As The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom approaches, it’s worth reflecting on the impact that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has had on gaming since its launch in 2017. Breath of the Wild is one of the flagship open-world experiences, and its immersive gameplay loop is one of the main selling points of the Nintendo Switch. The game rekindled the love for open-world adventure games, and the Nintendo Switch reshaped how we play games entirely. For many gamers, certain games or consoles become defining eras, both for the medium and for us as individuals. Replaying games that have strong associations with specific moments in our lives can feel transportive, as though we’re time-traveling. However, while there are plenty of games that evoke fond nostalgia, this association can be a double-edged sword when tied to difficult memories.
A Welcome Distraction
In the spring of 2017, while at work, I received a call from my parents about a family emergency. That was the day I was introduced to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which I had purchased together with my Nintendo Switch only weeks prior. Breath of the Wild was a constant companion during that difficult time, accompanying me on trips to visit relatives, helping me to whittle away the hours during sleepless nights, and serving as a welcome distraction from the grief that had consumed me.
A Constant Companion
As a gamer for 25 years, certain games or consoles are linked inextricably with specific points in my life. Bonding over split-screen Modern Warfare multiplayer at university, the rollercoaster adventure of playing RollerCoaster Tycoon on our first family computer one Christmas Day, or the pandemic-blighted launch of the PS5 are just a few of these memories. Breath of the Wild served as a type of comfort during this period of grief. Its engaging, open-world environment provided an outlet for my curiosity and allowed me to lose myself in a world that was both peaceful and challenging. Its soundtrack, visual design, and rich narrative brought me joy, serving as a unique way to escape from the harsh reality I was facing.
A Time Capsule
Some games have the ability to leave a lasting mark on our lives, a testament to the powerful connection that we can make with these virtual worlds. Breath of the Wild is one such game, but for me, it has a bittersweet significance. I never finished the game. Calamity Ganon still reigns, and Princess Zelda remains in peril. I’ve always intended to go back, but I’ve never had the desire to do so. The game has become a time capsule of sorts, preserving the precise route I took across the game world and the memories of a difficult period in my life. Each time I look at the game, it serves as a reminder of the loved one that I lost and of the moments that I spent in Hyrule.
A Painful Kind of Nostalgia
The Hero’s Path feature, which documents Link’s journey through the game world, now has a somewhat melancholic air. Each time I look at it, I’m reminded of the specific moments that I played the game and of the distractions that it provided. It’s both a blessing and a curse that playing games from a different point in your life can feel transportive, almost as though you’re revisiting a different era. This realization can be painful, leaving you pining for another era in your life that has long passed. The best games are timeless, however, meaning that my Link will still be waiting outside the castle, none the worse for the years that have passed since I last played.
A Beautiful Thing
In conclusion, Breath of the Wild serves as an indelible mark of a difficult period of my life, but also as a reminder of the power of games to transport us to different worlds. While many gamers chase the feeling of playing a game that will stay with them forever, it’s important to acknowledge that the associations that we have with them are not always positive. Regardless, the best games are timeless, and we can revisit them at any point in our lives, no matter how much time has passed.