The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
is a 2017 action-adventure game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch and Wii U consoles. Breath of the Wild is part of the Legend of Zelda franchise and is set at the end of the series' timeline; the player controls Link, who awakens from a hundred-year slumber to defeat Calamity Ganon before it can destroy the kingdom of Hyrule.
Similar to the original Legend of Zelda, players are given little instruction and can explore the open world freely. Tasks include collecting multipurpose items to aid in objectives or solving puzzles and side quests for rewards. The world is unstructured and designed to reward experimentation, and the story can be completed in a nonlinear fashion.
Development of Breath of the Wild lasted five years. Wanting to reinvent the series, Nintendo introduced elements such as a detailed physics engine, high-definition visuals, and voice acting. Monolith Soft, known for their work in the open-world Xenoblade Chronicles series, assisted in designing landscapes and topography. The game was planned for release in 2015 as a Wii U exclusive, but was delayed twice. Released on March 3, 2017, Breath of the Wild was a launch game for the Switch and the final Nintendo-published game for the Wii U. Two downloadable content expansions were released later in 2017.
Breath of the Wild received acclaim for its open-ended gameplay and attention to detail, and has been cited as one of the greatest video games of all time. Critics called it a landmark in open-world design, despite minor criticism for its technical performance at launch. It won numerous awards, including several game of the year honors. The game had sold over 19 million copies by 2020, making it the bestselling Zelda game and one of the best-selling games of all time. A sequel was announced at E3 2019 and is in development.
GameplayBreath of the Wild is an action-adventure game set in an open world where players are tasked with exploring the kingdom of Hyrule while controlling Link. In terms of structure, Breath of the Wild encourages nonlinear gameplay, which is illustrated by the game's lack of defined entrances or exits to areas, scant instruction given to the player, and encouragement to explore freely. Breath of the Wild introduces a consistent physics engine to the Zelda series, letting players approach problems in different ways rather than trying to find a single solution. The game also integrates a "chemistry engine" that defines the physical properties of most objects and governs how they interact with the player and one another. For example, players may take advantage of the game's dynamic weather by throwing metal objects at enemies during thunderstorms to attract a lightning strike. However, the level of realism offered in the "chemistry engine" also means that players will equally attract an unavoidable fatal lightning strike if wearing any metal during thunderstorms. These design approaches result in a generally unstructured and interactive world that rewards experimentation and allows for nonlinear completion of the story.
As Link, players can perform actions such as running, climbing, swimming, and gliding with a paraglider, although Link is limited by his stamina. Link can procure items from the environment, including weapons, food, and other resources. Unlike previous Zelda games, weapons and shields will degrade over time. Many items have multiple uses; for example, wooden weapons and armor can be set to light fires or collect incoming enemy arrows, and shields can be used as makeshift snowboards. Players can obtain food from hunting animals, gathering wild fruit, or collecting parts of defeated enemies. By cooking combinations of food or materials, the player can create meals and elixirs that can replenish Link's health and stamina, or provide temporary status bonuses such as increased strength or weather resistance. An important tool in Link's arsenal is the "Sheikah Slate", which can be used to mark waypoints on a map and as an in-game camera. Over the course of the game, Link can collect powers to add to the Slate, including the abilities to create remote bombs, manipulate metal objects, form ice blocks on watery surfaces, and temporarily stop objects in time. In combat, players can lock onto targets for more precise attacks, while certain button combinations allow for advanced offensive and defensive moves. Players may also defeat enemies without weapons, such as by rolling boulders off cliffs into enemy camps.
Besides exploration, players can undergo quests or challenges to obtain certain benefits. Activating towers and shrines adds waypoints that the player may warp to at any time. Activating towers also adds territories to the map, although location names are not added until the player explores that area. Dotted throughout Hyrule are shrines that contain challenges ranging from puzzles to battles against robotic opponents. Clearing shrines earns Spirit Orbs, which can be traded for additional health or stamina points. Scattered across Hyrule are small puzzles that reveal Korok Seeds, which can be traded to expand inventory size for weapons, shields, and bows. Towns serve as hotspots for quests, sidequests, and shops selling materials and clothing. Hikers and other travelers offer sidequests, hints, or conversation. Additionally, players can scan Amiibo figures against their console to summon items or call Link's horse Epona from previous Zelda games and Wolf Link from Twilight Princess.
