The Zora are a species in The Legend of Zelda series, first appearing as enemies in The Legend of Zelda for the NES. In most of their appearances, they take the form of fish-like humanoids. They are one of the major recurring species of the series and generally have an important role in the history of Hyrule like the Hylians or the Gorons. Since their first appearance, they have had two different roles depending on the game. They may be friendly with Hylians or hostile, which means that they will serves as enemies until Link earns their trust, if it is possible at all. In the 2D games they are often portrayed as the later and have a more monstruous appearance. In the 3D games they are usually much closer to a human in appearance and are almost always of the former type. The more friendly and humanoid type has been created for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and has since been a stapple.
The Zora's biology is humanoid in some ways, but they differ from Humans and Hylians greatly. The aquatic structure is obvious, as they spend most of their lives at the bottom of Lake Hylia in most games. They have large fish-like fins connected to their arms, which they swim with, and where most Humans and Hylians have hair, Zoras have a tail similar to that of a dolphin. The average Zora usually doesn't wear clothes, but some Zoras, such as the King always does. Zoras have webbed feet for swimming quickly through the water.
A Zora can swim extraordinarily well. They can not only swim at fast speeds through still water, and swim up running rivers, but in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, they are even shown to swim up waterfalls. It is unknown exactly how they swim up waterfalls, even with all of their fins and webbed feet. Zoras also love to dive, and they will do it from extreme heights.
It is revealed in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask that female Zoras lay eggs. The eggs need to be incubated in cold, clean water, and all the eggs need to be together or they will not hatch. They look a lot like tadpoles when they hatch, as they have circular bodies with long, stream like tails. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild add to this a longer than average lifespan with elders being able to live over 200 years.
Ocarina of Time
Zoras make their first chronological appearance in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. By the time of Ocarina of Time they are part of Hyrule as a result of the Hyrulean Civil War, where they might have sided with the Hylian due to their extremely good relations between King Zora XVI and the current Hylian King. They have a well developed government and domain. They are portrayed blue, scaled, and have a fish-like appearance. They live in Zora's Domain, but can be found in Lake Hylia as well.
None of them wear any clothes, except for King Zora XVI, who wears a fancy robe. They partake in activities such as diving, fishing, and making Zora Armor, which they later sell to non-Zoras. The fact that King Zora is stated to be the sixteenth of his name imply that the Zoras have been around for at least 16 generations before Ocarina of Time.
As a kid, Link manages to save their guardian deity, Lord Jabu-Jabu, and Princess Ruto from Barinade, which earns him a good reputation amongst the Zoras and the Spiritual Stone they were entrusted by the Hylian King.
Ocarina of Time
Link pulls the Master Sword and is sealed for seven years leading Ganondorf to the Triforce, which allows him to take over Hyrule and rule as a tyrant. Ganondorf decided to send Morpha to the Water Temple to corupt it, which causes Zora's Domain to freeze over with everyone in it. Princess Ruto who had managed to escape the curse headed to the Water Temple to fight Morpha. Link eventually awakens, get there and kill the beast, which awakens Ruto as the Water Sage. She eventually help Link and Princess Zelda along with the other Sages in their fight against Ganon and manage to seal him. The Zoras are then seen partying with the other races of Hyrule after the defeat of Ganondorf.
The Wind Waker
Ganondorf eventually broke from his seal and since Link was sent back in time to another timeline, no one could face Ganondorf and the Gods had to flood the world. Since the waters of the Great Sea could not harbor life aside from monsters, the Zoras evolved into the Ritos over time. No Zora is seen alive during The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker but the ghost of Laruto, the ancient sage of Earth, and the ancestor of Medli, appears before Link and Medli a few times.
Ocarina of Time
Since Link went back in time to a time where he had not yet met Zelda, the events that happened at Zora's Domain never took place. Link never met Ruto at the time he did and there were no need for her to awaken as a new Sage as the ancient Sage of water was murdered way later by Ganondorf.
In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, it is shown that the Zora society of Termina is quite different from Hyrule at the time. They don't have a king or leader that we know of and lives in the Zora Hall located in the Great Bay. They are often in conflict with Gerudo pirates who live in the same area.
During the events of the game, a popular Zora group named the Indigo-Go's was planed to play at Clock Town during the Carnival of Time but they were forced to cancel due to their singer Lulu having lost her voice after laying eggs. Her eggs were stolen by the Gerudo pirates and Mikau, the band's guitarist, had tried to recover the Eggs, but was beaten by the Pirates and left fataly injured near the coast. Link eventually finds Mikau and pushes him to shore, but he dies soon after, and his soul is encased into the Zora Mask. Link uses the mask to take the form of Mikau, retrieve the eggs, allowing Lulu to recover her voice and to subsequently open the way to the Great Bay Temple. The temple himself is supposed to be an important location protected by the Zoras.
