A new Nintendo title featuring a household name is always big news in gaming, but the release of the Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is likely to be one of the most important pop-cultural events of the year full stop.
What is the Legend of Zelda?
A long-running series of Nintendo video games, most sharing the same broad archetype: the elfin hero Link sets out to rescue Princess Zelda from the clutches of villainous Ganon.
The game came out more than 35 years ago for the Nintendo Entertainment System. A top-down fantasy adventure, it was the first game for the system that let players save their progress, allowing a new sense of scale in gaming. Since then, a number of its entries have contended for the title of best game ever, including the SNES sequel A Link to the Past and the Nintendo 64 entry Ocarina of Time.
Why the excitement?
Six years in the making, the Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a direct sequel to Breath of the Wild, which launched alongside Nintendo’s Switch console in 2017. Released to critical acclaim, its reputation has only grown since then, and a recent poll of more than 200 critics for GQ magazine named it the best game of all time.
What’s so special about it?
Breath of the Wild broke with the conventional approach to game design by throwing players into a vast world with almost no constraints on what they could do to explore it. Every corner, peak and valley was available to explore from the opening hours, and the handcrafted land of Hyrule was “bursting at the seams” with activities to distract and delight. But in the years since, few have tried to follow its lead, with conventional “open world” games instead sticking to a more formulaic design pioneered by blockbuster series such as Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry.
Has the series been a commercial hit?
The original game had sold just over 30m copies as of March, making it one of the bestselling games of all time. About one in four owners of a Nintendo Switch owns a copy, and few single player games have matched it. Nintendo’s policy of rarely discounting old games gives it an outsized financial impact: few other six-year-old games still sell in large numbers at £45 RRP. With an estimated gross revenue of more than £1.3bn, the game brought more cash in than the current leader of 2023’s box office charts – Nintendo’s own Super Mario Bros movie, which has grossed $1.16bn globally.