The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the 19th installment in Nintendo's long-running The Legend of Zelda series, as well as the 6th fully 3D installment, following The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
The game opens with the newest incarnation of Link waking up from a deep sleep inside a dark chamber, beckoned by a mysterious voice. The voice tells him that Hyrule needs its hero once more. Link receives a strange item called a Sheikah Slate, which serves as a guide to his quest, and steps out into the world with little more than the clothes on his back... which he had to find in some chests first.
But as Link soon learns, Hyrule has changed during his slumber. One hundred years ago, a great evil known as the Calamity Ganon appeared and ravaged the land. Unable to be defeated, Princess Zelda sealed herself and it away in Hyrule Castle to keep it at bay, while a mortally wounded Link was sent to the Shrine of Resurrection so he could one day return to save Hyrule. The kingdom fell into ruin and nature slowly reclaimed what had been destroyed, and society has been reduced to a few scattered areas across near-empty lands filled with both wildlife and monsters.
While trapped within the castle, Calamity Ganon has continued to grow in power, and it is now up to the revitalized Link to traverse the wilds of Hyrule, ally with the remaining pockets of civilization, deal with the robotic Guardians and Divine Beasts that Ganon took over to still cause trouble across the land, seek out his missing memories of the past, and regain his strength in order to free Zelda and destroy the beast before it breaks free and wipes out what’s left of the world.
First revealed at Nintendo's 2014 E3 event, Breath of the Wild uses a Wide-Open Sandbox element for its world, building on the similar open world setup reintroduced to the series in 2013's The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and, in turn, the 1986 original. The game uses a cel-shaded art design mixed with realistic proportions just like Skyward Sword, but unlike Skyward Sword's post-impressionist style, Breath of the Wild's style is more reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki films and gouache paintings. A large number of Monolith Soft employees (creators of another open world series, Xenoblade Chronicles) were brought in to assist Nintendo EPD with developing the game, in much larger numbers than were on the team that made Skyward Sword, and their Creator Thumbprint definitely shows in this game.
Breath of the Wild is noteworthy for taking a departure from previous conventions of the franchise, incorporating a variety of Survival Sandbox and RPG Elements from other open world games. Link now has to scavenge Hyrule for items, weapons, and equipment, as well as hunt, forage, and prepare food to restore his health. The world is much bigger than any other game in the series before it, and Link can now climb any tree, building, or cliff with ease, giving players the chance to explore every nook, cranny, and mountaintop. Link can also find and equip a wide variety of weapons and armor, allowing a greater degree of customization than ever before.
Another series first is that the game features extensive voice acting, not only in Japanese and English, but in most of the other supported languages as well.note
The game was released worldwide on March 3, 2017 as a dual release for the Wii U and Nintendo Switch consoles, serving as the last first-party game for the former and one of the launch titles for the latter, similarly to what The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was for the Nintendo GameCube and the Wii. Two DLC packs, which require an Expansion Pass, were released in the same year. The first, "The Master Trials" (released on June 30th), focuses on adding new challenges and features to the game, such as the Trial of the Sword, a series of survival trials that unlocks permanent power boosts for the Master Sword, Hero's Path Mode, which tracks your movement for up to 200 hours of gameplay, and Master Mode, which cranks up the difficulty with much tougher enemies, including some exclusive to it. The second, "The Champions' Ballad" (released on December 7th during the VGAs), adds a new questline focused around the backstory of the Champions, Link's fallen comrades from a century before, featuring new trials that lead to a new dungeon revolving around a previously unseen fifth Divine Beast. The game also got a free update sidequest tying in with Xenoblade Chronicles 2, granting Link an outfit based on the one Rex wears in that game, courtesy of Monolith Soft due to their studio juggling the development of both games at once. On April 25, 2019, the game was updated to support the Labo VR Kit, allowing the players to experience the full game with Nintendo's virtual reality solution.
A direct sequel to the game, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was announced on June 11, 2019 at E3note , and released on the Switch on May 12, 2023. The game also has a 2020 Hack and Slash semi-prequel, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, that takes place during the fall of the kingdom of Hyrule 100 years before Breath of the Wild, but diverges into its own Alternate Timeline.