The Zoras from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess are the direct descendants of the ones seen in Ocarina of Time. They still live in Zora's domain found upstream from Lake Hylia. This time around is the first time a noticable Zora military appears in a Zelda game. Soldiers are equipped with spears, which from this game onwards are considered to be the Zoras' weapons of choice. Patrols can be found around the Domain, Zora River and Lake Hylia, which are assumed to be their juridiction in the kingdom.
During the Twilight Invasion, the Zora were defeated by Zant's army and their leader Queen Rutela was executed by the Twili's minions. Her son, Prince Ralis, escaped in the chaos to try to get help from princess Zelda. When Link and Midna find Ilia in the Twilight Realm, they notice that her and Telma are caring for a young Zora who appear to be ill. After traveling to Zora's Domain, they discover that Zant froze it over to block the stream of the river. After using Midna's powers to teleport a Molten Shard from Death Mountain to the source of the river, they manage to unfreeze it and the Zoras trapped within.
They then encounter Rutela's ghost who thanks them for saving her people and tell them that the ill boy is her son and that she will give them the power of reaching the Lakebed Temple if they save him as her people are in desperate need of a ruler after all the chaos that occured. Link manages to escort Ralis to Kakariko Village where he is treated by Renado and is then rewarded with the Zora Tunic by Rutela. Later, a healthy Ralis helps Link tracking Yeto before returning to Zora's Domain and becomes the new king.
Four Swords Adventure
In The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, almost every Zora seen are one-eyed monster-like creatures that are hostile to Link. A single green Zora that has the traditional look of the Zoras in most 2D Zelda games also appear. This Zora is actually friendly and shows that they are more than just mindless monsters in that game. The friendly Zora is hungry, but can't catch the fishes himself. The four Links help to feed him quickly, and in return, he rewards them with 100 gems and a Heart Container.
Ocarina of Time
In this timeline, the events of the Adult Timeline happened but Ganon defeated Link in their final duel, thus claiming the Triforce. Ruto and the other Sages eventually manage to seal him inside the Sacred Realm along with the Triforce.
A Link to the Past
In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Zoras are once again hostile and live in most of Hyrule's waters but they can actually be reasoned with. Their leader, King Zora, will even agree to sell the Zora's Flippers for 500 Rupees. They are actually able to travel all over Hyrule using Whirlpool Waterways and they allow Link to use them after he purchase the flippers.
In The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Zoras appear as simple enemies, similar to those in the first game. They are usually found in Martha's Bay but can also be found in the other bays and rivers of Koholint Island.
However, once again their is a single friendly Zora that lives in secrecy in the Animal Village. They are invisible to most people but Link can eventually spot them when acquiring the Magnifying Lens. The Zora assures that he means no harm and informs Link that someone who is also invisible to most lives on Toronbo Shores.
Both the peaceful Zoras and the agressive Zoras are depicted in The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons. The peaceful ones refers to themselves as the sea Zoras while the agressive ones are called the river Zoras. The peaceful sea Zora live in a village located in the southern Zora Seas of Labrynna. They actually condemn the behavior of the river Zoras and live under the protection of Lord-Jabu Jabu like they did in Ocarina of Time.
In the past, the Zora Seas were polluted due to a curse inflicted by Veran. The pollution had made the Zora population fall ill and killed their king in the past. His death left the Zora with no ruler ever since. This becomes an issue as Link cannot enter Lord Jabu-Jabu and find his Essence of Time without the King's consent. Link travel to the past to purify the water by rescuing the Fairy Queen and cures the King's illness with a Magic Potion, allowing the Zora King to become well and survive into the present. Sea Zoras do not live in Holodrum but during a linked game, one can be seen inside the Hero's Cave, searching for a place to build a new Domain under the King's orders, but cannot find any place that exceeds Labrynna's seas. They will request that Link reports back to the King their findings by telling him a Secret, which will prompt King Zora to upgrade Link's Sword.
A Link Between Worlds
In The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, they are very similar to A Link the Past in appearance. They are ruled by Queen Oren who rules from Zora's Domain. An early quest involved Link retrieving her Smooth Gem and receiving the Zora's Flippers in return. The queen explain that the Zoras sees the river as their territory, which explain why they are hostile to Hylians who gets too close despite her asking them to stop. Oren is later kidnapped by Yuga who try to gather the descendants of the Sages. She is then held captive in Lorule before being saved by Link, awakening as a Sages, and granting him the Triforce of Courage along with the other Sages. Her efforts to pacify her subjects fails ultimately and the faction of hostile Zoras grows over time to the point where they are seen as nothing more than monsters by Zelda I.
