Do I need to play Breath of the Wild before Tears of the Kingdom?

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is out on Friday after years of anticipation. While there are plenty of people who have prepared for its release by playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild — or replaying it — there are still lots of people who missed the first game for whatever reason. Lots of people got the Nintendo Switch, maybe their first modern game console, during the COVID-19 pandemic; Tears of the Kingdom may be plenty of people’s first Zelda game.

If that’s you, you might be wondering: Do I need to play Breath of the Wild before diving into Tears of the Kingdom?

It might be nice to play Breath of the Wild before Tears of the Kingdom, but it’s not necessary. In fact, playing Breath of the Wild and heading straight into Tears of the Kingdom might be detrimental to your experience of the new game. Tears of the Kingdom is indeed a sequel to Breath of the Wild, so it’s not a standalone game — it picks up shortly after Breath of the Wild in a changed (and expanded) Hyrule.

Where does Tears of the Kingdom fit in the Legend of Zelda timeline?
Tears of the Kingdom can be considered an iteration on Breath of the Wild; some would say it’s a final draft of the concept Nintendo put out in 2017. There is a sameness between Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom; the controls are similar but expanded with new abilities. Hyrule has changed, too, but the core of it remains the same. Characters overlap, with their stories from Breath of the Wild slipping into Tears of the Kingdom.

Polygon guides writer Johnny Yu said that playing Breath of the Wild so close to Tears of the Kingdom could limit the way you play Tears of the Kingdom; you may get too used to Breath of the Wild’s abilities. Tears of the Kingdom could feel like Breath of the Wild DLC rather than a new game. Polygon reviews editor Mike Mahardy agreed, but added that if you have played Breath of the Wild, “you’ll appreciate how [Nintendo] morphed Hyrule more, and tweaked existing locations, if the map is fresh in your mind.”

There isn’t a story recap within Tears of the Kingdom; you’re just dropped into its world and experiencing it from there. But Nintendo does a good job of keeping players clued-in on context and introducing the characters as they stand in Tears of the Kingdom. This extends to gameplay, too — there are tutorial elements to get new players used to how the new game works. Early shrines in Tears of the Kingdom are particularly good in that regard; there’s plenty of opportunity to learn and perfect new gameplay elements.

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