The protagonist of Nintendo's existential crisis ad for Tears of the Kingdom

Nintendo’s Mid-Life Crisis Ad for ‘Tears of the Kingdom’ Is Strangely Sentimental

I’m definitely not one to judge anyone for being sentimental about The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. I’ve spent the last week literally breaking out in shivers of excitement whenever I see an ad for TotK. Now that I’ve been able to crack into the game myself, I have screamed, laughed, and talked to characters on my screen like they are my oldest and best friends. So I absolutely empathize with the surprising ad that Nintendo dropped on the eve of TotK‘s release. And yes, I got emotional.

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The ad is almost two minutes long and is listed on YouTube as “Rediscover your sense of adventure with The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.” It’s so artistically and beautifully shot, you kind of forget it’s an ad and not a short film. Our hero, a businessman in his 40s, seems kind but bored. He’s riding on a crowded bus which passes the ocean, but he doesn’t notice. Joy seems missing from his life. He arrives at his large home, and his wife consoles him before heading up to bed. The man then stays up to play the opening section of Tears of the Kingdom. You watch him work through the trial and error of making a successful raft. As he succeeds, he smiles.

That improved mood continues as he’s on the bus the next day, battling some Bokoblins. When he beats the camp he shouts “yes!,” breaks into a smile, and then looks self-consciously around him, forgetting that he’s in public. This moment, for me, was deeply relatable. This is exactly what I was like playing Breath of the Wild in public, and I already suspect Tears of the Kingdom will be no different.

Basking in his triumph, the man then looks out the window and notices the sea. He can now appreciate how beautiful it is. He smiles and sighs a big, emotional sigh, filled with a much-needed new perspective on his life. All thanks to his moments with Tears of the Kingdom. End of commercial.

The commercial went viral, for a number of reasons. One, because the production value is conspicuously high. But mostly because—even though the man’s big ol’ house alienates him from almost everyone under the age of 40—the commercial hit a chord. We all get into these ruts in our lives where we get bogged down by the toll of work and daily BS. We become unable to appreciate the loved ones in our lives, the charming aspects of where we live, the ways in which we’re lucky. It’s all too easy to be worn down by the mundanity of daily life.

And yes, the thing that lifts us out of a rut can absolutely be a video game. Breath of the Wild actually served that role for me. When I began playing it, I was deeply depressed. BotW helped me feel like I could have agency in my life, and gave me the courage to move to a new city. The game’s sense of adventure is so infectious, I began to sniff it out in my own life. That sounds like I’m being paid by Nintendo to say that as an extension of this ad campaign, but it’s how I truly feel. And it’s why this ad absolutely made me a bit emotional.

The true story behind the ad

In the midst of everyone reacting to this ad, Ruby Innes of Kotaku Australia got a huge scoop. Someone who worked on the ad reached out to her and told her this commercial is based on a review of Breath of the Wild from Amazon Japan. Innes deduced which one, too. You can reach the full Google Translate of it over on her article.

Essentially, the reviewer says that he’s a business man who was in that aforementioned rut. He would “get annoyed by mountains he didn’t know the name of” as he was on his morning rush hour commute. He felt like if he had free time, he should attending seminars or trying to find a wife instead of playing games. He was deeply depressed, to the point where he wondered why he was alive.

That’s when, on a whim, he bought a Switch and Breath of the Wild. And then:

Yesterday, when I was going to work, I saw the mountain I didn’t even know the name of from the window of the train. At that moment, I thought, “I think I could climb that.” Tears overflowed, and I couldn’t stop. 

Amazon Japan review, via Ruby Innes at Kotaku Australia (with additional translation fixing by me)

He then entreats other businessmen, knee-deep in the status quo, to give the game a try. “Don’t say it’s just a game,” he commands, before reminiscing on all the times in his life games had brought him closer to friends and family.

Beautiful, sad, and a moving testament to the actual power of a good game. Just like the ad.

(featured image: Nintendo)

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Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.