PlotBreath of the Wild takes place at the end of the Zelda timeline in the kingdom of Hyrule. 10,000 years before the beginning of the game, the evil Calamity Ganon threatens Hyrule, but he is defeated by a princess with the blood of the goddess and with the help of her appointed knight.
Hyrule matured into an advanced civilization, protected by four enormous animalistic machines called the Divine Beasts and an army of autonomous weapons called Guardians. Upon Ganon's return, four great warriors were given the title of Champion, and each piloted one of the Divine Beasts to weaken Ganon while the princess and knight fought him so she could seal him away.
9,900 years later, the kingdom of Hyrule had devolved to a medieval state. Reading their ancestors' prophecies, the Hylians recognized the signs of Ganon's return and excavated the Divine Beasts and Guardians. During this time, Zelda trained vigorously to awaken the sealing magic needed to defeat Ganon. The champions of Hyrule's races—Daruk, warrior of the mountainous Goron; Mipha, princess of the aquatic Zora; Revali, archer of the birdlike Rito; and Urbosa, chief of the desert-dwelling Gerudo—assembled to pilot the Divine Beasts while the current Zelda and Link battled Ganon. However, Ganon possessed the Guardians and Divine Beasts, turning them against Hyrule. King Rhoam and the Champions were killed, the castle town was destroyed, and Link was gravely wounded. Zelda took Link to safety, hid the Master Sword, and used her magic to trap Ganon in Hyrule Castle.
100 years after that, an amnesiac Link awakens in Hyrule. He meets an old man, who reveals himself as the spirit of King Rhoam. Rhoam explains that Ganon, sealed in Hyrule Castle, has grown strong; he pleads for Link to defeat Ganon before he breaks free and destroys the world.
Link travels across Hyrule, returning to locations from his past and regaining his memories. With the help of the Hyrulean races, he boards the four Divine Beasts and purges them of Ganon's monsters, releasing the spirits of Hyrule's former champions and allowing them to pilot the Divine Beasts once again. After obtaining the Master Sword from the Lost Woods, Link enters Hyrule Castle and defeats Ganon with the help of the Divine Beasts and Zelda's Bow of Light. Zelda seals Ganon away, restoring peace and allowing the spirits of King Rhoam and the champions to depart. Sensing their presence, Link and Zelda smile fondly.
If players fulfill certain conditions, they unlock a secret ending in which Zelda realizes that Hyrule must be rebuilt and that she and Link must begin the process themselves. As Link and Zelda survey Hyrule and embark to rebuild their world, the princess confides that she may no longer possess any supernatural power, yet still she is happy.
Development, an internal division of Nintendo, developed Breath of the Wild for the Nintendo Switch and Wii U. According to series producer Eiji Aonuma, the development team aimed to "rethink the conventions of Zelda". Following the release of ' in 2011, Aonuma received comments from players who wished to see a more interconnected map to explore the locales between the gameplay areas. In 2013, Nintendo experimented with nonlinear, open-world gameplay in '. At E3 2014, Aonuma said he planned to reform dungeons and puzzles, two of the series' major gameplay elements, and redesign the game to allow players to reach the end without progressing through the story. As Nintendo had never worked on a modern open-world game before, they took influence from the development of .
Prior to full development, the developers designed a playable 2D prototype similar to the original Zelda to experiment with physics-based puzzles. The final game uses a modified version of the Havok physics engine. At the 2017 Game Developers Conference, Director Hidemaro Fujibayashi, technical director Takuhiro Dohta, and art director Satoru Takizawa held a presentation titled "Change and Constant – Breaking Conventions with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild", during which they demoed the prototype. Aonuma called the physics engine in Breath of the Wild a major development for the Zelda series, saying that it "underpins everything in the world" and makes things operate in a "logical and realistic way", allowing players to approach puzzles and problems in different ways. He expanded on the difficulty in developing this system, recalling how one day during development he entered an area in the game and found that all the objects had been blown away by the wind.
The game was built and demonstrated with touchscreen features for the Wii U, but the developers found that looking away from the main screen distracted from the game. The features were removed when the game moved to tandem development across the Switch and Wii U. The Wii U GamePad also affected animation; although Link is canonically left-handed, he is right-handed in the game to match the GamePad's control scheme, which has its sword-swinging buttons on its right side. The Switch version performs better than the Wii U release when docked to a television, although when undocked, both run at the same resolution. The Switch version also has higher-quality environmental sounds. Aonuma stated that the art design was inspired by gouache and en plein air art to help identify the vast world. Takizawa has also cited the Jōmon period as an inspiration for the ancient Sheikah technology and architecture that is found in the game, due to the mystery surrounding the period. The game's landscape was based on locations in and around Kyoto, the hometown of game director Hidemaro Fujibayashi, and was partially designed by Monolith Soft, who assisted with topographical level design.
