“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.”
We love The Legend of Zelda. Thousands and thousands of people are playing Breath of the Wild right now. Nintendo’s latest entry in the long-running staple series has been met with widespread criticism. Positive criticism. As in, it is one of the best rated games of all time, an instant classic, an experiment in perfection, and so on. Breath of the Wild over night made Nintendo a household name again, at least for now.
I think Breath of the Wild is so successful because of an execution which emphasizes the best elements of the Zelda series: exploration, curiosity, acquisition, history. While many of us are experiencing that elusive sense of childlike wonder again by exploring the world of Hyrule, the nagging thought turns restlessly at the back of our minds, as it does with any engrossing game experience which we know must someday ultimately end or lose its appeal. That thought is: “What am I going to do once Breath of the Wild is over?”
Earlier today, I had the pleasure of reading someone’s article on this very matter. Breath of the Wild was their first Zelda game (no one should judge you for your life’s experiences) and they found it as delightful as practically everyone else but they wondered what they should play once Link’s newest adventure was over. By the by, if that’s you that wrote that article, I’d be happy to link to it. I tried to go back to look for it but couldn’t find it.
The good news is, NPCs, that The Legend of Zelda series has been around for over thirty years. With such a rich heritage of gaming history to choose from, those out there looking for another Zelda game to delve into after Breath of the Wild need only a guide to point them in the right direction. It’s dangerous to go alone and that’s where your friendly, neighborhood Well-Red Mage comes in. Is there life after the Wild? Yes. Yes, there is.
Simply put, here are my five recommendations for Zelda games to play after Breath of the Wild. And if you think I was planning to recommend Zelda II after reading a title such as the one for this post, then you’re sorely mistaken.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
One of the most popular of the Zelda games, you’ll find a lot of similarities in Ocarina after coming off of Breath of the Wild. However, be prepared for some primitive 3D graphics and some clunky controls by comparison. Still, Ocarina is an incredible game with strengths far outweighing its weaknesses. It’s often cited as a personal favorite.
You could simply go further back in time before 3D gaming dominance for sleeker presentation and more refined handling with one of the best titles from the Super Nintendo. A Link to the Past is very much a classic Zelda experience, with that top-down perspective and everything, so if you’re looking to get at the center of what makes this series tick, then look no further.
This is actually my personal favorite Zelda game. Play it in the original black and white if you can for the ultimate retro experience. I’ve frequently heard Link’s Awakening described as haunting. It’s hard to forget it even after all these years. Zelda and handhelds have had a long history together and this is one of the best you can play on any handheld. It plays like a dream.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Wind Waker is a great example of Nintendo’s inclination toward charm, magic, and fun. Somewhat controversial at the time for its cartoony aesthetic and cel shading, you won’t hear too many detractors now as Wind Waker has successfully become a classic in many a gaming heart. It’s a unique game in the series, so maybe it isn’t the best example of the foundations of the series, but as a 3D Zelda it’ll resemble Breath of the Wild in a lot of ways, not merely in its scope and size.
I’m generally of the persuasion that the original entry in a series is the most fundamental, the most definitive, influential, and essential. If you consider yourself a fan of the Zelda series but haven’t played the original NES title then I may have just judged you for your life’s experiences. Just kidding. But this should unequivocally be your next destination after Breath of the Wild if you haven’t played it yet. All of these yuppies yelling about how Breath of the Wild is the hardest Zelda game in the franchise are beyond wrong. I challenge you to beat the first and second quests in The Legend of Zelda and tell me that they were easier than Breath of the Wild. Also, they’re wrong when they say that Breath of the Wild is the first open-world Zelda game. Again, play the original. You could explore nearly anywhere in that open world. “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”, my friends.
I’d also like to invite you, dear reader, to participate in the poll below. Personally, I’ll be seeking out Skyward Sword after Breath of the Wild. Haven’t played that one yet. But what are your highest recommendations from The Legend of Zelda series? Be free to leave the details in the comments section. If you’ve written some quality reviews on these games, I’d welcome your links to those, as well. And as always, thank you for reading!
-The Well-Red Mage
Did you enjoy this post? Consider becoming a Warrior of Light and join us in restoring integrity and quality to entertainment journalism. We specialize in long-form, analytical reviews and we aim to expand into a podcast and webzine with paid contributors! See our Patreon page for more info!