I searched around for a thread like this, but the closest thing I could find was just a contest between the Mario and Zelda franchises as a whole.
Now we specifically see how their protagonists fare. Between Mario and Link, which of them has the most impressive resumé?
Here's their specs from their respective Nintendo 64 titles (Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time) to get us started.
Note: This comparison references Adult!Link's equipment rather than Child!Link's.
- Mario: Proficient
- Link: Never tried
- Mario: Unnatural
- Link: Above average (unequipped); unnatural (Silver Gauntlets equipped); prodigious (Gold Gauntlets equipped)
- Mario: Unsurpassed
- Link: Average
- Mario: Bob-ombs
- Link: Master Sword; Giant's Knife; Biggoron's Sword; Hylian Shield; Mirror Shield; Fairy Bow; Longshot; Bombs; Bombchu
- Mario: Withstand intense heat (unaffected by convection in Lethal Lava Land); recover health by floating on water's surface
- Link: Din's Fire (area-of-effect attack); Nayru's Love (damage reduction); Farore's Wind (teleportation)
- Mario: Wing Cap (flight); Metal Cap (damage reduction, underwater breathing/walking); Vanish Cap (phase through solid matter)
- Link: Master Sword (bind evil) Ocarina of Time (limited time control, teleportation, summon Longshot target, summon horse, start storms, access Royal Family benefits); Goron Tunic (withstand intense heat); Zora Tunic (breathe underwater); Fairy Bow enchantments (Fire, Ice, Light) Hover Boots (walk on air—limited)
- Mario: Warp Pipes; Wing Cap (flight); Metal Cap (walk underwater); cannons
- Link: Longshot (grappling hook); Ocarina of Time/Farore's Wind (teleportation); horse; Iron Boots (walk underwater); Hover Boots (walk on air—limited)
Maximum Hit Point Capacity (One Life):
- Mario: Eight
- Link: Forty
Maximum Life Capacity:
- Mario: Unlimited (with 1-Up Mushrooms, well-hidden)—if one is lost, must restart level
- Link: Five (with four bottled fairies, easily purchased)—if one is lost, revival occurs on the spot, essentially boosting maximum Hit Point capacity to two hundred
Number of Levels:
- Mario: Twenty-four
- Link: Thirteen
Number of Level Bosses Fought (not counting final or repeat bosses):
- Mario: Eight
- Link: Eight
- Mario: Koopa King Bowser (fought three times)
- Link: Gerudo King Ganondorf Dragmire (fought twice, not counting Phantom Ganon)