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Why I’ll Never Replay ‘Breath of the Wild’

Well gang, one week from now, we’ll finally have The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom within our grasp. Six years after its beloved predecessor Breath of the Wild was released, the franchise sequel will take us back to Hyrule, with the stakes even higher than before. We’ll have new mechanics to play around with, new stories to explore, and overall, an entirely new experience to lose ourselves in.

Therein lies my “problem,” so to speak. I first tried Breath of the Wild in 2020, and the experience was unlike anything I’d ever had in a video game before. It captured the majesty of games like Shadow of the Colossus, and the satisfaction of completion that you’d get in past Zelda titles, yet the overall structure of the game made it intensely personal in a way that no other RPG I’ve played has managed to entirely replicate. As a result of this personalization, I struggle to find the desire to replay it—not because I found it boring, but because my own personal experience as Link in Hyrule is still so special to me.

When thinking about other games I love, like Dragon Age: Origins and Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, I similarly feel allegiance to my initial playthroughs, yet in a very different sort of way. In Origins, I’m so attached to the Dalish Elf path that I have a hard time playing through other ones, yet I can still play through a Dalish game in its entirety. Similarly, in Bloodlines, the linear structure of the game is just so damn fun that getting to replay it (either as my favorite run, a bitchy Gangrel, or as something completely new) feels like riding a favorite roller-coaster.

Breath of the Wild is a game that I just can’t do that with. I’ve been tempted, believe me: The euphoria of experiencing, and “taming,” Hyrule for the first time was indescribable, for a variety of reasons. There was almost something philosophical about the game, its entire premise. You begin alone in a world that isn’t yours anymore, yet slowly, piece by piece, you’re able to stand on your own two legs and find your own way to survive through it. Every little triumph, no matter how small, brings you a step closer towards mastery, and you really feel it. And each little discovery helps the world feel not so daunting anymore.

This Tumblr post has always stuck with me:

There is truly something narratively deep and special about a story like BOTW’s. Though it may come from a major franchise, it subverted so many tropes and expectations within its genre, which is why it struck a chord with so many people—”traditional” gamers or otherwise. Combined with the gameplay structure, which is so freeform and gratifying, what you get is a video game that you cannot help but sink your full self into.

All of this to say: Thank god there’s a sequel coming out, because without a sequel, I’d probably never really get a chance to relive this magic again without cheapening it. Then again, that’s just me with my overly-sentimental sensibilities. Did you replay Breath of the Wild in anticipation of Tears of the Kingdom? Or were you similarly hesitant? Share your experience in the comments!

(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).