Best: One of the best-realized open worlds of all time
There’s a reason we’re in an era of open-world games chasing the highs of Breath of the Wild. The 2017 Wii U / Switch game set a new standard not just for the Zelda series, but for open-world games in general. It’s such a stunning realization of what the first Zelda set out to do way back in 1986, with the design philosophies perfectly expanded upon to create one of the most influential games of the modern era. This reimagined Hyrule is rich with systemic depth, narrative threads worth following, and just full to the brim with reasons to explore every nook and cranny of its map. I don’t envy Nintendo’s position in making the forthcoming sequel Tears of the Kingdom, because following up Breath of the Wild in the same console generation is going to be a monumental task.
Worst: Weapon degradation
For some players, weapons breaking as you use them is paramount to what makes Breath of the Wild effective. You gather resources in its world while knowing that you’re basically flying by the seat of your pants and improvising solutions and arsenals as you make your way from one side of the map to the other. It can be thrilling and challenging, but it’s also a constant barrier to progress. That was my read on the game when I first played it; the hurdles I had to overcome were respectable, but also made me want to stop playing. Tears of the Kingdom is bringing this mechanic back, which probably fills you with either delight or dread depending on where you fall on this argument. But the fragile weapons are pretty contentious in a game that is otherwise pretty universal in acclaim. Thus, it lands here as the worst part of Breath of the Wild.
Read more: The 22 Best Games For The Nintendo Switch
With Tears of the Kingdom just a few weeks away at this point, it’s been interesting to look at just how much The Legend of Zelda has built upon itself over the years and wonder where the next game will land. Will it be a paradigm shift like Ocarina of Time or Breath of the Wild, or more of a refinement of established ideas? We’ll find out when it launches on Switch on May 12.