Breath of the Wild was the first main Zelda game to use voice acting in cutscenes, although Link remains a silent protagonist. Aonuma was affected by the first time he heard a character with a human voice in-game, and wanted to leave a similar impression on players. The team decided to record voice-overs for all cutscenes instead of only the key scenes, as originally planned. Nintendo provided voice-overs and subtitles in eight languages. Initially, players were not able to mix and match the languages of voices and subtitles; however, Nintendo released an update in May 2017 that allowed players to choose the voice-over language. After five years of development, the game went gold on February 3, 2017, with Nintendo holding a wrap party to celebrate. Coinciding with the game's launch in Taiwan and South Korea in early 2018, Nintendo introduced a patch worldwide adding traditional and simplified Chinese and Korean translations for the Nintendo Switch version.
The original score was composed by Manaka Kataoka, Yasuaki Iwata, and Hajime Wakai. Kataoka and Wakai had previously worked on the Zelda games Spirit Tracks and The Wind Waker respectively. The soundtrack was primarily written and performed on a piano, with a focus on ambient music and sounds rather than the melodic and upbeat music in previous Zelda games. According to Wakai, this helped add "authenticity" to the environments, and was taken on as a challenge by the rest of the sound team.
ReleaseAonuma originally teased the game for the Wii U in January 2013 during the company's Nintendo Direct presentation. The game, he continued, would challenge the series' conventions, such as the requirement that players complete dungeons in a set order. The next year, Nintendo introduced the game's high-definition, cel-shaded visual style with in-game footage at its E3 2014 press event. Once planned for release in 2015, the game was delayed early in the year and did not show at that year's E3. Zelda series creator Shigeru Miyamoto reaffirmed that the game was still set for release on the Wii U, despite the development of Nintendo's next console, the Nintendo Switch. The game was delayed again in April 2016 due to problems with its physics engine. Nintendo let attendees play the game's Wii U version at E3 2016, where they also announced its subtitle, Breath of the Wild. CNET said that the showing would "take your breath away", and Breath of the Wild was the most talked-about E3 2016 game on social media according to Brandwatch, a social media monitoring platform. It was also listed among the best games at E3 by Eurogamer, GameSpot, and GamesRadar+. At a Nintendo presentation in January 2017, a trailer was shown announcing that the game would be released as a launch game for the Switch.
Breath of the Wild launched for both the Wii U and Switch on March 3, 2017. It was the last Nintendo game released for the Wii U. The Switch version was available in limited "Special Edition" and "Master Edition" bundles, which both included a Sheikah Eye coin, a Calamity Ganon tapestry with world map, a soundtrack CD, and a themed carrying case for the Switch. The Master Edition also included a figurine based on the Master Sword. An "Explorer's Edition" was released for the Switch on November 23, 2017, containing a two-sided map and a 100-page book of story information. In Europe, the game used unique packing artwork. A five-disc, 211-track soundtrack was released in Japan on April 25, 2018.
Downloadable contentOn June 30, 2017, Nintendo released a "season pass" for two bundled downloadable content : The Master Trials and The Champions' Ballad. The Master Trials adds gameplay modes, features, and items. In the Trial of the Sword challenge, Link fights through 45 rooms of enemies and must finish each room before proceeding. Link begins with no equipment, but is rewarded with a glowing Master Sword that has greater durability and possesses a doubled damage stat if the player completes the challenge. The pack also adds an option to play the game at a higher difficulty level, called "Master Mode", which adds ranks and raises the ranks of enemies. The enemies are more perceptive when Link sneaks near them and slowly regenerate health in battle. New floating platforms throughout the land offer enemies to battle and treasure as a reward. The Hero's Path feature draws the player's path on the game's map, designed to help players determine places they have not visited. The player can also find the hidden Travel Medallion to save Link's current position as a single waypoint to which the player can transport Link at any time. New items include the Korok Mask, which helps the player find Korok locations, and other themed cosmetics related to previous Zelda games.
