“The best game ever made” isn’t something to be thrown around lightly. Even with the relative youth of the world of video games relative to other art forms, countless contenders emerge with no clear victor. It’s all entirely up to taste, skill, and genre. Hades. Skyrim. Witcher III. Minecraft. Ocarina of Time. Take your pick.
The great thing about video games is that there will never be a right answer. Everyone plays different video games, and everyone has a different experience with said video games. But this author is humbly putting aside the years of love and nostalgia held for games of the past and owning up to the truth: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is the best game I’ve ever played. It’s not even close.
No game in the history of games has ever had this much creative freedom in conjunction with gameplay of this quality and a storyline this enticing. TOTK has set a new standard for what RPGs are capable of, and I hope we look back on this game as a clear landmark for when game quality across the board was forced to rise.
In Comparison to Breath of the Wild
I saw a tweet a while back, and forgive me because I can no longer find it. But it said that Breath of the Wild, which many consider to be a masterpiece in itself, feels like a beta for Tears of the Kingdom. That could not be more accurate. While Breath of the Wild offered a far more unique experience than your typical Zelda installment, there were times when things like the Sheikah Slate felt limiting or burdensome.
The mechanics are more polished. The story flows better and is more detailed. The game itself offers far more to do and far more utility out of aspects present in Breath of the Wild. IGN gave Breath of the Wild a 10/10. If BOTW is a 10/10, this is a 17. Or a 55.
I have never seen something I so thoroughly thought to be excellent be so sufficiently dwarfed by its successor. Any crack or blemish you can find in BOTW, something that has to be accepted in any game, has been polished and refined. The mechanics, the dialogue, the amount of story. The only game that even comes close to having this much to do in an open world is Witcher III.
In short, it’s like nothing you’ve ever played, and yet familiar enough to resonate strongly with the user. This game allows you one of the most powerful things a game can offer: the freedom to be wrong. Following the intended path of the developers is how one completes objectives in the vast majority of games. But this game allows the sensation of game-breaking simply within the tools allotted to you.
There is no one right way to do anything. Can’t figure out a puzzle? Monsters got you down? Spawn a plane. Build a literal tank. Make things go back in time. Move any object to where you feel it suits you best. Literally teleport to the top of a mountain.
Are weapons weak? Fuse it with something insanely strong. That’s the beauty of this game, and we cannot emphasize it enough: this game lets you carve your own path, even when it doesn’t want you to.
Also not to be forgotten is the sheer volume of just stuff you can do. While you’re on your way to slaughtering the Demon King, the side quests and side adventures in this game are all entertaining, and the physical amount of them you can do is insane. If this writer went through every single detail of this game, this review would come out in August. There are literally hundreds of boss fights, dozens of puzzles and storylines, and various side activities that can entertain you for hours on end.
The inclusion of a three-level map while retaining the original landscape of Hyrule was a stroke of genius. Up in the clouds, down in the depths, or on firm land, each one offering its own unique challenges and puzzles. It’s an absolutely massive map. Eat your heart out, GTA.
The story feels like it’s going to be a carbon copy of Breath of the Wild until it isn’t. While the boss fights and the allies you gain alongside them are extremely unique and far more useful than in the predecessor, the beginning of the story will find you treading through similar waters. Until you aren’t. The thing is, while the structure of this story may be strikingly similar, the details and nuances that a thorough hand can unfold about this story make it far, far more compelling and detailed than BOTW ever was.
But it will feel like the same story. You’re going to wake up and meet a ghost king who gives you a mysterious power. He’s going to help you through the tutorial before you reach mainland Hyrule. There are going to be four powerful beings from each race of Hyrule that you need to unite against the common enemy of Ganondorf, but not before you help dispel whatever natural disasters they’re going through.
It’s not a different story, but it’s a better version of the story.
If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a useless female protagonist. Looking at you, Mario. Peach has been sitting there with all these supposed superpowers and ass-kicking maneuvers 40 something years, getting kidnapped by Bowser. Does she ever use these powers? No, she’s waiting on a dude in overalls to run across the world and rescue her. But I digress.
While the BOTW Zelda is far from useless, she’s also extremely hands-off and not overly involved until she needs to be. Every single detail of this game revolves around the actions of and the whereabouts of the missing princess.
Her actions behind the scenes are showcased and unraveled as you continue through this world. For Nintendo, a female protagonist with not only this much agency but a protagonist that compromises the agency of the hero himself is a very refreshing change of pace.
Things That Are Wrong
The one thing, really the one thing I found noticeably lazy in the making of this game is that it plays a virtually identical cutscene every time you do one of the regional storylines and gain a sage. If you’re like me, you’re going to want to wait through them all for a crucial detail or a key difference in those cut scenes. I promise you, they’re all identical.
The Details, The Beautiful Details
This game will not leave you hanging with a missing plot line or an NPC with an incomplete thought. NPCs adapt their greetings to the time of day and weather in their own unique way. The dogs in this world chase their tails and roll on their backs. The kids have day and night play cycles. It’s the little things that really round out how extraordinary this game is. So much time was spent on these minute details to never take you out of the reality of this game for even a second.
First of all, massive, massive props for bringing back Ganondorf in such a cool and exciting way. A huge part of what made Kirby and the Forgotten Land so impactful for me was the totally revamped look of King DeDeDe’s image, at least at first. Forgo DeDeDe looks scary, animalistic, and awesome. Nintendo is back at it again with the revamped looks for their villains. Ganondorf’s character feels more well-rounded. We know more about who and what he is now. He’s still a pure source of unmitigated evil, but we understand it to a larger degree.
He also just looks way cooler. He has a different build and a different look. He’s strong, cunning, and always barefoot for some reason. Hey Sakurai, maybe adapt that for Smash 6. Just a thought. Just one guy’s opinion. Maybe a Ganondorf with three different weapons, a phantom form, and the power of gloom is a little cooler than a dude who yells “doriyah” over and over. Maybe.
Things I Wish I Knew
When you get past the tutorial levels, you can go anywhere and do anything. But just some quick tips:
- Don’t forget about the fuse, ever. It’s your best friend.
- Talk to Robbie sooner rather than later.
- Your instinct might not be, “Hey, I’m going to jump down that endless black chasm because that might not “go well.” Do it.
- Mining ore is really important, and hold onto it until you get to Goron City.
- Do the fairy quests ASAP
Short of telling you how to play the game, those are just some little things to keep in mind. Also, while I would never do this, there is a replication glitch that you can google right now. If you’re into that sort of thing. I would never, ever do that, as it makes the game less fun. So what if I have 50 diamonds? I got them naturally, and you can’t prove otherwise.
In the words of my friend Max, this is “Dev Tools: the Game”. There is not a soul on this earth that should neglect to play this game. Imagine a modded Minecraft realm with a Zelda storyline. Imagine the best game ever. That’s the best way I can describe it. My words are failing to describe how impressed I am but play this game. Play this game. Right now.