The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a fantastic game, and after playing through its entirety, you might be tempted to say it invalidates The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Why play through the first iteration of this particular Hyrule when this new remixed version exists? You have many of the same landmarks, characters, and enemies, but Tears offers more baddies, the Depths, the sky islands, and the ability to create massive war machines.
To this, I ask: Why must we make two strong queens fight? Both of these games are better for the other existing, and Tears of the Kingdom wouldn’t be nearly as good if I hadn’t spent so much time in Breath of the Wild.
I picked up Tears of the Kingdom at launch, determined not to experience even a scrap of FOMO. But I bounced off the game, fumbling through the tutorial islands. By the time I made landfall at Lookout Landing, I could see a whole world out there to explore, but I didn’t have much desire. Ultrahand felt awkward and janky, it was weird that everyone was so pleased to see me when I had no idea who they were, and my biggest achievement was fusing a stick to another stick.
So I went back to Breath of the Wild. After only a few hours, I had done my homework, and I could have gone straight back to Tears. I had originally played Breath of the Wild at launch and got about halfway through the game, after all; I had done my time. Instead, I found myself entranced. I stuck around, felled all four Divine Beasts, completed the Master Trials, and found a giant horse. Only then did I return to Tears of the Kingdom, and I had a blast.
You might think that I’d sated myself on Zelda thanks to all of that Breath-ing, but instead jumping to Tears felt more like a graduation. I was able to see all my friends grow up, have families, or achieve big goals. Arriving at Lookout Landing felt like a true homecoming, and I rejoiced to meet characters like Purah and Sidon again. Losing the Master Sword during the dramatic opening felt so much worse — I had just spent hours running trials to power that sucker up!
I also haven’t been participating in any of that Korok torture — none for me, thank you! See, not only am I a morally superior person, but I remember the nice Koroks at the Lost Woods that sold supplies and let me stay at their little tree inn for free.
Each game is capable of standing on its own. Zelda’s emotional journey, captured in the memories Link finds throughout Breath of the Wild, is a full arc. There’s no “to be continued” or cliffhangers. Similarly, Tears of the Kingdom has its own story arc told through flashbacks centered on Hyrule’s distant past. Each title feels like its own experience despite all they share in common.
It’s also interesting to see how Nintendo has changed the same familiar locations with just a few small tweaks. The Great Plateau went from a tutorial zone to a dangerous land full of Yiga ninjas and grasping Gloom Hands. Hateno Village is now a popping fashion capital, and Hyrule Castle is floating in the dang sky.
Breath of the Wild is definitely a simpler and more stripped-down take on the formula, and Tears of the Kingdom builds on it to excellent effect. But simpler isn’t worse; instead, I can see myself playing both games in the years to come. I grew up playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, a game where Link travels between two distinct time periods. The jump between Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom feels similar, and I don’t think the old Hyrule is obsolete due to the new one.
Over time, as Tears of the Kingdom settles into the lineup and players have time to digest all of its twists and turns, I think we’ll likely see people come out in defense of Breath of the Wild. There’s a simplicity to it that really shines, while Tears of the Kingdom can feel a little fiddly in comparison. The Zonai tools offer great power, but the multiple currencies and upgrades can muddle up the game a bit.
There’s no need to toss Breath of the Wild into the rubbish bin; Tears of the Kingdom is a fantastic experience, but it doesn’t invalidate its predecessor. Playing them both makes for the best experience, and I can’t imagine a world where Tears of the Kingdom could be so ambitious if Breath of the Wild hadn’t cleared such a path through its own excellent design.