There’s nothing else quite like a sunrise over the Akkala region in all of gaming. Guardians stalk through the autumn trees. Hidden shrines glow faintly orange in the distance. Boars and wolves prowl the hills around where Tarrey Town protrudes out into Lake Akkala. Above it all, Death Mountain looms as lava rolls down its steep cliffs.
Over five years after The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild launched with Nintendo Switch, sights like this still amaze me. I’m currently attempting a 100% playthrough – yes, that includes finding all 900 Koroks – before The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom claims all my free time for weeks, if not months. And even after all this time, I can’t think of a more impressive or more immersive game on Nintendo’s record-breaking hybrid console.
That’s not a slight at Switch’s other offerings. In fact, I’d argue Nintendo’s handheld hybrid has one of the best libraries in gaming history. Super Mario Odyssey comes the closest to Breath of the Wild’s heights, and while it’s truly an amazing game, I’d still put Link’s adventure in a league all of its own as it innovated on the open-world genre and reinvented one of gaming’s most renowned series.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – “Everyone is here!” – while stellar, added more characters and plays like a “greatest hits” title, while featuring some atrocious online play. Xenoblade Chronicles 3? Mario Kart 8 Deluxe? Fire Emblem: Three Houses? Splatoon 3? Pokemon Sword and Shield (lol)? The recent Metroid Prime Remastered? In over five years, none have conquered this lonely take on Hyrule.
Seeking out all those Koroks has shown me gorgeous vistas and little secrets I never knew existed, and I completed all 120 Shrines on my first playthrough all those years ago. I never, for example, found the Lord of the Mountain, a magical horse-like creature that spawns quite randomly, until my current run. I didn’t know you could use Stasis on Guardians to interrupt their blasts. I found, for the first time, a young woman offering shield-surfing lessons high in the Hebra Mountains. And so on, each of these new discoveries compounding with fond memories of seeing the Great Dragons for the first time or discovering Eventide Island.
And I haven’t even touched the DLC yet, nor have I properly explored Hyrule Castle.
Yes, Breath of the Wild has its own bevvy of issues: breakable weapons – super annoying. Climbing in the rain – infuriating. Four mediocre Divine Beasts instead of memorable temples irked longtime Zeldaphiles, and I’m not particularly fond of the rather limited enemy variety. But even with these issues, I can’t think of a game that impressed me more on Nintendo Switch.
It’s one of the greatest launch titles in gaming history, if not the greatest, because it remains Switch’s best game. Other consoles had legendary launch titles, sure, but they haven’t reigned for as long as Breath of the Wild. You could say that Super Mario 64 was the Nintendo 64’s best game, but that’s a shaky argument with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, GoldenEye 007, and Banjo-Kazooie in the mix. Super Mario World challenges for the greatest launch title award, though with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Chrono Trigger on its heels, I can’t claim it remained the clear and definitive best SNES title. Was Halo: Combat Evolved usurped by the better online play of Halo 2? Super Mario Bros. changed gaming forever, but who can claim with a straight face that Super Mario Bros. 3 wasn’t better? And so on.
With no Nintendo Switch Pro or equivalent on the horizon, there’s still plenty of time for another title to impress more than Breath of the Wild. It was, after all, also a title for the Wii U – making its reign even more impressive. Maybe Tears of the Kingdom will make it look like the last-gen game Nintendo initially designed it as. If we ever get a follow-up to Bowser’s Fury, that amazing proof-of-concept title tacked onto the Super Mario 3D World remaster, that could definitely make for a system-defining swan song. Who knows – Game Freak might get its act together and actually develop an innovative, technologically stable Pokemon game.
Regardless, I have about 300 Koroks to go and under three months until Tears of the Kingdom releases. I couldn’t be more excited to continue exploring the best game on Nintendo Switch, even if Breath of the Wild is half a decade old.