Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a game that holds incredible memories

There’s always something new to find in Hyrule

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It has been, at this point, six years since the 2017 release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The Switch launch title, and Nintendo’s swan song on the Wii U, made an indelible mark on the industry with its approach to the open-world space.

Tomorrow, on May 12, its sequel The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom will be released. In fact, our review of it should already be live right here, right now. It’s a revamped version of the Hyrule we saw in Breath of the Wild, only now with floating sky islands and a hot new villain in town.

This doesn’t erase Breath of the Wild from the history books, though. I, myself, haven’t played Tears of the Kingdom at the time of this writing, so who knows if I end up loving it more. But Breath of the Wild was a pretty big sea change for the industry, and I don’t think it will be forgotten. In fact, for one last day before we all skydive into a new Hyrule, I wanted to host a little celebration of Breath of the Wild here on Destructoid.

So I’ve asked the Destructoid staff to come up with their favorite moments, big or small, from their time playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Please share yours in the comments down below too, and let’s give it one big hurrah.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Eric – Seeing a dragon

There are plenty of breathtaking moments in Breath of the Wild that made me appreciate the scale of what Nintendo had created. Even just leaping from the Great Plateau and gliding down into Hyrule proper for the first time was amazing. But the dragons were the moment I felt like I was seeing something truly amazing.

The first one I saw seemed miles away, drifting in the wind. I thought to myself, “huh, that’s a neat background effect.” Then, while playing later on, I was making my way up a snowy mountain and discovered, through the fog, a massive ice dragon right in front of me. It was genuinely startling. Naydra, as I would learn, was corrupted, and needed help to be let loose, to roam the skies of Hyrule like the other dragons. And the more I played, the more I realized these dragons, as much as everything else in Breath of the Wild, are part of the world. Everything is interactable, and all of it is one living, virtual ecosystem of interacting rules and ideas.

Even when I was getting a screenshot of Naydra now, years later, for this piece, I had to appreciate the feeling of gliding alongside and seeing all the ice blasts ripple outwards. These aren’t some sort of secret boss, and they aren’t scenery. They’re a part of Hyrule, a world that Link and I adventure through, but which live and breathe apart from Link too.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Zoey – Discovering Hyrule Castle Town

Much of Breath of the Wild‘s world consists of open wilderness and long-forgotten ruins. It often feels that the entire world has simply moved on and is well on its way of just healing over the scars where Hyrule once sat. However, when you finally build up the courage to move closer to the castle that dominates the landscape, you find something that hits a little closer to home.

Hyrule Castle Town is the absolute gutted remains of the biggest settlement on the map. Anything left standing is burnt beyond recognition. Yet despite this, you can still see the little details that harken back to Ocarina of Time, especially the ruined version of Castle Town that is depicted in the second act of that game.

It’s a dangerous place to tarry, as guardians still crawl over the ruins. However, it’s one of the few places that Breath of the Wild tries to drive home the destruction that was caused back when everything went wrong.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Holmes – Partying with Prince Sidon

Games either work harder to be playgrounds or obstacle courses. Roblox and Fortnite are playgrounds. Final Fantasy IX and Advance Wars are a series of obstacle courses, with a little talking and opportunities to exercise free will sprinkled on top. Of course, a lot of games try to mix and match, and the original Zelda was one of the first to put one inside the other. Specifically, it’s like a series of one-screen obstacle courses on a playground. Sometimes you have to defeat enemies, solve puzzles, or use specific items to get through a course. Those are the more close-ended parts. Other courses are open to you from the start, to wander in and out as you see fit. This tension between opposites, loose and strict, open and closed, untethered and entrapped, made Zelda a genre-defining hit from the start, and most of its sequels have followed suit.

Breath of the Wild made the playground much, much bigger than it had ever been before, and the obstacle courses did not, for the most part, scale up in kind. You can play Breath of the Wild for hours without ever hitting an obstacle that you can’t just climb over, walk around, or otherwise circumvent. It still has really fun, focused challenges like the shrines, and the bit where you have to invade the home base of the banana-obsessed Yiga Clan. But for the most part, the thing that made Breath of the Wild stand out is how much you didn’t have to do in it. Those who felt that prior Zeldas had become overly handholding and tutorialized were thrilled with how this one just threw you outside and said “you figure it out.”

