The Best Games To Play While Waiting for ‘The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’
If you’re anything like me, you’re essentially counting down the hours until you and Hot Link are reunited once more. After nearly four years of coyness and delays, we are so close to the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. But alas, the final stretch is in some ways the hardest. I, personally, am completely insufferable at the moment due to my giddy anticipation. In other words, a distraction would be helpful. Something engrossing, perhaps. Like a video game. Or 10 video games.
Some of the games on this list will be Zelda entries and some won’t. Some won’t even be Zelda-likes. What they all have in common is that they are all playable on the Switch, and they all have a decent chance of sucking you in just enough so that you’re not constantly thinking: “28 days, 11 hours, and 51 minutes until Tears of the Kingdom … 28 days, 11 hours, and 50 minutes until Tears of the Kingdom … 28 days, 11 hours …”
10. Okami HD
Okami is a game that probably should have been a household name. Instead, I’m slipping it to you now. Okami very much plays like a pre-Breath of the Wild-era 3D Zelda game, except you are a wolf—all of the time, not just in certain realms. Also, this wolf is a goddess. And the whole game looks like a beautiful painting. We all win here.
9. Metroid Prime Remastered
Like The Legend of Zelda, the Metroid series counterbalances its combat with environmental puzzles. Plus, through ambient storytelling, clever level design, and the necessity of re-visiting areas, Metroidvania games like Metroid Prime often emanate the hyper-explorative feel of an open world game, even though they aren’t. Now might be an interesting time to check out Nintendo’s other series that is “not strictly for kids, even though adults make up the single biggest portion of the Pokémon fanbase, but whatever.”
If you don’t vibe with shooters, you can try the 2D platformer Metroid Dread instead.
8. Fire Emblem Engage
I don’t know how many people who play Fire Emblem Engage got as obsessed with it as I did. Indeed, I was exceptionally obsessed with it. But on the off chance you love a strategy game and the campy luxury of a surface-level story filled with completely ridiculous characters—especially before we all lose our minds from concern for our beautiful boy Link and his beautiful friend (?) Zelda—here you go. Engage will absolutely kill time for you. Consider trying it on hard mode (with permadeath if, like me, you desperately need to feel something). Treat my beautiful boy Alcryst well, and enjoy yourself.
7. Octopath Traveler II
Octopath Traveler II has basically nothing in common with Tears of the Kingdom, except that both might be enjoyed by people who like Japanese video games. There are a couple of reasons I put it on here, though. One, it’s exceptionally good; better than the first, by all accounts (and you definitely don’t have to play the first to play this one). Two, if you wanted to wait for Tears of the Kingdom while playing another brand new game, this would be my recommendation.
But most importantly: If you play with the Japanese voice cast, the same guy who voices Zoro in One Piece plays a merchant in Octopath Traveler II who’s dead-set on eradicating poverty after seeing his town get fucked up by no-face rich landlords. So, full points from me.
6. Pokémon Legends Arceus
Forget, if you can, how glitchy and rough the launch of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet was in November 2022. Instead, try to remember when Pokémon Legends Arceus launched at the beginning of the year and blew away everyone’s expectations. The game introduces a brand new approach to the Pokémon franchise that focuses on exploration above all else.
Arceus is an excellent game, but it’s also very obviously The Pokémon Company’s attempt to make something like Breath of the Wild in the Pokémon universe. The similarities are apparent, right down to the gorgeous piano music. And you know what? It works!
If you want to play a Zelda-like that isn’t actually a Zelda game, look no further than Tunic. This indie game from 2022 tickled just about everyone. Right down to the titular tunic, this is a clear love letter to the top-down style of Zelda games of old, such as Link’s Awakening and A Link to the Past. But Tunic also stands out in its own right because it’s simply a good game.
Hades is, quite honestly, one of the best games I’ve ever played. Which isn’t an uncommon sentiment. In another aspect of my gaming life, I’m also way-too-eagerly awaiting Hades II. Who doesn’t want to play as the prince of the underworld? A guy with daddy issues, trying time and time again to escape from literal hell?
Hades is a very strong contender for “best game to play while you wait for Tears of the Kingdom.” Like early Zelda games, the combat is viewed from a top-down angle. You can even get that oh-so-satisfying feeling of slashing Zagreus’ enemies with a wide sword swing. Hades is also a roguelike, meaning that you’ll find yourself legitimately addicted to going on “just one more run.” It’s very engrossing and fun as hell. Or, rather, fun as Hades.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (2019)
Okay, so the top three are Zelda games. Sue me.
There’s arguably three styles of canonical Zelda games at the moment: the classic-feeling top-down games, the Ocarina of Time-style third-person 3D games, and Breath of the Wild: the open world wonder. The remake of Link’s Awakening is the best possible version of that first style of Zelda game—the really classic kind—that’s available on the Switch. The remake is an audio-visual delight. The art style is gorgeous, the music is incredible, the gameplay is incredibly fun, and the story was inspired by Twin Peaks. What more could you possibly want from a gaming experience?
2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Not to state the obvious, but it would be weird not to include this game. After all, Tears of the Kingdom is a direct sequel to Breath of the Wild. It’s the direct-est direct sequel in Zelda history, as we’ll not only be playing as the same Link, but hanging out with the same Zelda and stomping around the same Hyrule.
There’s a reason I personally don’t feel like it’s the best game to play at this current moment, though. More than anything in the world, basically, I want to feel the sensation of exploring Hyrule for the first time again. I’m personally opting for other options on this list so that I’m coming to Tears with optimum freshness.
But Breath of the Wild is also, in my humble opinion, the greatest game ever made. So, there’s that. If you haven’t played it before but want to play Tears—oh my god, please play it right now. If absolutely nothing else, you will understand why every Zelda fan keeps saying the word “Zonai” with such anticipation.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD
I have, at this point, thrown considerable weight as a Zelda-ologist on the opinion that Tears of the Kingdom will have a deep connection to Skyward Sword. So if you’ve never played Skyward Sword before, there’s no time like the present! Even though the game takes place way far in the past, at the very beginning of the series timeline. You can finish Skyward in 40-50 hours, too, so it feels doable. And its gameplay is different enough from Breath of the Wild‘s—and also, I’m guessing, TotK’s—that you can feel like you’re experiencing something distinct.
The motion-capture sword-swinging has proven historically divisive in Skyward, though, so let me offer you some advice: embrace and have fun with the fact that you’re going to look really, really stupid while you play this game. And don’t be averse to using button controls when the situation calls for it. Especially if that situation involves thrust attacks. Stupid thrusts.
(featured image: Nintendo / The Mary Sue)
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