When Horizon Zero Dawn came out I felt bad for Zelda. How could Zelda live up to the masterpiece that is Horizon? What a shame that these games were coming out just a few days apart, right? Well yes, but it turned out that not only was Breath of the Wild above to best Horizon for my game of the year, it also elevated itself to being one of my absolute favorite video games of all time.
This highest compliment I can pay to this game is that there was a moment where the game almost brought me to tears, which is something almost no game has ever done to me before. No, not because of some story beat that tugged at the heart strings, but because it hit me all at once just how stunningly good this game is. I was “shield boarding” down a giant hill, jumping off a cliff, and hang-gliding to the nest place that looked interesting and it just hit me hard. A game has to be a special type of awesome to illicit that reaction from me.
There were worries before its launch that this would be an open world with nothing to do, but nothing could be further from the truth. This version of Hyrule is rich and teeming with life and opportunities for adventure. With the single exception of Just Cause 2, I have never had so much fun with an open world. There’s simply so much to do, and I never felt bored in this world.
Adding to that feeling of exploration, you begin this game feeling very weak, and that a lot of out there could kill you if you’re not careful. But as the game goes on, you gain powers and strength that make you less vulnerable and you start to feel empowered. There’s something very satisfying about terrifyingly scaling Death Mountain early in the game, only to return to it later in hours later and feel like you can just walk in the front door (or glide in, more likely).
This is not a traditional Zelda game, and I know that put a number of people off a little, but for me it is simply another aspect of the game that makes me love it oh so much. No, there are not dungeons like there are in other Zelda games, but the 120 shrines scratched that itch for me. Yes, the way weapons are handled means you never get to become too comfortable with one sport or bow for too long before it’s broken, but the game smartly makes sure you get new, better weapons constantly, which made this much more tolerable for me. I appreciate this new take on Zelda, and I think it was a bold move for Nintendo to move the franchise this far away from it’s traditional trappings. This still makes me feel like Zelda games have always made me feel, but the way it gets me there is in new ways, and that’s exciting.
As of this writing, I have owned the game for 7 months, have put almost 90 hours into it, and still have not beaten it. Ganon lives, but I’ll get to him sometime over this Christmas break.
Breath of the Wild is available for Switch and Wii U.