The Champions' Ballad was released on December 7, 2017, with a trailer presented at The Game Awards 2017 exhibiting the new content. The expansion pack adds a new dungeon, original story, gear, and additional challenges. It also introduces the Master Cycle Zero, a motorcycle-like vehicle that Link can ride after players complete the pack's additional content.
ReceptionBreath of the Wild was released to critical acclaim, with some calling the game a masterpiece and one of the greatest video games of all time. On the review aggregator Metacritic, Breath of the Wild was the highest-rated game of 2017 and holds the largest number of perfect reviews of any game from any year. Industry publications including IGN, GameSpot, Polygon, Entertainment Weekly, Eurogamer, Electronic Gaming Monthly, GamesRadar+, and Game Informer ranked Breath of the Wild the best game of 2017. It was the 29th game to earn a 10/10 score from Edge and the 24th game to receive a 40/40 score from Famitsu.
The open-world gameplay received praise. Jose Otero of IGN described it as "a masterclass in open-world design" and "a wonderful sandbox full of mystery, dangling dozens upon dozens of tantalizing things in front of you that just beg to be explored". GameSpot called it the most impressive game Nintendo had made, writing that it "takes designs and mechanics perfected in other games and reworks them for its own purposes to create something wholly new, but also something that still feels quintessentially like a Zelda game... It's both a return to form and a leap into uncharted territory, and it exceeds expectations on both fronts." Edge wrote that the game world was "an absolute, and unremitting, pleasure to get lost in" and that "the magic of being given all the tools in the opening hour is the knowledge that the solution to any problem is already at your disposal, and you can always change tack".
According to Kyle Orland of Ars Technica, "after spending a week utterly immersed in Nintendo's open-world reimagining of the tried-and-true Zelda formula, it's hard to return to the more formulaic entries of the franchise's past". Journalists commented on unexpected results not intended by the developers, with serendipitous moments proving popular on social media. Chris Plante of The Verge predicted that whereas prior open-world games tended to feature prescribed challenges, Zelda would influence a new generation of games with open-ended problem-solving.
Reviewers lauded the sense of detail and immersion. Kotaku recommended turning off UI elements in praise of the indirect cues that contextually indicate the same information, such as Link shivering in the cold or waypoints appearing when using the scope. Reviewers also commented on the unexpected permutations of interactions between Link, villagers, pets, and enemies, many of which were shared widely on social media. A tribute to former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, who died during development, also attracted praise.
Jim Sterling was more critical than most, giving Breath of the Wild a 7/10 score. He criticized the difficulty, weapon durability, and level design, but praised the open world and variety of content. Other criticism focused on the unstable frame rate and the low resolution of 900p; updates addressed some of these problems.
SalesBreath of the Wild broke sales records for a Nintendo launch game in multiple regions. In Japan, the Switch and Wii U versions sold a combined 230,000 copies in the first week of release, with the Switch version becoming the top-selling game released that week. In the UK, Breath of the Wild was the second-bestselling retail game its week of release behind Horizon Zero Dawn, and became the third-bestselling Zelda game behind Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. In the United States, Breath of the Wild was the second-bestselling video game during its month of release behind Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands. Nintendo reported that Breath of the Wild sold more than one million copies in the US that month, 925,000 of which were for Switch – a 100% attach rate. That month, Nintendo reported it had sold 3.84 million copies of Breath of the Wild worldwide, 1.08 million for Wii U and 2.76 million for Switch, surpassing the Switch's global sales of 2.74 million for the same period. Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima said that the attach rate of Breath of the Wild to the Switch was "unprecedented". By March 2019, the game sold 14.27 million copies worldwide, 12.77 on the Switch and 1.61 on the Wii U, making Breath of the Wild the bestselling game in the franchise. Total sales for the Switch version reached 17.41 million by March 2020.
AccoladesFollowing its demonstration at E3 2016, Breath of the Wild received several accolades from the Game Critics Awards and from publications such as IGN and Destructoid. It was listed among the best games at E3 by Eurogamer, GameSpot, and GamesRadar+. In late 2016, Breath of the Wild received two awards at Gamescom, and won the award for Most Anticipated Game at The Game Awards 2016.
