Ganon is a primary recurring antagonist in The Legend of Zelda series. He has appeared primarily in two forms. The first is Ganon, a monstrous, pig-like beast-man that was first introduced in the original The Legend of Zelda. Later games, starting with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, depict him in human form with the name Ganondorf. In Ocarina of Time and some other games in which he appears as human, he assumes his monstrous Ganon form near the end of the game.
Ganon is the personification of an evil that continuously threatens Hyrule over the generations. As part of this ambition, he is most often depicted as coveting possession of the Triforce. As with the series protagonists Link and Zelda, he traditionally represents one of the three pieces of the Triforce; specifically, the Triforce of Power, for his raw strength and lust for control. The other pieces of the Triforce, the Triforces of Wisdom and Courage, are traditionally represented by Zelda and Link, respectively.
Though Ganon is characterized as the main antagonist of The Legend of Zelda, he does not appear in every game, and the roles he plays in some games in which he does appear are minor. As an example of the former, he does not appear in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time. As an example of the latter, though Ganon's potential resurrection is a threat faced in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, his only appearance comes in the Game Over screen, in which it is implied that Link fails in his quest and Ganon is revived.
The following section is a history of some of Ganon's appearances in The Legend of Zelda series.
The Legend of Zelda
In the original The Legend of Zelda, Ganon appears as the game's final boss. Holding Princess Zelda captive, he holds the Triforce of Power and seeks the Triforce of Wisdom. After Link gathers the pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom, Ganon challenges him to a battle, but is killed when Link uses the silver arrow to defeat him.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
A Link to the Past is the first game to hint at Ganon's human form, though he does not appear in the game in this guise. The game's English language manual states that as a human, his full name is Ganondorf Dragmire. A thief seeking the Triforce, he finds a way into the Sacred Realm and claims it. However, the power of the Triforce transforms him into the monstrous Ganon. With the Triforce in his possession, the Sacred Realm falls into ruin and becomes the Dark World.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The man known as Ganondorf first appears in Ocarina of Time. He is the King of the tribe of thieves known as the Gerudo, although he is the only male born in one hundred years among them. He swears allegiance to the King of Hyrule in a plan to deceive the Royal Family and steal the Triforce. In the course of attempting stop him, Link gathers what he needs to claim the Master Sword from the pedestal in the Temple of Time. However, when he pulls the sword free, it is determined that he is not of age to wield the blade yet, and is held there for seven years. With Link in this state, the doors to the Sacred Realm remain wide open, and Ganondorf uses this opportunity to enter and steal the power of the Triforce.
Over the next seven years, Ganondorf takes near complete control of Hyrule, and the land falls into ruin. When Link confronts him near the game's end, Ganondorf is defeated, but uses the power of the Triforce to become the monstrous Ganon in a final attempt at victory. This last-ditch effort is thwarted, and Ganon is killed.
After Link returns to the past, the Gandondorf of that era is summarily arrested and executed. The events surrounding Ganon's battle with Link cause the timeline to split from this point, with one branch extending from the future era in which Ganon is defeated, and a second branch extending from the past era in which Ganondorf is executed before he can succeed. A third branch also exists, in a version of history where Ganondorf is victorious.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
In Twilight Princess, the sages attempted to execute Ganondorf, but failed because of his divine power. He killed one of the sages, which forced them to send him into the Twilight Realm as a last resort. There, Ganondorf appeared before Zant, posing as a god and granting him part of his power. He then uses Zant as a proxy to invade Hyrule from the Twilight Realm.
Ganondorf keeps possession of the sword used in his attempted execution. Though the blade didn't kill him, the attempt left a visible scar. He ultimately uses the sword himself in his fight with Link at the end of the game.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Ganon does not appear in Skyward Sword. However, Demise, one of the game's primary antagonists and the final boss, bears a very strong resemblance to Ganondorf. Like Ganondorf, he once sought the Triforce, but the goddess Hylia sacrificed her own divinity in order to seal him away. Generations later, Hylia was reborn as a mortal, Zelda of Skyloft, and Ghirahim uses her soul to resurrect Demise, who shortly thereafter challenges Link to a battle.
Upon Demise's defeat, he invokes a curse, stating that an incarnation of his very hatred will be eternally reborn. Those with "the blood of the goddess and the spirit of the hero", that is, the future incarnations of Zelda and Link, will be bound to it forever. Just as Zelda is the mortal reincarnation of Hylia, Ganon is the eternal reincarnation of Demise's hatred.
Ganondorf is a playable character in Hyrule Warriors, a crossover collaboration between Nintendo and Koei Tecmo that blends the setting and characters of The Legend of Zelda with the gameplay of Dynasty Warriors. He fights using a great sword as his weapon.
In the story of Hyrule Warriors, Ganondorf's spirit was separated into four fragments. Three were scattered in time and sealed away in different eras: the eras of Skyward Sword, Ocarina of Time, and Twilight Princess. The remaining fragment was sealed by the Master Sword resting in its pedestal.
When Cia, a seeress that watches over the Triforce, has a momentary lapse of spirit due to her sadness at not being able to share Link's love, a remaining essence of Ganondorf's manages to wedge its way inside her and expel the good in her. He uses Cia to free the three fragments of his spirit scattered in time, allowing him to return to a physical form. However, he is not yet at full power, and Cia drives him off, claiming the Triforce of Power for herself.
Following Cia's death, the fourth fragment of Ganondorf is freed, as the sword pedestal's guard over it had weakened without the Master Sword. Made whole once more, Ganondorf summons Ghirahim and Zant from their respective eras to serve him, and the three quickly work to establish control over Hyrule and claim the pieces of the Triforce. In battle, Ganondorf triumphs over Lana, retaking the Triforce of Power, and then steals the Triforce of Courage from Link and the Triforce of Wisdom from Zelda.
With the full power of the Triforce at his command, Ganondorf seizes control of Hyrule Castle, turning it into his tower and base of operations. But the Hyrulian forces mount an assault on his keep and manage to defeat him. After he's struck down, Ganondorf transforms into his monstrous pig form, Ganon, and the final battle takes place.
In the end, Ganon is defeated, and the Triforce and Hyrule are once again kept safe from his clutches.
Super Smash Bros.
Ganon appears in his human form, Ganondorf, in the Super Smash Bros. series, starting with Super Smash Bros. Melee. In terms of gameplay, his moves and abilites are largely based on those of F-Zero pilot Captain Falcon.
Super Smash Bros. Melee
In Super Smash Bros. Melee, Ganondorf plays almost identically to Captain Falcon, though his attacks are much slower, but more powerful. The primary differences in his moveset are in his forward aerial and his standard attacks.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, some changes were made to make Ganondorf less of a Captain Falcon clone. His appearance in Brawl is based on his design from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Overall, Ganondorf is much slower than even his Melee appearance, with a reduced dashing and attack speed.
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / for Wii U
Ganondorf's appearance in the fourth Super Smash Bros. is more or less consistent with Brawl. Minor tweaks were made to his moveset, and his design was somewhat changed as well, giving him a tattered cape and the glowing chest wound from the ending of Twilight Princess.