The Legend of Zelda’s Tingle has always been a curious character, a fairy-loving map dealer who’s often found dangling from a red balloon. He was first introduced in 2000, in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, a character created by Nintendo game designer Takaya Imamura; he was always meant to be a weirdo, a mid-30s man who never wants to grow up, Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma has said.
He’s held similar and more minor roles in a handful of games since Majora’s Mask, including The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, and The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Sure, Tingle’s shown up in Easter eggs since then — as a wanted poster in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass or a plushie in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword — but the man himself, Tingle, hasn’t been in a major Zelda game since 2004.
Aonuma told gaming magazine EGM in 2005 that American players didn’t like Tingle very much — perhaps explaining his absence from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It’s been almost 20 years since Tingle’s last major Zelda appearance. Could The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom be Tingle’s next stage?
Nintendo’s given no indication of Tingle’s whereabouts, but the environment around Tingle as a character has changed immensely since Majora’s Mask. It’s Tingle’s time.
What, is Tingle controversial?
Tingle is now a beloved Zelda character and incredible meme fodder, but this wasn’t always so. Early on, Tingle was targeted because he embodies several stereotypes that people read as gay, and the character got a lot of hate for that. People also found him to be flat-out annoying.
“You know and hate him,” IGN wrote in 2012. “That nutty clown freak that spoils the lands of Hyrule like a poison. That eerily happy, giggling annoyance whom always pops up at the wrong time and floats away with a deceitful smile plastered across his lying, lunatic face.”
It continued: “Tingle unfortunately returned to haunt the ocean-covered world in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and his sexual orientation remained a great, dark mystery — one that not even Nintendo could illuminate.”
IGN went as far as creating a clip of Tingle getting his head blasted off by a gun. Harsh!
Despite IGN’s best efforts to kill him off, Tingle has since become a meme. Fans love him, and plenty want to see him return in Tears of the Kingdom. His reputation has changed from a creepy weirdo to a loveable one. It’s become a joke around Zelda releases — Where’s Tingle? Though he’s been missing, Nintendo continues to reference him — the poster and plush toy, but also as a playable character in Hyrule Warriors. A Breath of the Wild DLC pack went a step further, adding a Tingle outfit that makes everyone scared of Link. Tingle is powerful, confirmed.
What’s Tingle’s story?
Tingle first appeared in Majora’s Mask, found flying over several different areas attached to a red balloon. Basically, he’s a mapmaker and he hangs out in the air so he can get a good vantage point from which to draw his maps. Shoot Tingle out of the air and Link can buy maps and other items from him. As usual, he’s wearing his full green bodysuit with red underpants overtop, and his face is mostly nose. Of course, he’s also obsessed with fairies.
His dad is also in Majora’s Mask, the Swamp Tourist Center manager. It seems like Tingle’s got a slightly strained relationship with his dad; Tingle’s dad doesn’t really get him and his childish ways.
His appearance in Wind Waker is also pretty notable: Tingle gets sent to jail by the townspeople and Link has to free him. As in Oracle of Ages and Majora’s Mask, he’s got a bunch of items for Link. His next appearance in Four Swords Adventures offers some more insight into Tingle and his love of fairies, like a story about the time he encountered one in the woods. Finally, in The Minish Cap, we learn that Tingle’s got siblings: Ankle, Knuckle, and David Jr. (We don’t see them again in any Zelda game, but Nintendo references them in Breath of the Wild in the naming of four islands.)
Tingle’s also got several of his own video games, which unfortunately didn’t take off like Zelda has.
Tingle has his own video games?
Yes! Tingle’s got his own standalone video games, Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland (2006), Tingle’s Balloon Fight DS (2007), and Ripened Tingle’s Balloon Trip of Love (2009). Balloon Fight is fairly easy to understand — it’s a Tingle-themed version of Balloon Fight, the 1984 Nintendo Entertainment System arcade game. Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland is basically Tingle’s origin story, centered around Tingle and his love of rupees.
Ripened Tingle’s Balloon Trip of Love is less about rupees and more about getting a girlfriend or two. I haven’t played any of these, so I can’t speak to the quality or content, aside from what I’ve seen on Let’s Plays on YouTube. But my understanding of these is that they’ve got more of an… adult… tone than the Zelda games. Can’t exactly say whether these helped or hurt Tingle’s image!
Nintendo was also once reportedly making a Tingle horror game with Vanpool, the studio that made Fresh-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland and Ripened Tingle’s Balloon Trip of Love.
Is Tingle in Tears of the Kingdom?
The word on Tingle in Tears of the Kingdom is still out. The game comes out for Nintendo Switch on May 12, and you know we’ll be looking for him. After all, Nintendo’s Kensuke Tanabe did mention in 2013 that he knows about how much U.S. players hated Tingle; he wants to turn around Tingle’s image, he said. It’s been 10 years since that interview, and maybe 2023 is Tingle’s year.
“I know how hated the character of Tingle is in the U.S.,” Tanabe said. “I know that people cannot stand Tingle. But to me that challenge is: Could I take this character that is so reviled in the West and just [do] a complete turnaround and make him a beloved, fun character? The idea of that really just gets me going.”
He continued: “It’s like love. It’s like romance: You meet someone and you’re like, ‘Oh god, I can’t stand that person.’ And then three weeks later, you’re madly in love — it’s that turn, that quick whip, that motivates [me] a little bit.”