After its release, Breath of the Wild won multiple awards at The Game Awards 2017, including Game of the Year, Best Game Direction, and Best Action/Adventure Game, and was nominated for Best Art Direction, Best Score/Music, and Best Audio Design. At the 2018 21st Annual D.I.C.E. Awards, it won Game of the Year among other awards. The review aggregate site Metacritic listed Breath of the Wild as the best video game of the decade, having topped 18 lists of the decade's best games.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Result|
|Game Critics Awards||July 5, 2016||Best Action/Adventure Game|
|Game Critics Awards||July 5, 2016||Best Console Game|
|Game Critics Awards||July 5, 2016||Best of Show|
|The Game Awards 2016||December 1, 2016||Most Anticipated Game|
|2017 Teen Choice Awards||August 13, 2017||Choice Video Game|
|Japan Game Awards||September 21, 2017||The Grand Award|
|BBC Radio 1's Teen Awards||October 22, 2017||Best Game|
|:fr:Ping Awards|Ping Awards||November 8, 2017||Best International Game|
|Golden Joystick Awards||November 17, 2017||Best Visual Design|
|Golden Joystick Awards||November 17, 2017||Best Audio|
|Golden Joystick Awards||November 17, 2017||Critics' Choice Award|
|Golden Joystick Awards||November 17, 2017||Nintendo Game of the Year|
|Golden Joystick Awards||November 17, 2017||Ultimate Game of the Year|
|The Game Awards 2017||December 7, 2017||Game of the Year|
|The Game Awards 2017||December 7, 2017||Best Game Direction|
|The Game Awards 2017||December 7, 2017||Best Art Direction|
|The Game Awards 2017||December 7, 2017||Best Score/Music|
|The Game Awards 2017||December 7, 2017||Best Audio Design|
|The Game Awards 2017||December 7, 2017||Best Action/Adventure Game|
|21st Annual D.I.C.E. Awards||February 22, 2018||Game of the Year|
|21st Annual D.I.C.E. Awards||February 22, 2018||Adventure Game of the Year|
|21st Annual D.I.C.E. Awards||February 22, 2018||Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction|
|21st Annual D.I.C.E. Awards||February 22, 2018||Outstanding Technical Achievement|
|21st Annual D.I.C.E. Awards||February 22, 2018||Outstanding Achievement in Game Design|
|21st Annual D.I.C.E. Awards||February 22, 2018||Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction|
|SXSW Gaming Awards||March 17, 2018||Excellence in Musical Score|
|SXSW Gaming Awards||March 17, 2018||Excellence in Animation|
|SXSW Gaming Awards||March 17, 2018||Excellence in Art|
|SXSW Gaming Awards||March 17, 2018||Excellence in Gameplay|
|SXSW Gaming Awards||March 17, 2018||Excellence in Design|
|SXSW Gaming Awards||March 17, 2018||Video Game of the Year|
|Game Developers Choice Awards||March 21, 2018||Best Audio|
|Game Developers Choice Awards||March 21, 2018||Best Design|
|Game Developers Choice Awards||March 21, 2018||Innovation Award|
|Game Developers Choice Awards||March 21, 2018||Best Technology|
|Game Developers Choice Awards||March 21, 2018||Best Visual Art|
|Game Developers Choice Awards||March 21, 2018||Game of the Year|
|14th British Academy Games Awards||April 12, 2018||Artistic Achievement|
|14th British Academy Games Awards||April 12, 2018||Best Game|
|14th British Academy Games Awards||April 12, 2018||Game Design|
|14th British Academy Games Awards||April 12, 2018||Game Innovation|
|14th British Academy Games Awards||April 12, 2018||Music|
|2018 Teen Choice Awards||August 12, 2018||Choice Video Game|
|CEDEC Awards||August 23, 2018||Engineering|
LegacyShortly after Breath of the Wild release, journalists and video game industry figures discussed how it would influence future open-world games and the Zelda series. Benjamin Plich, designer of and For Honor, said that he believed developers would take inspiration from its focus on experimental gameplay, and PC Gamer wrote that the game " a standard the rest of the genre should live by." The game's success sparked increased interest in the Wii U emulator Cemu, as the Cemu developers rapidly updated the software to run the game at a steady frame rate within weeks of release.
An untitled sequel was announced at E3 2019 for the Switch. It was conceived during planning for Breath of the Wild DLC; the team came up with too many ideas, some of which could not be implemented due to technical constraints, so they decided to use their ideas for a new game. According to Aonuma, the sequel will build atop the original's world with a new story and gameplay elements, inspired by Red Dead Redemption 2. Fujibayashi will reprise his role as director.