The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, in my opinion, is the best video game that Nintendo has ever made. I also think that it is on the short list for one of the best games ever made. Longtime readers often accuse me of speaking in hyperbole a lot, but this is no joke. Breath of the Wild is just that darn good. This is the game by which all open world games will be judged moving forward.
The Legend of Zelda is one of the longest running franchises in game history. Each game in the franchise, up until now, has taken a very regimented formula and built upon it. . Link wakes up. He goes to a dungeon. He gets a tool within that dungeon that helps him complete it. He then uses that tool to get to the next dungeon. He finds another tool there. He rinses and repeats until he eventually encounters and defeats some version of Ganon.
Breath of the Wild is a game that was built on one single core principle: nothing is set in stone. Nintendo set out with the purpose of stripping away as many parts of that regimented formula as they could while still maintaining its “Zelda”-ness. I don’t know how they created such a unique game and new feeling game while still regularly reminding players that they are playing a Zelda game. But, they definitely succeeded.
The biggest different between BoTW and other games in the franchise is that (aside from a brief stint on the Great Plateau) players can do as they please. Players are given all of the basic tools they need within the first few hours of the game and are then set free to run off to do… whatever.
This freedom was not only liberating, but it was also a creative force. Everyone playing this game was crafting their own narrative. Players had to come up with whole new ways of discussing their experiences because almost everything you said about the game was a spoiler in one way or another.
Another critical element to the experience in BoTW is its sense of discovery. It feels like every inch of that game was a meaningful encounter, a puzzle, or a signpost sending you on your way to further adventure. There was always something exciting on the horizon for me as I played. In fact, it was easy to find myself distracted that I would set off on a grand mission only to stop halfway through to literally pick flowers.
The days where Link could, on death’s door, slash at some bushes to get a few hearts are gone. Instead, you have to combine ingredients like apples, meat, mushrooms, and other food items to cook healing items. Combining the right ingredients can even result in food that provides stat buffs. You can even combine monster parts to create elixirs. Mastering this system is crucial for anyone who wants to be able to progress through the game. Fortunately, experimentation is almost painless. Ingredients are everywhere and there is a cooking station at every stable.
Nintendo went out of their way to craft Breath of the Wild carefully. Their artistry is visible in every aspect of this game and I cannot wait to see what comes next.
Is it a kids’ game?
Breath of the Wild is rated T for Teen. It does include some mild violence that players can’t really escape. Almost all of the conflict resolution in the game is done at the point of a sword, or club, or arrow.
There are some slightly mature themes and costuming choices running throughout the game, but there is nothing overtly sexual going on.
Can kids play it?
The most important thing to note with Breath of the Wild is that this game is incredibly challenging. The world is not a forgiving one and players will have to contend with armies of monstrous enemies as well as the elements. It is very important that you monitor your child’s frustration level while playing. There is no “easy mode” in this game. Young players can, however, move at their own pace throughout the world. The game is designed so that players will not be constantly under siege from the enemies.
There is some voice acting, but the vast majority of the story and the quest clues are all delivered via text. Players will need to be adept readers to be able to succeed at this game. A lot of the clues depend on subtle word play that might be lost on early readers.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the best video game that Nintendo has ever made. I would comfortably recommend this game to anyone who owns either a Nintendo Switch or Wii U. It is a remarkable value when you consider all of the secrets that players can slowly pry out of this massive world. Do yourself a favor and play this game. The reality is that we don’t score games here at EFG, but if we did I have a hard time imagining that we would give it less than a perfect score.