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Do You Need To Play ‘Breath of the Wild’ Before ‘Tears of the Kingdom’?

Link pops a squat.

I’ve played enough video games in my life that I’ve often found myself in the same position over and over again: a really cool-looking game is about to come out, but it’s following a similarly cool game that I’ve never played, nor had any desire to play—and many people may be in a similar situation today with The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Most recently, I had this dilemma with Elden Ring, which I still have to get around to (provided I ever stop being a Capital ‘W’ Weenie).

Usually, it doesn’t really matter. You can play a new game without needing that much context from the previous one(s), but sometimes, it can be hard to jump into a franchise without any prior familiarity with it. For instance, many players were able to start their Dragon Age journey with Inquisition without the lack of exposition hampering their experience, yet they still ended up missing out on a lot the game had to offer because they didn’t understand certain things happening in the story. Why are mages and templars fighting? Who knows? I get to throw fireballs at them, and that’s what counts (which is hella valid, you do you).

In the case of Tears of the Kingdom, I can only imagine these doubts are heightened because of how much fanfare is surrounding this game’s release. Everyone and their mother has been looking forward to this game, as the direct sequel to the beloved Breath of the Wild, but it might seem like too much to play both games right now for a newcomer.

So, do you really need to play Breath of the Wild before Tears of the Kingdom?

The short answer is … no. Many have compared the two games as, essentially, one single game that just didn’t get a chance to be published in the same iteration. Specifically, this means that, although Tears of the Kingdom adds new abilities and expands upon the core functions that Breath of the Wild introduced, they largely play as the same experience.

Therefore, if you wanted to play Breath of the Wild before Tears of the Kingdom, you might even need a break between the two, as they’re both massive, very similar experiences that require a lot of time to complete. Jumping right from one to the other might give you a sense of burnout.

Now, of course, you would probably have a better understanding of the plot, and you would definitely have a stronger connection to the characters and setting. However, the beauty of Breath of the Wild is in its simplicity. The story is emotionally effective, profoundly so, but all the same, it is fairly simple. As such, Tears of the Kingdom requires very little exposition: It starts, and you are plopped down and expected to go. You probably won’t go, “AHH my blorbo!!” when certain characters pop up on the screen if you haven’t played Breath of the Wild, but it won’t put a damper on your experience at all.

If anything, your gameplay experience might be even more special to you if you start with Tears, and then play Breath. This has happened to me with franchises in the past. This is a silly example, but I remember playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with friends in college, and picking Lucina because she was a cool, androgynous chick with a sword (goals). I didn’t actually play Fire Emblem: Awakening until a couple years later, and in a way, knowing Lucina would be in it, and that I’d finally get to know her as a character, made my experience more special to me.

Should you play Breath of the Wild at SOME point? Oh yeah. I didn’t buy the hype until I actually played it, and it’s now one of my favorite games. It really is worth all the love and then some, but it doesn’t have to be now. If you’ve got a yen for some Tears, by all means, start there! Breath of the Wild will always be waiting for you; there’s no rush at all.

(featured image: Nintendo)

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Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).