The Legend of Zelda
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
In this game, Zoras are land dwelling monsters that appear all over the East side of Hyrule. They are heavily armored, and still shoot energy balls at Link. This is the first game that they can stand on their hind legs. Their armor is too strong to be defeated by the sword, and a Fire Spell is needed to kill them. They are still extremely tough, taking three sword attacks before they are dead. A town called Ruto was also founded in honor of the ancient Zora Sage of the same name.
End of the Timelines
Breath of the Wild
In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the Zoras are way more diverse in their colors and appearances. They still resemble humanoids with features pertaining to marine life but not just fish this time. Some Zoras like Prince Sidon or King Dorephan look like a hammerhead shark and a blue whale respectively. They are once again living in Zora's Domain found in the Lanayru region.
100 years ago, the people of Hyrule worked toward a single objective: finding and restoring the Divine Beast and the Guardian army left by the Ancient Sheikah to defeat Ganon as soon as he would return. King Rhoam Bosphoramus Hyrule entrusted Vah Ruta to King Dorephan and quickly, his daughter Princess Mipha was chosen as its pilot. When Ganon appeared from under Hyrule Castle, he imediatly killed Mipha and the other pilots and sent hispossessed Guardians to dispose of the allied forces. Having one of the best military force in the kingdom aside from the Hylians', who was almost completely obliterated by Ganon's surprise attack, they are one of the tribe that was thhe least affected by the Great Calamity.
With the disparition of any centralized governement in Hyrule and Ganon sealed inside the castle by Zelda during the battle, the Zoras started to be more independants like most other Hyrulean settlements after the Great Calamity. The difference being that almost everyone who was an adult 100 years later was alive during the Great Calamity due to their long lifespans. As a result they are the tribe who knew the most about what exactly happened during the Great Calamity and blales Link and the Hylians for the death of their beloved princess.
When Link arrives in the Region, he is redirected to Sidon by multiple patrolling soldiers who inform him that the prince is looking for a Hylian warrior to save their home. After meeting Sidon, Link arrives to Zora's Domain where he is recognized by all the elders who despise him and refuse to talk to him. The King ask Link for help as the Divine Beast Vah Ruta has returned to its possessed days since Link has awakened, which causes incessant rain in the region, threatening to destroy the river's dam. The Zora cannot deal with this alone as it would take the use of Shock Arrows to shut down the beast's defense system, arrows that cannot be weilded by aquatic beings like the Zoras.
The King wants to give Link Mipha's Zora Armor, which upsets Muzu, his councelor as he was Mipha's teacher and blame Link like the other elders. Muzu protest that it is tradition for a Zora Princess to craft such armor for their future husband and that giving it to an Hylian would be sacrilege. Sidon try to argue that Mipha actually loved Link and made it for him, which is proved when Link wears it to show that it was meant to fit him perfectly. Muzu calms down and decide to trust Link.
After this Link is tasked by Sidon to retrieve the arrows from the Lynel living on the nearby mountain. After this is done, Link ride on Sidon's back and shoot his arrows on the weak points of Vah Ruta, temporarily shuting it down and allowing Link to board it. Inside Link is guided by Mipha's ghost who reveal herself to him once Waterblight Ganon is defeated. She takes control of the Divine Beast and go to place herself in firing position up until the battle against Calamity Ganon begins. When Link goes to fight Ganon, she appears alongside the other champions and weaken Calamity Ganon with her attack. She appear one last time alongside the other ghosts after Ganon's defeat to say goodbye to Link and Zelda before disappearing.
Super Smash Bros. series
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
A Zora trophy appeared in Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii. The design of the trophy was based on the species' design from Twilight Princess. A sticker based on their Ocarina of Time appearance is also featured. It gives anyone who equip it +31 launch resistance.
"An aquatic creature. Most of a Zora's life is spent in the water but the creatures also can live on land for limited time periods. In Twilight Princess, King Zora is already dead and succeeded by Prince Ralis. Clothing made by the late King Zora allows non-Zoras to breathe underwater."
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS/Wii U
- NA: "A race of merfolk who protect Zora's Fountain, they are led by King Zora. They worship a giant fish, Jabu-Jabu, and it is the job of the strong-willed Princess Ruto to tend to him. Unlike some rather hostile Zora in Link's past, these Zora are quite friendly and helpful."
- EU: "A race of merfolk who guard Zora's Fountain. King Zora rules over them, and his daughter, Princess Ruto, tends to Jabu-Jabu, their patron deity. The Zora might not have been so friendly to Link in other games, but these ones are happy to help him on his quest."
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate