Shadow Links are the manifestations Ganondorf's resentment and evil thoughts against Link that he gains whenever he is defeated by him. Ganondorf's thoughts travel through time and space to manifest through the Dark Mirror and are thus a part of Ganondorf. Shadow Links are similar to both Dark Links and Link's Shadow, both of which are also creations of Ganon, though through different means.
The Shadow Link in the Four Swords Adventures manga is his own distinct being and not a manifestation of Ganon's thoughts.
Shadow Links were never created in the unified timeline.
This is the timeline where Link was sent back to the past and was able to warn the Royal Family of Ganondorf's treachery, leading to the events of Twilight Princess backstory.
Four Swords Adventures
In Four Swords Adventures, Shadow Link is featured as both a main character and a recurring enemy and boss. There are many Shadow Links; the Dark Mirror can create an endless supply from Ganondorf's evil thoughts, but they all work together as one. He first appears early in the game in the Four Swords Sanctuary and tricks Link into drawing the Four Sword, releasing the ancient Wind Mage Vaati and splitting Link into four Links. He and his copies then plague Hyrule by terrorizing its citizens, some of whom blame the Links for his misdeeds. Shadow Links usually show up repeatedly in each stage, often causing mischief using a certain item, such as setting fires with the Fire Rod or charging at the Links with the Pegasus Boots, or sometimes simply just taunting Link by avoiding his blade. Whoever manages to defeat him can receive a large green Force Gem, but often they will flee to the Dark World.
Shadow Link also sometimes appears and summons a Big Bomb. When this bomb explodes, all Links on screen will be instantly defeated. He will summon an endless supply of Big Bombs until the Links can escape.
He appears as the main boss for the Cave of No Return, Village of the Blue Maiden, Desert Temple and The Dark Cloud stages,and also as a mini boss in several others - where, during each battle except for the Dark Cloud stage, he would eventually take on a color, and only the corresponding Link could damage him. During these battles he usually travels back and forth from the Dark World and attacks Link with his copy of the Four Sword. Shadow Link and his kin are finally defeated in The Dark Cloud stage when, while the Links engage them in combat, Princess Zelda undoes the seal on the Dark Mirror and takes it into her possession, dispelling them.
Shadow Links were never created in the adult timeline.
This is the timeline where Ganondorf killed Link in his final battle with him, leading to the Imprisoning War described in A Link to the Past's backstory.
Between Ancient Stone Tablets and A Link Between Worlds
After Ganon's defeat and sealing, his evil thoughts against Link traveled through time and space, eventually manifesting as Shadow Links through the Dark Mirror.
A Link Between Worlds
Shadow Links manifest once again from Ganon's evil thoughts and are minions of YuGanon. They can be fought outside of Link's house or behind the Sanctuary, but only after the player has received a "Streetpass Hit".
Four Swords Adventures Manga
In The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures manga, Shadow Link was drawn from the Dark Mirror by Ganon to act out his wishes. Shadow Link is a twisted version of Link, born from his own shadow, and is a cruel, malevolent and calculating character. He first appears after causing the Shrine Maidens to vanish, and proclaims himself to be "the hero, Link". Completely avoiding Link's attack, he immediately kidnaps Zelda and sends Link to the Four Sword Sanctuary, from which he observes as Link awakens Vaati. His next move is to lead Vaati's troops to attack Hyrule Castle and send all the Knights of Hyrule to the Dark World. There, he confronts the four Links, revealing himself to be much stronger than they are with their tainted blades, and striking them down with Sword Beams. They are saved by the Blue Maiden, who releases a Fairy to shine light upon him, stunning him long enough for them to escape.
Shadow Link continues to plot, hidden away from the light. As he cannot go out in daylight, he works with Vaati's minions to thwart the progress of the four Links. Using dark magic, he manages to split the four Links apart by sending them to four different lands of Hyrule, thus weakening the strength of the Four Sword. Then, confronting Vio, he attempts to coerce him into joining the side of darkness by appealing to his intelligence. Working with Vio, he traps Red and Blue in the Temple of Darkness, and allows Vio to be placed in charge of the Tower of Flames on Death Mountain. Vio even appears to kill Green in battle, totally convincing Shadow Link that he has turned to the side of evil.
However, Vio is simply putting on a show to gain his trust. Once inside, he learns about Ganon and his potential weakness, and the existence of the Dark Mirror, the source of darkness from which Shadow Link was originally summoned. He also learns that Shadow Link does not desire to follow Ganon, and in fact wishes to rule over Hyrule alongside Vio. Shadow Link simply hates humans and the world for spurning him as "just a shadow". However, after Vio is foiled in an attempt to shatter the mirror, Shadow Link discovers his betrayal and attempts to execute him in by dropping him into the lava of Death Mountain. Saved at the last minute by the three other Links, they confront Shadow Link, and with their new-found strength, destroy him with a combined Sword Beam attack.
Shadow Link is not killed, however, and is pulled by Ganon from the mirror again, dripping and shivering as he tries to resist entering the light. Seeing him in this state, Princess Zelda takes pity upon him. He attempts to spurn her but is momentarily moved by her words as she states that he should not fear the light, as he too is a hero. Driven by a desire to save her from the Dark Cloud, he disguises himself as Vio and aids the three other Links in their battle against Vaati. Realizing that the demon cannot be killed by the Four Sword alone however, he returns to the Dark Mirror, and in an act of self sacrifice he shatters it, destroying both Vaati and himself in the process. Before he vanishes, the four Links thank him, and tell him he will always be a part of them. Shadow Link makes a final appearance on the penultimate page of the manga, appearing as Link's shadow and giving a thumb's up.
In the additional multiplayer game in Four Swords Adventures known as Shadow Battle, four colored Shadow Links battle for supremacy in a number of different arenas. While appearing identical to the four Links of the normal game, they appear in the same manner as Shadow Link and have his voice at the start of battle. During these battles, Shadow Link has the exact same abilities as Link normally would.
Shadow Links have only a small amount of features similar to Dark Link. However, he has some very noticeable differences, including those above.
- Link's Shadow, Dark Link, and Shadow Link were once considered the same entity. However, since the release of the Hyrule Historia, it has been confirmed Shadow Link is a separate entity from the two others. Though Zelda Universe treats the three as one.
- Shadow Link, although being referred to as "shadow", is actually a demon manifestation of Ganon's evil thoughts.
- Shadow Link, alongside Dark Link, has been subject to multiple creepypastas.