As an old man who constantly has to “figure it out” in life, this was a massive turn off. If you get lucky enough to save some money in the bank and get somewhere in your chosen pursuits, life becomes less about whether you have the freedom to do what you want, and more about the series of choices you have to make in order to do things as well as you can. It’s up to you to remember to pay the bills, make sure the kid gets to school on time, to explore the best deals on groceries, consider refinancing your mortgage when interest rates change, convince your sick-but-in-denial elderly parents to go to the doctors, the list goes on. Once you’re old enough to be the one who’s supposed to take care of themselves and guide others, instead of being guided yourself, it can be exhausting to play a video game where you have to navigate a giant, open map on your own.

That’s why my favorite part of Breath of the Wild is when it suddenly turns into a linear, high-stress obstacle course where you never have to question where you’re supposed to go, and instead have to focus on some Resident Evil 4-style survival-action combat. After Prince Sidon, the shark man, goads you into following him to his Zora domain, it starts to rain. As any Breath of the Wild player knows, wet ground means no climbing, so there’s no way to get off the path before you. It’s slippery, and crawling with monsters, so slashing, shooting, and sneaking up on foes is pretty much a must. Strategic use of a limited-time electro-elixir is also close to mandatory.

If you want the freedom to go wherever you want and do whatever you want all the time, I’m sure this part was a chore for you. But for me, a guy saddled with loads of real-life choices (and responsibilities), this gallery of finely curated, exquisitely designed challenges feels like just the right mix of handcuffs and fisticuffs; a little oasis of mandatory trouble in an otherwise unstructured adventure.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Timothy – The in-between moments

Many games are fun to play, but fewer are fun to watch. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that Breath of the Wild falls firmly into the latter category. Even after spending 100+ hours in Hyrule, watching the ways people explore or break the physics engine never gets boring. There’s a reason why online content never ceased for this six-year-old game with no live service elements.

Yet for me, it’s not the wild and wacky exploits that makes exploration fun. It’s the ordinary, unremarkable stories that stick with you because they’re so uniquely yours. For example, when I revisited Breath of the Wild this last holiday season, I was on my way to the excellent Eventide Island shrine. Yet during my boat ride, I happened to notice a chest floating around in the water. Driven by pure completionist instincts, I turned my vessel around so I could grab my treasure. What ensued was a comedy of errors where I just couldn’t navigate to the chest for the life of me. It was the same mild inconvenience you might feel when you’re trying to find your keys in the morning despite just having them in your hand.

Once I finally arrived at my prize, I boldly proclaimed to my audience of one “after all that, this better not be five arrows.” This was technically correct. It was ten arrows.

But you know what? Those are my ten arrows now. The fact that I vividly remember this six months later shows how easily Breath of the Wild creates lasting memories.

Screenshot by Destructoid

CJ – Out of the shadows

I’ve struggled with this prompt all week because, while I adore Breath of the Wild, I don’t know if I have a single favorite moment from it. Because there are so many riveting moments in that game, from when you first exit the cave or when you first see a dragon or when you absentmindedly wander over to Eventide Island, completely unprepared for what you’re about to face. The game is an outstanding collection of outstanding moments. So instead of trying to figure out my favorite, I want to talk about the one that’s seared into my memory.

So I’ve been playing Breath of the Wild for about 40 hours at this point. I’ve seen so much of this world, but there are still parts of the map that haven’t been filled in yet. And there’s one spot in particular that is calling out to me: Thyphlo Ruins. I go there thinking that’s how you reach the Master Sword. What I find is a Shrine Quest shrouded in darkness. I’m confused and a bit scared as I pick up the nearby torch and start lighting the torch stands. I don’t know if that’s what I’m supposed to do. I don’t know where I’m supposed to go. I just keep moving forward until I hit a dead end.

I don’t usually have a sense of dread playing a Legend of Zelda game, but the Thyphlo Ruins tap into my deepest childhood fear of the dark. I am absolutely on pins and needles going through this place. After a few minutes, I find the pedestal. As I start to get frustrated thinking I’m going to have to run through these ruins again looking for an orb, I turn Link around, and out of the shadows comes a Hinox barreling toward me.

I don’t remember screaming at this point, but I probably screamed. I probably thrashed the controller about as well as I’m wont to do when a jump scare lands that well. The Legend of Zelda series has leaned into the dark and macabre before, but nothing in this series has scared me more than that giant frickin’ Hinox popping out of the darkness like it’s Slenderman.

Again, that’s not my favorite moment in the game, but hot damn it’s the one that remains the most vivid in my mind today.

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Eric Van Allen
Senior Editor - While Eric's been writing about games since 2014, he's been playing them for a lot longer. Usually found grinding RPG battles, digging into an indie gem, or hanging out around the Limsa Aethryte.