’s cracked ground will fall away, leaving pitfalls to trap Link when he has to escape the wall. Knucklemaster’s attacks also become more frequent, requiring Link to manage his magic and avoid being ejected from the safety of the wall at an inopportune time.
Zelda’s Knucklemaster fight features a completely unique use of environment and excellent execution of A Link Between Worlds’ merge mechanic. This giant hand fight also presents a unique challenge from other Zelda bosses and mini-bosses by requiring players to defeat it without focusing on attacking or combat for most of the fight. However, this fight tends to drag on a little too long as Knucklemaster takes a ton of hits, and its lack of attack variety can make the battle feel a bit slow compared to other giant hands in the series.
#1 – The Wind Waker’s Gohdan
Gohdan is the boss of the Tower of the Gods in The Wind Waker, which makes it responsible for presenting Link’s final test to be deemed worthy of wielding the Master Sword. Unlike the rest of Zelda’s giant hand bosses, Gohdan seems to be relatively friendly despite the life-threatening attacks, and it hopes for Link’s success in proceeding forward. Not only is Gohdan’s role in the game’s story among the most important of all the giant hands in the series, but the fight itself feels like a test for Zelda‘s Hero of Winds.
Gohdan’s boss fight begins like the others of its type, requiring Link to shoot the eyes in its palms to stun the hands. However, Gohdan has a wide variety of hand-based attacks, including grabbing, smashing, shoving, and clapping Link as they circle around the electrified arena. Gohdan also uses a beam attack once its hands are disabled, and uses it consistently throughout the entire third phase of the fight to increase the intensity. At this point, Link will essentially have to keep track of three autonomous projectiles at once, though Gohdan will drop arrows from its nostrils if Link runs out.
Overall, Gohdan feels like an upgraded Bongo Bongo, offering a similarly memorable Zelda fight without feeling repetitive or unoriginal. This giant hand boss requires much more environmental awareness, keeps the fight fresh throughout, and presents Link with the challenge of proving himself worthy of The Wind Waker‘s powerful Master Sword. Since the release of The Wind Waker, Gohdan has become something of an icon for all video game bosses of its type, earning the rank of best giant hand in The Legend of Zelda.